From A Dialoguer Who Writes
I'm happy to offer the benefit of my observations. I would love to know how or if you can use what I've been exploring here.
If you'd like to contact me personally to get in touch, check out my website.
Suspension is not inhibition in the Freudian sense. It's not a hangup, to feel embarrassed or self-conscious. People aren't used to using the skill of suspension without their inhibitions. It takes subtracting the policing part of judging themselves.
I don't think that using suspension "too often" is self-denial. Self-denial has the element of self-judgment.
Suspension as a deliberate action is a way to recognize and subtract one's own dominant routine - not to replace it with something that is "right" as people seem to want to do when they judge. That works best if you aren't substituting a "new and better" habit in it's place. Suspend and pay attention to see what happens. Who you are and what to do next will both be answered as you perceive with a fresh, renewed sensory ability that doesn't have the habitual routine in the way.
What happens when you actually suspend? Your proprioceptive ability pops out. This is true if you're doing Dialogue while using proprioception of thought, or doing Alexander Technique and using actual proprioception of balance and effort.
So, once you've got that proprioception into gear - make it work for you. Turn it on what you suspended (without the urge to "fix" what's wrong or bad,) and you'll see the workings of the routine for what it is. If what you did before to "fix" it didn't really work so well, try something new. Make a move in a new direction or conduct an experiment by assuming a new attitude of thinking, and your proprioceptive sense will work to tell you what really is happening - to the best of its' ability. Your sense of location and effort that is physical proprioceptive sense gives you relative feedback. Sometimes you will even make a discovery or get an insight.
I've seen it happen quite a bit like this in many, many people.
I noticed during Dialogue groups, when people first discover the idea of suspension - they stop talking. They seem to be busy asking themselves, "WHY do I want to say this? Where does this urge to say this come from in me?" Then after awhile, these people start talking again, at first more deliberately, but then their sense of humor comes out. Their fear of public speaking goes away.
Wonder if the process of suspension needs an additional skill? As it is so handy to be able to make a move in a new direction physically using Alexander's sense of Primary Control - how a little knowledge of living anatomy can be so useful.
The way that would work for Dialogue would be a form of pro-active movement too, perhaps the skill of forward thinking. To put this into practice, exercising a skill of memory would also be handy. You need this skill so you do not forget what you thought needed to be said while you were listening to other people talking.
To use suspension proactively, a necessary skill for Dialogue (for me) has become the ability to hang on to a thread of meaning past many people speaking. Perhaps what you thought of saying will be said by another person.
This takes practice. You would realize you want to say something. You would suspend talking about it for a moment; listen to see if someone else is going to say it for you. Then if nobody has brought up that direction of the subject, it can be said. Because you've suspended, you can choose the most effective moment for it to be said. This has a much different effectiveness for communication than just blurting something out whenever it comes to mind. Try it in your next conversation!
Just noticing that, during dialogue, these roles tend to emerge. So I made a list of them... Exactly who assumes them is unimportant. In the same way that every internet list server group eventually attracts a "troll," there seem to be many other (much less obnoxious) roles that tend to emerge in the group situation of Dialogue. Figured that expanding the list is fascinating as we would be trading notes on the common roles we have seen. Did not intend to define who is corresponded to which character role(s) in this group or any other as would be done in attempts to "pigeonhole" certain people.
Every once in awhile, someone arrives in a Dialogue group who carves out a new archetypal role for themselves. It affects the whole group as a new character archetype emerges and interacts with the dynamic of the group. This new person can represent a new model with its corresponding advantages and disadvantages. Here comes a new resource of a possible points of view, of skill and ability to reach rapport with certain people, to dance, inspire, repel or excite members of the group.
Most of us are not any particular ONE of the characters; in fact, took for granted that most people are a composite of many of the character roles. Some people do tend to rather obviously gravitate towards certain point(s) of view identified in the character role list.
Here's how I do use regarding people as assuming a role or archetype:
First noticed that I tend to get rather bored with a person who comes to represent for me only one consistent role. Don't enjoy so much being able to predict what someone will say because I'll anticipate how they will repeat themselves and this makes me feel like rolling my eyes in the "here we go again..." lack of patience. Finding this out about myself made me come to respect the embodiment of most characters as archetypes with a more philosophical regard that "someone has to do it." Came to understand that each role (which really represents a whole world-view in
some people) is entirely appropriate in a particular situation - and each role has its shortcomings in non-appropriate situations. This led me to emulate others by recognizing the validities of their strength and spotting certain situations as correspondingly appropriate, such as, "Hey, here's a situation where thinking like so-and-so would be much more useful."
It can be enlightening to have others point out how you are affecting them by identifying it as assuming a role - but definitely requires suspension on your part! Certainly the assignment of - which role belongs to who - does give some feedback how people are affecting others. It is a frank sort of honest daring to tell what role(s) people see you playing. The roles you see in yourself don't necessarily mean that others regard you in that way. Of course, the ability to notice these roles in others usually indicates the capacity for being able to assume the role oneself.
In a Dialogue group in my past, we were talking about how much any one of us would be tempted to alter our essential nature and mitigate some part of our character in the pursuit for communication, i.e: to "not offend" or excite the cultural responses we might want to avoid.
In this group, a passionate, talented, educated, articulate Hispanic woman found herself ranting that she was sick and tired of having to curb her naturally passionate ways of speaking in order to not offend "you repressive white people." The group, including a few non-whites, practiced some stiff suspending skills while listening to what this woman had just said. The rather open-minded were able to try on the point of view of "being repressively white" in order to experience what it would be like to regard ourselves as "white" and "repressed" while obligating someone else to diminish their essential nature. It was quite an exercise.
The urge to defend oneself and to fight against being stereotyped into membership of the obligatory, repressed group was a very tempting reaction. Of course, where else but in Dialogue would this woman be able to say to any group of people what she rather obviously needed to express without having to deal with a huge backlash of being attacked back for saying it?
I've noticed that if you are going to be making a comment about what is going on in the moment, (especially when you have a personal investment in the outcome of the course of events that may follow,) it's very tricky to make your motive be understood when your motive is the intention for mutual insight. I find that it works best to prepare the ground to be received in the spirit of what you are about to say before you say it. So linguistically, the first skill is called "re-framing." You must redefine the frame for the audience, because it is quite likely that they will misunderstand you if you assume they are on the same page as you are.
There is also a time of arrival factor that is also important. Once people are locked into repeating a vicious circle, it's very tricky to stop repeating what is the problem. Better to wait for another time when the vicious circle is about to happen, and make your attempt to interrupt the event that you can recognize is ABOUT to happen at that time...because this sort of thing will happen again and again if it really is a problem.
Even then, we're talking about talking using words. Often, you need to do something to interrupt the actions that are being done. This is why violence is such a common alternative once the vicious circle gets going, because violence at least puts the exchange on the level of "doing something else" rather than mere talking. Everyone understands what you mean if you become violent; but not why you became violent, or what you think violence will do to resolve the situation in your favor or if you imagine reacting violently will do something besides hurt the other person, etc. If you intend to do something else besides become violent, say, grow closer and more intimate, it's a lot trickier to find an entry point inside of the vicious circle of events once they have begun. Unless you have a previous relationship with the people involved that allows you to indicate in some sort of inviting action that you are intending intimacy rather than violence with your ad homonym style comment, your overtures of putting aside the possible response of violence to resolve the situation are likely to be rejected AND misinterpreted.
Often saying something will have no effect, because the action that is going on is that people are saying something - content is being ignored. So for the content of what is being said to have an effect, communication works better if you can figure out a creative way to "change the game" of HOW the content is being delivered. This is another form of reframing. Otherwise, whatever you say will just be reacted to as if it's merely a brand of violent defense or retort driven by the interpretation of some sort of paranoid motive - the sort which is left up to the negative imagination of the person on the defensive who doesn't have enough creative ability to imagine any possible positive constructive motives for your actions.
So this is another skill that I have learned to cultivate - the ability to imagine, under duress, multiple creative, reasonable explanation for the other person's actions when it "makes no sense" that they are in conflict, not becoming violent and getting upset. This is quite a challenge because anger and other emotions tend to block creativity.
OK, so below, I've reviewed what I believe are the motives or strategies behind some of the people's responses here, ad homonym:
below, Rajath has made a comment that puts people on the same side, rather a positional defense that the first two have done. This is constructive because then you may unite both people's ability to observe general characteristics without reacting with the need for assuming the defending/attacker role.
In DL's comment, refuting is not what he would want to do - agreement is what he would want to do while he would restate the question; which would be - "how can we both stop doing what we both tend to do?"
Bohm responded with the "generalized labeling" motive, with an attempt to distance himself from the phenomena in order to examine the pattern. This is constructive, because then the pattern of habit could be recognized at an earlier stage when it could be more easily redirected. I found this also requires making a pact with one person to signal the other person when they believe "we are "doing it again." Then an agreement needs to be made to "try something different" at that point rather than doing what the pattern dictates the two people "must" do. The more often people are willing to go together to this unknown state and "try something different" together means sooner or later they are going to stumble on workable solutions. This is the basis of Dialogue. ...It's also how many psychological answers to relationship issues get hatched, but then someone seems to have to write a book,etc. for the insight to reach beyond whatever agreement two people privately come to in their own relationship. Somehow in our culture, people cannot just "share their experience" without setting themselves up to be some sort of authority which parades their "right" for it to be taken seriously. The motive to have things work out for both of them can easily become a contest of who is going to control the outcome of the situation for the benefit who.
