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This is where LearningMethods comes in...
On Belief Systems and Learning
A debate from the Alextech e-mail discussion group on the validity
of the premises of the Alexander Technique
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All contributions are copyright by their authors. Note that the e-mail addresses of the
participants were valid at the time of the debate but may not be valid any longer.
— and continues...
1. Rajal Cohen — re: final exercise in futility — July 5/98
2. Carol McCullough — The Elegance of the Alexaner Technique —
3. David Langstroth — re: The Elegance of the Alexander
Technique — July 3/98
4. David Langstroth — The Intellectual Shell Game — July 3/98
5. Peter Ruhrberg — re: The Intellectual Shell Game — July 3/98
6. Rajal Cohen — all this stuff — July 5/98
7. David Gorman — re: all this stuff (Rajal Cohen) — July 5/98
8. Urban Larsson — hello everybody — July 4/98
9. Carol McCullough — The Alexander Technique and the Gorman Technique
— July 1/98
10. David Langstroth — re: The Alexander Technique and the Gorman
— July 6/98
11. David Gorman — The Alexander Technique and the Gorman Technique
— July 6/98
Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 09:38:04 -0400
From: Rajal Cohen firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: final exercise in futility
John, and List,
"I do feel that discourse between Alexander teachers is stuck at a very low level, and that
your postings have not improved things. ... yours in mellow holisticity"
Is that your way of bringing the level of discourse up? While I have appreciated many of your
comments about David Gorman's submissions, I don't personally find large doses of sarcasm either
convincing or pleasant.
"For some time now, I have had to assume that you are impervious to argument. I have no hope
of leading you to alter your opinions. I am concerned that others reading this list may be persuaded
to agree with your self estimation."
In my observations, most people are impervious to argument, especially when it comes in attack form.
To respond to your concern about us agreeing with DG's self-estimation: It is clear that we have here
a debate between two men with keen minds, very strong opinions, and very very high opinions of
themselves. (I'm not criticizing: most of my favorite people are arrogant and opinionated. . . and
"Why have you taken up so much space on this list?"
It takes two to tango, eh? Really, though, this conversation has lit a fire under a number of us (and
caused several others to unsubscribe).
Has anyone noticed how the gender balance has shifted lately? Is it because of the theoretical nature
of the conversation, the high level of agressiveness, or what, do you think?
"You stated in no uncertain terms that those who questioned you were unqualified to do so
without demonstration, while claiming (and continuing to claim) validation from the support of those
who did not question you."
I never heard him say his supporters didn't question him. I have questioned EVERYTHING I have ever
been a strong supporter of. Haven't you?
"You claimed that the entire community of Alexander teachers, beginning with FM, had missed
I also heard that implied in David Gorman's posting. Personally, I don't mind considering the
possibility! It is threatening to my AT-teacher identity/ego, but also opening and refreshing to
consider, even if I later decide it is garbage. So far, I think the conversation itself has helped my
"You have taken ideas from Alexander's books, restated them in wishy-washy New Age babble and
claimed them to be original with you."
I wouldn't have said it that way, but I, too, find some of his language unsatisfactorily vague.
"You have dodged contrary argument by repeating yourself "
"I HAVE discussed the validity of the Alexander technique with the uninitiated, though not on
this list. It is not difficult to justify the Technique to anyone who will listen and ask reasoned
I find that most people can "get" the basic concepts (we mess ourselves up, and that can be
unlearned, etc.) in a conversation. I have never been able to give an adequate explanation of what
happens when we put hands on, though. (I say "you become more aware of where my hand is",
but I know full well there's more than that going on.)
I wonder, who gets to define "reasoned questions".
Rajal Cohen, AT teacher, Virginia, USA
Date: Wed, 1 Jul 1998 23:48:34 -0500 (CDT)
From: email@example.com (McCullough)
Subject: The Elegance of the Alexaner Technique
It seems that there is a drive towards complexity from things simple and thereby elegant.
