Describing Relationships for Alexander Technique

Describing relationship is an honorable goal, because it is in relationship that AT shines. The structure of English is very tricky to maneuver to articulate relationships. I think misunderstandings come as we try to make a generalization specific as we explain. Getting English to describe relationships is not quite suitable to its natural structure in sequencial sentences. It’s also very tricky to use metaphor or map-like activities to explain AT concepts. In fact, it’s so tricky to use language in concert with AT to explain it at all, that for many, many decades, Alexander teachers did not use language at all! Somewhere in the eighties some teachers began to be able to talk about Alexander Technique… I believe this has mostly been a positive change. It’s an interesting question that since we ultimately agree once we work it out, why do we seem to disagree and misunderstand each other to start with? So it pays to observe there are some built in dead-ends in common usage English when it comes to describing relationships.

Briefly, I’ll give a couple of examples – very common ones of why language makes it tricky to describe A.T. concepts.

The first is the common use of oppposites as examples. In our culture, we have a number of assigned opposites that have been set up for this convenient purpose. However, these are not absolutely factual opposing characteristics, (because they can exist concurrently) these characteristics have merely been defined as opposites by our cultural association & habits.

There is a place for opposites which is in inhibition; as a person makes a particular choice, they may leave behind in the dust all other choices that they could have made. Choice can be done in a way that precludes and prevents all possible other choices.

There is a more process-oriented way of describing this choice-making; by articulating some of the opposing characteristics of how a person’s specific awareness can “stretch” to encompass two ends of the same system working together. In some ways, this is a much better usage of the idea of opposites, because it is much more likely that a choice will also include some of the “opposing” ends of the other possible choices mixed in it. We can be clear to which direction we are intending to go – and we will go there as time passes as we sustain our intentions to do so.

This of this not as exclusive of each other, where you pick one and not the other, but as the extreme ends of the same stick. Much of how MacDonald deplored the degraded usage of the word “concentration” which used to mean a focal point around which other characteristics clustered or supported as compared to the definition that blotted out all other possibilities and held up the one tunnel-visioned ideal.

Another instance, I’ve noticed that concerning relationships, such as those in AT, people often use an “if…then” structure to describe these characteristic relationships. I just did it in my explanation above, disguised as “as…may.” It’s very handy: the motive is the “if…” part sets up a circumstance where “…then” is the case to be saying something about. So, using language in this way, I’m “parting out” and creating a sort of fictitious opposition.

In this structure misunderstanding is likely. Because the “…if” example is often too radical or oppositional. Or the “…if” situation doesn’t have a subject, it is a passive situation that came about somewhat magically. So this is why I tend to shy away from the more literal “if…then” constructions when talking about relationships to illustrate AT concepts. I do this by softening and making more voilitional their construction by using the “as…may” example as a substitute.

Perhaps we are attempting to get a rather mechanistic language of English to describe relationships that are more like Quantum physics than the parts of Neutonian mechanics that has been the paragon of our culture?

An interesting book I’ve been reading on this subject has been: Leadership & the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe by Margaret J. Wheatley. 1992

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