onsdag 31. oktober 2018

Forvandling

Når noen kommer for å ha timer i Alexanderteknikk er det for å forandre på noe. Det kan være smerter, anspenthet, kroppsholdning, pust eller bevegelsesmønstre. 

Her en dag hadde jeg en ny elev som syntes skuldrene lutet for mye forover. Eleven fortalte hvordan han måtte jobbe med å dra skuldrene bakover for å få dem i riktig stilling. Jeg viste ham en anatomisk plansje av skjelettet og forklarte hvordan det å dra skuldrene bakover gjør skuldrene stive og bidrar til å hemme pusten. Skuldrene kan fungere som bremseklossser på ribbeina. 

Eleven så på plansjen og lurte på om det ville ha en effekt å få en mer oppreist kroppsholdning. Ja, sa jeg, godt observert! Eleven begynte å strekke seg opp for å få «bedre holdning». Jeg ba ham slutte med det og påpekte at han bare ble mer anspent. Eleven så på meg med et noe forundret blikk. Hva skulle han gjøre da? 

Slutte å dra skuldrene forover, svarte jeg, og slutte å synke sammen slik at skuldrene faller forover. Eleven så på meg igjen med et blikk som tydet på at han begynte å forstå hvordan ting henger sammen, og at løsningen ville ta noe mer tid enn han hadde sett for seg. 

Kroppen forandrer seg hele tiden, sa jeg oppmuntrende. Tenk på hva som skjer når du gjør en bevegelse. Kroppen er veldig foranderlig.

Jeg forklarte hva som skjer hver gang vi gjør en bevegelse. Så snart vi tenker på å bevege oss settes bevegelsesapparatet i beredskap. Det gjøres klart for omfattende omorganisering. Hele kroppen må være innstilt på justeringer som er nødvendige for at vi skal kunne gjennomføre koordinerte og kontrollerte bevegelser, og ikke minst for at vi skal kunne gjennomføre dem uten å miste balansen.

Selv om du kanskje føler deg stiv skjer det kontinuerlig dynamiske tilpasninger når du gjør selv enkle dagligdagse bevegelser som å reise deg fra en stol eller åpner ei dør. Muskelskjelettsystemet er i dynamisk endring og denne egenskapen kan vi utnytte.

Hver eneste liten eller stor bevegelse vi gjør hele tiden hele dagen er anledninger som kan gi endringer i muskelskjelettsystemet. Potensialet er kjempestort. Å trene på å dra skuldrene bakover for å få dem på plass blir som å hente bøtter med vann fra ei elv. Å endre kvaliteten på dine daglige bevegelser er å utnytte vannet fra elva ved å lede det dit du vil. Det krever oppmerksomhet over tid, men det er en smartere måte å jobbe på.


Relaterte blogginnlegg

lørdag 27. oktober 2018

Thinking, not doing

This is a translated and slightly rewritten version of the blog post Tenke ikke gjøre in Norwegian. 

The Alexander Technique is about using your awareness in such a way that you avoid dis-coordinating yourself, thereby facilitating easy and efficient movement. Sometimes a little bit of awareness of the length of your body is sufficient to prevent any tendency for dis-coordination, sometimes even just stop trying too hard. At other times, you must think more actively.

Intentions
The 'directions', the mental messages we use in the Alexander Technique, often expressed as: let the neck be free, let your head go forward and up, let your back lengthen and widen, etc., can be seen as intention for movement. The purpose of these directions is primarily preventive. We want to avoid tightening our necks, pulling our heads backwards and downwards, shortening and narrowing our backs. This is based on the simple fact that any discoordination of the musculoskeletal system will manifest as reduction of length, either by muscular compression or by collapse, (or both). 

We could formulate the directions differently. We could formulate them as explicitly preventive, saying that we wish to not pull the head back and down, to not shorten and narrow the back. In his classic book, The Alexander Technique As I See It, Patrick Macdonald labelled this way of wording the directions as 'negative directions' (Macdonald 1989, p 76, 2015, p 68). Formulating the directions as a positive wish for expansion is more common, and is maybe, in some situations, more effective.

