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Sound Feet, Sound Mind
Agoraphobia & Asperger's
Barefooting's Effects on Agoraphobia
Sound Feet, Sound Mind
There's a crossover between the Asperger trait of "toe-walking" and the aberration of all-day shoe-wearing that has become the norm in our modern world.
The toe-walking stance is a counterbalance to the awkward gait that is often symptomatic of Asperger's Syndrome, especially in children. But this cannot be fully understood if we assume that shoe-wearing is the normal state of human locomotion. When a child has difficulty wearing shoes, has flat feet, or other problems where the foot's shape won't match that of the shoe it is imprisoned within, we need to compare the problem with genuine natural walking rather than some social invention.
The relationship between toe-walking and Asperger's Syndrome
The relationship between toe-walking and Asperger's Syndrome brings to mind two things:
It's exasperating to read comments like, "I don't know WHY I walk this way, I just do it...", when all along everyone's skirting the issue of how the foot moves during natural barefoot walking. It is like the child who reacts "hyperactively" to the unnaturalness of sitting still in a classroom for six hours, and so is given drugs to make him more "normal". The "civilized" custom of day-long shoe-wearing has made us forget how we are designed by nature. Toe-walking is just an exaggerated form of natural front-to-back motion of the unshod foot walking on natural terrain.
- People who routinely walk barefoot move naturally, putting the ball of the foot down before the heel. Think of how you walk up a hill. This is the natural way we are designed to walk without unnatural foot casts -- aka shoes.
- Asperger's and Autism often involve some co-ordination problems, and it is likely that toe-walking is a means of balancing oneself more accurately.
Doctors and parents respond to this with leg-braces and casts to lock the foot into the "normal" shoe-wearing position, without a thought to whether any of this is healthy or natural. How would a toe-walking child fare in a culture where barefooting was part of everyday life? He would fit-in pretty easily, and the degree of toe-walking would likely be moderated by the pressures and sensations of the ground he would be walking upon.
Shoes are the Aberration
It is known that shoes are not shaped to the foot, but to fashion. As shoes became more affordable to the common man in the 19th century, people's tastes were driven by the pointy-toed styles of the aristocracy - including men's shoes. So now, if you compare a foot that's been shod throughout childhood with the foot of someone who has grown up in a customarily barefoot society, you see tiny, soft, compressed feet that were molded by stupidly-shaped shoes that we are told are "natural". And the au natural foot of the barefooter is wider, able to balance the body, with bones fully developed and expanded to sustain the weight and movement it is designed to bear by nature's design - and we're told that it's abnormal. The ugly, splayed-out bone structure of the God-designed foot is two-centuries removed from our awareness, so that even foot doctors will cram a "flat-footed" two-year-old's feet into vice-like "support" shoes that immobilize his foot, causing his muscles to atrophy and preventing bone development. (Have you ever known "corrective" shoes to cure flat feet?)
To the Aspergerian youth, barefooting is a way for him to find his way through the maze of balancing issues that are unique to him. If his parents are enlightened enough to endure the "embarrassment" of allowing his natural barefoot exploration of his body's balance in relation to the undulations of the world's varied surfaces, they will allow for nature to solve a "problem" that is actually just a social convention. For the first 5 or 6 years especially, when the body is developing so rapidly, this barefoot regimen is God's remedy to a culturally-induced problem.
Its benefits exceed the realm of mere physiological development of the musculoskeletal structure of the foot, for our innate sense of balance is intimately tied-in with the nerve sensations of the plantar, the sole, negotiating the terrain it trods upon. It brings a psychological sense of reality to the environment, for each place is not merely observed but felt. This alone can prevent psychological ailments which often arise from sensing alienation form one's surroundings.
For adults, with or without Asperger's, barefooting has healing properties to give to us, physically, mentally and spiritually. But the greater benefit is during the formative years, when the permanent bone structure can be developed around the natural use of the unimprisoned foot.
"Obvious Facts that are Never Said"
Shoes Are Unnatural
The foot is designed by God to negotiate the earth's surfaces. (Exceptions are surfaces littered with sharp objects, chemicals [gasoline, pesticides], and animal waste.) Barefooting can't be done 24/7, but it should be done for the majority of our waking hours.