That's why I am fascinated with how couples/family groups deal with prioritizing on the fly. How have they determined who's needs gets answered and how long does everyone else have to wait for their needs to be answered - and how does everyone get what they need at some point?
Rajath's way of dealing with the problem at hand here would be to make observations about the nature of it to attempt to understand how and why it is so difficult to deal with. This is also constructive. What needs to follow is to come up with a strategic way to make it easier to work around the built-in paradoxical difficulties.
The rest of you guys began to talk about how people must have run into this problem before, and started reciting the history of what they had to say about it rather than using your own ability to observe in the here and now for yourselves. These are the pastimes of scholars; it redirects the arguing to a sort of "name-dropping" activity contest showing how well read, what great memory and ways of competing about the value of scholarly infomercials.
I find that when you are talking about your own experience, if you imagine nobody else has ever encountered it before, it's always best to refrain from making up terms for what you are talking about. It usually turns out that someone probably has encountered what you are experiencing before and done just that. So the pastimes of scholars are handy because usually someone in the past came up with a good name for the phenomena already and if you use that name, you don't have make up another confusing term that then has to be endlessly defined and bantered about.
But this is what we do when we first encounter the unfamiliar - we try to make it familiar by comparing or matching it to what we already know. Comparing to reveal differences is usually more constructive when confronting then unknown than matching for similarities; matching ignores pesky differences and is a kind of searching for commonalities that are already known. I know that the way you frame the question points to where you look for answers - and also what sort of answers you find. Seeking for differences notes assumptions that are being missed - and it is from what is being missed where insights are hiding.
I guess I'm writing this to you kids because I imagine you all might want to play with me like this.
DL wrote: I have long needed and now need and appreciate these points of Reason and Meaning! I have not known how to refute the accusation: "You do it too."
Bohm had called insanity "sticking with a point against evidence that it is incorrect." But can "evidence" be seen when one is blasted with it and when there are imperfections in it, and when delivered by someone that one doesn't particularly like (which seems to be a guaranteed aspect of this process), and when "evidence" is tinged with strong, insulting words? I sure can't! Bet I'm not alone.
After all, we have communication in the conscious level and metacommunication on the unconscious level, and very often these two are in mutual contradiction (Bateson's double bind), and this is the basis of conflict at the least, and probably schizophrenia at the worst.
-- pete says we could:
pretend -- or -- propriocept
repress gain insight
enslave (?) liberate (?)
something like that? can someone please sort it out?
I was reading this article, and it has quite a few parallels between Bohmian Dialogue and Alexander Technique. It was written by Lee Nichols, editor of some of David Bohm's books on Dialogue. I was struck by this comment:
[quote] .."From this inclusive Bohmian perspective, we thus find that the body is
the gateway to a remarkable wealth of unexpected information. "[/quote]
I guess I'm so familiar with the ego idea, partly because I take it for granted. I see that holding the ego up as something to be gotten rid of is just as bad or worse and repeating it incessantly, because it's essentially the other end of the same stick. So because of that, I didn't pay much attention to the ego part of that article.
What this article did for me was to imagine a mutually advantages synthesis of Dialogue, Alexander Technique and perhaps the process of making art.
I know that many people have different recipes for enhancement of awareness, but a synthesis of those three would be what has worked for me. With full knowledge of how weird I happen to be, maybe I should give that up because the likelihood is slim that anyone will bother to do those things together...but you never know.
The "change of being" part of the end of the article, where Bohm is quoted: "A change of meaning is a change of being." What happens to older Alexander teachers is they become psychic about knowing what you are thinking about during a lesson. In one case I head about, an Alexander Technique teacher's fingerprints can go away - or at least gone far enough away to be indiscernable by Scotland Yard in a burgulary dusting. Guess that this happened because the teacher was so mindful of using just the amount of effort she needed to pick up things in her home. I guess that could be described as a loss of ego, rather than a point of pride of mindful practice.
I like to think about what would happen to humans if their limitations weren't in the way. I guess that's what every parent hopes for their child.
Being able to differentiate between "so and so's idea" and an idea that has lost any designation as coming from someone can be an exercise in an "objective" sort of intellectual disassociation. I have come to suspect its usefulness. Used to, but now I don't imagine it's particularly useful to think of memes or ideas as standing on their own, although it's interesting to imagine that's possible as curious intellectual entertainment. I'm open to it being useful in some way to me. Which means, I'm open to having it mean something more to me personally.
For me, it's important that someone experienced an idea directly, observed it, thought about it. The hope that all of us might do that to carry ourselves together somewhere new is in Dialogue.
Some of us have held up the value of egolessness being suspended from the Dialogue experience. I'm curious why this disassociation of idea from who it came from is considered valuable..?
The way people in the Dialogue I was a part of would express this agreement of the value of idea over ego was to try to talk about ideas without claiming ownership. They might attribute the idea to some author, etc. as if they were not related to the idea personally.
Why they wanted to bring the idea to the group was seldom mentioned, because that would reveal a sort of "ego" or attachment to the outcome of the conversation...which was supposed to also be suspended, according to their interpretation of Dialogue ideas of suspension. So we had this Dialogue for a long time which was every sort of name dropping, or a little shorthand for mentioning one idea after another by mentioning one author after another as the ideas went by fast and furiously. It wasn't very satisfying, because our conversations didn't go anywhere new. It was sort of an "information dump."
Then we talked about this experience, and eventually agreed we wanted to make the Dialogue less of a name-dropping event. So now each person who wanted to mention someone else's idea would most usefully offered an outline of what the related idea was for those who had not read that particular author. So that made us quite practiced at short book reviews, dragged out the dictionary, etc. We learned some history, but still - that wasn't so interesting because it didn't go anywhere new either. It was sort of an information dumping experience that could be sort of interesting, if you preferred learning about the topic.
Finally what we came to was to just drop the quoting, the book reviewing and claim the idea as ours - where ever it came from. Then, talking about where our values came from became very interesting.
Then we didn't have to go to some length to separate the "idea" from the person who is forming it. We began to learn from each other why any particular idea was valuable to someone and also, why a person is bringing it to the attention of others now in the group.
We even got to the point where we learned some of the core experiences from where these values sprang. That's when we began to really appreciate some of the Conative (motive-style) thinking strategies of each of the others in the Dialogue that were often quite different from our own. The effect of all this was we stopped questioning the validity of whatever someone said, along with many of us stopping the urge to convince, explain or defend ourselves. This was pretty amazing to see, as it evolved into happening.
Some of us began to feel that each of us was a sort of archetype - so whenever anybody said something, it became sort of like the person was representing "me and all those people who think the way I do who have shared in common some of the experiences I have had." It even led me to search for people who had some of my own unique experiences as a child in common - and the results were fascinating.
Yes, leaving out personal pronouns makes what an author says sound authoritative. So no matter what other motive you have for leaving out personal pronouns, this is the culture understanding you'll be cultivating by writing like that. But putting pronouns of "I" in gives meaning and motive to a particular person.
So, now that I've said that, related to the effect of the personal pronouns, names, attributes to a person, etc. I'm going to ask a question. What I've just written frames this question in a certain way from the fact that it follows sequentially. If I ask, "why do you write so often about that particular idea? Where did the value of that particular idea come from in your past experiences? What does that intent to write without personal pronouns mean for you personally?" What I want to know is, why do you think I'm asking these personal questions?
It's pretty easy to flip the motive for suspicion or connection, by not knowing why someone is asking such a personal question like what I just asked. We ask many questions during Dialogue and while learning Alexander Technique. We might know that the person we're asking has a "thing" about using personal pronouns whenever he answers a question, or we might know the habit of someone who is trying to respond differently by using Alexander's ideas. That sort of a "personal" question can come from a positional attack with a motive of dissection or discrediting, or from a position of genuine curiosity and interest in who the person is and how they put the world together into thinking the way they do.
With email, it's difficult to tell the difference because there is no body language to add to meaning along with the question. So that is why I believe that stating motive is helpful in writing, because it frames the intent of why the question is being asked and what the asker is going to do with the information before it is disclosed.
Rather than replacing a "bad" conditioning with a "good" one, practicing Alexander Technique on oneself removes conditioning. This requires learning or cultivating a willingness to tolerate and utilize unknown or unexplained results. It also involves how to apply discretion and judgment while selecting for results that will help you. Other than selling effortlessness as a means, goals are usually left to the student.
It has similar benefits to uncovering assumptions of thought which is a goal while in Dialogue. Only with Alexander Technique, you're also studying the ways how you carry out intentions, as well as how you respond and react to what comes at you.
Everyone has built up kinesthetic assumptions about how they should move to direct their actions to answer an intention. These assumptions, expressed in moving, are often quite unnecessarily heavy-handed or outdated. If you train yourself well, habit become innate. This means habits disappear and run automatically without you even noticing. If you has gotten used to being heavy-handed while training yourself - or you forgot what you already are doing, you can be habituated to
simultaneously moving in opposing directions. That's why people feel tense.
