Whilst reading Michael J Gelb’s “The Art of Connection”, I came across a reference to a clip from Seinfeld which I took the opportunity of looking up. Within the clip, I came across this simple phrase: “If every instinct you’ve had has been wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
I’ve certainly had many wrong instincts for the simple fact that I relied on my feeling as opposed to my ability to choose to stop to think. Of course we all have feelings but do we ever question them? We often communicate and act based on how we feel rather than thinking about what we ourselves are doing, in the moment, which is contributing to what’s happening around us. When I speak of what we’re doing with ourselves, I’m very much referring to what we’re doing with our selves, mind and body, the two are very much a unity and work together. In the course of our Alexander technique work, we may find that we see the benefit of letting go more, of no longer holding onto that which does not serve us well, to rediscover freedom of movement and thought and so on. Certainly where our head is and how our neck and back are play a crucial part in terms of what we think we’re doing.
One good example could be reacting too quickly to what someone else is saying. Perhaps we don’t wish to stop and listen to what they have to say, perhaps we interpret what they say because of how we’re feeling, perhaps we are allowing something which happened between you in the past to influence how you react in the present, perhaps we are pulling ourselves down so much because of how we feel which in turn affects everything else, perhaps we’re feeling down for other reasons about which we might not even be aware, all very much based on how we feel, we might even perhaps be aware of how we feel in our bodies as a result of what we’re doing. What if we were instead to give ourselves time to stop to think and say “No” to what we tend to find ourselves doing, to perhaps do the opposite even?
We have a tendency when it comes to relying on feelings to rush into thinking that another is responsible for how we’re feeling and equally in turn to adopt the feeling of having even been made to feel responsible, rather than stopping to think about what we ourselves are doing. Are we getting frustrated with someone because of something we ourselves are actually doing, by not stopping to become aware of the very thing we repeat? Indeed we may feel we need to do more, when doing less in some respects and doing more in others might serve us better.
The Alexander Technique was developed by FM Alexander during his experiments to regain his lost voice. He came to observe that learning to stop to observe himself during the activity of beginning to speak revealed to him a number of things which he observed were a tendency in everyone else as well, one of which was that he could not trust or rely on his feelings in terms of what he thought he was doing, what he decided to call “sensory appreciation”, which is of course why he used mirrors to show him exactly what he was doing. Indeed, what he thought he was doing was the exact opposite to what he came to realise he needed to do if he was to regain his voice. When it came to relying on his feelings, he saw how this had led him to do certain things with himself which had led him into error whereas stopping to observe and to enquire about what he himself was doing, and learning how he could prevent this, thinking in activity, would eventually lead to him to regain his voice without any medical intervention.
I grew up as a kid and teenager who used to react in a very unhelpful manner. My body was tightening and stiffening itself in all manner of ways. Yes, I had a scoliosis from a very young age and I know this twist in the spine certainly didn’t help in terms of reacting as I did, for the two are very much linked together.
I firmly believe that we can change our habits, if we choose to devote time to stopping when it comes to noticing the pattern of our habitual reactions and behaviour and how we can prevent, inhibit, these from interfering with our freedom to make a choice, one free of unreliability and all that this entails. It is possible to change habits we’ve had for years in an instant of seeing ourselves in activity, stopping to reason out what is best for our purpose and preventing it, also directing ourselves in terms of how we wish to be, from shortened and tightened to being free from tension and in the upright, inhibition and direction working together. It’s either a instinctive habit or it’s a conscious choice.