Our brain's coordination abilities depend on the sensations sent to it by the nerves in our feet. Shoes blind the brain to this information, and any tendency toward uncoordination is thereby made worse. Asperger's Syndrome often involves coordination issues which would naturally improve with this restriction removed.
Agoraphobia and Aspergers
It shouldn't be surprising that Asperger's Syndrome could add fuel to the fire of Agoraphobia. The Aspergerian awkwardness of social communication can make unfamiliar areas seem like impenetrable kingdoms thronging with people who don't acknowledge your existence.
BREAKING THE ICE with strangers is always an anxious proposition. But when combined with the characteristic communication barriers of Asperger's Syndrome, you can easily feel as though you're on another planet.
But humans are the most adaptable species on earth, and whatever barriers that exist can be broken with time and experience.
Asperger's is exacerbated by the "casual" restrictions of our modern world. If we can discern the difference between "customary" and "natural", we can separate ourselves from the poisonous social customs that too often turn a small behavioral trait (AS) into a debilitating, lifelong source of misery.
Barefooting & Agoraphobia
Just as barefooting has physical benefits to the Aspergerian, it also has psychological benefits for the agoraphobic. The alienation the agoraphobic feels in certain venues and open spaces leads him to feel as though he's "not really there," that in some way he is not plugged-in to the proceedings he sees going on in that environment.
Breaking the ice would always help, of course, but usually the agoraphobic Aspergerian literally doesn't know what to say in a social jungle of complete strangers. Barefooting is unconventional, even "inappropriate" in some people's eyes; but if you value your health, you must forgo the opinions of people, especially those people who are giving you the cold-shoulder anyway.
"What does barefooting do for the agoraphobic?
Each step connects you to your environment. You don't just move through it: you literally FEEL your travel, and it links you to that place in an intimate way. You "own" the place. You are compelled to watch the ground with each step, negotiating the cracks, rocks and debris with subtle shifts of your foot's placement. (This becomes intuitive once we overcome the "newness" of the re-invigorated senses that were turned-off by years of shod-hopping.) And these many subtle sensations and movements make your travel experience Living and Real.
• Snarls and Stares
Just like anything that is different from what the crowd is doing, barefooting will draw the occasional comment or sneer from an uninformed observer (there's a lot of them out there). And it's easy to just say, "If you care about your health, you won't be concerned with ignorant people's reactions... but in reality, we're just not wired that way. The plain fact is that you're bucking the trend. This is what makes barefooting a "discipline:" you have to come up with a "culture" of thought that overrides the reactions of the environment.
You won't really get a LOT of negative reactions, but our self-perception can make us feel conspicuous and just add to the hostility. But you will have to be strong if you're going to enjoy the benefits of walking the way God designed you to do. How to put up with it:
• Walk as if you own the place.
A serious, smileless look will mute the malicious. Your determination will carry you. "The Barefoot League," ( http://www.barefooters.org/key-works/barefoot_league.html ), a famous treatise written in 1914 by James Leith Macbeth Bain, advised neophytes to take on "...a quiet, serious demeanour of gait and countenance -- a looking neither to the right hand nor the left, and no recognition whatsoever of the attention paid, for 'entre nous,' in our smileless land a smileless countenance is a real asset!"
Considering the conservative attire and countenance commonplace in 1914 Britain, a "renegade" barefooter necessarily had to take on a determined and stern attitude. Things aren't nearly as bad today, so if this advice could carry one through that "smileless land" back then, it will definitely work now.
• Focus on your own goals
Spend time reading about the methods, benefits, and history of barefooting before you go walkabout. Immersing your thoughts with the experiences of others who practice this regimen makes others' reactions carry less weight. You know your goals & you don't want the miserable results of the ignorant majority.
Write about your stages of progress as you carry on. As you witness the sole toughening up, you'll sense a return to your inborn, primal state. Keep mindful of your personal investment in this effort. Let it become larger than your awareness of the environment and any ignorant reactions you might receive.
• Turn the tables: "Convert" them
Be ready with a few responses of your own. They can be humorous, sarcastic, or challenging, depending on the situation. This will keep you from developing some kind of inferiority complex, or apologizing for your existence. Turn it around and put it to them.
Barefooting FAQ's: Health, Laws, Handling Comments, etc.: libaware.economads.com/barefootfaq.php