Fool me once…

I was maybe six years old when I discovered the red-hot glowing cigarette lighter in my dad’s sedan. Come to think of it, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, here in Austria, most cars had cigarette lighters built in, right next to the in-car radio in the center console—to make it more convenient to light a cigarette while driving. Which sounds absolutely nuts from a 2024 perspective.

So, I found out about this device on a family trip to Italy or somewhere, and I discovered it before my younger brother did. Then I did something that I still can’t quite make sense of, even today: I abused my younger brother’s total trust in me by talking him into touching the red-hot glowing tip of the cigarette lighter with his pointer finger, reassuring him that it would not hurt.

As expected, I had a split second of feeling victorious, then a short, good laugh, and then the realization that I had wronged him, followed by deep regret. Thinking back, maybe there’s a standard sequence of feelings to this kind of action, much like the Kübler-Ross model, also known as the five stages of grief: first denial, then anger, bargaining, depression, and finally—if ever—acceptance.

I still deeply regret tricking my brother into touching that cigarette lighter. For two reasons:

1. This lesson—that we will be disappointed or betrayed by people we love and trust—is one we will have to learn several times throughout our lives. But it saddens me that my younger brother had his first encounter with this bitter lesson at such a young age, and from me, his trusted older brother, of all people.

2. From that point onwards, I felt that the trust between him and me was never the same. Because of this one, stupid thing. So that was a big loss I had to deal with myself. Maybe that’s another one of life’s non-negotiable, hard lessons.

I wonder, why did I do that? Do we all do such things? Are all people like this? Or just a few? Is it built into our child-rearing? Was it in my upbringing?

Thinking of it, I recall that my dad did similar things to me. For example, around that time, when I was maybe 6 or 8 years old, he took me along to play football with his friends. Afterwards, they were standing around the trunk of his car, which had a duffle bag containing two bottles of water in it. In front of his friends, my dad pulled one bottle out, opened it, and offered it to me to drink. I remember that the adults around me started to chuckle and giggle, which I didn’t comprehend why. But I was thirsty after all that football playing, so I had a good swig. It wasn’t water. It burned in my mouth; I had to spit it out and cough. Much later I learned that it was schnapps, a clear, high-alcohol liquor. They all had a good laugh, and my dad, quite contently, took the bottle from my hands and put it back into the trunk. I don’t think he had the same feelings of regret that I had towards my younger brother in the cigarette lighter incident.

Why do we do that? Is this a learned behavior we pass on from generation to generation? Is it because we got hurt as children but had no way of getting even, and therefore do these kinds of compensatory, stupid things to everyone within our reach? Unknowingly, unconsciously, like robots acting out programs? Again and again, without ever getting even?

Well, I do hope I broke that cycle, at least within my psyche, my body, my life. From that cigarette lighter incident onwards, I ran into the same “program” a couple more times, but I feel it had less and less control over me as such things happened less and less severely, and less and less often.

The last “big” incident that I noticed was again with my younger brother, some 15 years ago or so. He suffered from knee pain, and as (bad) luck would have it, I saw a fitness trainer on YouTube demonstrate a knee exercise that he claimed would fix any knee pain. You know how well they come across, these super-fit-looking, young fitness trainers on YouTube with their big smiles, groomed eyebrows, perfect teeth, perfect hair, authoritative voices and positive attitudes—I trusted that guy for no real reason. At that time, I was already a Feldenkrais teacher, but I did not have sufficient experience and knowledge in the field of functional fitness training. So, I went straight to recommending this exercise to my brother, and promptly his knees hurt even more than before, and lastingly so. Ouch.

On the upside, I think those unpleasant experiences made me a better teacher. Nowadays, I’m extra, extra careful when making suggestions or showing exercises myself. Usually, I only film and share lessons that are tried and tested, that I’ve already done sufficiently often myself and with clients, that I understand well, and I am sure they do good and have little in them that could cause harm.

In my work, including my Youtube channel, you will not see excessively big claims, marketing talk, power talk, or attempts to pep you into doing something you might regret later. And this, again, is for the same two reasons I’ve learned with my younger brother:

1. It’s for your won good, my priority is to keep you safe and provide conditions for moving and learning that I believe, and hope, will make you feel better. When clients come to see me they trust me. At no point do I want to comprise that trust.

2. It’s for my own good, I do depend on your well-being and getting better, and in turn I do depend on your support. At no point do I want to comprise that relationship.

In this sense, I wish you a great day and happy moving and rolling about to my movement instructions! :)