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These articles are taken from one or more sessions with a particular person. They remain true to the original work with some editing to make them more easily readable.

If you are reading this article as a way to explore and solve a similar issue of your own, we hope you find it helpful.

They are not just narratives of someone else getting help, but are written to highlight three main areas so you can learn along:

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A Remarkable Encounter

by Ben Kreilkamp

Copyright (C) 2002 Ben Kreilkamp, all rights reserved world-wide

A Remarkable Encounter

A year ago last May (2001) I had an encounter with a teacher which changed my life in significant ways.  The teacher was David Gorman.  My Alexander teacher, introduced me.  I was reluctant to take David Gorman's workshop.  It was hard for me to spare the money, and I have a natural distrust of authority of all sorts.  The workshop involved sitting in a room with a group of people several hours a day and talking with an expert about our problems.  That sounded to me like therapy.  Over the years I had become disaffected with therapy.  It wasn't that I didn't have any problems.  It was more that I felt I understood my problems all too well and I didn't see there was much point in talking about them.  I had grown resigned to living with them as well as I could. 

Thus it was only at my teacher's urging that I agreed to participate, and I signed up for just two days of a five day workshop.  The first of my two days, I sat mostly quiet and watched David work with two different people.  My take on his teaching was that he was helping them look clearly in a rational manner at problems which seemed to me 'emotional', or 'psychological'.  It looked to me more or less like therapy as I'd known it.  It wasn't at all clear to me that the people had been helped by their talk with him.  The next day I brought up a problem that seemed to me unfixable.  I'd been living with it for years, and the therapy I'd tried had done nothing to alleviate my suffering.  I described my problem as 'long-term chronic low-level depression'.  It seemed the most basic of the problems I faced, perhaps the linchpin of my difficulties in life.  There was also some desire to challenge the expert.  David seemed so confident of himself.  I thought, Here's something you can't help.  For my part I had no expectation of any relief.  My depression seemed to me fundamentally 'irrational'.  I had come to the conclusion that it was a chemical imbalance of some sort, and thus would not be affected by any rational exploration of it.  In fact, as I told David, when I was able to be 'rational', there was no problem, because then I wasn't depressed.  I had been suffering from these depressed feelings for most of my life, now well into my fifties, some forty years by my reckoning. 

David talked to me and asked questions for about three hours.  Afterwards all I noticed was that it had been an interesting time, a very interesting time, but I felt no different.  We had simply gone over in some detail my experiences of my depression, and sometimes David had questioned my perspectives.  It was not at all apparent to me that he had told me anything new, much less that anything had changed for me.  Soon enough, though, I became aware that indeed some sort of shift had taken place.  As I've put it since to others, I was having the same depressing and hopeless thoughts, but my perspective on them had changed.  My attitude had also changed.  These same thoughts no longer made me feel bad.  It later grew evident just how radical the shift was.  Over the next days and weeks it became clear that I was indeed no longer depressed.  This change was even somewhat bewildering.  With my new attitude, I started to feel like a different person.  The objective conditions of my life hadn't changed, and there remained plenty of things that I struggled with.  After all, feeling depressed for many years, I'd dug myself into a number of holes that didn't disappear overnight, but I no longer experienced that generalized sadness that made everything harder to deal with. 

Occasionally the change could surprise me.  Some weeks later I found myself in the middle of a garden party and realized that I wasn't ill at ease.  This may not sound like much, but for me it was startling.  I'd grown used to having to manage something close to panic in groups of people, even friendly people.  I hadn't thought to associate this unease in social settings with my depressed feelings, my general sadness.  In the meantime other problems have arisen. 

Not surprisingly, my life had been structured around my depression in such a way that I avoided any number of issues that now confronted me more directly.  At least one friend has stopped talking to me.  I'm not sure completely why of course, but I do know that I'm no longer inclined to carry on some of the sorts of conversations that we used to enjoy together.  For my part I can no longer deny certain questions I had left unanswered for years.  All in all it has been a very interesting, and more than somewhat unsettling, experience.  However, I would never trade this new life for my former existence of trying my hardest to control an uncontrollable sadness.  My current life is far more interesting, if not always more pleasant.

