Early on, when at first I became interested in Alexander’s technique, I was at a social event, talking to an Alexander teacher who I didn’t know very well. I was curious about “the Work” as she described Alexander’s discovery, and she explained to me that, for her, it was as much about choice as about balance of mind and body. “Put it like this” She said, “If I need to be angry with my husband, I do that when I choose to do it, not when the mood takes me”.
This struck me as a very useful ability. Particularly so, as some years before I had really lost my temper with my teenaged daughter. As a result we had no meaningful communication for about three years. I’m glad to say that we got back on track, and I’m sure that the Work helped in that.
As a result of that early conversation, I started taking lessons. I quickly discovered that this teacher was using her touch and observation to point out things going on in me that I was totally unaware of – for example which parts of me were tense, or twitching even. I was intrigued with the concept and just had to learn more about how she did that, simple as that, so I started to train as a teacher of the Alexander Technique; and here I am, ten years older and hopefully wiser.
Back to temper. Now I’m sure that I don’t have much of one. Of course I get grumpy, tetchy and irritable and I am sometimes rude. But that red mist of temper, feeling out of control of myself, is something that I have not experienced since that episode with my daughter; and not since I took this work seriously.
My mother had it, for sure, and it was not unusual for us to get the rough end of it when we were growing up. I learned not to take it too seriously, to “cut off” when I saw her lose control of herself to that extent and usually it was soon over and done with. Come to think of it, I had a boss once who periodically “lost it” – he would go puce with rage, shout, clench his fists and jump up and down on the spot, as a result of something or other – quite funny to see if one was not on the receiving end of it!
But anger – is that something different? I think it’s quite right that I get angry from time to time. For example, when I see unfairness, or cruelty, or any number of other things that wind me up, I do get angry, but I manage not to lose control of myself. For me, it’s part of a spectrum of emotions that we all have, only a step away from love I sometimes think.
To go through life without any such feelings is a denial of emotion: how helpful would that be for me or anyone else for that matter? Is that how Alexander’s discovery can help us?
No – on both counts.
What Alexander’s discovery has done for me is to heighten my emotional awareness, not diminish it.
For sure, I don’t react to everyday things in the unthinking, habitual way that I once did – at least not as much. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot act spontaneously.
I have strengthened my “on/off switch” (we all have one, more powerful in some than others) so that I have a millisecond of “stop” before reacting to most things. Then I have given myself the choice as to how I react.
It’s not always as easy as it sounds. Some stimuli are much, much more powerful than others.
For example, I was recently involved in a road rage incident, when a young learner motor biker set about winding me up because he thought I was In His Way. In a heavy and slow road works system, he hung by my rear bumper, then overtook me dangerously and weaved around just in front of me, so I had to keep braking to avoid hitting him. I couldn’t stop, because there was nowhere to do so, and I had to use every bit of inhibition I possessed to avoid losing my cool completely. I cannot say I was totally successful, but I could see that I would have reacted differently in former times. Was the rage mine or his I now wonder?
But my ability to stop. And then choose what to do, and do it. Has resulted in a huge improvement in the quality of what I feel and in my life generally. That’s what Alexander taught, and it applies as much to sex as it does to washing-up the dishes or anything else we do. It certainly does not diminish our spontaneity.
That’s what this work is all about, and so is my teaching.
In my workshops you will learn more about what’s going on in you, and how you can improve the quality of your thinking and doing. So if you find this an interesting concept and would like to learn more, please fill in the contact form below and I will be in touch with you directly.
I look forward to hearing from you!