My self I then perused, and limb by limb
Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
With supple joints, and lively vigour led:
But who I was, or where, or from what cause,
Knew not; to speak I tried, and forthwith spake,
My tongue obeyed and readily could name
What e'er I saw.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII, 253-73
The Journey Around My Toes circles back to my soul's great awakening. Adam, in this passage from Paradise Lost, is describing his initial awareness at springing into life. First, he becomes aware of his own self and then his body and then the use of his body. I am going about this type of awareness of my body as I am going through these physical therapies which both enhance my functionality and point out my limitations.
I went back for my weekly visit with my podiatrist, Dr. Diamond, and got my usual toes in traction and tootsies stimmed and taped.
We also reviewed my home exercises with one of his assistants, a Pilates instructor. In the process of reviewing the hip flexor exercise, we noticed something a little different about me from many of Dr. Diamond's assistants. His assistants are dancers or Pilates instructors who all have an innate awareness of their bodies. I don't. I just don't know where my body is in space completely. I don't get any feedback when I stretch my legs out and rotate them. I know they are out there somehow. But, it's not intuitive. I have to really think about what I am doing.
Which brings me to the next point. When I learn something new like a new exercise, many times, I end up creating a "rule set" and following those rules. It's not like I inherently perceive something by looking at it and then imitate it by being aware of where my body is by getting feedback through my joints. I'm not completely deadened to feedback from my body, but I have the feeling that somehow, I just don't get the average amount of it. It's not that I can't learn to do physical activities. I do learn them, albeit slowly and with five times the amount of training whether its cooking or skiing. Also, I learn a lot by talking.... Talking is the one interface that I have to the world that doesn't involve too much effort. Unfortunately, talking can be perceived as excessive by folks who can just watch and learn nonverbally.
I think this may be related back to problems I have with sequential processing. I have basic problems in processing more than one thing at the same time. This was noted during Neurofeedback sessions and I believe it is also part of Central Auditory Processing Disorder.
I learn by following rules and paying attention to form. So what does that mean? I make a very structured world out of a pretty chaotic one. Think about it. When you don't really know where your body is and you are trying to get some basic sense of order and control, making rule sets is one way to compensate. While this approach can help me get over some things that are quite necessary in life like cooking breakfast and it can help me acquire and enhance skills, it can also be problematic. First, of all, in getting along with people who function by being able to perceive and fluidly adjust according to perception. Also, there is a certain meta-skill set that is missing. So, there can be gaps not covered by rules. Finally, you can pile on rule after rule and then collapse under the weight of your rules.
But back to considerations of the body... I have been pondering the effect of body, movement and personality. If you think about how personality is expressed, it is expressed by movement. As we move we are exercising functions of the personality, since our
physical expression, gestures and movements are manifestations and
functions of our internal objects and object relations. I am not sure right now, where this line of thought will take me... but somehow there is some connection (and also because of disability, some loss of connection) between me and my personality and the way I move my body through space. What this all means, I am not completely sure... but I will be pondering it further.
On another note, I find myself starting to ponder basic questions about myself how I relate and fit into the world. Some of this relates to considerations that have been pondered in philosophy by folks such as Descartes, Locke, Kant, and phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty (who has a background in both psychology and philosophy). More recently, how my self (and I put a space in deliberately. My self --- the self belonging to me. ) fits into a world currently described as post modern where perception, image and identity are changing. We have moved from modernism with the Enlightenment ideals of progress, optimism,
rationality and the search for absolute truth and the true self, to a postmodernism as the contemporary antithesis embracing exhaustion,
pessimism, irrationality and disillusionment with absolutes. I am more optimistic than the postmodernists as I believe that we will be looking for an antithesis to postmodernism that will be more cheerful and optimistic. Maybe that antithesis will be found in the current movement towards the noosphere.
Also, as technology changes the world we live in, we are changing how our body schema, identity and sense of self as it relates to the world. We see this as we play video games that involve haptics (tactile feedback) such as the wii or biofeedback such as Journey to the Wild Divine. Other areas that include this sense of changing our body schema, identity and self, include the use of prosthetics, especially when prosthetics actually lead to enhanced capabilities far greater than what "normal" human beings are capable of, such as the springed foot that permits you to run faster than the average person.
Feminism, Gender and Transgender studies also include looking at the body and its relationship to social structures and self.
For someone like me who does like a certain amount of order, living in a chaotic contemporary world is a bit exhausting. I start from a rather confused body schema where I'm not sure what's going on with my limbs and try and get more control over my limbs through therapy. As I do so, I am noticing subtle personality changes and shifts in world view. I feel like Adam did in the first paragraph of this essay: a sense of the awakening into the world.