I’m reading a book named “Gates Of Fire” that came highly recommended by a friend. The book is a more detailed and perhaps accurate re-telling of the Spartan battle of Thermopylae, than the movie “300”.
Sparta was a warrior culture, meaning that every boy was taught to develop the strength and courage needed to win in battle at a very young age.
While reading I came across the following passage that made the hair on my neck stand up! The passage below describes how The Spartans would TRAIN THE NERVOUS SYSTEM through the body to eradicate fear, half-mind half-body reaction, from the boys.
From pages 78-79 in “Gates Of Fire” by Stephen Pressfield
The Spartans have a discipline they call phobologia, the science of fear. As his mentor, Dienekes worked with Alexandros privately on this, after evening mess and before dawn, while the units were forming up for sacrifice.
Phobologic discipline is comprised of twenty-eight exercises, each focusing upon a separate nexus of the nervous system. The five primaries are the knees and hams, lungs and heart, loins and bowels, the lower back, and the girdle of the shoulders, particularly the trapezius muscles which yoke the shoulder to the neck.
A secondary nexus, for which the Lakedaemonians have twelve more exercises, is the face, specifically the muscles of the jaw, the neck and the four ocular constrictors around the eye sockets. These nexuses are termed by the Spartans phobosynakteres, fear accumulators. Fear spawns in the body, phobologic science teaches, and must be combated there.
For once flesh is seized, a phobokyklos, or loop of fear, may commence, feeding upon itself, mounting into a “runaway” of terror. Put the body in a state of aphobia, fearlessness, the Spartans believe, and the mind will follow.
Under the oaks, in the still half-light before dawn, Dienekes practiced alone with Alexandros. He would tap the boy with an olive bought, very lightly, on the side of the face. Involuntarily the muscles of the trapezius would contract. “Feel the fear? There. Feel it?” The older man’s voice crooned soothingly, like a trainer gentling a colt. “Now. Drop the shoulder.” He popped the boy’s cheek again. “Let the fear bleed out. Feel it?”
Man and boy worked for hours on the “owl muscles,” the ophtalmomyes surrounding the eyes. These, Dienekes instructed Alexandros, were in many ways the most powerful of all, for God in His wisdom make mortals’ keenest defensive reflex that which protects vision. “Watch my face when the muscles constrict,” Dienekes demonstrated. “What expression is this?”
Dienekes, schooled in the discipline, commanded his facial muscles to relent.
“Now. What does this expression indicate?”
What struck me most about this passage is that it describes the phenomenon of Neurotic Holding Patterns that I am always talking about.
In fact, I teach you many exercises that are also designed to “exercise out” the physical manifestation of unresourcefulness emotions.
Here is a video I created about it last week:
Look, I might say and do some crazy shit… but trust that I think heavily about this stuff, and as you begin to discover and experiment with my ideas you’ll find that they are very resourceful.
So much so that even the ancient warrior cultures, including The Spartans, use them.
Im writing a book all about this, it should be ready by summer.