Habits and How to Know What You Desire In Spite of Habit

Alexander Technique addresses the ways people come to notice the need for problem solving. It also has something to say about the ways people deliberately choose and design exactly how they might move to respond – as opposed to the actual content of these thoughts. Sometimes content is important, but only to the extent that some of our choices narrow and prevent other choices. Using a habit and holding certain assumptions may prevent us from perceiving other possibilities that may be more practical and useful to us.

The first thing on the list of Patrick MacDonald’s synopsis of his understanding of the Alexander Technique is learning about the force of habit, how it works to set up habits and how strong habits are in the face of new possibilities. Also implied in recognizing habit is recognizing when a discovery or insight arrives that is not consistent with established habitual ways. The ability to recognize when something new has happened allows us to note and use these new discoveries to our advantage. Part of the difficulty in doing this is that habits prevent new experiences from happening, and the use of habits dulls our innate sensititivy to sense that something new has happened. Use it or lose it!
It seems from this comment of MacDonald’s that humans are set up to see disadvantages first. The nature of a disadvantage is it shows us an objection that “sticks out” or emerges in a gestalt that “rises to the top” of our attention in similar ways that figure/ground relationships emerge in a visual field. In many cases, we only notice that something is wrong because we feel pain or stiffness.

In our Western culture, we tend to pick out the “important” activity or thing that is going on in a visual field rather than notice all the elements in the picture at once. We tend to favor the use of a searchlight instead of a wide beam field of attention. Our culture sells to us the value of immediately determining the goal and ignoring what does not fit the goal. Who gets to determine the goal is not so often questioned, so the question of “by who’s standards are we selecting for?” is more often already determined for us.

So the ability to match for similarities is more prevalent in our culture than the ability to compare and “scan” to reveal important factors that may be determining subtle differences. Desires would tend to disappear as a person accepts outside influences to be the most important ones. As you practice a habit, by selection the opposing activity will die off.  The ability to “scan” and compare is more useful when revealing subtle differences, internal desires, thoughts and ideas that do not fit the priorities of others. If you do not use this ability, it will die down because there is less and less of a need for using it.

This motive comes from how our culture values goal setting. Goal-setting drives an imperative need to install the skill of goal-setting so it can become innate and disappear into our ability to command it as soon as possible. Many people are satisfied after they have successfully installed their first answer to what they have determined the goal is. They do not go on to seek for the next step in learning until something else jumps forward to demand their attention. “Good enough for Rock and Roll” is their philosophy.

Part of the beauty of habits is that we are able to add additional next important steps onto it in a behavior chain. We are able to refine a habit to pick and choose which parts of it we want to retain and which parts do not serve us as we learn to tell crucial difference in quality. The disadvantage is that our standards can escalate as we learn. We cultivate perfectionism and get caught in the bind of not being able to live up to our own standards that go just beyond our own reach.

I have observed that this problem comes from putting our objections before our ability to make a move in a new direction. We use our observations, sense only our habits and become discouraged that nothing new can happen before we have gone anywhere or anything else. Our habits trap us and we do not know how to get free.

It is in our human nature to sense objections and desires that do not fit, and also in our nature to ignore what does not fit or match. Sometimes what “sticks out” needs to be addressed and could benefit from some adjustment, and sometimes it is to our benefit to note them and put them aside, and sometimes merely expressing them is satisfactory. The ability to put an objection aside and the power to choose to do something to accommodate an additional desire – or not – is one of the signs of maturity.

As anyone in a certain situation understands and can become aware of what sorts of characteristics exist to their advantage, it is possible to work within these advantages and have quite a bit of power and influence that will answer their desires. So it pays to know what your desires are as well as how to be patient enough to choose a suitable means to get what you want.

We are rarely taught how many possible ways there are to come to a decision concerning what to do about our personal concerns and desires. This ability to think for ourselves is not to the advantage of those who see the need to control us. Adults want kids to go along with the program of what adults want kids to do. The adult justification for this is kids need to obey because they need to be protected from the consequences about what to do. A kid’s objections, criticisms or urge to rebel against the status quo needs to be controlled for their own benefit and protection. Adults cite the need for this because kids often can’t see ahead to the eventual result of their bad choices, although many kids still retain the ability to sense what they want to do. It’s also within the nature of kids to have a built-in bullshit detector that determines how much adults are trying to protect them so they can go beyond those limits that are imposed by adults. However, by doing this, kids force adults to compensate for their lack of foresight so this is a virtual question that kids and adults are engaged in constantly as the kids mature. Often adults run into a blind spot in the gradual eduation of kids when kids reach the teen years; so this is why a strategy that worked for awhile no longer works indefinitely as circumstances change.

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