In a previous blog post I compared giving directions to thinking about something, saying that it was as easy as thinking about a banana. (Thanks to teacher Fran Engel for the inspiration). Perhaps I should have written that it's like wanting to have a banana. Having a wish for something is different from just thinking about something. Understanding this difference is vital for understanding the Alexander Technique principle of 'giving directions.'

Giving directions means having a wish for movement, but it's a movement you can not do, a movement that you by all means must not try to do. Trying to do the movement defeats its purpose since it is meant to be preventive. The purpose is to avoid something.

Doings
Alexander's brother, AR (Albert Redden) was also a teacher of the technique He once said to a student:
Of course, Directions are doings, but they are very small. They are usually below the sense register (Macdonald 1989, 76, 2015, p. 68).
In a way he was right. Just imagining movement is sufficient to start the movement process. At this initial level it is maybe artificial to distinguish between wanting to do something and actually performing the act. But this also means that it is completely unnecessary to do anything more than wishing for movement. Something will happen.

AR appears to have been a practical person and a good teacher. I think he said what he said to explain to a bewildered student that the directions should be given with some intensity, that they should be a wish for something and not just a thought about something. Unfortunately, the quote from AR has been used as an excuse to do something more than just thinking the directions. 

Sometimes, in certain situations, we must do more than just thinking. For example, if you have ended up in a slump, you must do an active physical movement to come up out of the slump. Just thinking the directions could maybe improve your situation in that position, to some degree, but you'll never get out of the slump without actual movement. This movement is not the directions, even if they go quite literally in the same direction. It's a physical movement like anybody else you do, a movement you perform with direction.

Mental
When we are thinking the Alexander Technique directions, something will happen. Most of what happens, if not all, will be below what we can sense directly. The directions are thoughts, and we can't feel our thoughts. What we can do is experience the effect of the directions indirectly by observing the change in the quality of our movements. 

Because we want something to change, it is very tempting to do something to feel the change directly. We want immediate confirmation. Especially for beginners, it's tempting to do something physically to get the satisfaction of (perceived) success. But even experienced teachers (including myself) can begin to do more than just thinking, completely unaware that they are doing anything more than only thinking. Just as what we would like to happen normally is below our sense level, the unintended bad habit of 'doing' can be equally invisible to us. 

When directions become doings, they always lead to bad habits and increasing problems. They become dead ends. To put it bluntly: they are the road to hell. That road is, as we know, paved with good intentions. 
Although we are looking for changes that can be measured physically, we must not forget that the Alexander Technique is a mental technique. As Alexander said:
You think that the Alexander Technique is physical; I tell you that it is the most mental thing that has been discovered (Carrington 1994, p19).

 So please don't try to do anything.



Related blog posts
Tenke, ikke gjøre (Norwegian)
Tenk på en banan (Norwegian)

Literature
Carrington, Walter. 1994. Thinking Aloud. Mournum Time Press.
Macdonald, Patrick, 1989. The Alexander Technique As I See It. Rahula Books.
Macdonald, Patrick. (1989) 2015. The Alexander Technique As I See It. Mouritz.

søndag 21. oktober 2018

The Wrong Direction

In this blog post, written primarily for Alexander teachers, I discuss ideas presented in the article Beyond Posture in the Congress Papers from the 10th International Congress of the F.M. Alexander Technique in Limerick, Ireland. You can also find the article online: http://www.alexander-technique-london.co.uk/beyond-posture/

The article Beyond Posture, written by an experienced Alexander Technique teacher, is interesting in that it touches upon many common misconceptions. In my last blog post I commented upon what the author had to say about 'Conscious Inhibition'. This time, I'll have a look at what he says about the principle of giving directions. 