Nothing prepared me for the difference LearningMethods would make in my life.  I've been studying it closely in the time since, with both my own and others' problems.  In fact I've made something of a nuisance of myself among my friends trying to get them to tell me about their problems to see how this process might help.  As I've puzzled through all this, one question has come up more than once.  How depressed was I to begin with?  It is impossible to say.  I do recognize I've met any number of people who seem to me more depressed than I was.  On the other hand, several therapists over the years seemed to agree it sounded to them like depression, or perhaps dysthemia.  One recommended Zoloft, which I tried briefly.  Whether we call it depression or not, whatever it was affected every part of my life: my career, relationships, parenting, virtually everything I did.  Some days and even weeks it seemed to paralyze me as I cut back on most activities trying to avoid exacerbating the unhappiness.  The frustration of living with these feelings led sometimes to terrible anger.  Doing even routine tasks could seem overwhelming.  I had grown used to living with this sadness when I had my encounter with David Gorman. 

At the time, the change I experienced with LearningMethods appeared to me some sort of happy miracle, a mysterious, almost fairy-tale transformation.  Now, after quite a bit of study, I no longer find the process so strange.  The way it worked for me did indeed feel sudden and even weird, but that's just the way it worked for me that once.  With other problems working on my own or with David's help, the process has not been at all as sudden.  Whether this was a matter of the specific problem or my readiness to be rid of it or whatever the difference was, I can't say.  There is perhaps inevitably an element of chance in how it operates in any given situation.  I've now seen LearningMethods work in a great variety of ways.  Sometimes it operates very gradually.  With some problems it has not seemed to work at all, not yet at least.  (For instance my sweet tooth still bothers me, even though I've seen David work successfully with a similar food issue.) With other problems the change has been so easy and transparent that the person didn't even notice anything happened.  This, of course raises the question of whether LearningMethods did make any difference.  It's all very curious, and for me there's been no way to prove anything about it beyond trying it out again and again.  Pretty soon one can draw one's own conclusions about whether it's valid and how.  The method itself is both straightforward and highly adaptable.  Since all it amounts to is a clear and methodical look at one's own experiences, it is safe to say that each person will respond to the process in a way unique to that specific person with that specific set of circumstances.  Far from miraculous, LearningMethods is a very practical set of tools for freeing ourselves from many of the problems we find ourselves entangled in.

The LearningMethods Process

LearningMethods is David Gorman's trademarked name for the process he has discovered and developed.  The process grew out of his work as an Alexander teacher and trainer.  From my experience of the Alexander Technique, which helped me some years ago with a severe lower back pain, LearningMethods seems entirely different.  For instance, unlike Alexander work, LearningMethods is nearly all talk with very little hands on work.  Once I watched David work with a person whose foot had been chronically injured for more than ten years and he didn't touch the foot or even look at it closely.  His entire attention was on his conversation with the person whose foot hurt.  Later, the foot did indeed improve dramatically.  As with my case, this healing seemed to me at first mysterious, but over time, as my understanding has grown, it has begun to seem less and less so.  It seems the problem with the hurting foot was a matter of how the person was using it, and this information was actually rather easily available in her own descriptions of her experience.  One might also add that the crucial information about how she used it was really only available through talking to her.  Any number of healers of all sorts could look at the foot with any number of different understandings and treat or train the foot a thousand different ways and still miss the crucial point of what the person was doing with her foot. 

