‘We’re Not Here To Make The Student Feel Good’

The typical Alexander Technique teacher trainee is going to hear many times over his three years of instruction that “we’re not here to make the student feel good, we’re here to help them learn something.”

I’m not sure there’s such a flaming sword between feeling and learning.

I think that if I as an Alexander teacher can help my student feel great, that the student is likely learning every bit as much as if I tell him that he’s raising his shoulders when he sits in a chair.

There are many paths to learning. Feeling great is a perfectly valid path.

Yet Alexander teachers have this hang-up about feelings. They’re not reliable. “Don’t try to reconstruct the feeling. Reconstruct the thinking and the good feelings will follow.”

I love what John Nichols (one of the world’s three great Alexander teachers) said on this score.

From an interview with Paul Cook:

John: “When you look at the jargon we use — constructive conscious control, use, primary control, inhibition, stop and say no — it has a rigid off-putting boring stiffness about it and a refusal on our part to go out and meet our audience and try to express things in a way that catches their attention and communicates something more alive, more energized, more positive. We get stuck on the dogma.

“I remember giving a talk in London. Another experienced Alexander teacher came. I try to avoid jargon. I said the musculature of your body, an animal’s body, has three main functions to perform — support you against gravity, move you around, and breathe you. Breathing is largely muscular. These should be harmonized. Most small children handle that synergy well but with adults, patterns develop that distort that harmony. Habits of postural support interfere with breathing. Habits of movement interfere with breath and postural support. Habits of breathing interfere with postural support and movement.”

“At the end of it all, this senior teacher came up and said, ‘But John, you didn’t speak about primary control!’ Well, so what? I talked about things that are primary control but I didn’t use that phrase. We get stuck on this dogma that we have to use these terms. We must insist that it’s not just about the body, it’s about consciousness. We must insist that it’s all about learning to stop.”

“We can help you be more fully expansive and open and this is energizing and it feels good. Dare we say that? We get afraid to say that. What are we doing it for if it does not feel good? Why do we have to be frightened of saying that?”

“In his books, Alexander says that lessons help make our sensory perception more accurate. Somehow, we forget about this and we go around saying, ‘Never trust your feelings. Never trust your feelings.’ That’s alienating to me as is this harping on about consciousness.”

“I like that you have Direction Journal. Could you imagine putting something on the market called Inhibition Journal?”

“The word ‘posture.’ When we pussyfoot around and say this has nothing to do with posture, we’re just confusing people.”

“How can you be fully erect without being stiff and rigid and still fully able to breathe? We have contributions to make but we need to be willing to talk the language that connects to people instead of insisting on our alienating jargon.”

About Luke Ford

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