The Magic Words That Move Your Body
Words are tools you can use to manipulate the world – including the mechanisms of your own body.
I’m obsessed with the relationship between speech and action. It’s a lot more mysterious and powerful than we normally think.
People are often surprised when they start lessons with me. I teach a technique for self-regulating posture, so they come with a set of expectations e.g. it must be some sort of physical exercises, or bodywork/somatic therapy, or simply a list of ‘do this,’ ‘stop that’ for daily life.
It certainly doesn’t seem like the solution will have anything to do with speech other than in the normal sense of communicating what it is they need to do, giving advice, answering questions etc.
Coordinating Speech With Action
But I’m not simply saying that speech is required to tell you the solution, although obviously we need to be able to speak with each other during an online lesson.
What I’m saying is: speech IS the solution to your postural problems.
Before we go on: this is NOT “affirmations.” I’m not claiming you just need to tell to yourself over and over “i will have good posture” or “I will remember to stand up straight” etc and expect the words to somehow magically readjust all of the mechanical body parts into the correct relationships with one another. It doesn’t work this way (and I’ve tried!)
Using Words As Tools
What I’m talking about is using a special type of structured speech to plan and analyse movements, along with a technique for translating this speech into action – specially into synchronised movements and readjustment of the whole anatomical structure. So it’s not just words about things, but words that actually do things. In this case moving the different parts of your body in accordance with a mental model of an expanded torso.
I teach you how to use precisely defined verbal instructions to guide and control the smaller sub-movements that make up larger actions such as sitting, standing, walking etc. In your mind right now you probably just think “stand” and then you stand up without any reasoned understanding of the different movements of the parts required, and in which order, and whether this is efficient or not.
Words are tools you can use to manipulate the world – in this case the mechanisms of your body.
This is very strange at first, surely movements are only done by ‘feeling’ them happen, and moving around until you feel/sense you are in the correct position for accomplishing whatever it is you are doing. It hardly seems like speech – words spoken aloud and/or your inner speech – could be involved, other than in communicating instructions which you then go an carry out by feeling and sensing the movements as you normally do.
But I don’t mean this. I mean that speech – verbal instructions you give to yourself in advance – are the tool that will directly guide and control the movements. And not just a single movement. Many little sub-movements that make up the larger movement of sitting, standing or the concerted series of movements that we give the label “posture,” without really knowing what we are talking about. Posture is just a snapshot in time of an ongoing series of movements – you are doing right now – that are habitually coordinated together creating a visible shape. Even when you are ‘still’ you are continually moving and readjusting.
Moving Without Feeling
How do I know you can really move without feeling it? Am I imagining this, or is it intuition or deep embodiment? No, it’s concrete and objective, you can verify on video once you learn how to see. I bet you are doing various little movements you cannot feel when you sit and stand. Well it turns out it’s possible to use precise verbal instructions to prevent yourself from doing those specific movements and confirm on video.
But you didn’t do the new movement directly – something else does it for you. Your brain carries out your verbal commands without you having to micro-manage all the details. And it can do many more movements, all at the same time, than it is ever possible to feel happen together. Interesting!
So you can start movements AND stop movements – without necessarily feeling or sensing them. Without doing them directly. Sometimes you notice, sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t matter. You are developing a new guiding and controlling centre for your movements using speech as the tool, and not relying on your feeling/sensations/perception. But if you watch a video you can see the exact movements happen, or stop happening.
So what does it?! Let’s keep it simple and say your brain figures it out based on the consciously reasoned instructions you have given yourself in advance. It’s amazing when you first experience this after a lifetime of believing you can only move by “feeling” it directly… But we don’t get a user’s manual for our brain and body.
It’s fascinating that this even works at all. It’s not at all obvious and most people aren’t aware of the conscious control they potentially have over themselves, and so end up a victim of habits and are left convinced they have “physical” problems which require “physical” solutions.
Or they go do bodywork or eastern spiritual practices which just focus your attention on feelings and sensations. None of them use structured speech to directly solve psycho-mechanical problems in this way, there is always a ‘gap’ between speech and action. (I’ll write more on this another time.)
But what interests me most is the fact that this exact same system – using verbal instructions to command movements you can’t necessarily feel or sense – can also be used to order your mental and emotional life. Once your body learns to obey your precise verbal commands (consciously reasoned in advance) this discipline somehow ‘filters’ upwards and becomes a way to control all your habits, detach from negative self-talk, maybe even “order your soul” as the ancients said.
What Are The Magic Words?
So, what are these words that will control your posture? Well, they’re not the same for everyone, so there is no set of perfect instructions you can memorise and repeat forever.
First we need to build a language similar in structure to the structure of your body. All knowledge is knowledge of relations.
Eventually your brain will implement this new understanding of the structure-as-a-whole, but it requires speech as the tool to turn theory into practice.
The commands I teach you are embedded within this mental model, and so the rules you apply for your own movements will depend on (1) what you’re currently doing with/to yourself that is habitual and mostly subconscious (2) Which movements you need to stop, and which movements you need to do in order to get closer to the model.
The exact process is unique to each person. This is why I work 1-to-1 with you. If you want to experiment with this stuff you can book a lesson.