Bates Method International

Problems with Palming


Date: 19 September 2001

"I find palming boring and have been annoyed that I have been required to do it when visiting Bates teachers. Clearly I have been under a strain during these moments and this does not seem to have been Bates approach. Bates teachers seem to expect great things from their clients palming sessions whereas Bates appeared ready to work with the strain before doing anything else. Could you comment on this?"


Yes, there is a quote from Bates' book which sums this up well

PSWG pg 101

To secure permanent relaxation sometimes requires considerable time and much ingenuity. The same method cannot be used with everyone. The ways in which people strain to see are infinite, and the methods used to relieve the strain must be almost equally varied. Whatever the method that brings most relief, however, the end is always the same, namely relaxation. By constant repetition and frequent demonstration and by all means possible, the fact must be impressed upon the patient that perfect sight can be obtained only by relaxation. Nothing else matters."

The phrase that echoed in my mind was those last three words. "Nothing else matters".

So, the emphasis is drawn away from any particular technique like palming bringing about "x" specific result, and it is therefore given a much less direct cause and effect conception.

To give you an example of this:

One time a lady was palming and not having much fun at it. She kept seeing an orange ball of fire in her field of vision, and the more she saw it, the angrier she became with it. This went around and around for several minutes as I began slowly to draw her attention into not trying to change anything. Finally, I had an intuition as to what was happening, and I said to her the following words:

"How would it be, if you conceive that this orange ball of fire, is simply a picture of your own frustration with it."

Two seconds later she said, in a tone of astonishment mixed with relief and disbelief - "It's gone". She exhaled much air with those words.

So it was not palming that achieved the change here, but her own understanding of what she was doing as she was palming. Palming, in a sense, was bringing up right in her face an aspect of her personality that was simply an out of control feedback loop. It was something she had difficulty identifying, and a mental habit - as soon as the futility of this way of relating to herself (and the world in general) was brought to her awareness however, it left immediately.

This kind of scenario happens often, but it's never the same - one time another lady saw stars zooming past, and she was terrified, and wanted them to slow down. The solution? Don't strain, let them be that fast - again within seconds she said "They've slowed down."

Another student once said to me that she was aware of an enormous mental block in the way of her palming - that she could sense it. This student had a lot of insights from various other disciplines, and she checked in with her "inner guidance" as she put it, to which the answer, much to her surprise, was - don't do anything to it

I commented to her that that is exactly right, because as soon as you try and do anything to change what's there, you do the very thing that creates the block. Two weeks after this, she told me that the block had dissolved - all that was required was that she become conscious of it.

Boredom is a tricky one, because it is in a sense a kind of disengagement, and it is hard to bring it out to the surface. Things like anger, and fear are easily engaged - they are obvious "actions" being taken by the person, and redirecting them is taking in hand an energetic involvement that is already active.

If you think of boredom as coming from the act of palming, then introduce the idea that in fact it is something you do at other times, and palming is showing you your habit of boredom. You can probably conceive that somewhere inside you is the knowledge you can sit quietly with no stimulus other than what your ears and skin tell you, and be perfectly happy. Where that place is, is probably at present quite safely out of bounds for one reason or another.

But always the essential ingredients are - observe, wait, and if things are not working and becoming unproductive, stop, and let it settle. Pushing palming is as unproductive as any other form of strain.

It is, however, possible to take a less direct "hit" off the boredom (or anger or frustration etc.), and assume more of a witness position with yourself ("I feel bored. I notice this happening to me, how interesting") - and in that way you can engage with your responses in a non-judgmental manner. Increasing the level of easy, non-judgmental engagement is always going to help. This is relaxed activity

Further Question:

"As the concept of mental strain seems relevant to me this is the angle I have pursued. My experience of psychotherapy as a way of removing strain was not helpful and its interesting that hundreds of thousands of myopic psychotherapy clients have remained myopic after psychotherapy. "Buena Vista in their working.html say that myopes fall asleep when they fully relax and I would say this is my experience. Of course it's possible I might be able to relax perfectly sometimes and remain awake but I have no idea if I can."


Palming brings up what needs to be brought up - if you fall asleep when palming, it means you're tired. This can be from the full impact of having been straining for so long, but it can also be from lack of sleep.

There can definitely be a very peculiar tiredness as people let go of strain - and is often accompanied with a comment "What have I been doing to myself?" I've occasionally known people after releasing a shipload of strain to go home and just crash in the middle of the day, and sleep and sleep and sleep.