Re-educating feeling via thinking
Short extract from a work in progress about Alexander teacher training to be published eventually by Mouritz.
When talking to Walter Carrington about training people to use their hands as Alexander teachers, he emphasised to me that you are learning to undo yourself with conscious direction to open everything up in yourself, so that when you have your hands on a student you become more and more able to feel what’s happening in that student. It’s on the basis of what you can feel that your hands then respond in perhaps more active ways in order to help the student – as Walter put it to me “it’s not so much that I’m doing something to the student, but I feel what the student is doing to themselves and I use my hands to help them stop doing those negative, pulling down things to themselves.” However, Dilys Carrington in reference to the way she structured her first year hands-on groups described those groups as “an education in thinking”. Is there a contradiction here between thinking and feeling?
No, I do not believe there is. I believe the reconciliation of these two seemingly different views, is that you are refining and sensitising your kinaesthesia, that is what you feel happening in yourself, your own sense of your muscular patterns in which I would include your breathing patterns, and refining also what we’ll call your tactile sense, which is your ability through your hands on a student to feel what’s happening in that student. You are refining and sensitising these kinaesthetic and tactile senses by means of conscious directed thinking.
Hence as Dilys said, you are learning to think in a clear specific way that helps to organise everything better throughout your own neuromuscular system, in such a way that that you will be better able to not only organise and coordinate yourself but also be more aware of when you are not well organised, well coordinated in yourself, and you will also therefore be more able to feel what’s happening in your student. We want no misdirection of muscular energy, and we want the kinaesthetic and tactile senses re-educated by means of that form of conscious, organised thinking we call directing.
Actually, to complete the picture we need to add the influence of a teacher’s hands and the use of what FM called “positions of mechanical advantage”. When you have lessons the teacher is verbally instructing you in how to, as we say, think directions to yourself, neck, head, back etc., while the teacher’s hands both help to stimulate the neuromuscular changes in you that the directions are intended to encourage, and enable the teacher to feel if your thought directions are working appropriately and guide you if they are not. The teacher may also show you how to use physical positions such as semisupine and semiflexion which in themselves can be a great aid to reinforcing the effectiveness of your directing, hence they are “mechanically advantageous” in FM’s sense of that phrase. In the same way, during the hands-on groups in a teacher training class the supervising teacher is guiding you both verbally and with their hands to a higher level of effective directing, so that you will develop that greater kinaesthetic and tactile awareness necessary for maintaining your own use while helping your students improve their use. But it’s important to appreciate that your feeling sense, what FM sometimes called your sensory appreciation or sensory register, is being re-educated by the training in thinking that the supervising teachers are imparting. You are not “feeling” your way to better sensory appreciation, you are “thinking” your way to better sensory appreciation.