Prompting Feldenkrais® hands-on Functional Integration® lessons

In 2005, seemingly a long time ago, one of the iconic Feldenkrais trainer drama queens declared that if students do not state clearly their request (wish, problem, concern) before a hands-on session then he will not work with them, even if they’ve already paid their session.

That he said in the Feldenkrais Professional Training Program I’ve attended in Munich, Germany. That and a few more of such incidents from various so called “Senior Feldenkrais Trainers” led me to take a 6 months hiatus because I felt that I didn’t need to put up with such nonsense, thank you very much. I finally graduated in 2008, completed my make-up days in 2009, and finished almost one year behind schedule.

I guess, sometimes we all do and say things that make others feel uncomfortable, and I believe most of us do improve and change for the better over time, so no hard feelings there (and I hope neither from you towards me).

I keep thinking about it because prompting (or not) is such an important topic. For 18 years I’ve been thinking about this “I won’t work with you if you don’t state clearly what you want waa waa, cry me a river” incident, and I’ve worked with thousands of clients with that incident in mind. Not in resentment, but as a question: Is this a good way to start a client session?

And it’s only since I started using ChatGPT that I’ve become aware of that there’s a word for it. “Prompting”- or “proompting” as the computer geeks on Youtube say. So- I will use this blog post and writing to think about the topic of prompting:

Proompting vs prompting

“Proompt. A magical word that engineers use to summon the power of ChatGPT, Midjourney or other AI systems to complete any task imaginable. It is often used in memes to represent the infinite possibilities of artificial intelligence and to poke fun at the sometimes-unpredictable nature of prompt-based learning.”—Urbandictionary

“Prompting is a strategic approach used to increase the likelihood that your child will give the targeted response. It is provided when an ordinary antecedent is ineffective, and is extensively used in behavior shaping and skill acquisition. Prompting procedures rely on reinforcing correct responses that are both prompted and not prompted so that the learner begins to perform skills independently.”—Brave AI summariser

As of now it’s still considered crucial to phrase your prompt clearly and in the right way in order to get the best answer from ChatGPT and other AI systems. Telling an AI what it is you want from it is called prompting. You deliver a prompt and get a response accordingly. The better your prompt the better AI’s response, is the name of the game, at least for now.

But is this the right way to think about Feldenkrais-style hands-on lessons? When do students have the time and opportunity to learn prompting? Is learning to be able to express ourselves clearly and tell others what we feel and need, is this already part of a hands-on Feldenkrais-inspired session?

Would students have to exercise prompting, that is to ask and calibrate the same prompt over and over again until they finally get a satisfying answer from their Feldenkrais practitioner (or “Senior Feldenkrais Trainer“)? So- whether you call it “Stating your concern”, “Asking your question” or “Prompting”—do students even know that there is such a skill and that it should be learned and improved? And on the other side, why should or would a practitioner’s work be determined by—or limited to—the prompting skills of their clients/students?

I might add that in the service industry I kind-of expect good service. When I go to a good hair saloon I expect to be able to say “Do whatever you think will suit me best” and walk out with a great haircut, tailor-made. I also expect to be allowed to make a rather complex, lengthy and unusual request and then too, walk out with a great haircut, tailor-made.

On the other hand, when we go to see a doctor we better make real sure and double check and triple check, and think hard about our request, and then check again if what we said is clear and that the doctor understood correctly, accounting to the fact that doctors are officially the second most common leading cause of death (in the US). Luckily- Feldenkrais practitioners are no doctors, they are private education teachers. And I would expect a good teacher to be even more percipient, discerning and accommodating than a hairdresser, wouldn’t you?