The LearningMethods process is designed to look at any personal problem clearly to see what is causing it and may or may not be done about it.  Thus it applies to any problem anyone may have, from the hurting foot or strained hand to relationship difficulties or psychological issues such as phobias or eating disorders.  The process itself amounts to little more than an extended conversation with the teacher about one's problem.  David works mostly in groups, but this LearningMethods conversation is also possible one on one, or, as one learns its techniques, with oneself alone.  It is, by the way, a stated aim of the work to teach each person the process itself, thus avoiding the need for continuing 'expert' support.  This independence is one of the great benefits of the work which distinguishes it from many forms of therapy.  There are therapies which try to differentiate which problems are 'psychological' and which 'physical', and therapies that delve into one's unconscious, and therapies that cultivate a myth or explore some sort of mystery, such as the power of one's dreams.  LearningMethods does none of that.  In the LearningMethods conversation, one looks at the whole person from the individual's point of view.  One simply looks directly at the single whole person acting in the world according to that individual's own best understanding of the world.  It is a very down-to-earth, plainspoken process, using as much as possible the individual's own words, and looking very carefully and clearly at those words to understand their significance. 

Words can tell us many things.  The language a person uses points to the person's own experiences and also points to the person's interpretation of those experiences.  The differences between these two can be crucial.  On the one hand there is what actually happens to a person in a given situation, what they actually do and have done to them, and on the other hand there is the way a person interprets that same situation.  The differences between the two can be crucial to distinguish.  They can point to misinterpretations by the person that can be important factors in any given problem.  That said, the primary focus in the LearningMethods conversation is on the person's actual experiences of the problem.  This is because those experiences are in fact the real life context for the problem.  It is also where one must look for any possible solution.  The specificity involved in looking at one's own experiences, often in considerable detail, is an essential element of the LearningMethods process.  The point is not to help a person find a new 'better' experience, but to look at the experiences one is already having in whatever life one is living and to try to understand them accurately.  That is where the problem exists, and also where the very real possibilities inherent in the person's actual life exist. 

The emphasis in LearningMethods is always on those 'very real possibilities'.  There are of course possibilities that occur as dreams, or in any of a great variety of imaginings one might engage in.  Then there are these other 'very real possibilities'.  These are the possibilities that are quite connected to, one might say embedded in, the life one is currently living.  LearningMethods does not deal in vague or theoretically attractive possibilities.  There are many unknowns in the world, and of course one may always win a lottery of some sort, which might solve some problems, but when one looks clearly at what one is currently experiencing, the ground is much firmer for finding an available solution.  Paradoxically the solutions one might find in the real life one is currently living can be quite surprising, unlike anything one might have ever imagined as an escape from the problem, better even than winning a lottery.  In my own case, one of the great and surprising benefits of my transformed view of the world, is a much more solid and palpable engagement in the world as it exists right in front of me.  In my efforts to escape my unhappiness I had spent a lot of energy trying to imagine a better world, using such things as 'affirmations' and hopes that were little better than wishes to win some jackpot.  As it turns out now, the real world is much more interesting than the 'possible' worlds I had been imagining.  Looking for escape, I had overlooked those 'very real possibilities' available in my real life. 

Now, after more than a year observing the process at work in many different instances, I can understand much better what made such a difference to me in that talk with David.  Piece by piece he encouraged me to look clearly at how I went about things in those life experiences which I had grouped under my term 'depression'.  As we looked at those bits of information from my life, he brought to my attention various perspectives of mine that affected my ways of seeing and doing things.  What these amounted to were quite concrete examples, drawn from my own life, of the conceptual frameworks I used to make sense of the world.  Using my own descriptions of my experiences, he helped me see how I was interpreting my life.  As it turned out, some of the notions by which I was living my life were in fact simply misconceptions.  What David was doing, bit by bit over three hours, was helping me to a more accurate understanding of my own life.  When the re-ordering of one's life turns out to be as basic as this was for me, a conversation that took three hours no longer seems long.  In terms of what was accomplished it was quite short, and the transformation since, in the weeks and months following, has seemed sudden compared to the years that I spent suffering from my misunderstandings. 

