hinges of habit


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Each one of us speaks, moves, thinks and feels in a different way, each according to the image of himself he has built up over the years. In order to change our mode of action, we must change the image of ourselves that we carry within us. What is involved here, of course, is a change in the dynamics of our reactions, and not a mere replacing of one action by another. Such a change involves not only a change in our self-image, but a change in the nature of our motivations, and a mobilization of all parts of the body concerned.

Our self image consists of four components that are involved in every action: movement, sensation, feeling and thought.  The contribution of each of these components to any particular action varies, just as the persons carrying out the actions vary, but each component will be present to some extent in any action.

In reality our self-image is never static. It changes from action to action, but gradually these changes become habits; that is, the actions take on a fixed, unchanging character.

All behavior, as we noted before, is a complex of mobilized muscles, sensing, feeling and thought. Each of the components of action could, in theory, be used instead, but the part played by the muscles is so large in the alternatives that if it were omitted from the patterns in the motor cortex, the rest of the components of the patterns would disintegrate.

At any single moment the whole system achieves a kind of general integration that the body will express at that moment. Position, sensing, feeling, thought, as well as chemical and hormonal processes, combine to form a whole that cannot be separated out into its various parts. This whole may be highly complex and complicated, but is the integrated whole of that system at the given moment.

We have already seen that the muscles play the main role in awareness. It is not possible for change to take place in the muscle system without a prior corresponding change in the motor cortex. If we can succeed in some way in bringing about a change in the motor cortex, and through this a change in the coordination of or in the patterns themselves, the basis of awareness in each elementary integration will disintegrate.

A fundamental change in the motor basis within any single integration pattern will break up the cohesion of the whole and thereby leave thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines. In this condition, it is much easier to effect changes in thinking and feeling, for the muscular part through which thinking and feeling reach our awareness has changed and no longer expresses the patterns previously familiar to us.  Habit has lost its chief support, that of the muscles, and has become more amenable to change.

Excerpt from Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais

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