Conscious direction versus habitual feeling

I am re-reading Michael J Gelb’s book “The Art of Connection” because I knew upon first reading that there is so much more to this book than meets the eye and read a sentence which I thought would be worth sharing here, “Feelings may be stimulated by the words or actions of others, but are caused by the way you interpret what others do through the lens of your VABEs'” As Michael mentions, VABEs are “our values, assumptions, beliefs, expectations.”

This quote refers to how we “see things”, how we feel about them, how we interpret others. Our values,assumptions, beliefs, expectations, attitudes etc all determine how we feel and, importantly, the response we choose. Our response to the actions or words of others may not be what others expect or hope for, as we can very easily take things the wrong way. When it comes to our VABEs, it’s worth reminding ourselves that we are not responsible for other people’s actions, feelings or thoughts. It is entirely their decision how they respond to situations. We may say or do something which upsets them, but this is entirely their choice, we are not responsible for how they respond. Our feelings are coloured by all this, which are entirely habitual and all inextricably connected with our own postural habits. We may well have a habit of seeing things from our own perspective and it can be helpful to view something from another person’s perspective, indeed a more balanced perspective can be brought about by thinking of something other than how we’re feeling, such as in the Alexander Technique when we’re being encouraged to think in a very different, entirely new way which doesn’t make us slaves to feelings.

Working with the Alexander Technique, the reliability of our sensory mechanism improves, we become more balanced, centred and as a result hopefully generally more balanced and more rational in all that we do. The changes we may begin to see in terms of our poise, such as shoulders which are beginning to widen or a back which is showing signs of change, go much much deeper than this, they are a manifestation of a mechanism which is coming back into its natural innate balance and with this comes a more balanced and rational perspective. FM Alexander wrote at length about the distorted and inaccurate sense of feeling that we all have, causing our judgement to be faulty and erroneous.

The Alexander Technique teaches us how to stop when met with a stimulus, to observe what is going on in ourselves and to give our directions, to make use of the Primary Control, which has everything to do with the important relationship between the head, neck and back, to our advantage. Over time, this new way of co-ordinating ourselves becomes the barometer from which we can respond to everything. It all depends on us consciously directing ourselves, as opposed to subconsciously, when we can so easily rely on feeling as our guide. This is something of which we need to remind ourselves as much as we can, again and again, remembering our directions from moment to moment, even right now. Remembering our directions helps us to reduce and prevent the old patterns of behaviour that are associated with old values, old attitudes, old life experiences and old believes that are all outworn and outdated. They have everything to do with the past but will re-surface because feelings are also very much habitual, if we’re not directing or being aware.

Stopping to see how things really are from a perspective of balance, instead of how we interpret them based on how we feel, seeing from the mind’s eye, is not the same as seeing through a lens and can be a little confusing in terms of the quotation mentioned. The Alexander Technique teaches us how to first stop, organise ourselves when met with a stimulus and to direct ourselves, which has everything to do with thinking about our own balance and poise, which can lead us to discover new possibilities and choices in terms of how we choose to respond from a place of stopping to think first and then directing ourselves from a place of kindness and understanding. Our responses to stimuli and how these are inextricably linked to our Primary Control and Use are definitely worth giving some thought to as we navigate through life. I’m grateful to Michael for including this really helpful sentence in his new book and for further explanation of how our feelings and interpretations can in fact gradually become more balanced as a result of Alexander Technique work. We do all have feelings, just as we all have a choice as to what do with them.

Written with input from Noel Kingsley

Image courtesy of 123rf.com 65823088 – compass with needle pointing the word well-being.