Which of Alexander Technique basic principles have I found to be most tricky to learn?
Watching people, and having experienced learning for myself, I’d say: how the use of a habit disappears the sensation of being engaged in a habitual moment. It’s an under-rated principle of perceptual dissonance, or as F.M. Alexander used to call it, “debauched kinaesthesia.”
People just cannot believe this feature of human perception concerning motion. It’s like a magic trick. People are so focused on results, they forget about process. It’s probably also the reason that body orientation and relative effort is off the radar of being one of the “five senses.” It’s as if the ability to sense your own location and effort is supposed to be “Truth” with a Capitol “T.” It’s not – perception of yourself, where you are in space, how much effort it takes to move – all these are relative to the habits you have developed without realizing you have them.
As the Alexander Technique teacher, you prove this feature to students by pointing out how your students are missing what happens inside themselves. It’s remarkable how it works every time students engage a habit. From inside ourselves, from our own point of view, the students regard the principle of habit disappearing sensation like a curious optical illusion – but related to their body orientation and relative effort illusion. Of course, they’re focused on the improvement of the goal of the example!
Now, the curious part. Even if a student accepts the fact that habits disappear sensation when engaged, after they’ve demonstrated how it works, time and time again…they still can’t imagine what do to about it. They don’t get what this new fact about perception of their own judgment of motion means for them.
I used to think it’s because my students have no clue how to observe themselves and use their other perceptual capacity to cross-reference what is really going on – or they need to develop some supporting skills. They don’t have any idea how useful it can be to structure learning new things faster and easier. But I realized I need to “tell them a story.” I have to show them this principle, prove to them it exists, (because it’s tricky to change what you cannot sense.) Then show how it works in the context of training a habit – and un-training a nuisance habit you don’t want. It’s just a really weird feeling how the background effort that is not related to your goals can go away. You feel as if you’re flying!
Students enjoy that sensation of effortlessness. But, it’s as if students are too literal. In Alexander Technique, we call this urge to go for the end result: EndGaining. Students tend to compartmentalize a discovery and can’t apply it because it’s got no context – even though that’s the characteristics of a real discovery! so – they need a story to give a new experience memorable context.
But that’s the case with something really new – inventions for instance. I remember when LEDs were just a toy, a curiosity – for years! Until finally someone realized how LEDs lasted so much longer and used so much less energy than light bulbs. Now LEDs are everywhere – especially useful on streetlights! So that might give you an idea of how to use a discovery that doesn’t have a context. Describe its characteristics, then ask when addressing those characteristics would be handy. Where would a light bulb that lasts longer be useful? In a spot where it’s a hassle to change the light bulb, like a streetlight. Or when you want to spend less on your electric bill, you can use LED bulbs. Poof! You’ve got a new field of products!
How to apply a new concept such as perceptual dissonance? Maybe it’s more simple than needing to learn a whole new behavior chain of skills to understand how to make a discovery useful to yourself as soon as it happens? Maybe it merely takes humans some time to imagine what to do with more energy and less conflict and stress?
We need to think about our discoveries and do the asking about where new experiences might be applicable. Most of our lives are based on reacting to conflict and bad things. In fact, humanity is obsessed with bad news as the driving force for innovation and change. How can we use something positive, something interesting?
So, I want you to think about this: What would you do to spot a “Greenfield” opportunity?
…Just another way to apply Alexander Technique principles.