Grabher (2010, p. 77) can now bring in the mind—but only as it operates as a bodily function:
Yet how is this intellectual knowledge transferred into the body? This is quite a significant question – -and the answer cannot be found within the realm of mind and reason. It’s not enough to just memorize anatomy books. A quick wiggle of a particular joint won’t make a memorable, beneficial experience either. To make the transition from intellect to physical reality, one has to engage in a learning experience that includes the body as well as the mind.
The state of wakeful consciousness is made up of four elements: movements, sensations, feelings, and thoughts. If these four activities are absent, one soon falls asleep. It is taken as a matter of fact that movement and sensation are central nervous system functions; but, beyond this, we are proposing that mental process is the same kind of function.
Both Feldenkrais and Grabher proposed that our bodily functions are contained within our mental system. As a result, our mind is consistently being influenced by the state of our body. Their perspectives seem to be directly aligned with those of Antonio Damasio (2005) who indicates that our mood and sense of self are constantly being adjusted based on the overall tone of our body.
At this point, Grabher brings in the domain of feelings. These, too, according to Feldenkrais, are central elements in a holistic sense of movement. Apparently, our central nervous system embraces not only physical movement and sensations but also feelings. I turn now to this critical issue that is being addressed by both Reich and Feldenkrais—this is the issue of how we all address fear and anxiety. Was the Tin Man frozen in place because the Forest is a terrifying place (not because of the rain). And, as I have posed before in this set of essays, are we likely to be frozen in place when facing the terrifying forest of our own mid-21st Century world?
The making and oiling of Armor
I now shift my attention specifically to ways in which Feldenkrais addresses the matter of feelings—and more specifically the matter of anxiety, stress and freeze. Much like Robert Sapolsky (1998) (see our second essay in this series: Bergquist, 2023b), Feldenkrais conceives of anxiety as being locked up in our actions (or inactions). Under conditions of stress and the resulting conditions of anxiety, our body tends to get bound up and locked in place (Sapolsky’s state of freeze). If stress is sustained and anxiety becomes a constant state of affairs, then our body becomes permanently locked in place.
The Red Light Reflex: Grabher (2010, p. 56-57) provides the following account of what occurs under conditions of stress. Borrowing from Thomas Hanna, he writes about the “red light reflex”:
Download Article 1K Club
Thomas Hanna identified three reflexive postural tendencies caused by stress and coined one of them “the red light reflex”. He explains that this involuntary reflex pattern contracts all the muscles of the front side of the body. It is triggered by negative feelings such as fear, worry, apprehension, and sadness. Signs of this habituated pattern include rounded shoulders, the head extended forward over the body, sore neck and shoulder muscles, contracted abdominal muscles, shallow breathing, depression, digestion problems, constipat1on, and many more. In this regard, Thomas Hanna writes: “By learning to regain both awareness, sensation, and motor control of muscles – an educational process that can only be achieved through movement – the brain can remember how to relax and move the muscles properly.”