In his book The Use of the Self Alexander writes, “Everyone will agree that for accuracy and efficiency in diagnosis, the medical man needs to possess not only a high standard of sensory observation and awareness, but also the ability to link phenomena together, to form sound judgments and to take a wide outlook, especially in the presence of unfamiliar conditions.
“It has never been recognized in medical practice that sensory appreciation, the human compass, has become more and more unreliable with the advance of civilization, and that in proportion there has come about, a growing misdirection of the use of the human being.”
Alexander goes on to say that all medical students should be taught his technique so they may direct the use of themselves consciously for their own benefit. But also their lessons would enable them to spot poor general use in their patients, yielding greater diagnostic skills and also aid in prevention of further deterioration. Then if a specific part needed to be treated directly, the doctor would be doing so within the unity of the entire organism.
This of course flies in the face of our beloved idea of separation of the self into various parts. This old concept is at the root of many of our erroneous ideas about well-being, health, and functioning in general. It pulls us apart and creates false compartments, so that our various ailments are labeled as physical’ or ‘mental,’ or ‘emotional.’ How did we get this idea?
Here is my hypothesis. In the caves some 60,000 years ago, when life expectancy was perhaps 30 at most, people died of wounds and infections or in childbirth (if no animal ate you). I doubt they died of diabetes and heart trouble due to eating fatty fast foods, pizza pie with too much salt, coffee, donuts, and drinking at the Pub. They didn’t take street drugs, they didn’t stay up all night watching TV or going online surfing for porn sites and they didn’t grow old. When they had an illness, someone in the clan knew some herb, root or berry to deal with the condition as best they could. They didn’t get ulcers from overwork at the office, and they were so close to nature and so free from our sorts of pressures that I doubt that they had faulty use of themselves. In the case of Cavemen, I bet the quick fix was just fine.
So why aren’t we able to see that this idea of separation of self is limited, irrelevant, and misleading? Perhaps as Alexander thought, we have developed too rapidly and have not been able to keep up with the speed of all these changes. Certainly most people believe that their lives have become too complex, too stressed, that they “must run faster and faster to stay in the very same place” (as The Red Queen said to Alice).
We are being pulled apart by so many aspects of modern life. We must “specialize,” we have more and more deadlines and time pressures. All these factors (and many more) influence our perception of life and ourselves.
This is a very interesting chapter in a very wonderful book. I urge my readers to pick it up and read for themselves the story of how FM came to his discoveries and “faced a difficulty that always put him wrong, and dealt with it differently.”