Why getting it wrong was so important to the Alexander Technique

78 getting it wrong pic1

I have a multiple choice question for you.

Let’s say you realise that you’ve been getting something wrong for a very long time.  Is your response most like…

a) Oh no!  This is terrible!! How could I be so stupid?  How embarrassing.  Where’s the nearest rock for me to hide behind?

b) Ok!  Wasn’t expecting that.  What do I do now?

c) Fantastic!  What a precious and valuable piece of information to go to work on.

I suspect most of us will choose (a).  Regrettably, that’s how a lot of our parenting and education systems are geared – towards giving us a hard time when we get something wrong.  Such a hard time, in fact, that forever after getting something wrong leaves us mentally looking for something to hide behind.

Just as well for Alexander Technique students (and teachers) everywhere, that a man called FM Alexander DID NOT choose option (a).  When he realised that he himself was inadvertently causing his catastrophic loss of voice, his response was, “Wasn’t expecting that.  What do I do now?” (*) 

The key to getting from option (a) to option (b) is being neutral.  It’s the difference between judging and being judgemental.  Neutral.  Working out the answer without condemning yourself or anyone else.  Sticking to facts and reasoning.

FM Alexander stuck doggedly to option (b).  He even strayed into option (c) as he went on (but more of that next time).  He didn’t let himself be put off by shame, fear  or blame, and he created a wonderful and far-reaching method to improve how you go about moving, and how you go about your life.  We call it the Alexander Technique.

If you are a lifelong option (a) and you fancy trying out option (b) for a change, I can recommend a few straightforward questions to follow ‘What do I do now?’

  • What do I have to go on?
  • How can I use this information to my advantage?
  • What can I do differently next time?

Try them, and see where they take you.


(*) Actually, it went more like this. “Is it not fair, then,” I asked him, “to conclude that it was something I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble?” He thought a moment and said “Yes, that must be so.” “Can you tell me, then,” I asked him, “what it was that I did that caused the trouble?” He frankly admitted that he could not. “Very well,” I replied, “if that is so, I must try to find out for myself” FM Alexander, ‘The Use of The Self’, IRDEAT edition p.412

“Image courtesy of nongpimmy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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Posted in change, experiment, tips
2 comments on “Why getting it wrong was so important to the Alexander Technique
  1. Thank you for this succinct reminder — learning how to learn from mistakes is very liberating.

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