The Emotional Significance Of Touch

For years, people thought of me as just a big head. I was an intellectual. The rest of life I rushed through to get to what I do best — think.

Thanks to Alexander Technique, I am now a complete human being. Like Woody Allen, I am a triple threat — I can think, feel and move.

I am reading volume two of the Congress Papers from the eighth International Congress of the Alexander Technique.

Boy, were those some wild times in Lugano, Switzerland during that fateful week of August 10-16 of 2008.

Only now can the truth be told of what went on there. It made ancient Rome look like a nunnery. You lock a bunch of Alexander Teachers in a room together, turn off the lights, and what inevitably results is >debauched kinesthesia.

I am currently studying the essay of Brigitta Mowat on “The Use of Touch in an Alexander Technique Context.”

Brigitta is a psycho-therapist and a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.

She writes that early on “Freud used touch in the form of massaging his patents’ necks or lightly touching the head, the intention being to help a patient to release muscular tension and embedded, long-forgotten memories. However, he abandoned touch quite early in his career, yielding to the pressure of his peers, who feared that touch would stimulate sexual feelings. To this day, psychoanalysis adheres, at least in theory, to a non-touch policy.”

F.M. Alexander was a critic of psycho-analysis. He said it reinforced the mind-body dichotomy.

Brigitta writes that we need to understand the causes of underlying muscular tension.

She says that the psychological impact of touch is rarely discussed in the Alexander world, even though this touch is a big reason why many people getting hooked on having Alexander lessons.

Psychoanalyst Frances Sommer Anderson got Alexander lessons weekly for three years. She wrote:

Two-thirds of each one-hour session was spent standing, turning, and bending, very slowly, with keen attention to doing it correctly. I quickly suppressed my feelings that this exercise was tedious, boring, and to my surprise, infuriating… The last part of the session, I lay on my back on a massage table, fully clothed, with my head off the table, supported only by my teacher’s hands. This posture was absolutely wonderful. I had never experienced anything like it. Her supporting my head was blissful and soothing. For about three years I went for a class once a week, enduring the first part in order to get to the second part so that I could experience her holding my head. I had no idea why that was so important, and I never asked for the rationale for that part of the lesson.

According to Anderson, the table work portion of the Alexander lesson invites regression. Being held can help one integrate. The teacher has the power, and the student can easily feel childlike. A good teacher can help the student achieve emotional and physical balance.

Naomi Sharagai is also a certified teacher of Alexander Technique and a psycho-therapist. She writes on page 219:

Poor use can also profoundly change our capacity to assess reality, think clearly, and make constructive decisions.

With rigid use and tight muscles, one’s thinking becomes increasingly narrow and rigid as well. There is less mental space available to reflect and to allow for new and creative thoughts. The tendency becomes to repeat thinking in a less constructive manner.

In the same way that poor use leads to inefficient movement, it also leads to inefficient thinking. When solutions are not found and thoughts seem to overwhelm the individual rather than offer new alternatives, anxiety can develop.

With poor use, individuals find it difficult to manage feelings. They can either be overwhelmed by them (not knowing how to unwind) or out of touch with their feelings.

About Luke Ford

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