Alexander made a some important discoveries for himself, among them: -that every thought produces a
change within the musculature, that it is not possible to have a thought that is not expressed
throughout the musculo-skeletal system. (This principle has been demonstrated over and over again, as
science has developed the technology to correlate brain activity and electrical activity within
-that inhibition is the principle upon which the link between thought and action is based. Muscles
are sent energy to fire and be activated or firing is inhibited or "turned off." Work in
neuro-physiology has advanced this principle. Alexander, of course, discovered this at the practical
Alexander did not own the copy rights to these principles. He did, however from these principles
develop his own points of view about the meaning of them: that it was useless and misleading to
separate the mind from body, brain from muscles, or thought from movement. His point of view also
included the idea that sensory perceptions become debauched. From these points of view, Alexander
developed a pedagogy, for those who were interested, to learn how to use these principles to advance
their own personal functioning.
It seems that we should be able to define Alexander's pedagogy. Obviously the hallmark of this
pedagogy is the "hands-on" approach. This pedagogy does not preclude the possibility other
pedagogies are possible for utilizing these principles of human functioning.
It seems the big stumbling block for many people with the Alexander work is admitting that one's
sensory perceptions are debauched. It is like the alcoholic admitting s/he is an alcoholic, or the
capitalist admitting to greed. To admit such a thing demands humbleness, in a sense a willingness to
give up one's current self. Yet the greatest spiritual traditions make such demands. And like the
greatest spiritual traditions, studying the Alexander Technique demands the development of skill. And
sometimes the attainment of skill requires repetitiveness and a certain tolerance of the mundane.
There are times it is difficult not to want to rebel against the day-to-day process of developing
The greatest spiritual journeys also demand a certain simplicity; simplicity being the most difficult
thing to maintain and its beauty being the most difficult to recognize.
When an old person gets out of the chair with the help of an Alexander teacher, with the simplicity,
skill and poise of a young dance, do we really have to question so deeply the meaning the this work?
Carol McCullough, Minneapolis
Date: Fri, 03 Jul 1998 09:50:02 +0100
From: David Langstroth firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: The Elegance of the Alexander Technique
"It seems that there is a drive towards complexity from things simple and thereby elegant."
Thanks for a great reminder of the elegance and simplicity of what we are working with. In my own
enthusiasm I often venture into very complex areas, arguing for the Technique in the language of
science, philosophy, psychology or whatever.
This enthusiasm has come from such a positive experience of the Technique that I am going to do
something completely different from what I usually do, and just tell a simple story.
10 years ago I was just starting out in London as a professional musician (I play the double bass).
At that time as far as I knew I didn't have a problem in the world. I had done several successful
professional auditions, my career was taking off, I felt healthy, energetic, and I was "fit"
(i.e. I did a lot of exercises). It was just chance that someone lent me Lulie Westfeldt's book on the
After reading her account I decided to have lessons, not to sort out any problems, (as far as I knew
I didn't have any) but for the reason that I wanted to prevent the sorts of problems that musicians
get, and if possible I wanted to be even better than I was.
Ten years later, having devoted my time and attention to developing this skill, through the patient
help of a very good teacher (Tasha Miller), and having tolerated the mundane and repetitive I am
staggered by the sort of changes that have accrued, and staggered at how wrong I was about thinking I
didn' have any problems
My playing of the double bass has immeasurable improved. The entire range of soft and sensitive
playing, as well as light and articulate playing has opened up, whereas before I used to bluster my
way through with effort and bravado. I can now sing where I just used to croak, and my piano playing
has changed enormously (even though I rarely practice any of these). The niggling sore shoulder
resolved itself years ago (I never used to admit I had a problem with it) and my whole carriage has
softened and changed. My skin has cleared up (eczema and ruddiness), my co-ordination in all
activities has improved, and most impressive of all is the immeasurable changes in my emotional and
mental condition. I have left behind the feeling of being driven to succeed, I feel more optimistic
and peaceful and have lost the anxiety which used to well up when I was alone. And my confidence has
grown enormously. The public speaking that I have had to do in the past year would have been
unthinkable only a few years ago. And I certainly wouldn't have felt secure enough to contribute to a
forum such as this. I used to worry too much about what everyone else would think.