New discoveries can be applied selectively, in theory. But sometimes in the dismantling process, you can disorient even your self-image or balance. Or you may feel as if you cannot speak or move. What you are getting is weird feelings about experiencing too much freedom. Some people decide this is alarming; all their self-preservation convictions freak out, so the teacher or situation must reassure them that nothing dangerous is happening - when really, the unfamiliar is exceptionally dangerous. The AT teacher knows ways to make it quite safe so that anyone can feel just a little weird - and their habit is always available for retreat. To want to experiment takes some daring and fearlessness, which some people lack, so often that must be trained. But that would be training a new skill of dealing with feeling unfamilarity, rather than returning to a former state that was more essential. Being able to dare to speak or move easier anyway, despite not feeling like yourself, is a new skill that can be "conditioned."
The sensation of effortlessness and weirdness is the signal you're heading into new territory. If it has a characteristic of more freedom, you might be able to make a discovery - but that's a challenge because the state often doesn't have words to formulate the new information. You
cannot decide beforehand what the unknown will be "like." Each time you're heading out into new territory.
In my case, my earlier form of conditioning concerning ways concerning the way I learned to walk as a toddler was not "more cohererent." But for most people the way they learned to walk as toddlers was an excellent use of energy. Another common comment would be that more freedom feels like "coming home." So this person would agree with you - they're uncovering a more essential state of coordination that was cultivated and conditioning as a child.
Some people have purely studied the physical discipline of Alexander Technique and gotten benefit in other areas of their lives, without any of the related philosophy. I have seen the same happen in a dialogue group. It was a surprise for the Alexander student that the related philosophy was discovered gradually, without ever reading Alexander's books. Evidently, this can also happen with martial arts and lots of other disciplines that have an art, a craft, a practice.
Sometimes I think that almost any action or area of study has the potential to become an art.
I think what is necessary is a form to demonstate and give you feedback what you are really doing - a practice. Like practicing music, or a skill, etc. Having both philosophy and a practice at once would be just better teaching and faster learning.
For instance, Dialogue has the form of social interaction in the group of people who get together for dialoguing. Someone can come to dialogue and observe what is happening and describe it and they
can sound just like David Bohm, never having read any of what he wrote. I've been present when that has happened.
Artists make art, but you don't have to know art philosophy to appreciate the art. Sometimes artists just start making art and they later come to an "intangible" philosophical benefit as they attempt to explain why and how they did what happened when they made the art. All this can happen without any talking about it, or history, etc. But to get the philosophical benefit for yourself takes immersion, some degree of commitment along with practice, practice, practice. At least that's what I think.
I wrote this eons ago when I took a trip up to visit Linda, with whom I had been dialoguing with for over a year. Well, I actually went to visit many more people than just Linda, but that's besides the point.
--- Linda wrote:
> let me barge into what's going on to blurt out:
> FRANIS Is EVERYWHERE
> okay, so she was just in Eugene, OR this week, but I met
> her and this was quite something.
> I saw her walking down the hall and I was
> immediately puzzled to not "recognize" her. and
> after the evening was done, i felt as though her
> in-person-ness was a family resemblance to her
> e-voice, but not exactly same person. i wondered if
> i am. i wondered if we're all just a loose
> association of different states...and there's less
> consistency between them than we'd like to
> the lindas
Meeting Linda after getting to know her here was an experience not to be missed. I recommend it to all here! If you ever get the chance, it would be wonderful if at least some of us could get together in person somewhere and do the dialogue thing, or merely get to know each other in the flesh.
My first impression now that I'm home was how much we have found out about each other in dialogue here...and how much time that would take to know all of that by conveying it in person, talking. I'm so much faster of a reader, and more patient than I am to hear the same
information. While I was with Linda, it was almost as if I wanted to tear myself open and evoke the level of intimacy that I often respond to when Linda writes...But there was the fact that in reality we are strangers to each other's bodies so the social mores and the table between us was in place. Then again, it wasn't. The back and forth from knowing her and both not knowing her was fascinating.
Sequential words seem to go so slow in relationship to how much I can soak up when I'm reading. So for me, the fact that you all type to me means I can absorb it so much faster than if you were talking. There's no competition for sequential time when I'm taking the time to read. Of course, the time I had to talk with Linda went by sooooo much to much tooooo fast. I just have to come back to Eugene and spend lots more time hanging out with Linda to feel satisfied that I do, indeed, know her.
My impression of Linda in person as opposed to Linda e-mail was first what I mentioned - looking at her mugging what she means when she talked added an encyclopedia to what she meant, because her expressions were so easy for me to identify with. Because also when Linda writes it's often succinct, so I had to imagine the sense of how she was saying it. She's got a rubber face, as I seem to use when I talk, so that delighted me. That's where I meant I saw the same sense of humor that I imagined, because I was adding in the exaggerated facial expressions that I might have used. Usually that's pretty far off, but for Linda it was surprisingly accurate.
I was ready to accept that I didn't know at all what Linda Looked LIKE, so I had that sensation when you see someone you "know" after they have had their hair or beard cut off and suddenly you can see more of them and they look totally different.
Most of all, my impression was that, given some time to spend together, Linda and I could become the best of friends.
Turns out that Linda's impression of me was that I seem to be a different self with different people - and different mediums of expression.
Signed, the various and sundry Franises...
Dialogue creole - that's a good buzzword for the tendency people have to assign new meaning to words or to make words up. But if we use it, will people understand what we mean without explaining it? Dialoguers can turn anything into something valuable.
Uniquely twisted letters/words with their own unique meanings demand quite a bit of energy to decipher and get something out of them. We don't like txt messging for that reason. We like to write about the origins of words in our online dialogue group. In the distant past, there we invented a whole bunch of emoticons. Ones designed just for dialogue - because we found ourselves using the same qualifyers. They were cute & creative and some of us used them for awhile, but nobody here remembered them for very long.
It turns out that when you get a bunch of people making up words and then using a string of these made up words in a sentence, nobody has a clue what anyone else is saying - people must constantly ask what was meant - so why not just say what you mean in the first place?
In Alexander Technique, many AT teachers forgo the use of metaphor for similar reasons. Alexandrians can be very deliberate about how and what we tell ourselves to do. Turns out that you may do whatever it is you are telling yourself to do, literally. There is a part of the brain that only gets images and no qualifying words such as "don't". So if you suspect something unintentional is going on with yourself, be more precise about what you are saying to yourself when you are telling yourself to do something.
In particular, I discovered that I was constantly telling myself to do things that I didn't really want to do. Somehow I got the idea if I told myself what I didn't want to do, what I really wanted to do would be free to happen without being specified. Well, I'm the evidence that this doesn't work for me!
Examining the langage you use to tell yourself how to do something is quite revealing. Check it out.
I'm thinking back at what attracted me to Alexander Technique...a really loooong time ago, in 1976. Strangely enough, it wasn't to improve my terrible twisted posture, which was very, very depressing sight.
I wasn't thinking about my posture when I got to know this guy as boyfriend material at 23 who was studying AT. I got to know him because I thought easy posture meant he was creative or maybe could experience
enlightenment! It's true he moved much lighter and easier than me. I can remember how he would reach up to smooth away the crink in my forehead that I didn't realize I was doing to myself.
What convinced me to do AT and made it fun was the attraction of being able to change my consciousness. AT didn't use the coersion of will, but something else mysteriously indirect that made whole my analytic ego attachments. The all-points-awareness experiences were exciting. Sometimes I'd have a creative flash of insight. My perceptual sensitivity woke up, along with the awareness of my body. My motives to keep learning were driven by having a way to address a split I recognized between my intention and how I mostly floundered to bring about learning or change. Later, I realized my whole self was a lot happier too.
When I applied the Alexander Technique to learning to sing, it gave me a significant insight about why I kept half my throat was closed. I knew that when I was a baby, I had an ear gristle cropped off by rubber banding, (in the 1950's doctors were so thoughtless.) This punishment trained me as a baby to tense up the side of my neck - which affected how I learned to walk as a toddler because I unknowingly kept it tense. Of course, all hell broke loose when my hips became one piece in my late teens...nobody could tell me why. I developed a mystery limp at 17 with no injury to start it, but now that I knew the Alexander Technique principles, it suddenly made sense. All this came clear when I talked to someone else who had the same banding-to-crop done to their ear when they were a baby, with different disasterous results of back problems. My tourqued posture actually stopped bloodflow to my femur at my knee and caused the bone to crumble - surgery didn't help. I still had the limp at 23 until I began to study Alexander Technique. If I hadn't, I have no doubt that by now I would not have knees.
I've assummed that what motivated me to continue learning AT, probably wouldn't motivate others, because my experience was so unique...but maybe that's an erroneous assumption.
David Bohm's later solutions are curious parallels to Alexander Techique, but they seem to come from a completely different orientation. Bohm asked different question to start himself out on his investigations. David Bohm did not know about Alexander Technique, although he lived in London.
Bohm advocates Dialogue in a group of ten to thirty people as a remedy to address the problem he defines as a lack of proprioception within thought - and as an extension of that, the problem of how likely it is to assign meaning unreliably. (Thus Bohm acknowledges sensory unreliability, but he applies it to unreliability of thought itself.)
After learning about Dialogue, I would say that Bohm came up with some similar principles to Alexander Technique, only he applied them in terms of a social arena where people interact.
During a Dialogue group, Bohm recommends that participants suspend their conclusions and judgments about each other and build on what others are thinking about instead of debating or looking for flaws. Bohm's idea he calls Suspension functions quite a bit like Alexander's concept of Inhibition, only related directly to thinking processes during group interaction.
