Tricky

Which of Alexander Technique basic principles have I found to be most tricky to learn?

Watching people, and having experienced itself, I’d say: how the use of a habit disappears the sensation of doing itself. It’s the 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.”


As the Alexander Technique teacher, you prove this feature by pointing out how your students are missing so much in everyone motion, every time students engage a habit. From their point of view, the students regard the principle of habit disappearing sensation like a curious optical illusion, only it’s related to their body orientation and relative effort illusion. Of course, they’re focused on the improvement of the goal of the example!


Then, even if a student accepts that fact that habits disappear sensation when engaged, after you’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. Maybe it’s because they 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. You have to show them this principle, prove to them it exists, (because it’s tricky to change what you cannot sense.) Then you need to show how it works in the context of training a habit – and un-training a nuisance habit you don’t want…the background effort that’s pretty much wasted if it’s not related to your goals. But, it’s as if students are too literal. They compartmentalize a discovery and can’t apply it because it’s got no context – even though that’s the characteristics of a real discovery!

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!

But maybe 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 they 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.

So, I want you to think about this: How can we spot a “Greenfield” opportunity?

…Just another way to apply Alexander Technique principles.

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