A Simple Addition to the Directions


I’m a lifelong student of AT rather than a certified teacher, but I’ve recently come across a variation on the directions that is interesting enough that I’d like to share it.

One thing that has always interested me about the primary control is that it’s a constant. No matter what I’m doing, I can always return to it. In this respect, it’s similar to Descartes’s famous maxim: I think, therefore I am. No matter what Descartes doubted, he could always find certitude in that.

It’s also interesting that, while AT involves language, none of the actual procedures are designed to be spoken aloud. Granted, Alexander wanted to remain neutral about the activity at hand, and that speaking is rightly considered an activity. Even so, some part of my brain won’t let go of the possibility of expressed language based on the same principles as AT. Are there any ways of formalizing words, sounds, or signs in general that use the same principles that Alexander developed, but on a social level?

I won’t say I’ve been exhaustive in my research. For a while, I was extending the whispered “ah” into a voiced “ma,” on the hunch that we all have a mother who somehow encompasses the world for us. This was pretty disappointing. I was surprised at how easily this famous word could be emptied of its emotional charge. Trying to suppose otherwise felt like an exercise in make-believe. Then I hit upon the idea of using a word that’s written all over my habitual use: my given name.

Specifically, I started pronouncing my first name while giving myself the directions. Unlike the suggested procedure for the whispered “ah,” I haven’t come up with a set of limitations for speaking what, in my case, is a single syllable. This is because I’m not really introducing new use so much as aggravating a stimulus that’s implicated in every habit I have. Call it the master stimulus. I can always return to it– for as long as I can practice anyway.

So far, the effect is quite encouraging. My middle back widened like crazy on the first day of trying it out, before I had even gotten past the head/neck relation. I also experienced an unfamiliar sense of well-being, as if I’d been unburdened of a list of complaints I didn’t even know I had – this, from someone accustomed to feeling the lightening that comes from AT. Maybe this is because my name is tied up with so much more than any one activity I might be entertaining.

There may also be a connection to social interactions not normally made through AT. I’m used to hearing my name come from somewhere outside myself, with Lord knows what kind of startle complex kicking in before I’m aware of it. If, on the other hand, I say my name while I’m directing, I can already be inhibiting when someone else calls my name, and thereby pre-empt a bout of habitual use.

Of course, it wouldn’t do to be walking around bellowing one’s own name to the air. Fortunately, the degree of voicing seems to be adaptable to the situation. I find I can say it under my breath, in a full voice, or even just think it “along with” the directions, and the effect seems to be much the same — the “all at once” jumps ahead of the “one after the other.” I should mention that this addition to the technique also seems to return feeling to parts of my nervous system in a way I usually associate with aesthetics – that hair-on-the-back-of your-neck feeling.

Has anyone else out there tried this or anything similar?

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One thought on “A Simple Addition to the Directions

  1. Yes, but I didn’t think enough about it at the time. Curious point – and it fits. Every time I give a pet animal a command, what do I use to get their attention? Saying their name! So it makes sense that if I used my own name, it would focus my own attention… Brilliant observation!
    Their name is something nobody forgets. Curiously, I used the word “NAMED” as a mnemonic to remember all of the steps of Alexander Technique for my students in ten posts in April on my blog.

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