Do You Need Safety? #MeToo.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
by: Francine Bonjour, GCFP

Section: Professional Develpment




During the second year of my Feldenkrais® training, five fellow trainees and I had to escape a house on fire. The escape was not easy. We literally ran for our lives after fighting locked doors and stuck windows inside a three-story house bursting into flames.
 
After the initial shock diminished the following day, I drove home to Philadelphia. I went grocery shopping. I talked with the cashier. It was some benign conversation about the weather, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, "You have no idea I almost died in Baltimore yesterday."

As I was leaving the store, I stopped for a few seconds and looked around. I realized that I had no idea what anyone had been through yesterday, the prior week, or fifteen years ago. This moment marked a new way of seeing and relating to others and informed who I am as a Feldenkrais practitioner.
 
Today, I am aware that a high percentage of the people who lie on my table for an FI® lesson or on the floor for an ATM® class have been through a traumatic experience at some point in their lives. This is essential for me to remember, as I aim to come from a place of acknowledgment without victimizing. I do not transform my Feldenkrais knowledge into a "fixing" theory.

And then, last year, the #MeToo movement took off.

As we know in our profession, becoming aware is not always pleasant or easy. Sometimes developing awareness involves shedding light on things we've avoided for a long time, topics deeply buried, conversations we don't want to have - with ourselves and others.

The recent tsunami of publically shared stories about sexual abuse and assault has shaken me deeply, reminding me of my own powerless experiences, and it has caused me see the women who lie on my table with even more need for safety, security, and empowerment.

The role of power dynamics is crucial in any form of abuse, and I want to look at my work through this lens, checking in with myself so that I build my practice as a safe container. As my shamanic teacher often says, clean and clear intentions are the heart of good healing work. Without safety, I'm not going to be able to do anything I learned with the Feldenkrais Method® with anyone.

Because this is what I do for a living:
I touch people.
I touch people who don't know me, and whom I've never met before.
I touch people who are in physical pain, and in every other kind of distress.
I touch people who often feel hopeless.
I touch people who want or need, someone to take their pain away from them, who often have given their power away to medical authorities and are trying something else
with me.
I touch people who do not touch me. This is really important to be aware of.

I do not want to assume that, because people have on clothes, I should not be sensitive to their personal space. Sometimes I can feel that I am not completely invited there. I've sensed people closing up, becoming alert (as in defensive), and suddenly being on a guarded mode when I touched them.

Sometimes it is an area I associate with sexuality and vulnerability (pelvis, breasts, the opening of the legs…), sometimes it is not: one of my clients feels very vulnerable when she is barefoot. It took months before she felt OK with me touching her feet during an FI lesson.

I have made a point for the past few months to ask people "Is it OK if I put my hand on your sternum?", or "Jane, I will touch your pelvis, please let me know if that's not OK with you." I am not asking if it is painful when I touch her pelvis; I am giving her the choice to be a participative agent in our work, the power to say no, and above all I am developing a sense of safety.

I will not always know the person's trauma history. Although I always ask if there is any trauma or injury I should be aware of during our interview, realistically the chances that the person in front of me tells her traumatic experience during our first meeting is pretty slim.

I am also aware that we are hard-wired in our culture to answer "I'm OK," or "that's fine, you can touch my pelvis" when in fact, deep inside of us, something is screaming no…

I've had many questions around this topic since I started my practice:
What do I do when the person brings up a sexual trauma?
Should I ask my clients?
Am I ready to hear their answer?
Do I have someone to refer them to if they want to talk about it?
How does it resonate or trigger my own experience?

I am lucky to be married to a psychotherapist and to be in therapy myself, so I have two qualified and trusted persons to discuss these questions with.

I think it is important, especially at this moment in time, to educate ourselves about boundaries and power dynamics. To have this conversation within ourselves, within our community, with colleagues, with other professionals.

What would it look like to have therapists and counselors specialized in this type of work to talk with, on an individual, regional or national level, in person or online, at a conference, during training? It certainly is not a one-time discussion, for the topic branches to many areas, it is an ongoing, growing awareness. As Feldenkrais practitioners, we should be in a good place to understand how that works…

The Feldenkrais Method, in the way I believe Moshe Feldenkrais intended it to be, offers something that I personally have craved for my whole life: to be touched in a non-medical and non-sexual way. This is not a small thing. It affects so many levels of one's being, and in my experience, it is essential for someone to re-write their story and walk toward a healthy future.

The most impactful thing we have to offer is safety, we all need it for this work to work, and for this world to heal.

Francine Bonjour-Carter, GCFP, decided to become a Feldenkrais practitioner after being introduced to the method by one of her martial arts teachers a decade earlier in her native France. She has a practice near Philadelphia, where she focuses on back pain and brain injuries. She also offers shamanic workshops and helps others heal and find peace in their bodies, minds, and hearts. Find out more.
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Comments (9)
Mary Cellucci
4/3/2018 1:13:39 AM
Francine, I have sent emails in the past regarding your breathing
Workshop.
But I received no information
About it.
I could really use this because I
Have bad allergies, asthma and
Heart disease.
I do not drive and I would not be
Able to take a class on a Saturday.
There are several reasons for this.
I would appreciate any information on this matter.
Thank you.



Valeria
4/1/2018 3:43:04 AM
Thanks for the nice article. I do not share the phrase "I touch people who do not touch me" because most time I feel touched by the person I touch. Even after days I feel something emerge. And absolutely I need to be safe because sometimes I feel I am not. Now I'm curious about your shamanic path :). Thank you and regards,
Valeria Tadiello
Feldenkrais Practitioner
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist
Milano, Italy


Catherine Beerda-Basso
3/29/2018 5:54:36 PM
beautiful wisdom here sister, thank you for your voice and your offering...it is needed!


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