In Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, FM Alexander provides the following illustration:
A seven-year-old boy was given an aptitude test designed to measure “control.” The test involves an electronic apparatus with holes varying in size. His task was to touch the centers of the holes with a small, pencil-like, metal rod without touching sides of the holes. If he touched the sides, an electric flash would result. He was warned ahead of time to avoid this at all costs, and “he at once became so excited through the fear of making a mistake that his hands shook and he stiffened and tensed his whole body unduly in making the first try” (original emphasis). Needless to say, he performed very poorly on the test.
The boy did not have a means whereby to inhibit his habitual, fearful reaction to the thought of failure. Instead, he remained caught in the vicious circle of end gaining; having failed to avoid the flash in the first instance, he continued the test repeating the pattern.
Alexander Technique lessons can help us to learn a practical means whereby, and give us a process to inhibit our habitual fear reflexes of one sort or another which lead to disappointment and failure. Over time, it will also lead us to an improved sensory appreciation.
First and foremost we must learn to stop. We must learn to say “no” to whatever harmful habit is inferring with our Use. Only then can we come back to ourselves. From this place of inhibition, we are able to make a new, conscious choice. This capacity to choose will allow us to change. Developing such awareness takes time, an incredible amount of time, which is why the Alexander Technique is truly an ongoing re-education.
As a teacher-trainee, I find that “stopping” during vacation is equally as important as “stopping” during the work undertaken during term. I now take this opportunity to marvel at the abundance of Spring blossom, reconnect with family at home and abroad, and to enjoy inordinate hours of sleep.
Stopping to observe what is happening with us right NOW is definitely worth the wait!
Guest Blogger, Stella Weigel, is an Alexander Technique student at The Constructive Teaching Centre, London, the world’s oldest and largest Alexander Technique training school. She had Alexander Technique lessons from 2006-2009 before embarking on her training in April 2009. She lives in the city of London.