To give an example of my misconceptions, one source of my difficulties was a form of unrealistic idealism.  This was the phrase I used initially explaining my problem to David.  This unrealistic way I had of looking at things touched on many aspects of how I dealt with life.  To take just one of those aspects, I had a belief, often a wish, that life could or even should be easier, better, more pleasant, than it in fact is.  Thus when I ran into something unpleasant, such as every morning when I looked at my daily list of tasks that didn't particularly interest me, I felt bad, because I wished my life were different, better than that.  I had, by the way, already studied similar ideas with therapists from Cognitive Therapy.  This was one reason I was so surprised at the changes that came over me after my talk with David.  In my view David hadn't told me much that was new.  I already knew theoretically that this idealism as I called it was both inaccurate and also that it was one source of my suffering.  I already understood, intellectually, that this sort of thinking might tend to make me unhappy.  Evidently it was one thing for me to understand such a thing theoretically, intellectually, and quite another thing for this same understanding to have a practical effect on my life in the moments when I was feeling bad.  Somehow I needed that understanding in the very moment when I faced that 'depressing' list in the morning. 

In my case it took David, with his method and the techniques that comprise it, to help me look from a more realistic viewpoint in the depressed moments of my life.  First he brought me to a clear understanding that my unhappiness was inevitable given my perspective.  If I compared the present moment to a 'highlight' of the past, then the present moment is inevitably going to look not so nice.  Then he helped me see my perspective was critically flawed.  Truly those 'highlights' of the past were not an accurate picture of what my life had once been.  I was comparing apples (highlights of the past) to oranges (real moments in the present).  Finally, and most importantly, his teaching somehow brought this knowledge out of the intellectual or theoretical plane and brought it to bear on my actual life as I lived it.  This was why the change I experienced, which was extreme, was not felt until I hit the moments of my life when I would have expected to feel depressed.  I found myself waking up to my best understanding in my real life, in those exact moments that used to 'depress' me.  Progressively over time my misconceptions have more and more been supplanted by the more accurate understandings.  As those replaced the misconceptions, the bad feelings simply fell away. 

That is only one example of the several ways David managed to unravel my depressive mindset.  Also, it sounds more complicated to explain than it seemed in practice.  At the time, the conversation simply flowed by for me like a straightforward, if intricate and fascinating, discussion.  It was a talk with someone who was curious about how I was experiencing my life.  After that, the fresh perspectives he brought to my attention played themselves out in a happier, easier, freer life.  Of course not all problems disappear so conveniently.  Life is complex and as I've described, new problems have arisen for me from the changes this process has brought about, and some other problems have been more persistent.  The LearningMethods process remains, though, as a most reliable way for me to deal with the problems I encounter. 

Background and Theory

As straightforward as it is, and as simple as its techniques can be to apply, the LearningMethods process is backed up with a lot of knowledge, particularly about human function and design.  David Gorman's research in those realms is quite extensive and elegantly simple in its conclusions.  It began, it would seem, with anatomy.  Early in his career he compiled a six hundred page study of anatomy, still in print, called 'The Body Moveable'.  This was the springboard for much of what he's studied since, as he's moved on from his Alexander work into developing LearningMethods.  There are doubtless many other similar theories in the world.  I recognize parallels, for instance, with the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and Cognitive Therapy.  To offer one example, David is particularly clear and precise concerning the mechanics of how the 'mind' and the 'body' have evolved as one self, without the separation implied by those two words we often use.  As many others have noted, much suffering may result from the myriad misconceptions inherent in this theoretical 'split' between the 'mind' and the 'body'.  That split is of course only theoretical.  At least that is what it is until someone tries to put that misconception into practice, whether consciously or unconsciously.  At the point someone starts to act on one's body as if it were somehow apart from one's mind, this mere theory can easily become literally actualized in all sorts of unnecessary suffering.  It may become an effort to divide oneself somehow.  Since one isn't in fact divided, this effort can cause real strain on an extraordinarily complex system designed to operate as a single coordinated unit. 