During a Dialogue group, one's assumptions (often completely hidden) are constructively revealed by noting one's reactions to what or how other people are talking. While exploring subjects that are improvised on the spot, these and other recommended techniques allow insight to happen unexpectedly as the group goes somewhere new together.
I've been a member of an in-person Dialogue group for the last ten years; and I'm also a member of an online list server with former contemporaries of Bohm.
I'm so struck with exploring the many similarities between Alexander Technique and Bohm's ideas of Dialogue. That's why I started this particular blog.
On the subject of why people defend their cultivated routines, I thought you might enjoy a quote from
David Bohm,(physicist/philosopher) from his writing, "On Creativity" p. 24:
"And the key is, as I have indicated, to be continually aware of and alert to the basically mechanical reactions that are always causing us to "go to sleep" again and again...
Just what are these reactions? This is to complex a question to be gone into in detail here. But, roughly, it can be said that the root of the trouble can be found in the confusion between what is really creative and the mechanical continuation of the results of past conditioning. For example, each person will note that, either tacitly or explicitly, he is according extremely great importance and value to certain comforts, pleasures, stimulating sources of a "tingling" sense of excitement and euphoria, secure and satisfying routines of life, actions that are necessary to his feeling of being an accepted and worthwhile sort of person, and various other mental responses that are felt to be of a supreme degree of psychological significance. Indeed, such responses often seem so basic to the psyche that one feels that he cannot bear to have them seriously disturbed. Even more, it may often appear that they are inseparable parts of one's "very self," so that all the creative possibilities of the mind would depend on first seeing to it that they are in a right order (as all one's physical actions depend on obtaining an adequate supply of the right kind of food). However, closer observation shows that the continuation of these responses is not really necessary for happiness and creation, and that, on the contrary, they are actually nothing but mechanical results of past conditioning, being in fact the principal barriers to real joy and creativity." - David Bohm
Changing a persistent, unconscious habit is one of the most difficult things that a
grown-up can do. Most adults have little patience and capacity for such an undertaking, and as such, are strongly motivated to accept things the way they are and even make up reasons for actively working to keep things the same.
Take for instance changing an all-pervasive habit such as a facial tic. In a situation as this, the reasons why a person would want to make this change would not be fully experienced until the change had been made.
The main problem in influencing this mannerism is it seems to repeat itself automatically without registering that anything has intentionally happened. People around someone with a facial tic would try to ignore it also and never bring up the uncontrollable characteristic of it, even though it's distracting to remember to disregard the tic as a meaningless gesture. If the person with the problem was a woman and she thought of designing a strategic feedback of the event for herself, perhaps braiding her hair so a strand hung down over her face would help her feel a new
sensation as her face rubbed against the braid. This way she could be aware right before she was beginning to start the habitual expression and thus be able to begin to interrupt herself doing it.
Also an important point of improvement would be her response to unsuccessful prevention of the action. Changing an action such as this would be discouraging at first if she didn't appreciate how many times her body/mind had practiced this activity and how difficult the challenge really is. The most likely outcome of her experiments would be that her will to do differently would be quite unsuccessful at first. She would be very lucky to have even partial success. This would be because after not very long, she would tend to disregard her strategic indicator!
Habits are extremely tricky and coersive. Their complete and utter invasiveness is justified by a very strong sense of self-preservation gone wild. They have everything to do with you - because you designed them to address some intention of yours, or you let them run wild and legislate how you are spending your energy without doing anything about how your habits affect you.
I'm saying this from my own experiences at changing the way I would breathe and speak - which was challenging in a very similar all-pervasive way. The greatest moment comes when you suddenly realize or remember the intention that was usually lost in the past when you installed the habit.
It comes as an insight as you're staying with yourself moment to moment. Sometimes it's such a complete insight that the need for the habits drops away instantly. My insight concerning the way I'd learned to talk was that somehow as a child who did not want to seem threatening, I learned to take a breath, let it out and then start talking on the most tiniest bit of air possible. In spite of the insight, it still took me some very attentive work over a two year period before I could take the first free breath of my life without unnecessary pressure and force...and then let it out while I began to talk, no big deal, over and over again like most people with beautiful voices can talk.
I used to take care of older seniors. Yesterday I visited a friend of mine who is doing a similar job.
It struck me how many of the concerns of the seniors I took care of then were connected to losing some sort of their physical capacity. I didn't see that until now. Being physically limited was something that happened to me when I was still a teen and nowhere near the end of my life. Comparing how seniors seem so possessive and controlling, I knew well that my limited situation as a teen was a situational attitude and not a result of "getting old." When they lose capacity to make themselves happy, people seem to want to draw the world in which they have control tighter and tighter until they MUST have their way because it's their house, or some other justification. I'm beginning to think that the reason people feel this way because they're losing their capacity to do what they love. Not that they're getting old - it's just a situational set of emotions that occur when you lose the capacity to do what used to make you happy.
Strikes me also as paradoxical how most of the features of what money has to offer is more privacy. When people get old they want company more than privacy.
Many people's creative drive might be considered compulsory - but because it's creative rather than destructive, it's not a disorder.
I see the assumption that "the solution must be intense so as to combat the problem's intensity" to be an expression of the mistake of "from extreme to extreme." I think the reason it's so common of an assumption is from a cultural history of implied opposites. The implied opposite of something you abhor with a vengeance people assume seems to be something you passionately love - rather than just stopping the problem.
That assumption is wrong, as F.M. Alexander discovered, among others. If you use those extremes, you'll miss what your twisted senses have learned to ignore as being of no consequence. To find something you love to do, it works better to notice what comes easily & naturally to you that you find yourself doing without effort.
For Alexander to find that out involved going through a paradoxical process he taught himself to perform by building new assumptions. Fortunately, his solutions of how to go from "repair" to "ease" turned out to work for others who might be in his situation. I imagine that any 'techniques' us teachers of AT come up with from our own experience can only add to Alexander's - and those who share our circumstances will benefit from them.
Marj Barstow's (Alexander's first graduate) opinion on this was, to the extent you factually went in the direction you intended to go, what you didn't want was left behind by default. So - Marj said that prevention works with less effort than repair - just like in maintaining cars.
From that conversation, I have since regarded many of Alexander's techniques, such as his specialized way of using inhibition, to be on the order of "repair." Sometimes people's problems need these "repairs." I did at times when I became injured and couldn't help but train myself to cope with pain by limiting movement while I was recovering. Those examples are what make Alexander's work useful for anyone from any starting point. I don't think you need to use all the tools if what the problem is will respond to some of the tools.
Decades ago, I was at Marj Barstow's workshop sitting next to a new attendee who was a jazz trumpet player. For his third lesson, I suggested that he bring his horn up and play a little; and compare how connected he felt to what he played after he worked with Marj's suggestions.
The comment the musician made after the lesson was that he'd always assumed that the vastly improved connection he felt then was always going to happen in the context of improvisation, and never playing alone. Now in this lesson, here it was, seemingly on call all by itself.
I'm really curious how people find out they are inappropriately be reacting rather than using their creative potential. The danger is your habits can surround you with their convictions of self-defining identity. You can get used to your habits so completely that they disappear into your identity. If you try to move or do things differently, it will feel so unfamiliar that it will feel as if it's "not you" and so you won't allow yourself to continue doing what is easier on you, but only what feels familiar. Your habitual identiry which seems to be tied to self-preservation may rebel against what feels unfamiliar and try to resume control to protect you.
It's a built-in design flaw of adapting. That's the intention when we design habits, adapt to circumstances and learn - that the new abilties become innate and can be used as second-nature. It becomes a problem as we add habit onto habit because we can pull ourselves in opposite directions. It causes people to get physically twisted up and age faster, stresses their systems.
The ways around it that I know don't necessarily involve "awareness" on the front end. They involve deliberately disassembling the habits. In fact, it seems to work best to not have a new habit in mind to replace what you are intentionally disassembling, but just remove what seems to be in the way that is outdated. It takes a willingness to experiment and to feel wierd.
If you use your observation/awareness with the intention to undo the habit BEFORE you have made any changes to actually stop the habit, you will only notice your habit, or nothing special because your sensitivity to the habits has disappeared. Turns out, rather than 'awareness' it's more of a timing challenge.
You can use the sensual world to give you feedback about what you are doing. Noticing when you are doing the old same thing will help you remember that you wanted to respond differently. I guess that's where the awareness comes in, remembering to notice. Most people only notice their objectives, their vanity, no consideration of their means, only their intention.
Say you know what your habits are, then you make a change deliberately away from them, THEN if you use your observation/awareness, you're more likely to notice something new at that point. Then you get the awareness insights.
You will usually sense differences in comparison to whatever you have been doing when you stop doing it and sometimes these differences will feel really paradoxical and positively strange. Descriptive ability is a skill factor in carrying through by not letting the habit resume control - it's usually when you can describe differences that you can know what is happening in fact.
Usually it takes practice to sustain existence without the old habits. I think of awareness being more of a sensory effect, and a sort of wisdom of how to intepret the results of your experimenting when you feel wierd and unfamiliar after making a significant change.
As a topic in general, good questioning has many examples in every field. It pays to study the process of questioning as a separate subject, as if you were going to design an FAQ for your skill. Not only can it make you a better learner, but a better teacher.
If you are a teacher, you know there are multiple advantages about encouraging questioning from the start. Questions from a student show a teacher their student's range and style of thinking. Questions point in the direction of the answers. In fact, questions can imply a limitation of what kind of answers that are possible to find. Better questions open up a rich field of personal discovery.
