Since I have come to understand focal dystonia as a learning process gone wrong, I believe it’s possible to relearn, or retrain our movement. My evidence? My own work. I’ve been retraining using many different methods and exercises, all which have a theme of learning a better balance between observing and engaging. In my pre-dystonia days (although, I wonder now if there ever were “pre-dystonia days”) when I was in 100% engaging mode with very little observation of my physical habits, my auditory sense was active, but my kinesthetic sense was dull. I listened, and adjusted, but ignored what was happening in my body.

Just as a good conversation, and, arguably, a rich and rewarding life, requires a balance between observing and engaging, so does understanding our whole selves with regard to our movement. An interview with anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson with Krista Tippett on NPRs “On Being” addressed the possible simultaneity of observation and engagement. Although she was discussing the process of being a “participant observer” in order to study a new culture, her descriptions beautifully describe my process of retraining. I have become a “participant observer” of my own movement habits.

“There’s a huge benefit to being a participant observer. There are people who just observe and don’t engage with others. There are people who just engage and don’t think about what’s happening. To learn to go back and forth, or, simultaneously be learning/observing but at the same time be fully present was a marvelous thing to learn. And it’s a marvelous way to live.” Mary Catherine Bateson

Learning to be aware of the internal and the external by engaging and observing simultaneously results in being fully present. This has allowed me to inhibit dystonic movement when I sense it (before the movement itself).

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