These excerpts from The Potent Self capture features of the Feldenkrais approach I find most compelling. Unconsciously at first but more consciously through time, these principles informed my bodywork. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 55)
In certain acts, we are aware of something resembling "taking off the brakes;" in others, we have to start our executive machine. In still others, we find ourselves acting before we know what we are doing. . . . Spontaneity is a subjective and relative notion, and only a trained observer can tell whether a given action is spontaneous or compulsive. It depends on the internal sensation of resistance experienced while acting or inhibiting action. . . .
Spontaneity is indeed a very relative and subjective notion. . . . In humans, where the bulk of activity consists of learned acts, there appears a kind of activity that is best described as potent activity. It is the sort of behavior we encounter in well-matured persons. . . .
In those planes of life in which our maturity is least developed, we continue acting compulsively; we do (or we do not do) things knowing perfectly well that we want the exact opposite. Under these circumstances, impotence appears. It is important therefore to investigate closely how we learn to act, how internal conflicts arise, and how they are expressed, so that we are better equipped to deal with impotence when it arises. . . .
Diffused tensions originate in the higher nervous centers in many different ways and are rather difficult to identify, because the sensation they produce is not connected with a definite part of the body and because they rarely repeat themselves in identical conditions. . . . When these sensations persist to the point of interfering with the joy of life, it becomes very important to be able to identify the tensions so as to know what to do to find relief, and not just wait for that to happen. . . .
The common association of good posture with poise - that is, mental or emotional tranquillity - is in fact an excellent criterion of good posture. Neither excessive muscular tension nor emotional intensity is compatible with good posture. Good posture means acting fast but without hurry; hurry means generally heightened activity that results not in faster action, but only in increased muscular contraction. Good posture means using all the power one possesses without enacting any parasitic movements. . . .
Bad posture is the externally observable physical counterpart of internal conflict or contradiction. It is cultivated during the dependence period when the child is called on to perform acts for which she has not the means; that is, when she is induced to act by heightening her emotional tone and not spontaneously, in the sense we have defined that word earlier. . . .
Faulty posture always expresses the emotional stress that has been responsible for its formation. The most frequent and observable one is the stress of insecurity in its different aspects, such as hesitation, fear, doubt, apprehension, servility, unquestioning compliance - and their exact opposites. . . .
It is very important to realize that incompetence does not mean lack of the essential action for achieving the end, but consists largely in enacting unnecessary, parasitic acts. Unaware, we enact all that is sensed as resistance. The incompetent man produces so much unnecessary and often contradictory action that the intended act is accompanied with an overwhelming sense of resistance. . . .
To get rid of incompetence, one must learn to distinguish the parasitic elements that one enacts unaware, by habit, and thus become a real adult. The competent adult's action is so simple that he can never understand the complexity that bewilders the incompetent person, who erroneously tries to achieve (without knowing how to throw overboard the impeding ballast) an action that needs poised simplicity and serenity of attitude. . . .
The whole man must move at once. The inability to do so is lifted when the contradictory motivations are lifted; this coincides with relieving the contractions enacted with or without awareness. To make this possible in all situations, we must learn to bring ourselves into the state of potency in which we can enact what we wish correctly. . . .
The main feature of the technique consists in making available the full range of functioning in all planes, the idea behind it being not that spontaneity is enacting any wild urge that happens to exist, but that all action is spontaneous when it is not compulsive. This formulation sounds evasive, but only at first, for compulsion is a positive parasitic addition. . . .
The compulsive acture (posture related to action) is not bad in itself; it becomes compulsive only because it is enacted out of place, in a manner in which it was enacted in previous experience when it was fitting. The person - being unable to dissociate previous experience - is enacting past experience now, as an automaton responds to all experience by setting off with the same response. . . .
The inability to do is almost without exception due to compulsive fixity of the function in question to only one rung of the ladder of function, all the others being excluded. Action interests the large parts of the cortex, and areas that are constantly inhibited interfere with all action. Impotence is not a local inability, but a general failure of acture. . . .
Full orgasm accompanied by intense gratification is a physiological necessity for the smooth running of the protective, self-assertive, and recuperative functions. . . . No matter how varied one's life may otherwise be, without the occasional absolute abandonment of the protective and sell-assertive habits - as occurs only in frank, spontaneous, and harmonious relationship between a man and a woman - there always remains an anxious longing for something sensed as an ideal state of peaceful well-being.