I saw a post on Reddit the other day where a Grinberg practitioner was looking for volunteers who could help him try out an online session. Of course, I signed up.
We did a session via Zoom for approximately 1 hour with introduction and cooldown included. In the beginning, we talked a bit about what might stress me out right now. I pointed out that I have been procrastinating on my thesis a lot and feeling guilty about that, but also that my sternum is playing painful tricks on me that I have so far blamed on bad posture.
I stood up and closed my eyes to get a better sensation of my body – where the heaviness is, what is tense, what is loose. I then sat down and closed my eyes again and he guided me through the sensations in my body, trying to take me back to the guilt and feeling how it manifests in my body.
I found creating the guilty feeling rather difficult. He did not give me enough time to fully go into it. He kept saying things like “Really experience the guilt” or “Feel what you do when you know you are not doing the thesis, although you know you should”. These prompts actually had a countereffect on everything. Every time he said something like that, I was pulled a bit further back from the guilt. I really need to have some time to get into this thinking loop in order to freak myself out and I was not really given this chance.
Additionally, I was somewhat annoyed with how he seemed to think he knew what I was experiencing. Sometimes, when I tried to describe a sensation to him, he took over and finished my sentence for me, although not in a way I had planned. I felt like he was forcing bodily sensations on me despite not being accurate. It was easier to just agree instead of fighting it while trying to put these abstract sensations into descriptive language.
How do you feel? No, ma’am, it’s “what do you feel?”
(Warning. Bodily sensations are very difficult to put into words, so the following text may be tricky to understand if you have not experienced such sensations yourself. However, using words is the method I am best at. I tried drawing doodles of what I felt, but they do not capture everything as well as they should. Bear with me, alright?)
The most apparent feeling was the tightness in my abs. They were clenched and it felt like they were trying to create a black hole inside my belly by pulling themselves inside themselves. The pull was backwards towards the spine and slightly up. It was not the same as the feeling I get in my chest sometimes when I am anxious – where it feels like there is an external force pulling on a string wrapped around my sternum. Instead, there was an internal force. It literally felt like my stomach was trying to collapse into itself, wrap itself into an infinitely tiny ball of clench-ness.
My shoulders were even more crowded with feelings. They were heavy. It felt like my shoulders were being pressed down as if I was holding heavy grocery bags on each arm. At the same time, it also felt like I was lifting my shoulders upwards instead of letting them hang loose. The most prominent feeling was the one you get when someone grabs you from your arms with their hands and squeezes both of your shoulders, shaking your whole body as if to say “Are you an idiot?!”.
My breath was short and shallow and I held it when breathing out. Therefore, my breathing pattern looked something like “breathing in”, “breathing out”, “holding breath”, “repeat”. Then again, I think that is more or less my regular breathing pattern anyway. When instructed to breathe in even deeper, I realised how small my lung capacity is – I just could not force more air into me. I felt like I would burst.
The guide kept telling I should feel something in my throat, but I do not think I did. At least nothing out of the ordinary. I did feel my chin tighten and get pushed forwards more, but I did not squeeze together my lips and teeth.
I think these exercises are better done lying down than sitting upright. Sometimes it was difficult to differentiate between what my body does when it simply tries to keep me upright and how the feeling of guilt manifests in my body. Lying down would definitely reduce that confusion, although it might create the threat of me falling asleep during the session.
Online is drastically different from offline
The Grinberg Method is a way to raise awareness of oneself and the surroundings. It is about recognising when one falls into habitual patterns so that they can actively take steps to break out of the default response.
The practice is often complimented by touch. The instructor makes the bodily sensations more apparent by applying appropriate touch or pressure to the body part concerned. Obviously, that is not possible when doing it via a video call. I wonder how that would have changed the experience. He did, however, seem to read my body and face well via the video feed.
But seeing yourself through the laptop camera is always disgusting.