That's my simple story, briefly told. I could go on at length about my personal journey but I just
wanted to share with you the source of my enthusiasm.
David Langstroth, email@example.com
Date: Fri, 03 Jul 1998 18:09:30 +0100
From: David Langstroth firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: The Intellectual Shell Game
Carol McCullough's excellent posting about simplicity and complexity has inspired me to contribute a
short article I wrote not too long ago on a similar theme:
The Intellectual Shell Game
Have you ever seen the shell game being played? A man sits behind a table shuffling walnut shells and
when he stops another must predict under which shell the pea is to be found. Perhaps you haven't, but
you're probably at least familiar with it from old films or television
It is a very simple game, or so it appears on the surface. It succeeds through the skill and sleight
of hand of the operator and through the victim's faith in his ability to follow the movement of a
shell without being deceived. When he fails, he is perplexed, being unable to identify the point of
deception in a seamless and logically simple series of moves. But this game has probably had its day;
people are aware that they can and will be tricked and that the odds are stacked against them. There
is little profit to be had anymore for the operators of the shell game.
In the world of ideas, however, the game flourishes. The profits can be huge, and the victims are
still unaware that there is any trickery about; are unaware in fact that they are even playing the
game. It is not shells that are manipulated and shuffled by the operator, but ideas, words, arguments,
concepts, statistics. And the trickery is similarly hidden in a smooth and seamless flow. This
trickery, which took the form of sleight of hand in the old game, now takes many different forms.
Statistics are massaged, the meanings of key words are tampered with, other positions are subtly
misrepresented, related (but not necessarily compatible) arguments are introduced from other areas,
digressions abound, and the whole becomes more and more complicated until the operator has baffled his
victim. On his part, the victim clings to his belief that he can follow what appear to be simple
movements, and then, missing the trick, he has no alternative but to say, "I see..." in a
tone of voice which betrays the fact that he can't really understand how the outcome has arrived at
all. The operator has won the point.
I do not intend to attack the art of argument. My point is that what often passes for honest argument
in our world today is as corrupt as that game played with the walnut shells. Plato believed in
argument as a method of inquiry, a way to arrive at the truth, and I believe that this is probably its
most constructive role, but in the intellectual shell game argument is used to defend a fixed or
preconceived idea against the truth. Winning is everything, the truth unimportant. Intellectuality
becomes the servant of unconscious desires and opinions, just as skill in sleight of hand serves the
lust for money in the old game.
Yet, sadly, the intellectual game is the basis for most interaction in public life, and skill at it
is raised to a virtue. Observe the sparring
between skilled politicians, barristers, or between public figures and a pressing interviewer. Can
you imagine at any point a politician conceding the truth of his opponent's point of view? Never. Can
you imagine an employer agreeing that there was truth in his workers' reasons for asking for more pay?
Rarely. They play the game to promote or defend their own interests or ideas and are only interested
in bending the other to their position. And the games played at this level are no different from what
takes place in pub arguments or letters to the editor.
One of the greatest indicators that the intellectual shell game is taking place is that the argument
seems to be getting more and more complicated, more difficult to follow, involving more diverse
variables and dependent sub-arguments. Ironically most situations can be understood in the analysis
and comparison of basic principles which can usually be expressed simply and clearly. For example, to
understand the most complex and bewilderingly diverse manifestations in the universe, physicists
believe that there must be one simple unified theory; DNA accounts for great biological complexity
with a simple principle, and everything from sea water to plutonium obeys the simple (though sometimes
strange) laws of atomic theory. This is not to say that there are no complex issues, but rather, that
the simple principles lying beneath are too often not referred to either through ignorance or design.
Too often it is suited to someone's hidden purpose to conduct the argument at the level of complexity
rather than the level of simplicity.