How not to do it

In the article from the Congress Papers, the author tells us that: 

I have not come across anyone (including myself) who, when attempting to give directions or sending orders, doesn’t glaze over and perform some rather bizarre muscular contortions. As we explore the value of giving directions, we need to question how we are using ourselves when we are carrying out these instructions (Kingsley, 2016, p. 80).
I couldn't agree more. We must indeed question ourselves how we go about giving directions or 'sending orders'. If our eyes glaze over and we perform 'bizarre muscular contortions' we are not going about it in the right way. We are not directing ourselves in the way we should, even if we believe we are. 

This is a very common problem among beginners, but even experienced Alexander Technique teachers (including myself) may find themselves doing something unwanted in the process of directing. This is why we always have to question whether we are actually doing what we believe we are doing.

The author continues: 
In my experience. most people when asked what they are doing while giving directions, will usually report that they are focusing on some postural part or parts, or visualising some energy movement, or trying to sense some uplift or stretch in the neck and spine. But all this can only lead to a harmful form of concentration and effort. Conversely, it may induce a form of self-paralysis that creates a deadening impact upon our vitality. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was consciously directing themselves? It’s not a nice experience. It feels like the person has vanished (Ibid).
Again, the author describes very well what the process of giving directions should not be like. When finding yourself in a situation like this it is a good idea, both for pupil and teacher, to try to describe the process in words so that misconceptions can be addressed.

When the process of giving direction is not working there are at least two factors that should be considered: the level of skill and the mode of thinking. 

Level of skill and modes of thinking
The art of giving directions is a skill. As with all skills it is something that takes more thought and consideration to begin with, and becomes more automatic with time. You can compare it to learning to drive a car. A beginner will have to focus his or her attention on the task at hand to be able to apply the clutch and change gears. An experienced driver is able to change gears smoothly while at the same time having a general awareness that includes both the movements of the car and the surrounding traffic. 

If someone is trying to give directions while speaking and this adversely affects their ability to communicate, then it could be that the person is trying something that at the moment is beyond that person's level of skill. It could also be, of course, that the person is trying the impossible and is using the wrong mode of thinking. Thinking the wrong way is often associated with level of skill, as a beginner often will try too hard and 'concentrate' too much.

A common and related misconception among beginners is a tendency to try to “relax”. Directing is not relaxation, although it can lead to muscular release. This is touched upon when the author of the article points out that:
On a simple neurological point, we activate muscle contractions from the motor cortex. There is no separate pathway for releasing messages of contraction. The relaxation of a muscle or group of muscles can only take place as a consequence of the stopping of the original signal activation, i.e. prevention and inhibition (ibid p. 81).
The general problem is that people think that giving directions is more difficult than it is. The level of awareness needed is like the inclusive awareness the driver of a car has of the surrounding traffic, the difference being that we are dealing with an awareness that includes our general coordination.

Another analogy is the awareness a musician in an orchestra has of the music, the other musicians, and the conductor. The musician doesn't have to try to see the conductor. On the contrary, focusing too much on one aspect of the situation could be detrimental to the process. 

There are times and situations, however, when it is appropriate for the musician to have a more specific awareness. This depends on the context.

Out of context
The author of Beyond Posture points to additional potential problems encountered when giving directions: 
The idea that directions are simply a holding or framing in mind or little wishes or a kind of hopeful intention is equally problematic. It shares the same fallacy that the mind should be occupied with some spatial or imaginative content of the head, neck and back, thinking about one’s directions or some energy moving along the spine, an idea of “up”. The moment we request our pupils to hold any particular content in mind, we are actually compromising their spontaneity and their ability to fully participate in the present moment (ibid p. 80-81).
Unfortunately, the author does not differentiate between 'thinking about something' and 'having and intention'. It is necessary to understand the difference to understand the concept of Alexander Technique directing.
What the author seeks to address here, I think, must be the mistake of 'thinking too much', of trying to think in too much detail, and of having in mind ideas that can not be related to the situation at hand. If we can't relate the content to present activity; if the ideas we have can't be integrated into our activity, they are useless, even if they could work perfectly well in another context.

