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The value of uncertainty and confusion.

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

If we accept the premise that awareness is valuable for the process of learning, then there is an inherent value in being uncertain or confused. Because if you’re certain, you feel secure and there’s actually no reason to be aware.

The biological value of awareness can be seen when one’s environment is destabilised. Say for example in the wild, when a threat is sensed. What do I do ? Do I go R or L, do I fight or take flight? Is it a friend or foe?

It’s uncertainty or confusion or even novelty that provokes the brain to be engaged, that provokes the brain to make a connection bw the outer environment and one’s interior state. If everything is familiar, if everything is as I know it, it is difficult to provoke my curiosity or awareness.

So in order to provoke my awareness in an otherwise safe surrounding of a class practising the Feldenkrais method, what does Dr Feldenkrais do? He creates unusual situations. Situations in which even the most disorganised Nervous System is going to be curious and is going to have to pay attention. My coordination may be tested, maybe even my equilibrium. I might even fall.

Then Feldenkrais may offer different variations against which to measure what’s happening. e.g. What’s the difference between having the head turned this way or that way? One way will have greater hedonic value than the other.

It’s a similar process in a private lesson as in a class, except that as a practitioner I will mostly move the student through a series of explorations. If for example I try various angles of movement, so the student and I can feel the difference, that provokes the student’s curiosity. Let’s say i take her arm above her head. Of course she could do it herself. She has probably done that a thousand times. But if I show her different ways with different angles to bring her arm up, then her curiosity is sparked and her awareness is engaged and her nervous system might learn something.

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