How do you ask a really good question?
As a student, you can ask any question to get started. Sometimes the first questions that come off the top of your head aren't the most appropriate, but everyone has to start somewhere. Most teachers understand this.
As a learner, to ask a really juicy question, you have to listen carefully to learn any "lingo" about the topic. So the best questions to start with are often about the specialized use of words you hear your master teacher using.
The other skill that's good to develop as a questioner is indicating "over-load, please change tactics now" or "I've got it, go on" to the teacher. There are some assumptions that create problems with encouraging this activity in learners; especially in a group situation. Some learners believe these kinds of questions are insulting to the teacher.
How can a teacher encourage learners to get past their misconceptions that particular issues, communications or questions are somehow "forbidden"?
At first, even in a private lesson, most students seem to want a teacher to "lecture" them. They want to let the master talk. The teacher saying something to preface a lesson might be appropriate in some cases. But what if the teacher doesn't really want to go on about the topic; what if they want their student's involvement from the very beginning?
Some teachers address this hurdle by doing the asking themselves, and then answering. They hope that the students will get the idea of what kind of questions to ask. What to do when the teacher finds that students resort to parroting or restating the teacher's questions with other motivations such as to gain approval?
It's easy for the students to misunderstand that questions posed by the teacher and then answered are merely rhetorical ones; that the teacher is asking these questions to show off their knowledge. The students may imagine that the teacher would never ask a question that they don't already know the answer to.
It's very difficult to ask a question that will point in a new direction. Questions can imply that there is one answer, rather than a multiplicity of answers. It's also easy to think that just because you have come up with an answer to a question - that this one answer is enough of an answer.
Fantastic and personally meaningful questions sometimes need quite a bit of personal experimentation to adequately explore their potential... Sometimes this kind of question can become a sort of "virtual question" that many actions of exploration are continually answering during the course of life...
How can you encourage your students to ask really good question of you, to be a masterful teacher?
How can a teacher get around student's misconceptions about the nature of authority, for instance, without inviting disrespect? (We're talking about adult learners here - who have already been trained into a lifetime of habits about how to treat teachers.)
Instead of my lecturing, here's an account from many years ago about a teacher of mine who I considered to be a master. In this case, she was teaching Alexander Technique, but this relates to asking questions concerning any skill.
My teacher was in her late eighties here. She's almost five feet tall. Classes could be huge; sixty to eighty people in one room. The advantage was that the workshop lasted for weeks. The disadvantage was that people figured it was too early in the workshop to dare to risk anything in front of everyone else.
My teacher was too polite to be overt about what must have been some frustration beyond kidding the group, "What do I have to do to get some questions and thinking out of more of you people, do a jig?" Most often, laughter, but no daring questions. The humor did have some effect to loosen people up.
The experience of getting a new perceptual assumption is unsettling to many people. A master of an art can sometimes come across as personally frightening. In this case, they were intimidated. This little old lady could shake people's foundations; pull the carpet out from underneath their very sense of self. So the group treated her with "respect." This turned out to be a kid glove sort of childish unquestioning loyalty and agreement.
This little old lady hated that. She had a number of ways of dealing with it though. One was to invite different people to get up in front of the class for a "private" lesson with her... with everyone else watching. While working with someone she would ask, "So you see that little difference? Can someone describe what they see?" She wouldn't go on until someone described it.
That's how she taught us to see very subtle indications of motion or a lack of movement. That also taught us to ask ourselves what these indications meant in each specific situation with each different person.
She might ask the group to move in slow motion to illustrate a crucially pivotal point that influenced that entire outcome. Then we learned how to integrate the special points with the whole, normally speeded action again.
These examples of techniques to encourage questions are,(or should be) commonplace to any teacher. The one I'll tell you about next surprised me because I regarded it as being positively sneaky.
My teacher took me aside and told me that she appreciated having me and a few other people in the class. She said that it was because we'd pipe up with questions that nobody else would dare ask. She then told me a story about how she didn't understand when another student accused her of putting them on the spot by singling them out, inviting their participation.
This is what made me realize that she was asking me to put her "on the spot" by bringing up what may be forbidden as defined by the group of students. This little old lady had some unusual ideas in her field about how her skill should be taught. People seemed to be avoiding asking her specifically about what made her ways different, and she wanted me to break the ice, so to speak.
Essentially, she gave me license to be planted as a sort of "sacrificial fool" in the forbidden questioning department. People would stare at me with open mouths and shocked looks on their faces when I'd fire off these questions that nobody else would dare say.
It pleased the two of us immensely. After those kind of questions were in the air, class would get much more interesting. Other students would then started to ask the questions that were very important to them personally.
So if you are a teacher, don't be above encouraging one of your students to act as a 'secret plant' in the classroom! Certainly - if you've got any comments or questions to ask me - please speak up now!
I really enjoy the idea that a certain dominant sensory preference can create an attitude. These points of perceptual preference involve differing ways of processing information as well as learning style.
Particularly I stumbled on this idea when I noticed how people who were auditory tend to process information in sequences similar to language. I noticed that this particular person tended to regard any verbal reminders as nagging but would tolerate reading reminders and act on them without protest. I found that really curious - and wondered how I could use that observation for myself.
My friend Jacques was the person who gave me the idea that most people tend to go only part way through a process of learning and stop. Only some people who are very interested become motivated to go into all the possible means of mastering a particular subject, the rest are satisfied with "well enough."
I noticed my own learning generally went in predictable sequential stages.
When I first encountered an interesting subject or skill I would seem to want to absorb it indiscriminately - as if I were a multi-perceptual sponge. Sometimes beforehand I would go to the trouble of carefully determining and selecting the "best" examples possible because I knew how I tended to indiscriminately open myself.
If it would be a physical skill, I would let the physical circumstances be my guide; I would get very curious about how I could open myself to all of the necessary factors at once without consciously knowing much about what those factors actually were. I found myself pretending I already knew how to do it and acting as if I could already do it well.
The results were surprisingly successful, in a sort of "beginner's luck" way. Of course, there was no expectation of what success meant; so I was free to experiment completely and to not apply judgment. As soon as judgment or expectation came in, I had to go back to square one and learn as anyone might after a tantalizing "flash" of brilliant integration.
Then I tend to want to communicate something in order to form a general structure; putting the crucial factors into words that can be communicated would give it a voice for my own thoughts to have some organization. Of course, it's best to be feeding back the structure to someone who knows more about the subject so they might offer constructive suggestions and important factors that I will inevitably leave out from inexperience. A good listener who knows what I'm trying to do and can help with that can be difficult to find. The physical world is sometimes easier to use for this purpose.
Once I have a structure to hang everything on that I might have created by talking about it, then all the specific information can come in without regard for time of arrival and I'll hopefully be able to retain it. I use the structure to sort the information to put "like" with "like" in a very general way.
Ideally, the information will reorganize itself into its own intrinsic structure that is suggested by its own nature...and suddenly - sometimes I'll have an "epiphany" and get it all of a sudden if my structure matched the topic, but that only happens luckily. If that is so, I'll go back into the 'beginner's mind' state of the first absorbing stage and sort of repeat my process to gain more and more information.
Sometimes I'll go back to the "beginner's luck" stage and try out my "better" ideas to see how they work in a series of experiments in a safe "practice" situation. I do this to observe and use what I've gathered. At that point it helps me to remember that I'm still a novice and none of this "counts." Expectation is what works against me at this stage and experimentation helps me to improve.
So more generally my stages of learning were to first absorb; then create a framework; once I had the frame work I'd gather conscious, purposeful information of defining the crucial factors; then I'd put the factors into steps with the recognition of appropriate context and practice them with regard to timing, etc.
I think the sometimes the subjects by their nature do not naturally "fit" the preferred learning style the person has worked out for themselves. This mismatch would tend to determine which sorts of topics a person would find easy; other less suitable subjects that would be best learned in different sequences or learning steps would be experienced as being difficult to learn.
For this reason I'm interested in learning other processes that people use. One thing that I've noticed is that learning is done in many, many different ways.
Any comments about the way that you've noticed that you learn best?
William, thanks so much for the wonderful endorsement for my work with Alexander Technique. The work of any Alexander teacher is a bit mysterious because we're trained to reveal factors that determine effortless or unnecessary compensating below the person's level of being able to perceive it.
I'm amazed that William learned so many useful points about such a difficult subject as how to influence habitual posture with just one with me. I think that the principles of my work go really well with many of Bohm's observations about proprioception. Unfortunately, even though Bohm was in London and there were many Alexander teachers in London, at that time AT teachers didn't talk much about their work.
I've written a very complete encyclopedia type explanation of Alexander Technique - how and why it works, it's history, etc. at wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Technique
However, all the theories you can read won't tell you much about yourself without some "hands-on" work from an Alexander teacher. If possible, I recommend you join a class. Seeing other people in the act of changing themselves gives you quite a bit more information about how perception
works than a private lesson, IMHO.
The main advantage of AT over other disciplines that say they address the same questions is, aside from the time spent learning, the time to practice it can occur while you're doing anything else...so no special practice hours are required- only extra thought to how you're doing whatever you want to make easier. Also, AT specializes in the strange paradoxes involved when you try changing your posture - because it involves changing perception.
> > ...
