Embracing Mistakes

It’s not that I am so smart. It’s that I stay with the questions longer.
— Albert Einstein
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Most people cannot abide mistakes. It makes us feel unintelligent and unskillful, myself included. Luckily, practicing Feldenkrais provides a context where lots of "mistakes" create a more beneficial outcome because the process of adaptation requires many mistakes.

Dr. Feldenkrais said, “Embrace your mistakes. If you want to find the full range of human activity, you have to make many mistakes.”

Undeniable Inner Experience

True self-education is about making mistakes, in contrast to being told something outright (or googling it). On this topic, I agree with E.M. Forster: “Spoon feeding, in the long run, teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” (Google is, unfortunately, a kind of spoon.)

Thankfully, sensory feedback cannot be googled or dictated by an outside source. It resides in the blissful truth of inner experience. We might say, “This food is spicy, my back hurts in this chair, I feel dizzy on this road, these shoes are no good for me,” statements that cannot be judged by their correctness. They just are.

As we put words on our sensations, others can enter into our experience. Although another person cannot have our exact experience, they nevertheless know what it means. It's how Helen Keller, deaf, dumb, and blind, discovered her humanity. She knew what inner experience felt like, and she used potent words to describe it.

Adjusting to New Inner Experience

I talked recently with a client who had two knee replacements, two hip replacements, and on top of that, a broken femur. She remarked on the shock of not feeling "herself" because everything she had to do required re-thinking and re-negotiating. From getting into the car to getting dressed, injury and pain put tremendous demands on her sense of self.

All of my clients, to a person, want to “feel like themselves” again, whether it's the life-long passion of painting, working in a treasured garden, or playing a long-lost beloved sport. It might be getting rid of feeling “old” with so many doctor's appointments after numerous surgeries, or recovering enough mobility to participate in family outings, or walking around the block without a full-blown panic attack.

Often, feeling like ourselves is a background experience we don't notice until it is gone, upon which it is immediately and viciously missed. Then we stumble around making mistake after mistake as we rediscover what it means to move, feel, and live.

Usually, refining our sense of self doesn't happen until after we are disoriented, injured, or challenged. Yet, we can always become "more ourselves" by becoming more and more differentiated in our thought and actions. We don't have to wait for injury or loss of function. Recognizing sensory feedback and choosing how we respond to it is our birthright.

Helen Keller knew this. She says, “Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”