There are two situations where quite specific and detailed directions could be warranted. This is when dealing with specific habits, as exemplified in the chapters The Evolution of a Technique and The Stutterer in Alexander's The Use of the Self; or when learning new motor skills like learning to play a musical instrument.

When for instance applying the Alexander Technique to the execution of a difficult passage on the violin, it is necessary for the player to ensure that he/she has a clear concept of the patterns of fingering and bowing required. This concept is part of what we call 'the means whereby'. This concept is the plan for what we could label 'secondary orders'. These are the messages necessary for the execution of the planned movement.

Quality
An increase in mental content might potentially lead to lack of quality, and as the author says, quite rightly, quality is everything.
The real ‘change in thinking’ that Alexander was ultimately aiming for, and the real essence of “thinking in activity”, is not intended to lead to an increase in mental content and mental clutter, but rather a change in quality of thinking. Content thinking embodies mere ghosts in a machine, detached from the sphere of true relationship, whereas quality thinking offers the potential of a way of being in connection to the world (ibid p. 81).

But the author seems to be equating any specific content to a lack of quality, regardless of context. Instead, he sees directions as a “state” rather than elements of a practical skill: 
Directions can be understood as the ongoing state of harmony or distortion that is present within each of us and at every moment (ibid p. 81). 
This description is correct, of course. We are directing all the time, for the most part subconsciously, and with good 'use' this will entail a state of harmony. Sometimes, when all is working well, all we have to do is to make sure that we don't get in the way. 'The right thing will do itself,' as Alexander said, and the author writes, quoting Margaret Goldie. 

Confusion
The question is: how do we get to this desirable state? How do we stop doing the wrong thing? The author can't really tell us. What he does tell us is that: 
The idea of giving directions has confused generations. (ibid p. 79)
This might be true, but again, this is because we are making things more difficult than they are. According to Alexander, giving directions is not difficult at all: 
Another difficulty which pupils make for themselves is in connexion with the giving of guiding orders or directions. They speak sometimes as if it were a strange and new thing to ask them to give themselves orders, forgetting that they have been doing this subconsciously from their earliest days, else they would not be able to stand up without help, much less move about. The point that is new in the scheme we are considering is that the pupil is asked consciously to give himself orders, evolved from a consideration of the requirements, not of a subconscious, but of a conscious, reasoning use of the organism, (Alexander, 2004, p. 104).
Instead of trying to explain how to give directions, the author resort to mysticism:
The way out of this maze is to ask ourselves, “Who is the Director?” Do we really believe that the source of our directions resides in the neocortex, our relatively new brain? How can our limited brains comprehend the vastness of the flow of life, much less direct it consciously? It is much wiser, and more true to know that we are directed by Nature rather than the other way around (Kingsley 2016, p. 79).
It seems that the author thinks that the process of giving conscious directions, as Alexander suggested, is pointless. We have to leave it to 'Nature', whatever that means. Somewhere else the author says the state created by the directions is: 'a vital force'. The author probably adheres to a vitalistic world view. This way of seeing the world is old fashioned, outdated, and based on superstition. Vitalism is unfortunately quite common among Alexander Technique teachers. I will address this in another article.

The author is probably right when he says that the directions do not come from the neo-cortex. As with all our intentions they probably originate at the subconscious level. But we have no reason to believe that they originate anywhere else than in our brain. 

Thinking or imagining, however, that the directions come from somewhere else, could possibly be of some practical use. It could facilitate giving directions without interfering by trying to do them. François Delsarte, one of Alexander's sources of inspiration, taught pupils to direct themselves while looking in the mirror. It is worth trying.