> > For some reason I developed habits of slouching since
> > i was very young. People (boyfriend, volunteer lady
> > who comes into the office to help out, etc) always try
> > to poke me in the back or yank on my shoulders thinking
> > that helps, chiding "stand up straight"....yet that is just
> > causing tension i feel. Every since i learned about being
> > aware of the breath a couple years ago I have been more
> > aware of tension and body posture, etc. Now I am in
> > general more aware more of the time than every,
> > constantly relaxing and aligning. It feels like a process -
> > i cant simply stand up straight once and for all it seems.
> Hi K,
> Have you talked to Franis about this posture thing? I also had this tendency of "sloughing", as you call it. She is on this list and I once met her in Woodstock, NY a few years ago. She has this what i call "magic touch". I don't know how she did it but she just touched me at the shoulder and that did it. She may or may not have explained it to me, I don't remember, but somehow I became aware that I was using energy pulling myself down.
> Any attempt to straighten up was trying to overcome the tension that was pulling me down. In effect, this situation amounted to two currents of energy; one pulling me down, and the other trying to straighten up. The two currents just canceled each other and the result is exhaustion. As I said, I don't know how she did it, but she made me feel that this is what I was doing. Her
point was not to try to straighten up but simply to stop pulling yourself down. When you stop pulling yourself down then you automatically relax into an upright posture. No energy is needed to walk upright; on the contrary it feels good and relaxed to walk upright. Pulling yourself down [may have been] an instinctive response to feeling humiliated but you may have forgotten what the humiliation was about. In any case, it [why you have bad posture] is probably no longer relevant...
It may seem to be common knowledge that the Alexander Technique teaches you to have "good" posture to remedy the disadvantages of having "bad" posture, that's a misconception. Why would you want to replace one set of "bad" habits with another set of "good" ones - how do you know what is "good" for you? Any fixed idea about moving a certain way you thought was "good" can become "bad" for you later on.
Preventing stress adapted reactions from causing trouble has been said to be beneficial, but how is this actually done? Wouldn't it be handy to undo your own self-imposed limitations? What a discovery to learn something new about the way you carry your intent into your actions by merely moving differently! Imagine having a new measuring stick to show you how to get from wherever you are now toward the direction that would allow indefinite improvement. Better posture is a side benefit of Alexander Technique, but the more important gain is clearer thinking, perception and judgment.
Our bodies might complain for a number of reasons. We might demand too much specialization from a particular muscle or group of muscles. We may ask unsuitable parts of our bodies to take the brunt of a job, when we're not designed for it. We may have outdated ideas about how our bodies are structured that cause us to move ourselves in eventually painful ways - such as the folly of pretending to have an extra joint in the middle of our backs. We may have imitated the bad posture of someone we admired. We may urge ourselves to "try harder," when "trying differently" would have worked better. We may unknowingly leave out a range of motion that's frustrating us because it later has become essential for improving a favorite sport or art. Or maybe we injured ourselves and kept protecting the spot, even though fully recovered.
Here's what happens: our sense of effort that judges what is and isn't necessary to move, (called kinesthetic perception) gets habitually blunted by adapting to our habits.
Adapting to a habit gradually disappears sensory perception for determining what is necessary. This drawback operates most obviously in gradually limiting the capacity to move. It also works insidiously in gradually narrowing the ability to reason and to deliberately apply priorities in thinking.
Adapting is actually a useful feature that allows us to "get used to" almost any physical compensation. It also works against us. Because of the blessings of adapting, our sense of what exactly is extra unnecessary physical effort quickly disappears.
We can start innocently enough and accelerate into having a problem quickly. For instance, while learning, our correctly sensitive kinesthetic sense decides we might require a new kind of extra effort. We may learn to do an activity because of this effort we used; but maybe the extra effort wasn't really necessary. We might learn the skill successfully in spite of the unnessary overcompensating, rather than because of it.
Now we'll associate this brand of effort with performing the skill. Maybe as we get better at it, we learn to subtract the wasted effort. Then again, more likely we don't. It is often (and understandably) expedient to be satisfied with much less efficiency than is needed. In either case, we will probably feel that the effort we used before is now customary, comfortable and "feels natural" when we perform the skill.
Losing our natural ability to feel subtle adjustments is totally blameless and very insidious.
For instance, if a person often carries a bag on their forearm, he will later find himself holding up his arm when the bag is not on it. If someone is afraid while learning, adapting can mean he will most likely continue doing the skill fearfully. If someone has healed from a temporary injury, a habit of wincing in anticipation of pain can be automatically continued indefinitely, even though pain has healed. Due to rapid growth, teenagers often move their own bodies based on inaccurate assumptions of their size and structure.
Being in any particular position doesn't intrinsically create pain or pleasure, nor does repeated motion; it's over-compensating while getting stuck that creates problems. The really good news for people who have been told by a doctor to stop doing some favorite activity is that they can learn to move without hurting themselves more. In this situation, moving easier will take the stress off problems, but that may not help to change the damage that has been done. Using the least amount of effort and getting the most of what we value out of it makes bodies feel better, and sometimes it will help healing.
Of course, this won't be true if you hold the conviction that getting a certain benefit that requires an excessive amount of effort is somehow justified or valuable. If you ask yourself, "why use so much effort?" and you happen to enjoy massive effort for its own sake... I'd ask, "for what purpose?" and "for how long?" As my teacher has said, "Everything requires effort, it's the kind of effort and what the effort creates that's important." Why pull yourself into a state of dynamic isometric tension when you can just stop what you've been doing to pull yourself out of shape?
If you feel "bad," and you stop what you're doing that causes feeling "bad", it will feel "good." The trick is discovering what are you doing that is why you feel "bad" in the first place in a very physical sense, the way you went from "good" to "bad." Then stop doing it to yourself. The secret has been buried by a habit you trained yourself to do in the past and then forgot about.
Our culture will often trivialize "good" and sensationalize "bad." So it's tricky to remember that "good" feels so subtle, it can slip by under our old standards of what should make a difference. If you give yourself an order to do something and follow it, it will usually always lead you to your original automatic and emotional solutions. If you want to change the result, you must change the process.
If moving effortlessly is so fun, how do we go wrong in the first place? How could we miss something that feels so good?
The way out of our dilemma is to use a different measuring stick for deciding how to subtract what is unnecessary effort rather than doing what "habitually feels right." What makes it tricky is that your habits have become innate.
The big difference is that you would now judge improvement on how easy it felt, after you tried your experimenting. After experimenting is the important timing to look for the differences.
The surprising thing is that improved freedom and ease can feel very unfamiliar; even positively wrong. But if it does feel easier, it's what you want to continue doing. Because of adapting, you can get used to anything, remember?
This is why it's so handy to have an Alexander Technique teacher who is trained properly to help you out with this journey of uncovering habitual limitations. Most people would like help in determining what exactly is the most useful type of "unfamiliarity" that's constructive for their purposes. But it can be done alone by merely taking the time to expose your own habitual assumptions and moving beyond them.
The entire Alexander Technique addresses these issues - and more. Even if you never take an Alexander lesson I hope you've already learned some useful information from F.M. Alexander's principles that you can experiment with from now on. Let me know what happens!
I hope someone gets something out of the benefit of my observations. I thought if I could make what I wrote enough of an experience, rather just a report of results, perhaps someone else could use it.
Not sure that this is possible, but I've always hoped that I could bring some sort of insight to someone else's existence, just so they wouldn't have to slog through the morass of what I've covered. I guess that's what every parent hopes for their kids, usually to no avail. Everyone has to go through what they learn for themselves, I guess.
Anyway - I'm going to be traveling for a couple of months or so if things go right. I'll be back and forth to get away from sneezing so much, visiting friends before I take off to HI to visit my sweetie. If I have time before I go again, I'll write here. This means I'll be writing with paper and pen rather than typing on a computer.
We'll see, won't we? But fear not, this blog can be post-dated. So if you come back you'll be able to read about my adventures later.
Someone was talking about why they never usually speak up in Dialogue. it seems that they couldn't think of something unique enough to write or say because they would just agree with whatever was being communicated.
Betting on that there are more than one of those people who don't speak up out there, I wanted to tell those people who are such great listeners that if you could even restate in your own words what you understand that someone else is saying, that will let them know what it was
they said that reached you. Often when we talkers/writers write something or talk, we don't really know the effect on others - or what exactly brought about that effect. We're just communicating and hoping it reaches someone somehow.
I see agreement as a a signal of resonance between people - that someone is following trains of thoughts and the associative jumping around that people can do. Lots of times in a dialogue group, a subject is being talked about and you'll want to say something, but if you hang back you'll find someone else bringing up the same point.
Another reason to speak up is that in some situations, people will come to the same conclusions from completely different circumstances. It's always fascinating to know what those specific circumstances were, for me at least.
Suspension in Dialogue is very similar to a willingness to feel strange during practicing and learning Alexander Technique.
Let's assume the situation of person who has trained themselves to do certain actions to fill a need they define is reasonable or necessary. The habit they've trained themselves to do becomes integrated into their automatic responses. After they learn it, they are not even conscious of the "doing" of it - it can happen every time the situational "trigger" presents itself - or anything similar to the
trigger. An interpretation of meaning is now a reaction that will make the behavior go unto action.
This can be a habitual movement, as in the training of a skill. It can be as innocent as training your arm to hold up a purse - or something you find yourself doing habitually as a mannerism that gets exaggerated the more you repeat it, such as stretching your lips and tensing up your neck or clenching your jaw for no apparent reason.
