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What acquaintances and family friends think I do.

March 1, 2012

As I morosely contemplate the (temporary, hopefully) wreckage of my nose it occurs to me that, following the day before yesterday’s post, I’m going to be starting this series on a negative note.

My nose is currently a wreck because in January this year, my GP referred me to a dermatologist, who took a biopsy, which resulted in the diagnosis of a couple of BCCs (basal cell carcinomas). Removal by MOHs surgery was the only treatment considered, so a little over a month later I am sitting here looking like a made-up extra for a zombie flick hoping that my two skin grafts will heal well. I don’t know about you, but when I hear a health practitioner use words like ‘cancer’, ‘lesion’, and ‘surgery’ in close proximity to my name, the last things on my mind are thoughts of exploration or learning. I want things like certainty and authority and cure. In other words, when I experience fear, my default is to defer to an expert who will deal with this threatening unknown for me. Fear is generally not something I experience these days in association with my body – see my Turkey posts – although this rhinic episode has reminded me what it’s like to mistrust one’s own flesh.

See all those words in blue italics in the previous paragraph? At the risk of ruffling feathers, those words are expressly what a Feldenkrais Practitioner does not do. Somehow, though, when I tell folk that I help people move better, a medical or healing model is their first “box” (familiar category) as they try to get their head around what this “feldenwhatsit” might be. Bear with me while I unpack why this first guess is (while understandable) w-r-o-n-g, using my simple, one sentence definition of what Feldenkrais Practitioners do:

work with movement problems

Let’s begin at the end of that (why not?), with the word ‘problem’, which will probably be about all I can fit into this post. There are at least two common meanings for ‘problem’.

Perhaps the first you thought of was something like a state or source of ‘difficulty’ as in “She can’t play tennis, she has a problem with her knees.”

Almost as common is the meaning ‘question’ or ‘puzzle’, as in “I can’t come out to play right now, I’m working on a maths problem.”

So people come to Feldenkrais Practitioners because they have difficulties or questions around movement – most frequently (in my experience) for the former kind of ‘problem’.

movement difficulties

It’s problem-as-difficulty where the boundaries of Feldenkrais/medical/healing are most slippery and fraught. Movement difficulty (that is, which interferes with everyday function), underlying the specifics of each individual’s situation, has its roots in either pathology (disease or injury), and/or pain. So let’s say you have a child with CP, or your husband is recovering from a stroke, or your sister suffers from chronic pain, or you have a recurrent shoulder pain, chances are you’ll have encountered the medical, and/or possibly the alt. med (healing) communities before coming to a Feldenkrais Practitioner.

What Feldenkrais Practitioners won’t do: diagnose, treat, cure with authority and certainty, or heal the roots of your movement difficulty. That is the job of the health practitioner of your choice. What can muddy the waters here is that (in Australia at least) many Feldenkrais Practitioners are also health practitioners (eg physiotherapists, massage therapists) who do, in their health practitioner role, diagnose, treat etc. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with holding two or more careers at once (hell, I’m also a Cert IV Fitness Trainer and teach English as a Second Language as well, not to mention the occasional lapse back into ‘architecting’) – I’m just suggesting that it’s no wonder that Joe Public out there can get a little confused. And that confusion is not helping anyone.

I can see that this post is already getting very long – and there are some key concepts in the preceding paragraph I want to tease out. So stay tuned for the next post, which will explore a little more of why Feldenkrais Practioners don’t (or shouldn’t) do what they don’t do.

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