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Locked In

When we take away a person's ability to move we are in a sense guilty of a crime against our collective humanity.

I think movement is a birthright and when our ability to move gets taken away from us whether momentarily or permanently it is perhaps the most uncomfortable experience there is in life.

I have come to this conclusion from a couple of situations.

One is my own experience of working in a modern work environment that involves sitting for numerous hours, only shifting occasionally to disturb my discomfort, watching the eerie glow of a computer screen until eye strain is my normal state.

That lack of movement often felt like a form of torture and I used to long for the forty five minute long lunch break, where I could free myself by walking in nature along the local canal. I used that period to reconnect with myself and a sense of life outside work, through movement.

I also have friends at work who live for their lunchtime gym sessions where they can let off the steam / frustration that builds up during the day.

I know this is common, as I have spoken about it with many friends and colleagues. We have discussed the mental, emotional and physical side effects of being static for long periods.

The physical side effects of that lifestyle are self evident, tight shoulders, strained eyes, a painful back, neck pain, headaches, basically every single bit of us can become painful when we don't move it for extended periods.

They are often accompanied by various emotional states like, anxiety and depression. Which are far more common in today's society than anyone would care to admit.

One thing is certain from these examples, we are all craving movement, and a life without it is unthinkable.

But what happens when that capacity is taken away from us against our will?

I have a client who three years ago experienced a life changing brainstem stroke, his stroke effected the movement centres in his brain and the effect was that he lost his ability to move almost completely. This condition is commonly known as locked in syndrome. And it essentially means he was a prisoner within his own body.

He was made completely reliant on others for things that we take for granted.

Simple things like scratching your nose, or covering your mouth when you sneeze, or fundamental things like chewing and speech.

Those are all coordinated movements that we learnt when we were very young, and have become so ingrained in our daily life that we no longer consider them as movements we make, they are just part of 'us'.

And when we loose that ability it impacts our sense of self so severely that people in that situation often loose the will to live.

For the last year we have embarked on a rehabilitation process with him that I have felt privileged to be a part of. Where we have had to go right back to the beginning of movement, the developmental stages of our childhood. We have been trying to rebuild some of the neurological connectioons responsible for coordinated movement.

I intent to write more about his story at a later date but initially I would ask you to please consider for a second what it means to have your ability to move taken from you.

The next example I would like to bring to your attention is from a TedX talk I watched recently which really hit home the implications of restricting movement.

In it the speaker explains how placing young crimimals in detention centres and specifically solitary confinement is never justified, it is an extreme measure that can end up doing lifelong harm to the mental and emotional state of that still developing person.

It's very possible that when you read this you consider these as extreme examples of a lack of movement but I guarantee that you will find some smaller examples from your own life where your movements have been limited.

For example, how an arm reacts being confined by a cast for a month after breaking a bone, or how your sense of self is impacted if you twist / break your ankle and need crutches, or how emotionally draining it can be to have a constant back pain when all you want is to be free to live and move normally.

These examples might not mean anything to you but they are related to a fundamental human necessity, to move.

(Or run, or fight, when the situation in front of us calls for that.)

But that ability is at the heart of the process that thanks for Darwin we call evolution.

When we try to contain or suppress those impulses, that suppression comes at a cost.

This all has a biological basis, in that our ability to move in various situations and environments is directly correlated to our ability to survive. Finding food, finding mates, procreation, fighting off threats and protecting new life. Our ability to move has always been directly related to our ability to live.

I am making a case that movement is the fundamental part of our life and it is when movement becomes restricted that our quality of life is severely impacted.

The question then becomes what can we do about it?

If there are areas in your life of your body that feel stuck or places that feel uncomfortable or painful. This is likely because they are parts of yourself that have intentionally or unintentionally been restricted or stopped from moving.

Often the solutions to these kind of issues are complicated, and might require actual medical attention.

But there is always something that you can do individually and that is to just begin to move, slowly, carefully and in the direction your want to go, and in time you will find your situation begins to change for the better.

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