What’s the Point?

What’s the Point?

Fall 2004

Remember when you were in school? As your teachers attempted to cram their pearls of wisdom down your throat, you might have found yourself complaining to your friends and parents, “What’s the point? What does this have to do with anything I’ll need to know in the ‘real’ world?” As an adult, you may look back to those precious, innocent years, and wish you had paid a little more attention. Or, you may wish that your teachers had instead explored the questions with you. It is often in the exploration of the question that a satisfying answer can emerge.

When a patient recently asked me the same “what’s the point?” question, I realized that my job is not to give a “pat” answer. Instead, education is a process that we can explore together which allows the patient to discover an answer that emerges from the creative parts of the brain that have great potential to affect change in the body.

In a world where many of us are bombarded with promises of quick fixes and half-hour sitcom solutions, we may have lost or forgotten the skills of the innocent toddler who desires to explore, play and use his/her innate curiosity to understand the world. Many of us even experienced negative reinforcement, such as punishment, shame, or embarrassment when attempting to ask questions in our educational settings or at home.

These experiences taught us to suppress our natural state of curiosity and interest in our environments, to the point that we may experience conscious or unconscious fear when faced with a question. Questioning thus becomes risk-taking behavior.

When we ask a question or receive an answer while we’re in a state of fear, the fear triggers our fight or flight response. This changes the blood flow and neural connections in our brains, limiting our ability to learn, in a way that can permanently change our behaviors. The behaviors we want to change, in the case of healing from injury, strain, and pain, are the behaviors that interfere with our capacity for complete healing. They can lead to recurring symptoms and painful experiences, where we don’t fully understand “why this keeps happening to me” and can lead to feeling victimized by the unknown movements that are contributing to our injury or re-injury. Often this state of not-knowing-why results in even more fear — or giving up.

As a Feldenkrais Practitioner, my approach may be different than what many of us are accustomed to, which is: Patient asks a question to the “all-knowing” practitioner, and receives an answer delivered with succinct confidence.

Instead, the answers my patients receive may initially seem more ambiguous, as I guide them into redeveloping their own skills in self awareness and curiosity. In a safe environment, they are guided into self-exploration, confronting those unconscious fears that were developed long ago, which have thus far been successful at suppressing their innate curiosity. As they begin to approach their movement experiences from an attitude of open curiosity and self-questioning, the blood-flow and neural patterns in their brains change and the capacity for new learning and improvement in movement becomes possible.

So the next time you find yourself asking, “What’s the point?” be skeptical! If you end up with a quick answer, you may be satisfied for the moment, but when nothing has truly changed, you may find yourself back at square-one, with pain and limitations still present. Instead, begin to develop the skill to linger with the question and approach it from many different view points, thus engaging your brain in a way that truly engages the full capacity of your body’s ability to change and heal.