COMPANION

Construct

A construct here refers to the image we construct of ourselves, our sense of self; and includes both mental and physical constructs. It includes similar terms such as self-image, postural model, body memory, body image, body-concept, body percept, body schema, and body map.

F. M. Alexander

Terms such as ‘construct’, ‘postural model’, ‘body image’ were not used by Alexander (these terms probably did not exist at the time of Alexander developing his technique). He referred to ‘sensory appreciation’, ‘concepts’ and ‘beliefs’ as determinants of use.

Wilfred Barlow

In his early writings Wilfred Barlow used terms such as ‘postural model’ and ‘body schema’. The following are quotes from Wilfred Barlow’s articles between 1956 and 1961.

There is much evidence to indicate that the methods of postural education and re-education employed in the past have not proved successful, and this in my view has been due to an oversimplification of the problem. The cause of the problem of postural control is the subject’s postural awareness, and, at a different level, the postural model or body schema which the subject uses as a standard against which to detect his postural errors.[1]

This experiment makes it clear that postural re-education will be ineffective unless a new ‘body schema’ is taught, by associating the postural model with an improved postural awareness.[2]

A human being is not a patella hammer, passively reacting on a stimulus-response basis within the limits of its elasticity, but is constantly concerned with the organisation of preferred perception, whether it be the perception of a preferred body-schema or of a preferred set of external circumstances.[3]

The crux of the problem is the subject’s postural awareness and, at a different level, the postural model or body-schema which the subject uses as a standard against which to detect his postural errors.[4]

Later Barlow preferred the term ‘body construct’. In his The Alexander Principle he refers to several terms in use: ‘postural model’, ‘body-memory’, ‘body schema’ (first proposed by Henry Head, 1911), ‘body image’ (first proposed by Paul Schilder, 1935), ‘body-concept’ and ‘body percept’. Barlow argues for using ‘body construct’ (proposed by D. Banniseter and J. M. M. Mair, 1968) as a more all-inclusive term.[5]

(Incidentally, scientists and psychologists have more recently pursued these ideas further, see for example How the Body Shapes the Mind by Shaun Gallagher.[6])

Body map

The concept of a ‘body map’ is an example of a construct of our self. William and Barbara Conable originated and developed the idea that we have all have ‘body map’ of ourselves, an internal representation of our size, our shape, where our joints and bones are, and that this map may override the kinaesthetic sense of ourselves. William and Barbara Conable suggest that we move according to this ‘body map’ we have of ourselves. It has become a stand-alone method, independent of the Alexander Technique.

Body Mapping is the conscious correcting and refining of one’s body map to produce efficient, graceful, and coordinated movement. The body map is one’s self-representation in one’s own brain, one’s assumptions or conception of what one’s body is like, in whole or part.[7]

See also Sensory appreciation, Conception, Offshoots of the Alexander Technique.

References

[1] ‘Postural Deformity’ by Wilfred Barlow. Article in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 49, no. 9, 1956, pp. 670–674, from a Symposium at the Royal Society 14 March 1956. Also in Postural Homeostasis by Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2014), pp. 166-67.
[2] ‘Postural Deformity’ by Wilfred Barlow. Article in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 49, no. 9, 1956, pp. 670–674, from a Symposium at the Royal Society 14 March 1956. Also in Postural Homeostasis by Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2014), p. 169.
[3] ‘Anxiety and Muscle-Tension Pain’ by Wilfred Barlow. Article in The British Journal of Clinical Practice, May 1959, vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 339–50. Also in Postural Homeostasis by Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2014), p. 182.
[4] ‘Posture and Rest’ by Wilfred Barlow. Article in Health Education Journal, December 1961, vol. 19, pp. 174-90. Also in Postural Homeostasis by Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2014), p. 203.
[5] The Alexander Principle by Wilfred Barlow (Gollancz, 1973), pp. 177–79.
[6] How the Body Shapes the Mind by Shaun Gallagher (Oxford University Press, 2006).
[7] ‘How Body Mapping and the Alexander Technique will improve your playing’ by David Nesmith in the International Musician no. 169 (June 2001).