Even in our universities, bright young minds are encouraged, through the activity of debating, to
develop their skills at the intellectual shell game. Arbitrarily assigned opposite points of view are
assumed and victory is all important, the truth of the issue being secondary. We would be better
served by ways to develop skills of thinking and expressing ideas that do not at the same time run the
risk of inculcating a morally bankrupt attitude towards argument and the truth. We need rather to
develop an aversion to the necessity to defend fixed positions or preconceived ideas, a readiness to
accept a new ideology, and a respect for the truth above and beyond our own narrow interests.
But all this requires flexibility and the ability to adapt to new conditions. The regaining of these
lost attributes requires psycho-physical re-education, and continually rising standards of
constructive conscious control of the individual. Without it we can only try to be more vigilant in
recognising when someone is trying to play the game on us, and hope that we aren't doing the same.
copyright 1998, David Langstroth
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 21:23:28 +0200
From: Peter Ruhrberg email@example.com
Subject: Re: The Intellectual Shell Game
> The Intellectual Shell Game
Well done! This is exactly how I've felt about the issue for a long time. (Why didn't I write about
it myself some 20 years ago?)
After all, what I'm aiming at is to keep simple things simple, and to build an understanding of more
complex things through a succession of steps which themselves are as simple and small as possible.
By your article you helped me to get the issue of simplicity and clarity vs. trickery and hidden
agendas even more clear in front of my mind's eye. While seeing it more clearly, I'm already looking
forward to what I'll do with it in my thinking and my interactions.
Thank you for your article!
Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 11:03:30 -0400
To: David Gorman firstname.lastname@example.org,
From: Rajal Cohen email@example.com
Subject: all this stuff
There was so much to respond to in your first posting, and so much in many of the responses and
responses to responses, that I still feel I have not gathered my thoughts sufficiently to really
respond to your post. I have lots of thoughts, questions, doubts, etc. However, I'm just going to take
the time now to say some of the simple things.
I have admired your writing very much in the past. Your "In our own image" series of
articles is one of the most useful things I ever read. It greatly affects my teaching. It demystifies
some things that had seemed mystical and uncomprehensible until I read it. This in turn gave me much
more confidence in the work, and in my ability to teach it. Your simple, logical explanation of why
"sucking in the gut" doesn't work is a small example. If you could see the look of grateful
relief on the faces of women who have been guiltily trying to be a different size than they are for
20, 30 or 40 years...
Anyway, I hope you don't disavow all your past work, and I hope you don't shut yourself off from the
Alexander "community" (such as it is).
Do you use hands-on work at all anymore?
Do you have training in counseling techniques? When you alluded to "working with symptoms"
I was reminded of "Process Work" (Arny Mindell's work).
No, really I must stop. I can't spend all day in front of the computer.
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 02:24:40 -0400
From: David Gorman firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: re: all this stuff (Rajal Cohen)
Rajal and list,
Thank you for your various contributions recently. I always enjoy reading your incisive and
"Anyway, I hope you don't disavow all your past work, and I hope you don't shut yourself off
from the Alexander "community" (such as it is)."
No, I don't disavow anything. I do have plans to write a much more comprehensive book on all that
territory of the "In Our Own Image" series. After all, the organization and functioning of
the human system is still what it is no matter which level we are working on.
The only change for me has been a shift in the level of where I work with people. It's like Raymond
Dart said to me when I'd given him a copy of my "Body Moveable", "you've done a very
thorough job, but the brain and thinking is where its at".
And no, I don’t want to shut myself off at all from the Alexander community. As the old joke goes,
"some of my best friends are Alexander teachers". I hope too that no one will take offence
at what I’ve written here (or how I may have written it) and shut me off.
"Do you use hands-on work at all anymore?"
No, not really. I can't remember a time in the last year or so when I have put hands on. Questions
are my main tool now. Most of the time a few well-placed questions are able to reveal all the
information someone has about what is happening for/to them and once it is all out there on the table
for them to see, the contradictions and misconceptions stick out loudly (if I can mix my metaphors).
