That’s End-Gaining!

In some ways, Alexander Technique seems cultish.

The way some Alexandroids talk about F.M. Alexander, for example, is indistinguishable from the way Scientologists talk about L. Ron Hubbard.

There’s a lot of closed-loop thinking in the Alexander world where the senior teachers will shut down dissent by invoking some proposition of F.M. Alexander as though it is holy writ. For example, if you share a belief they don’t like, they might respond by putting you down publicly by quoting F.M. that “all beliefs are just unnecessary body tension.”

Yes, this happened to me and I didn’t like it, but being a good student, I just silently licked my wounds and resolved to blog about it one day.

Of course the teachers who do this never consider that the belief that all beliefs are just unnecessary body tension must by its very definition be a belief that is just unnecessary body tension.

F.M. once dismissed Jesus of Nazareth as being fine except that he didn’t have a system.

I enjoy these sorts of provocative statements and don’t think less of F.M. for making them, but when I encounter Alexander teachers who treat F.M.’s nutty teachings (eugenics, etc) like holy writ, I think they’re being foolish.

The most common put-down in the Alexander world is “That’s end-gaining!” Such a statement is supposed to end all discussion. It makes the recipient of such a statement wrong in the eyes of all obedient Alexandroids. The wrong-doer who confessed to focusing on achieving an end at the expense of good use has been commanded to repent of his sins and to begin again.

I think this is nonsense. Many times, achieving a particular end is far more important than the means whereby. Yes, sometimes the ends do justify the means.

For example, it is far more important that I drive safely than that I drive without clenching my jaw or neck. (Yes, driving without unnecessary tension, all things considered, is more likely to be safe driving than driving with unnecessary tension.)

It is often more important to my well-being that I accomplish certain tasks than that I do them with good use. I might need to finish a particular piece of writing so that I can get paid and thereby keep my health insurance. I might need to carry a heavy television up the stairs and into my new apartment. It might be so heavy that I need to put it down as quickly as possible after achieving my end. I might be sick and under pressure to get many tasks done in a short amount of time so as to not be a burden to others. Because of these constraints, I might carry stuff in and out of my new place without always observing myself, inhibiting and directing as the Technique commands.

Over the past three weeks, I moved several times. Each time, I had a limited window of time to move my stuff. I had to get certain tasks accomplished quickly. I had to move many things from one place to another. People were sometimes waiting on me. Things had to get done in a short period of time.

While performing these tasks, I sometimes slipped into end-gaining. Finishing these jobs, at times, became more important to me than my use while doing them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

End-gaining is bad when the deleterious effects of end-gaining out-weigh its advantages. End-gaining is good when the meritorious effects of end-gaining out-weigh the harm of the subpar use of the self. It’s not that complicated.

Thank you for flying Your Moral Leader. We certainly hope you enjoy your stay in Levi World. Many young women have found it the happiest time of their lives. Your mileage may vary. Please immediately leave Levi World and consult a physician if you experience serious side effect such as:

sudden vision loss;
ringing in your ears, or sudden hearing loss;
chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;
irregular heartbeat;
swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet;
shortness of breath;
vision changes;
feeling light-headed, fainting; or
penis erection that is painful or lasts 4 hours or longer.

Less serious Levi World side effects may include:

warmth or redness in your face, neck, or chest;
stuffy nose;
memory problems;
upset stomach; or
back pain.

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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