This was true in the case of the woman with the hurting foot.  Naturally enough from her viewpoint, she was looking at the foot that hurt as the problem.  She, along with many healers she sought out over the years, neglected to address how she was using the foot, or if they did ask her about that, they somehow missed the essential information.  Somehow the problem remained for her a 'physical' problem.  Her foot hurt, but she was missing the point, misinterpreting this symptom, thinking the problem was in this foot that hurt.  The foot became in her view a 'bad foot' or an 'arthritic foot' or a 'weak foot'.  This set of misunderstandings, that her foot was somehow separate from the rest of her self, that its pain meant there was something wrong with that part rather than pointing to a coordination of the whole self, all this led to more misuse and more pain.  This became a maze for her, and her wandering endlessly in search of a solution reinforced her problem, as her use of the foot kept hurting it.  In fact, it's completely possible that her attempts to 'fix the foot' were themselves a part of what kept hurting her foot.  For her, it took a conversation with David to point her in the right direction, out of the maze of misuse. 

In the LearningMethods model, when problems arise they often come about when we are trying to use the self in a way that's not the way the self was designed to be used.  It seems to be true that each of us is designed to operate as a single coordinated unit.  This is one of those elegantly simple premises on which David Gorman's work is based.  This truth, about the unity of the single self, is common among many different teachings.  However many know this in theory, though, it proves easy enough to forget it in crucial practical, real-life moments.  It may be forgotten, for instance, when someone recommends a treatment, such as Zoloft, intended to treat the body's 'chemistry' as if it were separate somehow from the mind's 'thinking'.  It is forgotten when someone treats her foot like something separate, a damaged part, not as part of a whole but simply another part among a collection of parts.  That can lead to trying to fix the foot alone, as if it were a shoe, say, with a hole in it, that one can leave at the shoe repair shop, unconnected to one's pants or hat.  What LearningMethods provides is a clear and reliable way to determine if it is the design that is failing, or our understanding of how it all works together. 

To sum up, the tools developed by LearningMethods to help our understanding of our wonderfully evolved systems are simple enough.  They involve looking systematically at one's thoughts, feelings, reactions, beliefs, responses and all the aspects of our actions and experience as it is actually lived from one's own perspective.  These tools can be learned gradually as one deals with specific problems in one's life through conversations with a trained teacher.  They can be used immediately as one learns them, in a conversation with oneself, exploring one's own issues and problems.  The primary aim of the work is not to cope with a problem but to liberate oneself as much as possible from that problem.  All it takes is the willingness to face one's problems head on and ask the following questions: What is causing this?  Is there anything I can do about this?  Is there anything I am doing already that helps create or sustain this?  After one looks, thoroughly and rigorously, at the problem, the problem will often be solved, but if not one almost always has more information for a deeper exploration.  In addition one learns this rather wonderful process for oneself, to apply to other problems, so that one can continue to improve one's life without any continuing 'expert' help.  Along with these personal benefits, it is, as one friend put it, 'plain interesting' to see how we humans work, to learn how ideas and beliefs inform intentions, how our systems coordinate to carry out those intentions, and how our responses to the world around us are affected by the notions we have of that world.  As well as being interesting, it can be surprising and even thrilling to find how many of our problems we can be rid of.

How to Learn It

David Gorman gives workshops of two sorts: those that 'open' for anyone to come and learn about their problems and his process (see Calendar of events), and 'teaching' workshops, for people interested in teaching this process to others (see Teacher training page).  There is another sort of workshop he calls Patterns of Being, in which he lays out his understanding of the structure and design of the human being, and applies that understanding to a variety of contexts, practical, pedagogical and otherwise.  So much of the LearningMethods work was developed with performers of all sorts, and so much of David's background is in the study of anatomy, this study of human structure and design is a natural companion to the problem-solving applications of his LearningMethods process.

Now there are a growing number of licensed LearningMethods Teachers (see Teacher List) who also give workshops (including myself and others in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area), work with people privately and teach in various universities and conservatories (see list of where the LM work is taught).

~~~~~~~

   

There is a small biography of personal details about the author below.

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About the Author

Ben KreilkampBen Kreilkamp has been an actor, playwright and director. After the session he describes above, he became fascinated with the LearningMethods work and decided to enter teacher training to learn how to help others escape from their problems. He recently became a certificated and licensed LearningMethods Teacher. He lives and teaches in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area of the USA.

   Ben Kreilkamp
www.BenKreilkamp.com
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