When they do not have enough information in the lesson, I get them to go back into their daily life
and use their 'symptom' to wake them up in those moments so that they can look around and find out
what they have just been up to. If it doesn't become obvious to them at that point, it will by the
next lesson. Then a simple experiment of not taking the step that their construct would dictate they
take will show them what happens to them when they are not stepping back into their normal viscous
circle. It is at this point of change that they experience themselves very differently.
I specifically do not use hands on because I do not want to 'colour' in any way their experience (at
least as much as is possible). From my point of view, they don't need a seductive new experience to
tempt them to end-gain for, they are already having lots of experiences in their lives. The problem is
that they are continually misinterpreting these experiences.
When they see the misinterpretation and can choose a different response,then their experience changes
greatly. This new experience of the new way of operating is also undeniably their own experience. All
I have helped them do is to put enough of their own information out on the table so that they can see
why they are caught in their circle, and I've helped them identify the moment that they usually take
action based on their misconceptions. Since that is the moment where they are doing something, that is
the moment they can change.
"Do you have training in counselling techniques? When you alluded to "working with
symptoms" I was reminded of "Process Work" (Arny Mindell's work)."
No, I don't (and I'm not familiar in practice with any counselling techniques), though several people
have mentioned that what I am doing reminds them of cognitive psychology (others see connections with
Bhuddism), but of course that doesn't mean that the process is the same any more than AT and yoga are
similar, yet people used to say a lot that it reminded them of yoga (at least until they'd had a few
I do find that a lot of emotion does come up, after all we are inevitably dealing right away with the
biggest issues in people's lives, but it is the same kind of emotion that comes up occasionally in AT
lessons--the emotion of release and relief, the emotion of the intensity of what they are describing.
It is not the emotions of anger or acting out emotions. There is nothing that I need to do with any of
this. It's all part of the person experiencing their life and their changes fully.. In any case it
passes and changes like all emotions.
The group setting is very good for this (though it certainly can be done one-to-one) since it
provides a supportive atmosphere and almost inevitably, anyone's issue will resonate with others and
make it easier for them to bring up their own questions and problems. Interestingly to me, when given
complete freedom to bring up any problem that they have, most people do not mention their physical
problems, even though they do have them. There is often a problem which is much bigger to them, though
the physical problem they also have changes or diminishes for them as they understand and step out of
the bigger one..
Let me know if you have other questions. This goes for anyone on the list. If you feel that these
kind of questions (more about what I am doing than about the AT, etc.) are off-topic for this list,
then just send me the questions privately and I will respond privately).
Date: Sat, 4 Jul 1998 17:26:56 +0200
From: "Urban Larsson" email@example.com
Subject: hello everybody
Hi, I am fairly new here, so I am just testing to see wether my text will arrive in the forum. I have
enjoyed very much to read the discourse between DG and the readerds of his letter. I have learned a
lot so far, and I hope that the conversation will go on with people like Peter Ruhrberg (the ironing
lesson) and David Gorman for example.
I might join in at some point, but so far I have been busy enough and enjoying reading all the
responses back and forth. A great fun forum!
Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 11:42:17 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (McCullough)
Subject: The Alexander Technique and the Gorman Technique
I must confess that I too reacted quite defensively to David Gorman's postings. It was as much the
way the message was delivered as the message itself.
First and foremost, this is a list for devotees of the Alexander Technique. It is if you will, a
meeting house for people who are interested, to meet and discuss, debate and yes, sometimes strongly
disagree about the Technique. But it seems to me that what Mr. Gorman is doing is like walking into a
church and screaming that every "confirmed" member's beliefs are flawed and worthless. It
should come as no surprise that at least a few of us react defensively.
I would not have felt so defensive if Mr. Gorman had succinctly stated the principles he is basing
his work on and invited us all to his Web site and discussion list to further access his writings. But
he came to this list with nearly a 100 K manifesto, served with a 1988 copyright. This manifesto is a
decade old. However...this is an Alexander Technique *discussion* list, not a David Gorman publishing
Alexander work is based on principles that are pretty well confirmed in other disciplines (i.e.
inhibition, the wholeness of psycho-physical function, to state them briefly and incompletely.) Mr.
