Feldenkrais on the “big disconect” between mind and emotions

from Awareness Through Movement, p. 52

We have seen that the structures used for thinking are loosely linked with those housing feeling.  Clear thought is born only in the absence of strong feelings that distort objectivity  Thus a necessary condition for the development of effective thinking is continuous withdrawal from feelings and proprioceptive sensations.

Something very interesting about this passage, and unrelated (although not so much!) to its content, is people’s initial perception of his intent: they assume that he is advocating objectivity, that he is, like 1,000 Platonists before him, supporting the notion that we should separate our feelings from our “rational” thinking.  He is not advocating anything. He is presenting a biological reality (a fact!), objectively. The opinion is in your head, not his. The next paragraph demonstrates that his theory – this is indeed the main theory behind this book – is that the “body” informs the “mind”.

Nevertheless, harmonious development remains more important to the individual than discordant development even if effective thinking is the disturbing factor.  Thinking that is cut off from the rest of the an gradually becomes acrid.  Thought that proceeds mainly in word does not draw substance from the older evolutionary structures that are closely tied to feelings.  Creative, spontaneous thought must maintain a link with the early brain structures. Abstract thought that is not nourished from item to time from deeper sources within us becomes a fabric of words alone, empty of all genuine human content.  Many books of art science, literature and poetry have nothing to offer except a succession of words linked together by logical argument; they have no personal content.  This also applies to many individuals in their daily relationships with others.  Thinking that does not develop harmoniously with the rest of man becomes an obstacle to his proper development.

How many films have you seen recently, which you would describe as “clever”, “well-crafted”, but which also leave you with no feeling of satisfaction? Or, you see an art exhibit that is clearly spectacular, but, you forget about it almost completely, a few days later?

We have come to be master content crafters – the desire for content to fill up our tedious ours and our trivial electronic devices (whose purpose it is to provide content), has produced and economic niche for those who can create content.  But on a deeper level, this condition has also created a place in the human (at leas affluent human) psyche, for exactly this content.

I’m using the word content here as a paradox: it is precisely content devoid of content – something akin to a table of contents – the shell of substance contained. This is possible because we are trained in detecting logical continuity, as a validation for sense. This is opposed to another validation of sense – intuitive satisfaction. The fact there there is so much content available these days which fails to be even logically coherent, makes the simple trait fo being able to trace a line of reason from the beginning to the end of a piece of text or music something noteworthy!

What made countless viewers – and now, subsequent generations of viewers –  react to Picasso was that, in addition to being parsimoniously integrated, his visual constructs also has a personal effect – on countless generations of viewers! Likewise for J.S. Bach, and Richard Bach.

But not, say, for Iggy Pop, who had the emotion and the physicality, but had trouble stringing together the logic behind his ideas (I, of course, grant that it may just be my own intellectual weakness that does not allow me to follow what might be an entirely cogent, complete expression from James Osterberg). Another example might be Kafka’s novels: a man who could make a perfect literary creation, such as Der Plötzliche Spaziergang – one single sentence, perfectly constructed, logically precise, but filled with deep, universal feelings, could not expand this perfection to a longer work.

To end by returning to Feldenkrais: the strongest statement he makes is not about vapid art; it is that we humans will stagnate right here, right now, unless we can close this gap.

Thinking that does not develop harmoniously with the rest of man becomes an obstacle to his proper development.


2 thoughts on “Feldenkrais on the “big disconect” between mind and emotions

  1. princemyshkin says:

    can’t find where I speak of “right here, right now”

  2. princemyshkin says:

    that means, “right here – the United States of America, right now= 2011”. it was the “40 years ago” that confused me. I guess you meant too bad that Feldenkrais put these ideas out there 40 years ago – the “right here, right now” was my admonition, not Feldenkrais’

    this kind of thinking – the ability to understand the human body – like, really understand, to at least the level, say, that we understand computers – is pretty modern. I have seen it in only, well, the Yoga Sutra, and George Lakeoff. I don’t think a lot of people who practice Yoga think this way – they seem to have the Western view, despite what they say, that the mind is something spiritual, ethereal, and the body is what you connect to. In the Bahadvad Gits, it is more that the mind is embodied; the mind is just another organ.

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