In my private sessions and classes, people are often surprised that their problem in a particular area improves from working with another area or a whole body movement.
While surprising at first glance, it begins to make sense if we consider the difference between ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’ systems. Even though we use these terms interchangeably in everyday life, they have completely different implications when it comes to problem solving for many aspects of ourselves.
Todd Hargrove's article on the importance of "Playing with Complex Problems" provides an insightful discussion about this. I hope you will enjoy some of the fascinating insights below.
The Rocket Ship example of 'Certainty' in the behavior of parts
Sending a rocket ship to the moon is a classic example of a complicated system. The parts in a rocket ship interact to produce an overall effect with certainty and predictability. Each component of a rocket ship is entirely known in its quantity and qualities of friction, stiffness, shape etc. The rocket engineers also have a near perfect understanding of how all the components work together.
In solving such complicated problems, the principle of reductionism works very well. It is a “divide and conquer” strategy where one large, insurmountable problem can be broken down into many small problems. In fact, don't many of us use it on a daily basis to solve our 'not rocket science kinda problems?' :)
'Variability' among humans is a feature, not a bug!
Our body, or rather ‘we’ are not machines though. As tempting as it is to apply the reductionist approach and its implied certainty, it fails horribly in addressing complex systems like the behavior of clouds, flocks of birds, economies and the human brain. For one, it’s impossible to collect accurate information about all the parts. And two, their interactions are too frequent and dynamic.
In the healthy functioning of a complex system like a person, variability is a feature, not a bug! We might have relatively predictable patterns but we never do the exact same thing twice and will occasionally do something completely unexpected. A toddler, for example, will have some predictable patterns – happy with a treat, sad if you take away a toy, cranky without a good night’s sleep. But there is always the possibility of the unexpected meltdown out of nowhere. While you wish sometimes that your toddler was more predictable, the fact is that as adults we need this ability to respond in diverse ways to be adaptable and resourceful.
What does this mean for solving our problems?
We can make sense now why simple diagnostic tests or sets of exercises are not always effective in “correcting” or “fixing” movement “dysfunctions”. An exploratory, experimental approach that acknowledges the person’s inherent intelligence and collaborates with it can be a more effective problem solving strategy.
The best example of this playfulness in learning is your own childhood. As a baby, you didn't have a genetic plan or blueprint. In fact, you were born without a clue about how to move but learned it through playful experimentation.
In the first two years of your life, you performed remarkable feats of learning! You learned to stand and balance on a very narrow base of support. You also began to speak, a feat that requires remarkable coordination of breathing, moving the lips, palate, mouth and air through the larynx to produce a variety of variations.
Like Feldenkrais Trainer and Movement Educator, Carl Ginsberg says, “Since we are such capable learners, we also are capable of mis-learning in the years to follow. We override our natural learning abilities, which are often beautifully organized at the beginning. We grow up with limitations and restrictions that are unnecessary.”
Would you like to move and feel better in a way that rekindles and awakens the inherent intelligence and playful learning ability you had as a baby? What does that mean for you? I'd love to read your comments. Whats buzzing in your brain from this? :)