Alexander did not own these principles (nor does any Alexander teacher or David Gorman for that
matter.) He discovered them for himself. And he is probably not the only human to discover them. His
contribution lies in his "pedagogy" or "technique" if you will, and that IS
As for the content of the Mr. Gorman's message, the main divergence with Alexander's work that I can
discern, is that Mr. Gorman feels that no one's "sensory appreciation" is debauched, and
that somehow it is insulting to the human race to imply otherwise. Mr. Alexander of course, firmly
believed that most people's sensory awareness is indeed debauched. I would venture to label
"debauched sensory appreciation" as a condition, much like one might label a medical
condition. I would not call this an "operating principle" of functioning, but rather an
interference with the principles of functioning. If a teacher does not accept the notion of faulty
sensory appreciation, then any teaching they do is not based on the pedagogy of the Alexander
Technique, hence, they are not teaching the Alexander Technique. I think it is quite honest of Mr.
Gorman to claim that he is not teaching the Alexander Technique.
But Mr. Gorman seems to believe that Alexander teachers are not capable of discerning "what is
going on with the student" at any given moment. I firmly believe that skilled AT teachers can and
do know what is going on with a student by the feedback they are getting about the student's muscular
changes through their hands. I once witnessed a highly skilled teacher most convincingly demonstrate
this. The teacher put a hand on the neck of a pianist and instructed her to think through one her
piano pieces as if she were playing it. (The student had been complaining of her problems with a
difficult passage.) This teacher was able to pinpoint exactly when the student "arrived" at
the difficult passage, because of the changes in her balance and coordination.
I can't understand how any teacher can know what is "going on with" a student without hands
on. No thought can manifest itself without producing a change in the musculature, thereby affecting
overall coordination. These muscular changes are not always discernible to the eye. Muscular changes
cannot be separated from the thought processes. Muscles are as much a part of thinking as the
proverbial "gray matter." (I also can't discern from Mr. Gorman's writings whether he uses
"hands-on" himself. )
But Alexander did not concern himself with muscles per se. He was concerned with the overall
coordination of an individual. He did not investigate what somebody was doing with their arm if their
arm ached, or what they were doing with their shoulder if their shoulder ached. He was interested with
how the person was interfering with their overall coordination, because he believed the
malcoordination of the entire person was the cause. And he was highly skilled with discerning what the
person was up to at any given moment. He was then able to draw the student's attention to what the
student was up to. His method of restoring innate coordination was to "stop the interferences, so
the right thing can do itself." (Through inhibition the reflexes are restored.)
Through his procedures, an understanding of the actual mechanics of coordination are taught. These
mechanics are quite subtle, but profoundly affect the organism. One again, it seems impossible for
anyone to greatly improve their own use or functioning without an understanding of these mechanics.
Understanding these mechanics is not simply a matter of knowing where this or that joint is or the
names of muscle groups. Good mechanics are born out through "directing" oneself throughout a
movement. Alexander chose the movement in and out of the chair, because it is one of the most
pervasive of any human activity. If one can move with good coordination in that activity, it is then
possible to move with coordination in other activities. It is at this juncture that the student must
apply what s/he has learned to other spheres of life. Here again, it is possible other pedagogies or
techniques may exist or may yet be born to teach the mechanical aspect of human coordination.
Ann Penistan says that it becomes the teacher's skill that the student experiences, rather than their
own. It is only for a moment that the student experiences the teacher's skill, when the moments with
the teacher are over, the student must then learn to carry on for themselves. It would seem that is a
basic learning process for any skill.
I believe that we all must separate out teaching pedagogies from the principles. It seems that the
"pedagogy" or "technique" get confused with the principles of human functioning.
