Alexander Myths #5 – Feeling Is The Truth

“Seeing is believing”

You’ve probably heard that old chestnut, but have you heard the other half of it?

“Seeing’s believing, but feeling’s the truth”

Old Thomas Fuller(°) got it right. People do believe their feelings, at least when it comes to movement. Let me transport you to a typical Alexander Technique lesson.

The student is doing an activity – let’s say sitting in a chair. He (or she) is clearly doing something while they sit that takes a vast amount of muscle effort – let’s say pushing back against the back of the chair. However, they are blissfully unaware of it. If I ask what they notice, they don’t know they are doing it.

More importantly, if I tell them, THEY DON’T BELIEVE ME. They feel like they are sitting lightly and easily, and for them, the feeling is the truth(^).

“If I was doing that, I would know about it.”
“There’s no way I could do that and not feel it.”
“I can’t be doing that. I would feel it.”

FM Alexander encountered this myth(˜) in himself, much to his dismay. Looking in a mirror he saw that “I did not put my head forward and up as I intended, but actually put it back. Here, then, was startling proof that I was doing the opposite of what I believed I was doing and of what I had decided I ought to do.” (*)

How do I convince these students? If they can sense how they change when I do hands-on work that might do the trick. Sometimes feedback from the rest of the group is enough, or taking a photo to show them. Sometimes I never do convince them. The myth is too strong.


(°) From Gnomologia (1732), via Wikiquote; written in the 18th century by Thomas Fuller. It turned out to be tailor-made for this blog (thank you, Thomas).
(^) I’m not making these quotes up. They are real quotes from real lessons.
(˜) If you are curious about the first four myths, check them out here:-
Myths #1
Myths #2
Myths #3
Myths #4
(*) FM Alexander, ‘Use of the Self’ p.417, IRDEAT edition

Image by Kadres via pixabay

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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Posted in activity, feeling, myths

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