12. Control is personal

F M Alexander was always adamant that, as he puts it in one of his books, that “I do not give instructions and exercises for the pupil to do at home, by themselves (CCCI, Part II, Ch 1, his italics).  So, no Do-it-Yourself Alexander Technique?  In one sense, yes, but in a deeper sense the Alexander Technique is, I believe, all Do-it-Yourself, all about the student (pupil in those days) developing an autonomy grounded in an integrated, comprehensive sense of the self.  The role of the teacher is to help the student over the stile of our habits; habits, not just of outward behaviour which will hover on the borders of consciousness, but habits writ deep in our basic bodily mood or style.  Habits, at this level, are us, are connected to our ways of thinking, our attitudes and whole approach to life.  The physical element of this total pattern easily becomes something we lose touch with, both as part of how we are, who we are, and as something we can influence and change.  Habits involving the sense of what we are doing with our bodies, if we feel them at all, feel right.  Or, more importantly, when we try something new it will feel strange, uncomfortable perhaps, even wrong.  The Alexander Technique teacher is acting for the student, as the guide and encourager through this awakening to strangeness.  This might appear to be giving up one’s autonomy, to accept judgements of the teacher as she leads the student into strange ways of moving and encourages him to live with them for a while.  My perspective on this conundrum is to try to help create a relationship with my student so that the temporary giving up of responsibility into my hands is itself a free act, part of the process of enhancing autonomy by being able to consciously, at times, give up the need to be in control.  This giving up of tight control is in itself, for the practice of the Alexander Technique, going to help bring you into a wider self-awareness.  F M Alexander, in his books, often introduces remarks of his pupils or friends to cast an individual light on ideas he is presenting.  Regarding this need for help towards autonomy, he quotes from a doctor friend, “I am getting more and more convinced that people can learn only what they know”.  Insight, once experienced, can then guide a disciplined learning.  Again, a young girl commented, when coping with the challenge of whether what she was doing felt “wrong” or “right”.  “Oh, I see!  If I feel at all, I must feel wrong.  If I don’t feel wrong, I mustn’t feel”.  Confusing but not confused, I think this young woman has realised the mind is likely to damp down the excitement of new experiences by making self-critical judgements and that trusting the teacher will allow her to trust herself.

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