None of us own those principles. My own defensiveness to David Gorman and Ann Penistan arises from my
discernment from their writing that they consider the Alexander pedagogy to be obsolete. Obviously,
they are entitled to their opinion, but if they came to the Alexander forum with a little more
professional respect for Alexander teachers, perhaps more of those teachers would be interested in a
Teaching the Alexander Technique is highly labor intensive and requires time and patience to become
skilled at it.
I've inadvertently written my own manifesto here, it is past time for me to quit.
Date: Mon, 06 Jul 1998 02:17:06 +0100
From: David Langstroth email@example.com
Subject: Re: The Alexander Technique and the Gorman Technique
At 11:42 05-07-98 -0500, Carol McCullough wrote in response to David Gorman:
"...I've inadvertently written my own manifesto here"
Yes. It's a manifesto which makes great sense to me.
Date: Mon, 6 Jul 1998 12:56:59 -0400
From: David Gorman firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: The Alexander Technique and the Gorman Technique
Carol and List,
First, allow me to apologize for the way that I presented my thesis. It was certainly not my
intention to insult or disrespect any of you. I do recognize that the nature of what I am saying is
explosive, and certainly for myself and others has completely changed our understanding and our work.
At the time I didn't have any better way to put forward my point. I shall look at how I did it and how
I can present the material differently so as to invite people who see things one way to look at
another way. By the way, the 1988 copyright was a typo, it should have been 1998.
I agree that this list is for "devotees of the Alexander Technique". This is why I
pointedly asked if you were interested in me continuing before I sent my large posting to you all. I
have ample experience of how some people respond when confronted with new ideas/methods that could
change what they are already deeply invested in.
"I would not have felt so defensive if Mr. Gorman had succinctly stated the principles he is
basing his work on and invited us all to his Web site and discussion list to further access his
I would have been happy to have said a small amount and invited you to my web site, but there is no
discussion list on my web site and there are very few recent writings there yet and certainly nothing
that explains this territory.
"His [Alexander's] contribution lies in his "pedagogy" or "technique" if
you will, and that IS absolutely unique."
It was this pedagogy and the belief systems it implies that I am looking at here. These very teaching
techniques only make sense to do from the context of a way of seeing things. When we include the
correlation between what is happening in the person's 'use' (in the Alexander sense) and what they are
thinking/feeling/doing (from their own point of view), then the way of seeing things CAN change
"the main divergence with Alexander's work that I can discern, is that Mr. Gorman feels that
no one's "sensory appreciation" is debauched, and that somehow it is insulting to the human
race to imply otherwise"
You have misunderstood me. I definitely feel that people's sensory appreciation is debauched, or
unreliable and said so in my long posting. But what I mean is not that their senses are debauched or
unreliable, but that they are mis-appreciating or mis-interpreting what they are sensing. That is,
that they have unreliable 'reality' appreciation--faulty belief systems, or untrue belief systems, or
belief systems that do not match what actually happens.
My main divergence from the Alexander Technique, as I see it, is that rather than me or the pupil in
any way changing or inhibiting their 'use' or coordination or physical functioning, I am helping them
see what belief systems they do have and how those belief systems or constructs inevitably channel
them into reacting or acting in the only way that makes sense from that belief system, thereby
repeating their experiences and reinforcing their belief system.
"I firmly believe that skilled AT teachers can and do know what is going on with a student by
the feedback they are getting about the student's muscular changes through their hands."
You have just made my point for me in this quote. The Alexander teacher here regards "what is
going on with a student" as something to do with their "muscular changes". I certainly
agree that there will be muscular changes (and hormonal changes, and nervous system changes) in
everything that happens to someone. But this does not tell you precisely what the student is thinking,
or what they are feeling from their point of view, or what their belief system is. That you can ONLY
get at through asking them.
Of course, you don't need to get at their inner life if the belief system is that when you change the
muscular organization the person changes, but I can guarantee that it will be a real eye-opener if you
begin to find out what the person is thinking and feeling at the moments of those "muscular
changes", and from that get a sense of what their beliefs are, then add in the actions they take
and why they think they are taking them, and correlate all this with what you, the outside person, can
see/feel is happening to their 'use'.
