“The behavior of human beings is firmly based on the self-image they have made for themselves. Accordingly, if one wishes to change one’s behavior, it will be necessary to change this image.
What is a self-image? I wouild argue that it is a body image; namely, it is the shape and relationship of the bodily parts, which means the spatial and temporal relationships, as well as the kinesthetic feelings. Included with this are feelings and emotions and one’s thoughts. All of these form an integrated whole.
How does a self-image come about? Everyone feels that his way of walking, speaking, and behaving is uniquely his own and unchangeable. He totally identifies with this behavior – as if he were born with it.
…Despite this belief, everything central to human behavior is acquired only by a long period of learning: to walk, to speak, to see a photo or painting in three dimensions – one’s very movements, attitude, and language are acquired purely according to the accidental circumstances of one’s place of birth and environment.
Thus, when we learn to speak a second language, we always speak it with an accent – an earlier learning always stands in the way of a new learning. It is always difficult to sit as the Japanese or Hindus do, because earlier habits stand in the way. Thus, whatever, the accident of one’s birth, the difficulty we experience when attempting to change mental or physical habits has little to do with heredity and everything to do with the general problem of changing any habit that has already been acquired.” ~ Moshe Feldenkrais
…another argument for free, self-directed, non-adult-assisted, non-adult-judged play?!
Feldenkrais went on to note: “If, while lying on your back, you do a careful mental survey of your entire body, you will notice that some parts of your body are more easily sensed than others. The parts that are less easily sensed are not part of our conscious actions. Moreover, you will find that during each separate action other bodily areas will be absent from consciousness – indeed, some areas are almost never present in our self-image.
A complete self-image is an ideal rarely attained – namely, an equal awareness of the whole body, every part having the same importance (front, back, and both sides). Everyone has to face the fact that his degree of self-control directly mirrors his self-image. This image is, unfortunately, much more limited than the ideal.
We should recognize as well that the relationship of all sections of our bodies changes in accordance with the different things we do and the different postures we assume.”
Given the huge role of the adult in the infant’s early relationship with his/her body, I think Feldenkrais’s ideas need to be considered more with regard to early childhood education.
Feldenkrais also opines (same essay): “Once we come to see that one’s degree of self-control directly mirrors one’s self-image, we can understand why we find it so difficult to improve our bodily performance by focusing only on the learning of specific actions. Instead, we might well surmise that to improve one’s self-image so that it more nearly approximates reality will result in a general improvement in one’s bodily actions. And the results of such an improvement would be both quicker and more extensive than the results from any system of exercises that applies only to specific actions.”
“Usually, we do little more than move according to the self-image that was formed in us from birth up to about fourteen years of age. This vague image usually works more or less satisfactorily, for we rarely need to have a more complete image.
Even though in later life we are capable of much more complex actions, we normally continue making use of the image patterns established during our youth. The time that we have for developing this image is much more continuous then, for it is rarely broken up into occasional learning periods, as is the case for the adult. It is worthwhile noting that this adult discontinuity in subjective learning is a hindrance to higher possibilities of human creativity.” ~ Moshe Feldenkrais
Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) (I need to check pagination) Moshe Feldenkrais ‘Bodily Expressions’ translated from the French by Thomas Hanna, pp. ? in Ed. Elizabeth Beringer (2010) Embodied Wisdom: The Collected papers of Moshe Feldenkrais. Somatic Resources: San Diego.