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

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Pause

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The word stop has acquired two main meaning in the Alexander world, which sometimes get run together, creating confusion and unnecessary difficulties for pupils. The first meaning of stop is simply to pause, to give oneself time to think about a situation and how you want to respond. Within that pause, one then goes on to the second sense of stop which is to stop or inhibit those habits that are considered unhelpful in terms of functioning before going on to give those guiding orders or directions that are deemed helpful. 


When learning the Alexander Technique, many extraneous features of the situation are put to one side to help develop the necessary awareness of the use of the eyes and the relationship of the head, neck and back which for Alexander formed the primary control by which we can coordinate ourselves to meet and respond to any situation. This is the basis of constructive conscious control and as we practice that we become able to not only create time for ourselves but to put aside responses that are based on feared outcomes to allow ourselves to think creatively in terms of our deepest values.


In other words Alexander Technique effects how we think, what we think and in the end the outcomes we achieve by helping us change our behaviour. I was reminded of this when someone sent me a link to five simple steps for leadership published this month by McKinsey the global management consulting company. The need to pause to prevent oneself getting caught in destructive patterns and connect with deepest values is in there at No2, for changing leadership behaviour by learning to stop what does not work by trying to avoid threat and replacing it with an openness and integrity to learning what will take the organisation forward. 


The link to thinking in Alexander’s work is sometimes missed, yet it is there at the deepest level in his work, as I tried to show with my last blog. It is about being there in any situation, present to the possibilities that are there whether at work or in our deepest encounters with ourselves and others. There is the very simple structure there for all to use and many people talk about it. It is present in spiritual traditions, in sport, the arts, music and leadership. Talking about it is  one thing, practicing it another, and for that you need to learn it, usually from somebody else. Although you can do it for yourself as Alexander did, but then you will have to take the time to discover all the pitfalls he found, if you are to have a chance of succeeding. It is much quicker and much easier to learn from somebody else, particularly an Alexander Technique teacher who cannot only give you the experience but coach you through it, so that you can use it to find solutions for you, your loved ones and in your work that are right for you and integrated with your deepest values, as you experience more fully higher levels of functioning. 

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.