"I can't understand how any teacher can know what is "going on with" a student
without hands on. No thought can manifest itself without producing a change in the musculature,
thereby affecting overall coordination."
It is simple. Ask them. But look at what you just wrote--"no thought can manifest itself without
producing a change in the musculature, thereby affecting overall coordination". When you find out
what the specific thoughts are that people are having and correlate them enough times with the
"manifestation", you will see that it is always the same kind of manifestation appears with
the same kind of thought.
When you further look at what these thoughts are and see how misconceived they can be (like the
violinist who thought trying to play better actually would help her play better), and when you help
your student make an experiment so that they can expose and see through this misconception (they
actually play worse), you will see how this "overall coordination" has change all by itself
when they are no longer operating under this faulty belief system.
"But Alexander did not concern himself with muscles per se. He was concerned with the overall
coordination of an individual... ...He was interested with how the person was interfering with their
overall coordination, because he believed the malcoordination of the entire person was the cause."
Here again we see that the Alexander belief system is that the person is interfering with their
coordination. I don't know anyone who interferes with their coordination. There certainly are
coordinations goings on which are full of conflict and strain, but the person is not doing them. What
the person IS doing, however, is acting and reacting in various ways that make sense to them given
their belief systems. The coordination (or mal-coordination if you like) that manifests is the
coordination of operating under that belief system--the strain of trying to do what cannot be done,
the emotions of reaction to being in a world that is not the world that they think it is or should be,
"And he was highly skilled with discerning what the person was up to at any given moment. He
was then able to draw the student's attention to what the student was up to."
In my experience what this means is that the Alexander teacher is highly skilled at noticing the
'misuses' (the pulling down in sitting, the shoulder fixing in ironing). They then draw the student's
attention to these things under the belief that the student is doing them, but does not yet know it.
In my experience what an Alexander teacher does not usually do is to notice the student's pulling down
or whatever, and then find out what the student thought they were up to and work with that, not the
"Once again, it seems impossible for anyone to greatly improve their own use or functioning
without an understanding of these mechanics."
It is not at all impossible, in fact it is very simple and much faster when we find the underlying
cause rather than trying to direct through a movement or understand the subtle mechanics. When the
faulty beliefs systems are exposed and become more accurate, these mechanics change in a totally
coordinated and integrated way all by themselves.
"Ann Penistan says that it becomes the teacher's skill that the student experiences, rather
than their own. It is only for a moment that the student experiences the teacher's skill, when the
moments with the teacher are over, the student must then learn to carry on for themselves."
It Is the teacher's use and skill the pupil experiences rather than their own--this is why a pupil
has such different experiences from teachers trained in different ways. What they are experiencing is
NOT what 'good use' is like, the pupil is experiencing what it feels like to have a skilled human
being devote their entire attention to them with a particular belief system driving it. In other
words, they are experiencing the RELATIONSHIP with the teacher. On the other hand, when someone makes
the experiment of changing the actions they normally do because of their belief system, they usually
feel very different. But it is a difference that cannot possibly be from the physical skill of the
teacher since no teacher has been touching them nor in any way proposing a better physical/functional
"Obviously, they are entitled to their opinion, but if they came to the Alexander forum with
a little more professional respect for Alexander teachers, perhaps more of those teachers would be
interested in a dialogue."
I have a great deal of professional respect for Alexander teachers, remember I was one for close to
17 years. I respect you all enough to venture to bring this forward to you. If I didn't respect you I
would not have bothered to mention it at all. But, I don't have respect for Alexander teachers in a
blanket sense, I have respect for the spirit of enquiry and a willingness to look at things and learn
and anyone who can do that even if what is being proposed goes against their "cherished
I will certainly do my best to be as aware of everyone's sensibilities. I'm not sure how much I can
manage to say what I have to say any different because it is what it is and I cannot make that any
easier to swallow than it is...
Continued in PART 10...
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