Then, some time later, another situation comes along that causes the same person to address a second concern, which requires the training of another habit. Let's say this situation requires an opposing movement, opposite from the old habit. Because the first habit has become innate, they've forgotten that they are even doing it - and the sense of them doing it has turned off because they're always repeating it.
The way bodies are made, to make a motion some muscles need to be flexible and others need to be contracted. We're only in change of the "contract" order, in most cases. If someone has trained themselves to always tense up to fulfill a certain imperative or standing order, it can't be so easily undone when it needs to be flexible when flexibility is optimal for doing that opposing motion. The ability to "undo" at will would be a handy thing to (un)do - that's what AT attempts to teach.
So the person finds themselves unable to turn their head if they always tense their neck up and they don't know why they have to move their entire body around to do that thing other people do by turning their head. Or they find that it hurts to turn their head because they're habitually holding their arm up when a purse isn't on it; what they don't feel is how they're also crunching their head into their neck as they hold their arm up. They may have put this habit in place for various
reasons, some of which may be questionable later on. How can they change their mind at this point, once the habit is in place?
It's very tricky to stop what you don't know you're doing. Because people have forgotten they're doing the first habit, they usually just strain themselves, using more force to get themselves to do the second. Essentially, this is one of the most common ways how people pull themselves apart, get old quick and die younger.
If you want a way out of this, it is to re-awaken proprioception that has been shut down from repetition. In Dialogue, David Bohm talks about how Dialogue provides some sort of proprioception of thought.
The way out is to observe, contrast, compare and ask yourself what happened and to experiment often. Usually you don't know what happened because your senses unreliably only register gross differences.
The trick is to use something from your environment to cross-reference what is really happening so you can tell when you have just started to do that old same thing again. Like biofeedback training, only without the equipment. You use the world to help you untrain your awareness that you're doing the habit again - and you stop doing it. You don't substitute anything else - just stop what's in the way. The system will "reset" itself to the extent you can stop the interference. The body heals if you get out of the way and stop tearing it up.
You learn to observe and describe stuff about movement such as quality, sequence, direction and timing of the motion you just made. You leave off the conclusions and judgment, and just learn to describe if anything new happened - after you tried the experimenting.
In Alexander Technique, we do things really slow so the habitual reaction that's looking for a reason or need to go into action gets really impatient. If you keep going v-e-r-y slowly, the fast, speedy habit that wants to go off and "help you" will give up altogether for a time. Sneaking by it, you can do the steps of the action without the habit in the way.
It's a really wierd experience, moving without the habits. Feels easier though - that's how you recognize you've moved differently - the lack of effort. Then you see how long you can suspend the habit and go with the strange sensations of moving so differently. You start to cultivate a tolerance and even a joy for feeling wierd, unfamiliar, and strange.
So - if I were to apply this re-awakening of proprioception in the physical sense to thinking as David Bohm suggests...?
Today I'm thinking about the "evoke experience" strategy that many people use. This is where someone notes a state of mind by using a phrase or a word the experience evokes. Then they seem to attempt to create a sort of internal filing system or anchor for the experience. When they would like to re-experience what they had experienced before, they say those "magic words" and the state comes back - sort of like a hypnotic suggestion that is designed to trigger this part of their brain to engage and give them the experience, or like a filing system. You might have to say the "incantation" or phrase in a certain sequence, coupled with a motion, etc.
In Alexander Technique, this retrieval strategy is an example of "end-gaining." Since in AT you're learning something new, if you to for new results with this "evoke" or other habitual strategy, rather than following the newer steps - it won't work. Your old "Magic Word" strategies are something to be avoided, mostly because it doesn't work so well when applied to new experiences and an unfamilar process.
Have to say that I'm not making a value judgment on how this works or it's effectiveness with my next observation. It's just that I've just noticed, as people use this process and get some results, then they use it in places where it could be wildly useless and somehow they "believe it's working." It has the effect of being a superstition. People are convinced it's use give a quite a powerful example of "positive thinking" for them. I think the reason this works so well is there's actually a part of the brain that begins to do something as soon as you think of it - and this is why visualization works and why you can "practice" doing something by merely thinking about it.
I've also watched people do this by telling me what something is "not." Their idea that if they leave open what it is they want, whatever it isn't will be allowed to happen on its own. That's part of Alexander Technique too - prevent what's in the way and the right thing happens as if by itself. The use of this idea as a guiding ideal of life leaves a little to be desired, I think. Without their specifying exactly what it's not, they hold the not-specifying it up as a sort of superstition. If they specify it, it will be limited and thus not a surprising enough or gratifying enough sort of experience for them.
It's sort of an interesting phenomena that I'd like to investigate more.
I'd like to outline some of what I've noticed is happening for people who are end-gaining.
The best well-known motto for an endgaining definition in Alexander Technique is the same motto for being clueless: "Repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Or: "A crooked man walks a crooked mile."
Endgaining describes how quick-starting directly toward a goal usually triggers off the most familiar ways a person knows of getting there. Usually, the more imperative the desire, the more a habitual the urge to perform the action answers the desire and will be compounded in relation to the intensity of the desire. If the set of skills and means that determine success are familiar and just need to be recombined, focused or clarified, then relative success can happen. If the necessary means and skills are unfamiliar or below an ability to command them, then it doesn't work so well to encourage willpower or desire to "go for it."
To answer this issue, Alexander Technique teachers advocate temporarily suspending a goal, often by creating a circumstance of a willingness to experiment. It is also why Alexander teachers advocate giving directions without expecting results and often refuse to evaluate prematurely. A surge ahead in learning will feel as if a student's body is changed strangely out of proportion. Curiously, when some students are making gradual progress, they may not be able to sense progress at all. Paradoxically, it seems to be difficult to feel and tell the difference between these two factors!
Whether someone's experience becomes useful or not depends on the process they go through to make their generalizations and how they practice. This starts with how they prefer to abstract experience so they can recall or recreate it for later use so that it can be practiced. I think it pays to articulate these favored thinking strategies of recall and abstraction.
I've noticed a couple of themes to what people tend to do. The first is that people can favor a sort of "matching" computation, tending to "collapse" experience into familiar, easily retrievable bite-sized chunks. This means disappointment when the next experience is not identical to what they envisioned. Using this sort of matching activity to categorical extremes means a person tends to ignore or skip over sensory or memory information that doesn't fit their expectation.
An unfamiliar experience tends to be indescribable precisely because it doesn't categorically match previous experience. So because of this, it pays to notice what are the tiniest differences that are often missed. It is these tiny differences that makes a tremendous difference over time. This is because the effects of your actions become magnified over time. Of course, whatever you practice, you get "better" at doing. So, be careful what you let yourself repeat!
This matching strategy has some problematic assumptions. First, expectation itself tends to guarantee disappointment. It assumes that humans are built to register absolute differences. It seems that human senses are built to merely register relative differences.
To the extent a person is changing, so changes their ability to measure and calibrate what happened. So, by following a slightly different means, you really never get to the same goal or duplicate experience. Instead, even if you're willing to do something new, you can only get a little closer to the direction you imagine that you'd prefer to go. This may feel strange because it's new.
This has been a way around endgaining that I've emulated from seeing it used on myself and others with success - other than just forbidding endgaining after identifying it. I'd love to know some more ways from teachers here.
I have watched quite a few learners doing an alternate strategy that is just as much of a problem. Perhaps it is a misuse coming from the popularity of Visualization. People put their experience into words as a sort of magical tag filing system. They hope that saying the magic word (the one they uttered after the notable new experience) will magically evoke the desired re-creation of it later. While this "filing system" process may work in some situations, unfortunately, this approach doesn't work when applied to trying to duplicate new and unfamiliar experiences.
Because of this tendency, many teachers find it educational to have students at least attempt to describe what the teacher can tell the student is missing from their awareness. This can be a sort of coaching to use describing or evaluating in another way instead of the "magic word" problem.
Rather than trying to duplicate or copy previous successes, contrasting to reveal differences works better when learning because it is an exploring activity. The sequence of when you describe is important - observe conditions first, experiment, then describe what you noticed after experimenting. Descriptions of new effects used this way will help to mark that something new has happened. Curiosity about what new means that will launch a person into new territory is very useful. It's risky to head out into the unknown, but it sure does work well to go out to uncharted territory to uncover some new discoveries.
I'm always looking for more unique and useful thinking strategies suitable for differing circumstances. Of course, now I've been generalizing! But only in the interest of perhaps getting people to tell me of exceptions to what you read here. What do you think?
I'd like to explore this idea that talking or listening are two ends of the stick of how respect is shown. Because I'm not so sure that this it true. Sometimes it's respectful to be the one who does all the talking - because the other person wants to listen! Sometimes it's respectful to interrupt - because if you don't, the other person will just keep talking indefinitely because they feel awkward if nobody is talking - or because they're used to being an entertainer.
I think that what is respectful depends on the situation at hand - and it is different for different people.
I think that it's true that for there to be a relationship - someone has to be listening. But I'm not sure that listening is so much better than talking - I think they're equal. Of course, if you listen, you end up getting a whole lot more than if you're talking, usually. So in the realm of giving and taking - the giver is supposed to be the more ethically valued one in our culture and the givee is supposed to be devalued because they're on the receiving end - but the situation needs the givee. So how is the listener, who is the givee, is deemed to be the more desirable one when it comes to talking?
