Paralysis, Not Pain

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I cried through most of Pixar’s new film, Finding Dory.  For those of you who don’t know about the sequel to Finding Nemo, it details the search of Dory, a blue tang fish, as she seeks her family while suffering short-term memory loss.  The film moved me so much because I related strongly to Dory’s dilemma.


At a key point in the film, Dory, who cannot remember anything longer than a minute, finds herself alone without any help, unable to remember where she is or what to do.  In order to make it through this crisis, she must continue to move forward without memory or assurance.  It is a terrifying moment for her, and for the audience, but also an exhilarating one.


I knew how she felt.  I have frequently found myself alone, afraid, and unsure if I could continue.  I was very happy that the movie reinforced the idea that got me through these crises:  pain is far less of an obstacle than paralysis.


I recently drove my family down a long mountain road leading out of Sequoia National Park.  It was very dark, and the road was a two-hour twisty ride with no protection from significant falls off steep cliffs.  To make matters worse, I had a toothache and it was distracting me from being able to focus on safe driving!


As the pain in my jaw got worse and worse, so did my fear.  I thought it might get so bad that I would have to stop driving.  What saved me (and my family) was when I began to realize that the pain itself wasn’t a problem, so long as I recognized how I was freezing up my body as a result.  


Sometimes when I’m in pain I feel the urge to move as little as possible so as not to make it worse.  In this case, however, that strategy was not only counterproductive, but wrong.  The more I froze, the worse the pain got.


That’s because it wasn’t really the pain in my jaw that was bothering me.  It was my overwhelming sense of fear and discomfort from trying to be still!  Once I began moving around again, finding out exactly what I could move (which was almost everything), the pain became nothing more than an irritation in my mouth that I could easily tolerate.


In Finding Dory, the Dory’s pain in dealing with her disability proves far less of an obstacle than the paralysis she feels around it.  When she is afraid to make a mistake because she believes it will prove her stupid or worse, cause her or others harm, she becomes powerless.  When she decides to move in the ways that she is capable, her memory loss retreats to a manageable condition and she achieves her dreams.


This is a central tenet of the Feldenkrais Method, and it is a lesson I have taught myself a thousand times in all sorts of situations.  Stage fright, lack of ability, even pain can be managed in a performer or a creative person when the part of the person that is capable brings itself to bear.  Then a new, more capable person is able to go about their dreams.


1 comment

  • Sharon


    Glad you got through it. Tooth pain is AWUL. Great philosophy about making a disability worse by giving it power.

    Glad you got through it. Tooth pain is AWUL.

    Great philosophy about making a disability worse by giving it power.

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