Our History Moves With Us
Whether you’re getting to know someone’s (or your own) personality or movement preferences, history matters. Both our words and our actions can demonstrate who we are - what matters to us, what doesn’t, what we’re afraid of, where we’re comfortable, where we’re not. And both our words and actions are informed by our history. The misconception we have about history is that if it’s not on our mind, or, in the case of injury and illness, if it doesn’t hurt any more, then it’s no longer affecting our behavior. But, in my experience, that simply isn’t true. And often it’s those overlooked aspects of our history that are affecting what we’re experiencing today.
I can use my own experience as an example. I had an accident when I was 7 years old that resulted in a really nasty sprain to my left ankle. No bones were broken, so we slapped an ACE bandage on it, practiced some R.I.C.E, and swung around on crutches until it seemed healed enough to bear weight again. The obvious trauma was over and the pain was gone. My resilient 7-year-old body seemed to bounce back without incident. However, a pattern began to emerge as time passed where I would injure myself, and it was always that left leg. Unlucky coincidence? Perhaps. But more likely a result of the quiet compensation my body worked out to keep moving forward around a sub-optimal situation. And apparently the body and nervous system have a LONG memory. Recently I attended a training where we were focusing on the various stages of walking gait and the effects the foot plays in those patterns. And guess what? There are STILL compensation patterns my body is using to make up for my left foot and ankle. And as much time as I spend working with my body and movement, these patterns were absolutely invisible to me. Or, I should say, they were in my blind spot, not really invisible. Because the other little painful ‘isms’ that have popped up over the last few years were not due to injury - they were overuse patterns relating back to my left leg compensations! How crazy is that? Most of us would never assume a seemingly unrelated pain decades after the initial event would be related. And hey, sometimes it’s not. But in my experience the tricky troubles that plague you and seem to resist any explanation or treatment are very much related to your history.
And I have personal experience around one of the biggest blind spots I’ve encountered with movement. Surgeries. You see, they’re completely understandable to us. We’ve reasoned it out; the surgery was (hopefully) necessary and was fixing a problem. We know that in our head. But you know what? Our body doesn’t know that. To your tissues and nervous system, someone cut you, perhaps multiple times, and did stuff to your insides. And that’s a problem. I wrote a while back about my abdominal surgery when I was a teenager and how the scars have proven to be an important consideration in how I use my body today. You can read about that here. But the scars aren’t the only disruptive force at play in that situation. Just like my foot, I have developed movement patterns and ways of holding my body based around protecting my scars and what was done on the inside. None of these patterns were conscious or intentional, and I had figured out how to make them look pretty normal - it took a sharp eyed movement teacher to see it. But once it was brought to my attention I began to really fully feel how much my body was still experiencing the need to protect the site of the surgery - 20 years after the fact! And the effects of that compensation are far reaching.
As I observe people and work with them in movement, I see this often. But I definitely have found that abdominal scars are particularly relevant to our patterns. It makes sense - our most vital organs and systems are in the center of our body. So when an insult occurs there it is imperative to our body that we protect the problem, even if that is the C-section scar that delivered your child or the emergency appendectomy you needed. And, like me, the bearers of those scars are likely not aware that they are affected by their history today. That is, until they get curious in their movement.
The good news is that if you have awareness around it, you can change it. We can’t do anything about what we don’t know about. So whether it’s movement exploration or visceral work, we have the ability to change the nature of our relationship with the results of our physical history.
Knowledge is power!