Denial 
The directions we use in the Alexander Technique can take many shapes and forms. My view is that anything is allowed as long as it works, and as long as we are clear about potential pitfalls, and about what is real and not.
As a basis, however, I think it is fundamentally important that we take as a starting point the physical facts of the landscape of our bodies. (“Nature,” if you like). 
Vitalists, as the author of Beyond Posture, tend in my experience to not regard facts as particularly important. The author writes:
If it is true that we are directed by Nature, then consciously sending the head forward and up makes no sense. And where is forward and up? It cannot exist geographically. It can’t be a place, nor an angle, nor a sensation, and not even a relationship ... In fact, the less we know about forward and up the better (ibid p. 80).
For a beginner, the instruction 'forward and up' is potentially more of a problem than an aid. (I have been there myself). For us professional Alexander Technique teachers, however, it is part of our job, (and training I hope), to understand it as fully as possible. Although we might choose to not address the phenomenon at all in our teaching, 'forward and up' relates to basic anatomical facts about how our bodies work. These facts are the same whether or not we choose to support the idea of the existence of a primary control. 'Forward and up!' is, ironically, what 'Nature' tells us.

Let or put 
The author seems to discard of the classic directions, with one exception:
The most helpful element of the classic directions is the 'let' or 'allow' rather than the postural details that follow (ibid, p. 80).

Using the words 'let' or 'allow' could possibly help us to not try to hard, poetically described: 
If we chase after butterflies, it will surely fly away, but if we move towards inner stillness, the butterfly might just alight on our shoulder (ibid). 

The author says about the words 'let' or 'allow': 
This was a dramatic shift from Alexander’s earlier request to “put” the head forward and up. (ibid).
In the notes to the article he says: 
Alexander first used this new formula in Use of the Self, 1932, but he does not indicate when he changed his formulation (ibid, p. 88).
This is not correct. In The Use of the Self Alexander uses the phrase 'put the head forward and up'. He did not use the words 'let' or 'allow' in connection with directions or orders in any of his books, except that in the description of performing 'hands on the back of a chair' in Constructive Conscious Control he writes about the wrists:
(2) To allow the wrist of the left arm to be curved inwards towards the right, and the wrist of the right arm to be curved inwards towards the left. 
(3) To allow the elbow of the left arm to be curved outwards towards the left, and the elbow of the right arm to be curved outwards towards the right. (Alexander 2004, p. 119)
Alexander seems to have used the word 'let' in teaching, though. In the Bedford Lecture from 1934 he says: '… I am going to let my head go forward and up out of my body' (Alexander 1995). The change in use of words most likely happened between 1932 and 1934. 

Preventative

Towards the end of the section 'Giving Directions' the author finally comes to the crux of the matter:
Alexander described the giving of directions as primarily preventative, that is to neutralise our unconscious reactions of mind-body distortion. This is non-doing in the fullest sense. (Kingsley p. 81). 
The directions are primarily preventative. They are part of the process of 'stop doing the wrong thing.' This is why they work, when understood and applied mindfully. 

The author continues:
For example, the direction “stay back and up”, is not simply a spatial demand. It is rather a description of a psychophysical attitude of alert and relational non-merging that we are supported in maintaining by the teacher, and increasingly in our everyday life (Kingsley p. 81). 
There are no reasons why other, 'classical', directions like 'head forward and up' couldn't be given in the same way as 'stay back and up'. As always, we end up coming back to the basic Alexander Technique premise that if something doesn't work, like giving directions, then maybe it isn't the directions, the 'what', that is wrong, but how we go about it. We need to change our thinking, not the wording of the directions. 


Related articles 



Literature

Alexander, F M (1995): Articles and Lectures. Mouritz.

Alexander, FM (2004): Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Mouritz.
Kingsley, Anthony (2016). "Beyond Posture". InThe Congress Papers - 10th International Congress of the F.M Alexander Technique. STATBooks. 



lørdag 6. oktober 2018

Conscious Inhibition

This article is written primarily for teachers of the Alexander Technique. It is a translated and rewritten version of the blog post Bevisst inhibisjon. The article discusses key concepts of the Alexander Technique presented in the article Beyond Posture from the Congress Papers from the 10th International Congress of the F.M. Alexander Technique in Limerick, Ireland. 


