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

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Donald Trump and Fairytales

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Donald Trump may not be out of his mind but he may be an idiot and in saying both things, I am actually saying the same thing: that he lacks a sense of community or fellowship, he lacks a connection with his Self. Now the word 'Self' takes on numerous different meanings in different thought systems, not least in Alexander’s work, Jung, and in the work of constructivist psychotherapist Jay Efran. He distinguishes between Self and Mind, as providing two important psychological contexts, where the Self is about openness to experience, connection to others and the world at large - community in other words - while the mind is centred on safety, survival and proving itself right at all costs. Jonathan Raskin, another constructivist, in a recent blog used this distinction to suggest that the problem with Donald Trump that enrages many people is not that he is out of his mind but actually in it all the time, and therefore lacking an openness and connection to others and the world. 


This, in the old Greek sense, helps makes him an idiot, a private self-centred person, lacking skill, who does not understand that, to be an individual, one is sustained by community, depends on community and needs to nurture it, rather than potentially destroy it. Something that Eric Anthamatten rather nicely explicated in the case of Donald Trump in the New York Times at the weekend.

 

What though has this to do with either Alexander Technique or therapy? Well, with both there is a need to get in touch with one’s Self, where the Self includes everything as Alexander thought, then you get something akin to what Jungian Marie-Louise Von Franz wrote in her book on Redemption 'Motifs in Fairytales:' If you take the human personality as a sphere, with the Self embracing the whole sphere and also being the self-regulating factor in the centre, any deviation will have compensations,’ or we might say negative implications in general functioning if we were to follow Alexander. And while a Jungian might work with dreams in order that the ego functions in harmony with the Self, Alexander would work with the habits that make up the personality, so that the Self functions in harmony with the personality.

 

What that means in Jungian or Alexander terms is that we need to be aware, conscious of the habits by which we disturb our balance and pull down into mind. We can then learn to stop relying on these habits and literally come up and be held in the context of our Self that allows the better parts of our nature to function, connecting us to others and to our environment. That way we can see our way forward both living our individual lives but within the networks of our sustaining communities and now more than ever our sustaining world, something that President Trump finds all too easy to cast aside. 

 

Casting aside that concern for the world and for others, living in a world of insults and revenge, with the demand for personal loyalty, reminds me of The Emperor’s New Clothes, and the importance of truth telling not just to others but most importantly to ourselves. And to quote Orwell here:

‘We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.’

 

It’s better not to end up on the battlefield and we can get there avoid it by listening to others and then to ourselves to find out where we are justifying or defending ourselves by habitually going into mind and staying there rather than coming up into connection with our Self and, through that, with community and others. 

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.