Notes from Feldenkrais for Chronic Pain workshop

Below you’ll find a much more legible and expanded text version of this whiteboard photo from Tuesday’s Chronic Pain workshop.

Whiteboard photo

The number one question I get from website visitors is “Can you publish workshops as part of the free audio project?” I haven’t done much of this because the lessons I teach in my workshops are often not designed as standalone learning contexts. There’s usually some other lecture, discussion, or media content. This week I found myself using a whiteboard for the first time in about a decade (and my handwriting shows it, as you can see!).

I enjoy repackaging my thinking and presentation of Feldenkrais depending on the people present and the context, and I laid out some of our basics in a new way for people interested particularly in how Feldenkrais addresses chronic pain. I thought readers might enjoy my current take on an important topic.

It’s top level stuff, without a lot of discussion, so feel free to comment publicly below or contact me with questions. I’ll reply either way.

-Nick

 

Notes and Principles for Feldenkrais for Chronic Pain workshop:

 

CURIOSITY, at the center of the photo above, was our “word of the day” (not pain or Feldenkrais).  Notice how each of these four categories below relate to curiosity, and to each other.

Curiosity requires: safety, comfort, time, trust. Click to read my brief list of Ingredients of Organic Learning (aka Curiosity!) which includes more.

1) The Self-Image (we could also call it your sense of options, or your world of action) consists of thinking, feeling, sensing, moving

  • Our nervous system is incapable of isolating these aspects of our experience
  • Any diminishment of one diminishes all others
  • Any improvement of one improves all the others
  • The self-image expands when we meet our experiences (thinking, feeling, sensing, moving) with curiosity
  • It’s easiest to improve the self-image through its most concrete components: movement and sensing. (“Thoughts are like air, feelings are like water, sensations are like earth…we can work most easily with earth.” — Feldenkrais and Embodied Life trainer Russell Delman)

2) The Feldenkrais Method

  • An educational practice
  • Primary tool: exploratory processes of movement and sensing
  • Stimulates curiosity in order to expand the self-image
  • Improves our ability to learn from our own experience
  • Learn how to
    • learn
    • move (everyday movements as well as athletic/artistic performance)
    • have more agency in our well-being: sense choices and limits and choose to be good for ourselves, moment-to-moment, including right now. And now…and now….
    • better respond to pain, and become especially sensitive to “pre-pain” sensations
    • experience our pleasures as well as our pains
    • relate to ourselves (parts to other parts and parts to the whole)
    • relate to our support surfaces
    • trust our bodies
    • change our habits and break cycles of reinjuring ourselves
    • be more efficient: use appropriate (not excess) effort

3) Pain = an unpleasant sensory/emotional experience evolved to alter behavior

  • Chronic pain: a disease of the nervous system (NS). NS organizes self-image longterm around pain. Curiosity diminished.
  • Pain, by this definition, includes unpleasant experiences that we might take for granted and choose not to respond to: stiffness, aches, pressure, feeling only willpower can do it, familiar everyday “I’m used to it” unpleasantness. With Feldenkrais study we learn to behave differently in response to even these “pre-pain” sensations.
  • All pain contracts the self-image
  • Pleasure evolved to cause us to repeat a behavior. Absence of pain is not equal to pleasure. It may seem like a long way off, but we can begin helping ourselves right now by open our minds to the possibility that what we’re seeking is a state more valuable and pleasure-rich than just lack of pain.
  • Often, because of external cultural rewards, in some or many spheres of our life we have learned a habit of not responding to pain by altering our behavior. This defies the evolutionary purpose of pain. A kind of limited emotional pleasure reinforces this “do-what’s-expected-of-me” pain-denial, but at great and unsustainable cost.
  • Restoring a simpler relationship with pain and pleasure is a goal of Feldenkrais study.

4) Our nervous system has three jobs

  1. Gather info about the internal environment
  2. Gather info about the external environment
  3. Have the curiosity to do 1 and 2, and through neuroplasticity continually develop and refine the self-image

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