Inhibition – the ability to refrain from responding to an impulse is often said to be the most fundamental principle of the Alexander Technique. Some time ago I read an article by an experienced Alexander Technique teacher who said that conscious inhibition was not possible. He wrote:
'In our Alexander world, a lot of time and space is devoted to the idea that we need to inhibit our reactions and choose a better alternative. I suggest that it is impossible to choose to inhibit. By this I mean that we are in fact not capable of actively inhibiting our reactions to anything. Inhibition is not under our conscious volition. What actually happens in reality is that when a stimulus impacts on our organism, we either react to the stimulus, or not. There is simply no time to choose. Our neurological make-up does not offer this kind of option. Neural reactions take milliseconds, and the conscious brain can in no way intercede' (Kingsley 2016, p. 79).
Does he have a point? Yes and no.

Emotional reactions
What Kingsley describes applies to all forms of immediate sensory perceptions and emotional reactions. But the Alexander Technique is not about avoiding sensory perceptions or feelings. Alexander Technique is about unlearning unnecessary habitual reactions. Perception and emotions are necessary.

Alexander says in one of his "aphorisms":
'You come to learn to inhibit and to direct your activity. You learn, first, to inhibit the habitual reaction to certain classes of stimuli, and second, to direct yourself consciously in such a way as to affect certain muscular pulls, which processes bring about a new reaction to these stimuli' (Alexander 2000 p.72 ).
Alexander writes "certain classes of stimuli", not every stimulus. Most of what goes on in terms of reactions are beyond our direct control, and so it must be. If we for instance try to control our emotional reactions directly, we will create problems for ourselves. A musician about to go on stage, feeling increasingly nervous, will make things worse if he or she tries "not to be nervous." However, we can affect perception and feelings indirectly.

Indirect control
Alexander writes that the process of "inhibition" and "direction" creates "a new reaction to these stimuli." Our use of ourselves affects the bodily and mental state which in turn provides the prerequisites for how we react, including emotionally.

Kingsley is to some degree in line with Alexander. In his article he writes: 
'Essentially, our response to a stimulus is conditioned by our psychophysical state at the receipt of the stimulus ...' (Kingsley p. 79).
 He suggests regarding inhibition as a state or resource:
'It is a capacity for non-reaction in the face of life – the ability to keep engaged rather than becoming overwhelmed by 'emotional gusts'. And this resource, rather like a muscle in the brain, can become stronger and more easily available as a result of practice and discipline' (ibid).
 Further on he writes: 
'In other words, improving our use is essentially our growing ability not to react to stimuli both from without and from within the organism' (ibid p. 82).
Kingsley describes inhibition as an attribute that can be developed, but which only operates subconsciously. What then about Alexander's 'conscious control'?

Conscious control
One of Alexander's books is titled: "Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual." Kingsley writes about conscious control:
'Alexander did indicate that conscious control of the physical machinery and the parts involved was indeed a method for attaining physical perfection. When we follow this idea, we engage in self-reflection and try to become conscious of how we perform our actions. But this can only lead to self-consciousness and over-control – the dreaded [Alexan]droid!' (Kingsley p. 83).
The problem of self-consciousness and over-control is very relevant. But Kingsley uses misunderstood and misapplied Alexander Technique as an example. His argument thus becomes a straw man argument. Increased awareness about our actions are possible, and we have the ability to make conscious choices, although the scope is much narrower than we often like to think.

(Kingsley is correct that Alexander at one point claimed that physical perfection was possible. But I doubt that the average Alexander Teacher agrees with this, or sees it as an end in itself).

If the phone rings, you can not choose not to hear it. You can not avoid the neurological and physiological reactions that are the direct results of the sound. You can't avoid the possible emotional reactions to the phone ringing, especially if you're expecting an unpleasant call. But you will be fully capable of choosing whether to answer the call or not.

Some people may react immediately and habitually to the sound of the phone, ending up holding the phone to the ear without any awareness of what happened. In such a case it will be necessary to change the conditions so that it is possible to bring the manner of reaction within the field of awareness.

In any case it will be easier to choose not to react if you already have seen this as a possibility. Kingsley claims this is the only possibility: 'It is more accurate to suggest that when things work well, inhibition needs to be present before the receipt of a stimulus.' (ibid p. 79).

