unpolished thoughts 1/11/19
What if your emotions were choices?
In other words, what if you could choose how you feel at any given moment?
Of course, what immediately comes to mind is how often we choose to not feel something – and, come to think of it, most of us are already pretty good at that. We do it all the time.
We do that by numbing or distracting ourselves, or making up implausible stories about the situations we are in.
We have a bunch of other strategies too. (This is an area where our creativity has been encouraged!)
But what if we had real control – the kind of control we admire in the cellist who draws exactly the tone she desires from the string, or the painter who knows exactly how to mix his colors to make into a sunset.
What if we had that kind of emotional skill – and used it for creation rather than negation?
It sounds like a superpower to me, almost superhuman.
Except that the ability to control and shape our emotions is not entirely beyond us.
Moshe Feldenkrais pointed out that every emotion was expressed through the musculature. If you simply measured the length of every muscle in your body and created some kind of Rorschach picture out of all the combined data, you would see that this picture change with every shift of your emotions.
So it stands to reason that gaining finer control of your musculature – learning how to create exactly the Rorschach you wish to fit the needs of the present moment – might just relate to emotional control as well.
When I was fairly new to the Feldenkrais Method, I remember a debate unfolding online between some practitioners that said that this practice did not deal with the emotions and others who strongly disagreed. I was green enough then to sit on the sidelines, just reading with curiosity.
But, as I’ve often expressed here, my own experience of practicing the Method was that it created a shift in the way I move through the world that is of a much deeper significance to me than the shift in the way I move my body.
However, before I give the wrong impression, I hasten to add that these two shifts actually feel like the same thing.
I once wrote about a day when I was losing my temper with my daughter, but was able to catch myself and keep calm.
The opportunity to turn on a dime and choose a new motion was when I sensed the muscle contractions in my hand and throat. I also felt the formation of an image of the action of shouting forming in my motor cortex. I even sucked in rapid large breath of air in preparation.
But because of my Feldenkrais practice, where I had spent so much time noticing the subtle qualities of the first moments of my actions, I found myself with a choice:
Do I really want to shout at my daughter right now?
In the past, I simply would have shouted before I knew what I was doing. But now it was different.
In other words, there was enough of a space there for me to make a choice – to control the emotion.
Body awareness practice is vital to emotional regulation precisely because the emotions are expressed in the body.
And I have never personally experienced a practice better suited to feeling precisely what my body is doing in each moment than the Feldenkrais Method.
But let’s go beyond the inhibition of counterproductive impulses.
What emotion would I like to have right now?
I don’t always know the answer to that question.
But I’ve learned over time that in order to control my emotions with ever greater skill, there are some “emotional qualities” that I do know that I would like to have, all of which I can reliably access on an ongoing basis through practicing the Feldenkrais Method.
What are those some of those qualities?
A full breath. A long spine. The ability to move my head and eyes freely.
The ability to distribute the work of my musculature as evenly as possible throughout my body.
The possibility of moving in any direction without preparation or hesitation.
A clear and easy connection to the ground.
A feeling of the force from my contact with any surface traveling though the middle of my joints and up through the top of my head.
In short, a feeling of weightlessness, even as I continue to live in gravity.
If these don’t sound like “emotional qualities,” just consider your emotional state in this moment. Then notice your breath, your spine, or any of the other elements I have just mentioned.
Think about whatever is the most pressing issue of today for you and then imagine how you might approach that issue with more – or less – breath, a longer – or shorter – spine, feeling more weighted, or feeling more weightless.
Maybe that will give some idea of why I think that practicing the Feldenkrais Method will be a great help to you in your pursuit of emotional superpowers.
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