Threshold of Change – Part 2

50 threshchpt2 pic1

Last week I described the idea that there is a threshold of change.  Below it we can pretend change is not happening.  Above it, the change is too big, too personal, too all-encompassing to ignore; and we have to deal with the challenge that it presents us.

So which side of the threshold does the Alexander Technique sit?  Without doubt(*), on the “cannot ignore it” side.

Let’s say you’re having a really good Alexander lesson.  Even in something as deceptively small as bending your knees, the scale of the physical change and its mental impact can be huge.  FM Alexander describes it this way:-

We get into the habit of performing a certain act in a certain way, and we experience a certain feeling in connection with it which we recognize as “right.” The act and the particular feeling associated with it become one in our recognition. If … we adopt a new method … we shall experience a new feeling in performing the act which we do not recognize as “right.” (**)

The important words here are “new feeling” and “right”.  ‘Feeling right’ is intrinsic to your view of the world.  If you try doing something that doesn’t feel right, your brain and body will start kicking up an enormous hullaballoo.  If you don’t believe me, try walking around with your shoes on the wrong feet for a few minutes.  That’s the hullaballoo I mean, and it’s not something you dismiss lightly.

And once you start to get good at the Alexander Technique, there is no sneaking this underneath any threshold.  You are doing it most (or all) of the time; in (nearly) every movement; at such a basic level that it changes your idea of what something is, and possibly even the nature of the person (ie. you) who is doing it.

In the words of one of my students:-

“the change is too subtle to notice and too comprehensive to miss”

Which is one of the reasons regular lessons with a supportive teacher are so helpful.  Not to learn the ideas.  But to gradually adjust to the change with support and encouragement and a good sense of humour.

 (*)  Maybe not at the very beginning.  It takes a while to adjust to the new ideas, and to build up your own Alexander skills.
(**) FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, IRDEAT edition p297

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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Posted in change, feeling
4 comments on “Threshold of Change – Part 2
  1. Jagadish.nv says:

    Hi karen,
    wonderful blog, and thanks for printing your students words.

    A small alexander lesson using the knees kicks lot of energy.
    But, this is not at all the alexander lesson. Since, alexander lesson demands the whole body to use in relation to head neck body.

    But , linking the directions with stimilus of daily activities is the challenge iam suffering with.

    • Hi, glad you enjoyed the blog. You are right, every activity done with the Alexander technique does require you to pay attention to the head/body relationship. However, while you are paying attention to that, you can also pay attention to other bits of you as well! I used the example of kneeling because that is what Alexander himself refers to in the example I quoted, but it could equally well refer to any other activity you choose. Karen

  2. Sonia says:

    Hi Karen, belated comment on the previous post with links to this one … I think what issues come where on your threshold of change scale is very personal. For example I know people who have gone to extraordinary lengths to change their lifestyle to avoid taking a daily pill. For them taking a daily pill would be a big change. it is not just swallowing a pill but the meaning one attributes to it (e.g. great I can just carry on eating and behaving as before versus if I do this I will have to accept that I need long term medicalisation). And so a question here: you are usually very keen to emphasise individual choice. The tone of these 2 posts seems to be shifting the balance – with external events definitely being outside one’s comfort zone and changes being too big to ignore – was this intended? I agree the experiences in lessons can be very challenging to one’s sense of self. But the extent to which one takes on board that this requires deep changes and makes the time to do this and believe that it is possible to change … all this is requires high personal engagement. Perhaps starting with the decision not just to take a pill when one’s neck aches – but to work out what one is doing that makes it ache?? Thanks as always for making me think! Sonia

    • Hi Sonia, these are all great questions. Yes, definitely, my ‘scale’ was very simplistic. In reality it will vary from person to person, as will the events which pass the threshold. I’ve observed in lessons that many (if not most) people will try and hold changes at arms length, ie. below this ‘threshold’ as far as they can, because it’s easier. We are all taking in stimuli from outside (and inside), all the time, easy ones and difficult ones. The element of choice comes in how we respond to these stimuli. I also suspect there is a different level of change between noticing what one is doing and stopping it. Keep thinking! Karen

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