Adapting Alexander

54 adapting alexander pic1

I have a confession to make.  Just recently I’ve taken on a smidgen too much.  One result is no blogs, no tweets, no Facebook comments, no knitting – you may have noticed (apart from the knitting).  Words like ‘swamped’ and ‘overwhelmed’ have been coming to mind.

In the middle of all this, I have been clinging for dear life to one of my favourite paraphrases of one of my favourite parts of FM Alexander’s books(*).


I can recommend it to anyone trying to deal with ‘overwhelmed’.  If you put a few more words around the basics, it comes to this:-

  • Stop rushing round
  • Ask logical, reasonable questions to decide which task comes first
  • Ask some more logical, reasonable questions to decide how much time you can allocate to this task
  • Do what you have decided
  • Forget about everything else until you finish that task, or that time slot
  • Start your reasoning all over again

It’s beautifully simple.  Choose a task; do the task.  End of story.  It’s a far more satisfactory end than my usual responses (dither, panic, get nothing done at all, feel very bad about it).

It’s not the usual way people talk about the Alexander Technique.  No heads, bodies, muscles or directions.  Would FM Alexander be happy with us adapting and recycling his technique?  I don’t know.  But based on his own criteria for judging activities: ‘on a general basis in the process of living and all-round usefulness’(***) it scores pretty highly.  It’s certainly got me out of some awkward places.

I hope he would have approved.  Now if you will excuse me, I must dash…

(*) The full passage applies specifically to direction of use:-
      (1) to analyse the conditions of use present;
      (2) to select (reason out) the means whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about;
      (3) to project consciously the directions required for putting these means into effect
FM Alexander, The Use of the Self IRDEAT edition p.423
(**) ‘means’ is a method or course of action
(***) FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, IRDEAT edition p.374

Image courtesy of Vlado /

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Alexander thinking, stopping, tips
7 comments on “Adapting Alexander
  1. Robert, the means you describe to deal with ‘overwhelmed’ are eactly what I got to after starting Alexander Technique lessons – when I was overwhelmed with the demands of my job and of my life. I was at the end of my tether, and the more I went round in circles, the more desperate I got. The immediate effect of taking lessons in AT was finding exactly those means you describe.
    I know that this does not anwer your question, but it might help finding the answer, or dissipating the question…..

    • Apologies, Karen! This reply was meant for you, not Robert!

    • Hi Magdalena,

      It’s great to hear your experiences with this. I’ve been surprised by just how many people have identified with the ‘overwhelm’. And every one has said that the AT helped, which is perhaps less surprising. the reasoning and the simplicity do seem to be very powerful tools. Karen

      • You say it, Karen. It is the simplicity which made the AT attractive to me. And which renders it powerful. I had tried just about everything else, including time management courses – all of which just added to the feeling of being overwhelmed, and – retrospectively – felt more like a distraction, or another burden. I recognised that the AT was different – even after the first lesson. Now – after about 12 years of lessons, the three-year training, and five years teaching experience, I have an idea why….

  2. Fran Engel says:

    I find that Mark Forster’s “Auto-focus” list-making system has helped me keep track of many projects going at once. It works best for me when I have a block of time to get some things done and don’t have a priority system for figuring out which thing are “ripe” for being done. It stops me from wasting my energy on the “urgent” issues and start doing the “important but not urgent” things.

    • Hi Fran,

      I’d never heard of Mark Forster or Auto-Focus, but a quick rummage on wikipedia does sound VERY interesting. Thanks for passing on the info. The more good tools we can get our hands on, the better. (I do wonder if FM had a time-management system! He must have been a very busy man). Karen

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