In other words, if the phone rings and you do not pick it up immediately, some kind of inhibition might already have taken place. Another explanation could be that the stimulus was not sufficient to elicit a reaction.

Stimulus-response
Although Kingsley says it is not possible to consciously inhibit the reaction to a stimuli, he still maintains that: 'The primary aim of the Technique is to evolve the capacity to not react to stimuli' (ibid, p. 83).

He refers somewhere else in the text to Alexander's statement that the Alexander Technique '... is primarily a technique for the development of the control of human reaction' (Alexander 2000).

I fundamentally agrees with this. But the stimulus-response model is not an adequate one for explaining the Alexander Technique, and here, I think, lies Kingsley's problem. He is trying to see the technique through a lens that is too narrow. Then he discards this lens and chooses one that is to wide and unfocused. Everything becomes a "state". Inhibition is a state, and so is "direction", and even "the primary control". There is no practical technique.

To understand the concept of conscious inhibition we have to look at the application of the Alexander Technique to real life. And life is movement. 

Ideo-motor process 
Scientific research shows us that when we choose to make a movement, our brain has already made the decision for us. Alexander was right that all we can do is to give consent. He explains it like this in The Use of the Self. 
'The result of the receipt of a stimulus to lift the arm is, as we all know, a “mental” conception of the act of lifting the arm, this conception being followed by another so-called “mental” process, that of giving or withholding consent to react to the stimulus to lift the arm. If this consent is withheld, the reaction which would result in a lifting of the arm is inhibited, and the arm is not lifted. If consent is given, the direction of the mechanisms required for the act of lifting the arm becomes operative, and messages are sent out which bring about the contraction of certain groups of muscles and the relaxation of others, and the arm is lifted.' (Alexander 1932/1985)
In his Aphorisms he puts it simply: 
'You ask me to lift that chair. If I give consent that is all I can do.' (Alexander 1995, Alexander 2000). 
 We can't claim that Alexander's explanation is scientifically accurate, but the point is that we have a choice. 

Most of the time, most of life consists of voluntary actions, movements that we can decide to do or not to do. You see the mug of tea on the table. You can pick it up, or you can decide not to. You hear the facebook notifications. You can check the updates, or decide not to. You see a book lying on the floor. You can pick it up, or decide not to. On this level, conscious inhibition is not at all impossible, although there are limits. 


The process from idea to action is mostly unconscious. During the process we only get a very tiny window of opportunity to veto the action. And when we succeed in refraining from reacting, some degree of reaction will in all probability already have taken place. Inhibition is probably never absolute and complete. Conscious inhibition is possible, but there are limitations, but this is precisely why conscious inhibition is so crucial. 


The ability to decide not to react depends on some degree of awareness in the moment. One can argue, as Kingsley, that this awareness in itself constitutes some form of inhibition. There is precedence for this. When working with applying the Alexander Technique to any activity it is useful to stop, return to "neutral", pause, take time to think before going into movement. This is an important aspect of making practical use of inhibition. But we don't get anywhere if we don't apply the skill of inhibition to the process of movement itself, in action. 

Although the possibility for conscious inhibition is limited, the opportunities are endless. Every minute of the day we make movements. Every minute of the day we are given the opportunity to decide not to react. How can it then be said that conscious inhibition is not possible?


The more we make use of this ability not to do, the better we get at it, not only in terms of an improved state or condition, but also as a skill. That is what the Alexander Technique is, not a state or condition, but a skill. 


Related blog posts (Norwegian only) 
Bevisst inhibisjon



Literature 
Alexander, F M (1932, 1985). The Use of the Self - Its Conscious Direction in Relation to Diagnosis, Functioning and the Control of Reaction. Victor Gollancz.
Alexander, F M (1995): Articles and Lectures. Mouritz.
Alexander, F M (2000): Aphorisms. Mouritz.
Kingsley, Anthony (2016). Beyond Posture. In The Congress Papers - 10th International Congress of the F.M Alexander Technique. STATBooks.