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The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Acting ‘As if…..’ The Importance of Mindsets and Learning How To Learn (Part 2)

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What does it mean for you to be wrong? When you are wrong, as we all are at times, are you able to recognise it and then set out to tackle the problem or do you give up and hope it will go away. The answer to these questions will give a good indication as to how you learn and how successful you are at it. 


These two approaches involve different mindsets according to Carol Deweck who researched them and recently published her results in an easy and accessible book Mindset. Her research backs up what both Alexander and Kelly demonstrated and advocated, namely that solving your problems, by viewing them as a learning opportunity, is the way to grow and succeed this is the growth mindset. Its contrast is the fixed mindset which views ability as fixed, limited and finds set backs difficult to bear. 


You can have both mindsets and use them in different areas of your lives, growing in one, limiting yourself in others. In either case, both mindsets have been learned and can be learned allowing you to change from one to the other, although hopefully no one would choose to limit themselves by consciously adopting the fixed mindset. 


Which mindset we learn at the beginning, is often determined by how others handle our success or failure. Too often children are fixed by parents or teachers as being of fixed ability, with a certain kind of character, which at its very worst persuades children into construing their natural curiosity and spontaneity in learning as bad. Very often in families this can be done to protect the parents from being exposed as the emperor who lacks any clothes. A conspiracy of silence is then imposed, the breaking of which can threaten and bring a scapegoating. The terror of this perpetuates silence, narrowing lives into further sadness and anxiety. Where this happens therapy is one place people can go to tell their story, to find that the world can be different and receive them; and accept them for who they are and who they can be.


In this, learning to be present to their sense of sadness, the sense of anxiety and to transform it into a readiness for action that is calm and focussed can be invaluable. This requires self-understanding and self-acceptance and an end to self-hatred. Inhibition as taught by Alexander in its deepest psycho-physical meaning can be of use here allowing the suspension of hatred, the fear and the threat of being wrong in favour of a curiosity in what is there now or what we might like to project into the future, as a life to be lived. For this, the growth mindset is invaluable as is the presence of another. 


PeggyThe presence of another in learning and development is hugely beneficial and here I would just like to say  a few words about Peggy Dalton whose death last week is one of the reasons this blog was delayed. Peggy supervised me for six years, including my training. She was a remarkably gifted and talented therapist but what, more than anything, marked her out was her presence and engagement to others despite her severe chronic pain. This presence gave me and others great support and encouragement in developing our work and she will remain a great inspiration to the constructivist ideal that anything can be reconstrued, including chronic pain, as this touching blog by my friend and colleague Mary Frances makes clear. Peggys life was proof that even in the greatest of difficulties, meaning can be found and lives can be lived. She will be missed and remembered by all of us that knew her. 


Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.

The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.

I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.