Preventive or Positive
Descriptions of giving lessons in FM’s books include some potentially confusing references to guiding orders or directions and whether they are to be treated as inhibitory, or to be kept in mind (“projected”), or to be carried out. For example, in CCCI Chapter III Imperfect Sensory Appreciation , pages 99-100* the pupil is instructed to refuse to “carry out” these orders but instead to “project” them while the teacher is “giving him the new reliable sensory appreciation and the best possible opportunity to connect the different guiding orders before attempting to put them into practice”. I’ve sometimes wondered why no one seems to have commented on what FM might have meant by implying that at some point in the pupil’s learning curve the guiding orders might actually be “carried out” or “put into practice”.
Some of this links in with confusion as to whether these guiding orders or directions are purely inhibitory or preventative, or whether they have a positive element concerning what we wish or intend to happen. If we go to page 104 of CCCI where FM seems to deal with this, we might not emerge all that much wiser. 🙂 In the first paragraph FM compares his process of giving directions to the process we are using subconsciously all the time of deciding we want to perform an action and our musculature simply responds. The difference, he says, is simply that now the pupil is asked “consciously to give himself orders”.
The next paragraph on page 104 uses the word “order” in the context of the teacher asking the pupil to sit down, to which the pupil responds by saying “No, and gives himself the order not to sit down…” So here an order can be either positive (“sit down”) or inhibitory (“No”).
Paragraph 3 tells us that having inhibited “the old faulty activity” as described above, “the pupil will then proceed to give his attention to the different guiding or directing orders which the teacher considers essential to the correct direction and control of those psycho-mechanics (the correct “means-whereby”) concerned with the satisfactory use of the organism as a whole in the act of sitting down. These are the orders to be ultimately carried out by the pupil.” (Italics are FM’s.) Try following that by reading the final paragraph of page 104: “It follows, then, that the orders which are to be given, but not to be carried out, are those which, if carried out, would result in the habitual faulty use of the mechanisms. They can therefore be referred to as “preventive orders” ” Tell me if your head isn’t hurting by now? What are these “preventive orders” which are not to be carried out because if they were they would result in “habitual faulty use of the mechanisms.”? Surely they can’t be the orders we are so familiar with to the neck, head, and back? Or can they? As I say, your head may be hurting by now! 🙂
There are other places in FM’s books where he refers to orders as “primary” and “secondary”. Walter Carrington told me and his class when going through these books that “primary orders” are the basic neck, head, back directions, and secondary orders are the actual movements required for the activity you are about to perform, e.g. letting the knees go forward to sit or move to semi-flexion (monkey), or raising an arm to put a hand on the back of a chair. That sounds reasonable, but sometimes it also seems possible the term secondary directions may be referring to what we might call “subsidiary” or “supplementary” directions, perhaps shoulders to widen, heels to drop, elbows to release back and down etc. which many find aid the basic directions.
We have to remember that CCCI was published in 1923, so was perhaps being written around 1920-23, and FM went on teaching another 32-35 years and published two more books. His own understanding and ways of teaching must have been further evolving during those years so a sentence from 1923 can’t be set in stone. Walter Carrington emphasised the need for all prospective AT teachers to read the books, but that each book was based on knowledge available at the time of writing of that book, and that reading could best be supplemented by also “having the books read to you by someone who has got some of the necessary experience”. (Remembering Walter Carrington page 169.)
I was fortunate to be around the AT world, having lessons, then training, and then teaching, from the beginning of the 1970s in London, when it was possible to have contact with a number of first generation teachers who worked closely with FM, and of course especially fortunate to assist one of them every day for many years on a teacher training course. So in the next post I will try to bring the understanding I gained from those first generation teachers into a discussion of guiding orders or directions and their inhibitory or positive aspects.
*All references are to the Mouritz edition.