freedom for life

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

‘Imagine you’re clever’ might be an insult to some, but for others it might be the instruction that liberates them into a whole new world of learning. As an instruction it has a lot to teach us about learning and the power of expectations, others and our own.

It was used in a lovely bit of research by Robert Hardy to investigate how young people’s attitudes to learning affected their performance. He invited them to carry out some tasks by acting ‘as if they were clever’. Young people with poor and error prone learning styles, became efficient and fluent learners when acting ‘as if’. One girl was so discomforted by the gap between how she normally experienced herself and her new performance, that she claimed not to have done the experiment - that someone else must have done it!

Two inter-linked truths about learning are apparent here. The first is that expectations are important, the second that self-consistency is important, the experience of difference for some, is something to be disavowed. Others though welcome it and are able to make sense of it, and use it to launch themselves into whole new worlds of discovery.

This importance of self-consistency and our need to be predictable to ourselves is sometimes poorly understood. Not just by ourselves but also by other people including teachers and therapists, who are there to help us learn. Without it, we or others, at our extremes, can seem unpredictable, chaotic and even terrifyingly mad, yet deep down there is always a logic, which makes sense in the light of day, in the context of past experience and choice.

Discovering that logic, which is primarily is an emotional and narrative logic, is a task we all have to face. The ease and fluency with which we accomplish this, is primarily determined by the type of self-consistency we seek. If we seek consistency as fixed characters, then eventually no matter how talented, being wrong, as I will elaborate further next time, becomes something to avoid. If we seek consistency as beings capable of learning, of developing and growing, then through time, patience and hard work, we can change and master our chosen skills. If we act ‘as if’ we can learn, we will; if we act ‘as if’ we were clever while we do so, then the learning will be easier and more fluent.

There is no blog next week, as I am in London for a board meeting. The following week, I will turn to the importance of ‘mindsets’ and start to look at some of their implications for learning the Alexander Technique and therapy.

Published in Lessons from the Chair