Performance & Potential

Debauched Kinesthesia; Or, How Our Senses Deceive Us All the Time

During his career as a dramatic performer, FM Alexander struggled with vocal problems.  He had been to doctors repeatedly to no avail.  But he had a fierce determination to understand what was getting in his way and decided he would find the reason for his voice failure, no matter what.

This is very rare.  When faced with this type of challenge, most people do not think things through, and end up quitting before they solve the problem.  They think themselves a failure.  Depression, shame, erosion of self-worth, frustration, and anger quickly follow.

Many people are not able to follow through in life because they lose focus.  They lose the presence of mind to keep on, the energy to re-commit to the task at hand.  One of the reasons is that their very efforts to improve their situation are made up of the same habits that are causing the difficulty in the first place.  Failure is practically inevitable. 

FM gave an example of this when he wrote about the golfer who was not able to keep his eyes on the ball.  Obviously, the golfer does not hit well.  And because his efforts to correct this fault and keep his eyes on the ball are all based upon end-gaining, he is bound to fail.  One of FM’s pupils said, “I am always getting to the point of doing something that I know I can do and then at the last moment I fail” (Use of the Self).

This leads us to a question:  Why do we keep doing those same things over and over again, fail, and still believe we are smart enough to figure things out? What makes us believe that we can succeed? The answer: our FEELINGS tell us so.  And guess what?  Our FEELINGS are wrong, in fact, they’re totally unreliable.

Alexander realized his feelings were unreliable while trying to unravel the mysteries of his vocal failure.  This was the reason he could not effectively correct his misuse by tying directly to fix what he was doing, and make himself right.  He called this debauched kinesthesia.

In a course of lessons, one of the crucial tasks of the Alexander teacher is to help restore the reliability of the feeling sense (kinesthesia) so that it is as dependable as it was when we were children.  This capacity for reliable kinesthesia is still there, underneath layers of poor habits of use.  It can be rediscovered, and when it is, our feelings can serve us and help us achieve our full potential.

3 replies on “Debauched Kinesthesia; Or, How Our Senses Deceive Us All the Time”

Dear Beret, Much enjoy your blogs which contain an immense amount of wisdom. However I must protest at the heading to your blog above where you state “our senses deceive us all the time”. This is wrong. Our exteroceptive senses, for example the sense of sight, never fail us. Aristotle understood this. In his “de Anima” he wrote: ” the senses are never in error but that intellectual interpretations of senses can be mistaken” Alexander also understood this when he wrote of “faulty sensory appreciation” rather than faulty senses. This is not a pedantic point, it is fundamental. I send my best regards, Bryan Niblett.

Dear Bryan,
Many thanks for this clarity . I “know better” it but have misstated it and will refrain from doing so again because it is exactly as Aristotle and FM said. Very helpful and thank you very much for this,
Sending you all Warmest Regards

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