Dr Dorothy S. R. (neé Drew) Morrison (1908-88) was a British surgeon and gynaecologist, teacher of the Technique and practitioner of alternative medicine.
Morrison gained her MD in 1934 and was later awarded a Gold Medal in Gynaecology. In 1935 she married Leonard David Morrison, an architect. She was a friend of Anthony Mario Ludovici, who had known Dorothy’s father, Guy Drew since 1900. In the late 1930s and early 1940s she lived in Upper Norwood where also Ludovici lived. It was Ludovici who recommended Morrison to see Alexander. Morrison had met Alexander at a dinner party in 1925, but did not see him again until she started having lessons in 1943. At this point she was suffering from sinusitis, appendix trouble, irregular heart rhythm, fatigue from overwork and from injuries sustained in a severe car accident in 1932. The Technique was successful in curing or relieving many of these, a fact to which she testified in the South African Libel Case in 1948; on that occasion she also provided fifteen impressive case studies of the beneficial effects of the Technique out of the 150 cases which she had collected. She was a keen supporter of the Technique, sent her children to Alexander for lessons, and there are references to meeting Alexander, at Penhill as well as in London, and several of his teachers and pupils in her letters. She also attended a meeting on restarting the training course after the interruption WWII:
I went to a conference on Friday afternoon at Ashley Place. It was about starting Alexander’s school and training course again. Lady Cripps was there, apparently Sir Stafford is keen that it shouldn’t wait will after the end of the European war.
She trained trained with Alexander 1946–48 or –49. Her approach to illness, however, was from then on informed by her knowledge of the Technique, acupuncture and massage. She moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1956 where she taught her own version of the Technique, continued her private medical practice as well as lecturing on acupuncture. She also had contact with Elisabeth and Dick Walker who lived in South Africa at that time.
Lessons with F. M. Alexander
In November 1943 Dorothy started a course of lessons with Alexander at Ashley Place, and she wrote to her husband David who was at that time stationed in India:
. . . immediately something happened. . . I think it was at the interview that Mr Alexander gave me that he did something to my neck. I could not have told you then what it was, but, for one second, I got complete freedom from my mental confusion, and the symptoms that had been worrying me. It was just very fleeting, but it was there, and I knew, as soon as that happened that he could undo the thing that was upsetting me at the time.
But she was not able to keep the work going:
. . . in lessons I became very much better, but I was so pleased at this, that the moment I went out of 16 Ashley Place, I tried to hold what had been given me at the time, with the result that, of course, I interfered with it again immediately. In between lessons I was in the most acute physical pain. I had never been in pain before, but I ached everywhere, and instead of my mental confusion, I had acute physical pain the whole time.
She started to become aware of her own interference:
It gradually occurred to me that I should leave alone what Mr Alexander had done for me, which is an extremely difficult thing to do, because, at first, one has absolutely no idea what one is doing, and to leave alone something of which one is unconscious is an impossibility, I think, for a start, to anyone in my condition. The trouble was being caused by a tension which was, in fact, shortening – to use Hitler’s phrase – the Lebensraum – of my nervous system. I had shortened myself several inches by tightening my neck and jamming together my skull and central nervous system, my skull and spinal column.
She realised that before having lessons she had no awareness of what she was doing to herself:
I had no idea at all, I knew I was a horrible shape, but it did not occur to me that that was anything to do with my symptoms. . . it was a tension to which I had become accustomed, and I no longer recognised it as tension . . . [the lengthening] brought tremendous relief.
She realised how her misuse affected her breathing:
. . . the jamming together of the thoracic spine must naturally affect one’s respiratory apparatus, and the freedom of the ribs must depend upon an adequate lengthening of the thoracic spine. One of my great difficulties was that I was unable to get any air.
She describes the effect of the lessons on her health:
I am now unaware of having to make an effort every time I breathe. My heart, which was previously irregular, is a thing of which I am also, now, happily unaware. I do not get tired like I did before. I was always exhausted before. I sleep well. I believe my brain is working better, and patches of numbness which I had before I went to Mr Alexander, have cleared up. There is probably a lot more than that. Those are some of the main things.
Her son comments on these letters:
She looked well, though carefully admitting that she did not always feel in excellent health. Did she, speaking as a person with a great deal of medical experience, ascribe that change to Alexander’s teaching? The answer was: ‘Entirely to Mr Alexander’s lessons.’
‘The work of F. M. Alexander and the Medical White Paper’ by Dr Dorothy S. R. Drew.
‘A letter to the author’ by Dorothy S. Radcliffe Drew, a preface to Ludovici’s The Truth About Childbirth, contains her personal experience of giving childbirth.
Her private letters are with her son, John Morrison.
Dorothy Stella Radcliffe Morrison (née Drew) *21 July 1908 –†25 February 1988.