Tight Muscles Don’t Feel

Adam Bailey has a a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He’s also a teacher of Alexander Technique.

In an interview with Robert Rickover, Adam says: “The Alexander Technique involves a learning process. When someone comes to see me, we refer to him a student and I am the teacher. I teach the student a set of skills he can apply in all of his activities and that he can develop on his own. The skills have to do with releasing unnecessary muscle tension that have built up over the years and improving the alignment of the head, neck and back.

“The beauty of the Alexander Technique is that it does not involve treatment. Once the student has learned the skills, he can apply them on his own.”

Robert: “How does an educational method that helps people how they function on a physical level relate to psychological growth?”

Adam: “When I was 22, my father died suddenly. For a long time I didn’t have a lot of feelings about that but I became depressed. When I started taking Alexander Technique lessons, I learned how to release [unnecessary] muscle tension. As I began to release muscle tension, feelings of grief emerged about my father’s death.

“Muscle tension for some people builds up because we’re not expressing emotions in response to something that happened that was traumatic. If we don’t express those feelings, they go into the body as muscle tension.”

Robert: “Wilhelm Reich, a disciple of Freud, talked about body armoring.”

According to Wikipedia: “Reich’s Character Analysis was a major step in the development of what today is called ego psychology. In Reich’s view, a person’s entire character, not only individual symptoms, could be looked at and treated as a neurotic phenomenon. The book also introduced his theory of body armoring. Reich argued that unreleased psycho-sexual energy could produce actual physical blocks within muscles and organs, and that these blocks act as a body armor preventing the release of the energy. An orgasm was one way to break through the armor. These ideas developed into a general theory of the importance of a healthy sex life to overall well-being, a theory compatible with Freud’s views. His idea was that the orgasm was not simply a device to aid procreation, but was the body’s emotional energy regulator. The better the orgasm, the more energy was released, meaning that less was available to create neurotic states. Reich called the ability to release sufficient energy during orgasm “orgastic potency,” something that very few individuals could achieve, he argued, because of society’s sexual oppression. A man or woman without orgastic potency was in a constant state of tension, developing a body armor to keep it in. The outer rigidity and inner anxiety is the state of neurosis, leading to hate, sadism, greed, fascism and antisemitism.”

Adam: “When I released the body tension, those feelings of grief bubbled up. I went into psycho-therapy to deal with the grief and I continued with the Alexander lessons. When I reduced the body armoring, the tension, and addressed the feelings that led to it, the depression lifted.”

Robert: “After taking some Alexander lessons, I remember feeling happier than ever feeling before… I wasn’t repressing so much as subtly preventing happiness from happening.”

Adam: “When we change our physical state for the better, it affects our emotional state.”

“I discovered during my Alexander lessons that not only were there feelings associated with my muscle tension, but also that my muscle tension represented a subtle collapse. That collapse was the physical aspect of my depression. Alexander Technique helped me to undo my collapse and come into a more positive alignment of my head, neck and back.

“If we’re in a positive physical state where our head, neck and back are aligned, we can’t be unhappy.”

Robert: “The word ‘depression’, that’s a physical term as well.”

Adam: “As we make changes in our physical alignment, there are all these ramifications and ripple effects and we feel better emotionally as well as physically.”

“I had a student who’s wife had prescription drug problems. When he was about give her an ultimatum to get help or he’d leave, his back went out. He had to have surgery. He came in and got some Alexander lessons and then was able to follow through with the ultimatum to his wife. He said to me, ‘I feel like I have a spine now.'”

Robert: “A lot of those expressions refer to physical parts of our bodies.”

Adam: “We say that person is a pain in the neck.”

Robert: “In the Old Testament, there are a lot of references to stiff-necked people and to hardening the heart. It’s not an accident that parts of our body are invoked to describe an emotional state.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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