People weren't used the the fact that those of us in the dialogue were interested in what they had to say. Mostly people are only interested in when you're going to stop talking so they can talk, or at least, that's the situational competition of the real estate of the time available.
It's a circumstantial competition - we only have a few hours together, mostly, until people disappear for another month off into the woodwork. So, having all the attention of all the other people in the dialogue was ...strange for most people. Then they had a lot to say to everyone, never having been in the circumstance where people wanted to hear what they had to say. Then as time would go on, the need for having things to say would die down sort of naturally. It was an interesting process to watch in a newcomer.
As I listen to someone speak or write, I'm first listening to how they put the building blocks of language together - what they associate, how they jump from one subject to the next, how they tag similarity and difference; where they go when they make these associative leaps.
I threatened to continue the conversation I started about Whorf's work. In Hopi, there are only two forms of the verb - objective and subjective. Meaning, it's built-in to not tell a lie in Hopi; everything is presented as your point of view (POV) as if it is an intangible that you are referring to. You'd use the subjective when what you're talking about is not able to be seen by both people. In Hopi, it is the built-in structure that always says "it seems to me that..." This structure is in what you did yesterday or what you intend to do next. As you talk in Hopi, the past, the future, etc. is all brought to the present moment. The reason you're bringing it to the present is inherent in your motives for saying it. (Actually, there's alot of teasing that goes on in Hopi that speculates and assigns humourous "shameful" motives. )
In Hopi, instead of conjugating verbs, there is a huge category of adverbs that talk about direction, duration, qualities, sequences - it's these many, many adverbs that some say make Hopi regard the world
from the POV of physicists and superb observers. To the Hopi, the world is made up of actions that are internal or witnessed; these relationships are described, not defined.
You can try, but you cannot really say "from my point of view" in English. It's always a qualification, a frame, an add-on uttered in an attempt to modify the rest of the what you say. It relies on the the other person to compensate for whatever you say that follows.
So saying it implies that the other person has the ability and also does know how to add the frame in to modifiy the meaning of what follows. In fact many people cannot do this brain-work, because they have little practice at suspending, which is what's required. A Dialogue sort of suspension is what I'm asking someone to do when I'd qualifiy something that I say with the phrase, "from my point of view." Since that's what I'm asking people to do, now I specifically ask them to do that and teach them how to do it instead of just using the paraphrase.
Every time we open our mouth or write in English, there's a larger implication that we are adding to or defining POV globally - we are saying what reality "is" as if what "is" is an affirmed, shared set of
"facts." The repetitive teen expression of "like" seems to try to compensate for this in English. It means, "as if" but not yet quite committed to whatever follows. It's tricky to describe relationships
in English, because to describe something, you almost have to exaggerate the characteristic.
What English seems to do better than any other language is reflected in using the direct object - giving the cultural impression that people can "do something" to another thing and affect it, control it. To some extent, you can, so that's why English has become more popular worldwide. English is also useful for gratuituous reordering - you can change the sequence of words in English and still be understood by those other people who order words differently than you do.
Anyway - this is some of what I'm looking at when I think about how language affects people.
I've had some success with other "difficult" people by continuing to ask them what experience or set of experiences was the foundation of how they became convinced of the "rightness" of their convictions. Asking, of course, from the point of view of genuine curiousity and your ability to build on what they might relate, (rather than to try to find a way to "shoot down" the validity of their experience.)
To set up the circumstance when you can do this is tricky. You usually have to put up with some degree of them repeating their conviction again and again before they understand what you are asking them for. There is always some disbelief that you are indeed interested and questions about what your motive is for wanting to hear their history. For them, there is some degree of risk in sharing a tender core belief story, stories which sometimes make no sense but are a largely emotional conclusion from sometimes a mysterious set of circumstances.
Also I'm sure that the risk is real; most people in this situation have had others plead for their story. If they dared to tell it or hint at parts of it, those more skilled debate advocates merely tore into the validity of what they had experienced. They were left with disillusionment without getting anything from the exchange to address their needs that the conviction provided. Also, to the extent they had to defend themselves from self-doubt, (which doesn't feel very good,) they may have invested a great deal of energy into "shoring up" their position - and may need to do more if they reveal their precarious ways of assigning meaning.
So because of this, some people will not, under any circumstances, risk telling you the truth and you cannot blame them. Many people cannot risk the truth from a various list of: too paranoid, too wounded, too unfamiliar with the ideals of dialog, not articulate enough to describe their own experience in hindsight or merely stupified that anyone would have asked.
The solution for these situations is to find many ways to reassure the person until they finally believe that you are going to, at least, not attack them if they tell their story - and, at best, once they can trust that you are in concert with them, maybe they will dare to accept some new exploration or interpretation of their story to revise their position once the two of you mutually define some new, more consciously chosen criteria to address these "essential needs."
However, some people do not know how they came by their conviction, so they have no "story" or definite experience to relate that they remember. The concept that people have an experience that leads to a conviction isn't something that has ever happened to them consciously yet. Or perhaps people may need to go back privately and think about their core belief experiences in a new way before they have anything to say about it as a story.
However, all this takes energy and time. For most people, it's better to just stay away from the topic entirely and not bother to open the "can of worms." Usually, most people just don't have the skills to deal with the history any better than the person who with which they sympathize with who is directly "under fire." So that's why people do not want to know other's problems.
The other reason, is sometimes when you do speak up, the upset people turn their attack from each other into ganging up on you! At least, this is what other people say is why they do not speak up in a group situation.
My dialogue group came up with an interesting agreement concerning the authorship of ideas as content for dialogue.
It was quite common at that time that someone would, in effect, throw out an idea into the center of the room to see if other people wanted to talk about it - as if it was an idea that came from nowhere, as if they had not claimed it directly as “their idea.” Apparently, just having read someone’s book was commonly being used in this group as shorthand for what a talker wanted to say - often demanding a little synopsis of the content of the book that was being cited.
Doing that functioned a little like name-dropping sometimes, which was a problem for some people who had not read the book that had been mentioned. If they did talk about the book, dialogue was pretty easily turned into more of a book report or info dump rather than a conversation between peers. It divided the room between those who knew the book and those who didn’t and made dialogue more like a classroom.
Evidently people thought it appropriate to mention the books and ideas of authors because they saw it as a way of talking about the ideas without admitting it was “their idea.” It was also a sort of shorthand for being able to skip over explaining ideas. It seemed that this particular dialogue group regarded speaking from your own personal experience as evidence of “ego attachment.” Ego displays were, of course, to be avoided at all costs. It meant people were avoiding having a suspect motive for bringing up the experience that they feared looked too much like a personal agenda of something they wanted the group to do. This was how they were carrying out David Bohm’s directive that Dialogue needed to remain free of “personal agendas.”
The group decided that many author’s ideas were all valid, but really, why not admit why you are bringing them up and where it came from that made you hold them to be valuable? Essentially, we discovered as a group that people were being avoiding admitting authorship of their own values. There was a cost when the experience of how you came by your idea was not a logical one. The fear was that it could irreverently be picked apart if it was yours; you’d be in the position of having to defend it. The advantage was, if it was written by another author it was their idea and not yours.
Then the question came out of what exactly does someone have to lose by revealing your core values to a group in dialogue? Together we realized that talking about “other people’s ideas” was motivated by a fear that we may be attacked!
So we decided to “dare” to reveal core experiences. We began to define as a group what sort of behavior was “attacking” and what was considered “investigation” and where this boundary was. This evolved into a quite codified ideal of what the group was going to put up with and for how long from people who had no clue what dialogue was.
This was a quite tolerant group, so there was little “rule-making” other than someone would ask for another topic when two people would get into an argument and another person would suggest a stop to the arguing. People in the group would come to the defense of someone they believed was being “attacked.” We identified common debate tactics that discredit the speaker such as name-calling or using barbed examples that inferred the motives of what the other person was saying. We began to just ask if we didn’t understand someone.
When we finally got around to talking about our conceptions and assumptions of motives behind our actions, what evolved was a very interesting series of observations. Many members of the group concluded to resolving to risk more personal stories of core experiences behind the various beliefs they held...and this has continued into the Dialogue group that we have going on today. It changed the content of Dialogue to a much more personal one, but much more interesting content.
Our open Dialogue group meets the first Wed. of each month at Open Secret Bookstore, on "C" and "4th St. San Rafael, CA Come join us!
There are many variations in mini-cultures for a different sense of "right" timing. Some people think it is rude to butt in to contribute, while others interrupt without hesitation. To correct for this in an ongoing way, (which doesn't have to be done in email dialogue!,) some dialoguers have learned to talk about this phenomena as a preface to the in-person dialogue. The people who talk easily and tend to dominate the air space have learned to invite the people to talk who have a more difficult time just jumping into the conversation on their own. More aggressive talkers can part the way or recognize people who have not spoken yet at any particular time - especially when the speed of the dialogue increases. The talkers get the reward of hearing from the people who feel shy and usually remain silent.
In our Holographic dialogue group, we have also learned to directly invite the people who have trouble jumping in and talking to raise their hand to indicate that they want this help from the "talkers".
As far as how well it works, it's OK, could be improved, but for now, it is the only thing that we've stumbled on that works at all as the conversation is moving to address this inequality of group dialogue. This issue doesn't exist so often in email listservers, nobody can interrupt anyone!