“Facing a thing that puts you wrong, and dealing with it differently.” This was what F. M. Alexander said his work was fundamentally all about.
Imagine a person who flies into uncontrolled fits of rage whenever things go badly for him. Because he is habit-bound in his reaction, he will tend to bring about situations that lead him into deeper levels of rage, creating a downward spiral. We can all agree that things in his life are likely to become worse and worse; he may even end up in prison.
We can also agree that this person is never going to develop his full potential. So long as he remains emotionally unstable, and in the habit of acting out with aggression, he will remain out of touch with his reason, he will not learn to use his mind well, and he will also be unable to develop healthy relationships.
So how could this sort of condition be reversed? What would have to happen for this person to form healthier and happier ways of being and living?
Alexander would say that the person described has an “overall unsatisfactory general manner of use,” meaning that his entire being is in a massive state of mal-coordination. His whole self has become “used” to a way of being that is contorted and twisted, and that will make things worse for him as he ages.
Mal-coordination is not just physical; not at all. If this man is to change his way of being, he will need to learn how to think. Right now, he believes that he does know how to think. But, in fact, he is always feeling and never truly thinking. He sees rejection where there is none, hears animosity where there is none, senses hostility in others when his is the only hostility in the room. His false perceptions are based on feeling, and so long as feeling is his guide, he will remain in habit.
In order to escape this cycle, he will need to develop what could be called, his sixth sense, his proprioceptive system. Proprioception is one’s capacity for self awareness and self knowledge. This allows him to see the part he plays in his own behavior, so he can take proper responsibility. Proprioception, therefore, is a pre-condition of true thinking.
The journey towards realizing ones full potential rests upon the capacity within a person to think in new ways, ways we often hear described as thinking outside the box. Education, therefore, should help us to develop proprioception, overall balance, reason, logic, humanity, compassion, and scope. These are the very tools of well being and successful living. These must be taught.
Yet most of our systems of education do not teach these skills. Why this is so will be the subject of my next blog.