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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.

August 2009
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Franis [userpic]
End-gaining and Matching Strategies

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?