We’re having an interesting conversation on one of the Facebook Alexander Technique groups. Since FB tends to cycle off rather quickly, perhaps having a spot elsewhere for the discussion would encourage it to continue.
Sara’s blog post that we’re discussing is at:
Here are some excerpts:
Nick Drengenberg writes:Sara, I don’t believe something being a system of work makes it finite. It makes it a something though rather than a generalised ineffability, which wouldn’t distinguish AT from any other type of experience. I see the ineffable as a bit of a slippery slope in other words, confusing questions about what’s shareable in our different experiences with what’s specific to a particular type of work, like AT. I agree each of us might experience AT differently, but you quickly lose any way in which AT is different to anything else if it becomes about attempting to share some subjective experience. I don’t think Alexander at root discovered some sort of subjective experience, those will vary for each person who comes to the work. He discovered a quite objective set of relationships between the human body and the world it sits inside. It’s those we should be trying to describe and communicate, and the feelings at each point in that exploration will be full part of the context we’re in. So a feeling of lightness or easiness will suggest a prior tightness or holding, which we can unravel using Alexander’s insights (to discover how and why we were holding), for example. It’d be a dead-end to try to make the lightness or easiness what’s important about that moment, feelings are pointers or indicators to a full context of existing in space in varying states of balance and support.
Yes, as Nick Dregenburg points out, A.T. has a therapeutic effect that is measurable and scientifically reasonable and predictable as a set of principles. In a way A.T. work could be considered an early form of observational brain science. It’s similar to Dr. Edward de Bono’s predictive models, (in “Mechanism of Mind,”) where de Bono came up with models of how thinking works so he could design compensations to stimulate creative insight. F.M Alexander came up with an open-ended, ongoing demonstration that stimulate creative-conscious insight using a bodymind integration.
Sara Solnick replies…Nick, I don’t think we are talking about quite the same things here. I am not quite sure what you mean by describing AT as a possibly infinite system of work. What I meant was that understanding the depths of AT is not a finite process: it is layered and subtle. The principles are easily stated, as a system if you like, but their extended meaning unfolds only gradually. I do not use the word ineffable in a generalised way as you suggest – what I mean is that there are some things (in my experience at least), the essential nature of which, though apprehended, cannot necessarily be expressed adequately in words – and these can be very specific things. Subjective experience will always be part of one’s understanding of this or any other work – part of the illusion I wish to avoid in writing is that of seeing us as human beings who sit inside, or in any other way separate from, the world – for me, we are inextricably entangled with, and ultimately indistinguishable from, our world – the subjective can never be completely removed, the objective never fully attained. Alexander nevertheless developed a set of principles which can be entertained intellectually without being understood experientially. However, experience and feeling are not irrelevant to our deeper understanding of those principles – they are what promote our developing understanding, and perhaps require us to revise our intellectual formulations along the way… your last sentence seems to be suggesting something similar. But in the final analysis, what all this indicates to me, is how very difficult it is be clearly communicative with the written word alone – which was my point (perhaps misguidedly made by me in a piece of writing!)
Sara Solnick, your point is not misguided. Why this is so is deeply embedded in Alexander’s questioning and experimental foundations. At it’s best and extended toward an art form or life philosophy, A.T. takes people into the unknown, allowing a person to tap on the door of the unknowable and walk through it toward what they don’t know – time and time again. It doesn’t work every single time in a predictable manner because there are so many factors involved in asking for the unknown to reveal itself, but that’s part of it’s attraction of mystique.
Words are frozen, codified meanings. The skill of combining them is an art too – because we’re attempting to get them to say something about our experience that tends to familiarize it into being something we “know.” That’s the definition of being an author-ity.
Using words after an experience of the unknown offers the ability to “tag” for retrieval, which is how the brain works to retrieve memories. But this urge to “have” the unknown as a “thing” sells short the potential of what A.T. really offers. – and I believe this is what Sara Solnick is really hinting at…and why the A.T. community labels the “tagging” urge to be merely end-gaining.
Think about how, when you have an unusual experience, you must be careful who you tell. The telling will be shaped by your relationship to that person’s rapport with you and with the experience itself. Once an experience is in words, people have a tendency to remember what they said, rather than retrieving the raw experience itself in their memory of it. Once expressed in words, usually an experience becomes limited by its description…correct? That’s why we call it End-gaining.
What do you think?