The Startle Response

I’m reading Freedom to Change by Frank Pierce Jones, a professor of Classics at Brown University and a teacher of Alexander Technique.

From page 178: The pattern of startle (which has been studied by high-speed photography) is remarkably regular. It begins with an eye-blink; the head is then thrust forward; the shoulders are raised and the arms stiffened; abdominal muscles shorten; breathing stops and the knees are flexed.

The startle pattern is a model of other slower response patterns: fear, anxiety, fatigue and pain all show postural changes from the norm which are similar to those that are seen in startle. In all of them there is a shortening of neck muscles which displaces the head, and which is usually followed by some kind of flexion response, so that the body is drawn into a slightly smaller space. As in startle these postural responses cannot take place without the prior displacement of the head and the shortening of neck muscles.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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