Do people make deliberate choices for negative reasons?
I used to imagine they do. I used to think I did. But as I have come to be able to watch myself in action making decisions and as I have come to watch my students deal with decisions they have made and habits they have put in place, I have changed my mind and no longer assume this is the case. People make choices for positive reasons.
I have come to believe that everyone I’ve ever known chooses an action (or lack of it) because of its positive aspects, not the negative ones.
Now what about those stupid choices?
Some bad ideas are selected because people couldn’t have known what the effect of their actions are over time, or how serious the effects of their actions would be once added up cumulatively. This is a problem addressed by learning one of the secrets of Alexander Technique – once learned, habits commonly disappear from self-perception.
Perhaps the choice doesn’t take crucial things into account that should have been obvious to someone with more experience. Thus the old adage; “Hindsight is 20/20.” These choices show a lack of foresight and information. Sometimes, the ordering of priorities satisfied by the choice are hidden from the person who is choosing, so a little soul-searching would help future choices. Alexander Technique helps remind people to remember to determine their priorities and criteria by becoming more aware of their own multiple priorities and assumptions of their own criteria for success. Determining and knowing one’s goals is crucial to practicing A.T. because of the need to temporarily suspend these goals so experimenting can bring in new information. If these goals are hidden from the person, they will emerge during experimentation.
It is even more common that a person feels as if they “must” make the choice for various justified points or to answer an imperative need. They may be aware that some of the effects of that choice may become negative at some time in the future. They may figure they know what the cost of the choice is, and believe they accept the cost in trade for the benefit. However, as they get closer to the cost, the benefit suddenly pales. So thinking ahead about mitigating time of arrival issues would be wise in these situations.
Related to this circumstance, Alexander Technique offers the ability to pause before choosing a habit or manner of thinking. In this moment of reflection, another choice is possible. This ability to pause and reflect how you are going to do something (called Inhibition in A.T.) allows you to also decide not to do what you realize that you do not want to do.
Sometimes people are aware of the negative aspects of a choice, but must choose between lesser evils. Perhaps they decide the costs are “worth it,” (possibly because sometimes the costs are deferred until “later,” or may not happen at all.) After learning Alexander Technique, a person realizes how often what they do repetitively has a powerful cumulative effect. They also realize that in many cases, they do have other choices. With this information, perhaps they might be encouraged to look elsewhere for more choices before making a choice that cuts off other options.
How much do people really have a choice? In many cases, most adults are a product of their conditioning – their own habits, their environment and their cultural and parental training. As such, it is seldom that people really do have a choice. Alexander Technique gives first-hand experience of how much trouble it is to change and how significant prevention can be, so this encourages compassion for others and patience with oneself.
How often do people examine or realize their options? Choices people automatically make may have negative consequences over time or immediate risks at the time of choosing, but many feel it is the only thing they can do.
Alexander Technique recommends thinking ahead a bit about the effects of choices. It has some wisdom to offer concerning the cumulative effects of what you are going to allow yourself to repeat.
One of the secrets of A.T. is that a circumstance of pure repetition encourages the training a new habit. This habit may be handy and useful – or it may become a nuisance if it goes on too long or becomes too extreme. Of course, a person gets better at whatever they allow themselves to practice – so it pays off in many ways to notice what you are allowing yourself to repeat.