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Is Feldenkrais good for people to recover from trauma? Like all such questions, the true answer is, it depends. Based on my own background and training in Being in Movement ™, what I focus on to respond to this question is one aspect of what happens for people who struggle to recover from trauma.
What I have seen working with people as a somatic coach is a kind of abandoning of self in the present. When I work with a person whose present is shaped by a traumatic past event, one in which they did not have resources for, what happens in the present is a kind of abandonment of self. Their sense of self, their bodies re-enact a survival strategy that they used for their original or earlier, ongoing traumatic events. Whatever remains within the body, the nervous system and brain, its predictive patterns, sets the person up to meet the present moment with a reaction shaped strongly by how they survived their personal, historical event(s). How that shows up looks differently for each person I work with and there are some common ways people use their bodies to do fight, to do flight and to do freeze.
What I believe is possible using the Feldenkrais method, is to work with the moment we abandon ourselves in the present and to learn to choose another option. This is a transformative kind of self-awareness and self-care.
Sometimes I read an author that captures in words a powerful experience I have had. There is a kind of sigh within me when I read, as if this author has seen me, knows me. Someone understands this thing I have not been able to put language to, not this clearly.
Matt Licata in his book, A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, captures beautifully in language when we abandon ourselves in this moment, when we get hooked into our personal history of beliefs, feelings and stuck ways of reacting and the nature of the work to train ourselves to choose a different option.
He writes, “In times when we are hooked in a torrent of limiting beliefs and overwhelming feelings, a doorway opens and we see a fork in the road. In one direction, we follow the impulse to turn from the hot, sticky, claustrophic material, by way of denial or acting out, or stay with the underlying energy and surround it with new levels of awareness, curiosity, and warmth. Within this, we can choose something different, establish a new pathway, encode new circuitry and establish original behaviors not oriented in habitual reaction but in wise, empathic attunement. Familiarizing ourselves with this middle place – its qualities and felt sense – allows us to recognize the transformative nature of these moments, which catalyze the unfolding neuroplasticity, establishing new networks of skillful response that over time reduce suffering and struggle for ourselves as well as others. “
He writes that we have a strong impulse to react, to act out from this reactivity or to deny and distance ourselves from what appears to be “unworkable states of overwhelm and anxiety.” He concludes, “It feels as if we must do whatever it takes to get back to center; otherwise, the consequences could be devastating as we tumble outside our window of tolerance into autonomic arousal, mobilizing fight-flight reactivity or immobilizing by way of disassociation and freeze, each of these ancient strategies, which emerged to protect us from full-scale psychic devastation.”
Awareness through Movement is a way to stay with ourselves and surround ourselves with new levels of awareness, curiosity and warmth. To stay in touch with all of who we are, in the presence of pain in parts of ourselves, in the presence of historical habits, our patterns that can drive us, often without our knowing. Using the concrete literacy of movement as the vehicle, it can support us to choose another fork in the road, so we can choose another way to move through life.
If this calls to you, check out my upcoming In Touch series, we will explore how to stay in touch with ourselves, with our environment so we can connect into our wholeness. You can register for the whole series or drop in. Find out more at https://www.kindpower.ca/book/