COMPANION

Psychotherapies

F. M. Alexander on Freudian psycho-analysis

In CCC, in the section ‘Need for Substituting in all Spheres the Principle of Prevention on a General Basis for Methods of “Cure” on a Specific Basis’, Alexander criticises psycho-analysis:

Another form of treatment to which I should like to draw attention in this connection is psycho-analysis. This method has enjoyed a certain publicity in recent years, but in spite of the ‘cures’ which are claimed for it, I am prepared to demonstrate that it is based on the same specific ‘end-gaining’ principle as the less modern methods which it is claimed by some to supersede.[1]

Alexander had not himself experienced psycho-analysis, and presumably, given the time this was written (before 1924), this criticism was limited to Freudian psycho-analysis.

John Naylor examined Alexander’s objections in his 1989 article, ‘The Alexander Technique and psychotherapy’, and answers several of them from the viewpoint of modern psychotherapy.[2]

John Dewey also provides a criticism of psycho-analysis from an Alexander Technique viewpoint in a letter, a reply to a reviewer of MSI in 1918:

Another way to get at it is to realize that instead of being an inverted psycho-analysis, his method is a completed psycho-analysis, completed by having its organic basis placed under a merely floating parallelistic ‘psychic’ and by being carried from the negative into the positive. All of the ‘psychic’ complexes have their basis in organic dis-co-ordinations and tensions, with compensatory flabbinesses, and his technique is a technique for resolving and unravelling these, reducing the present technique of the psycho-analyst to an incidental accompaniment, and cutting out the elaborate ritualistic mummery with which the present psycho-analysts have been obliged to surround their method. In addition, Mr Alexander’s technique unravels the kinks and complexes by a process of positive replacement in which sound co-ordinations are built up with their corresponding alterations in habitual sensory and emotional data, while at the best the psycho-analysts merely untie a knot and leave the organic causes which produced it untouched. I dwell on this point because before I had lessons myself, although I had talked with him, read his earlier book, and members of my family had had many lessons, I argued against what seemed to me prejudice on his part against psycho-analysis, on the ground that in principle his method was similar. Only after I had had experimental demonstration did I see how completely right he was in saying that their method was negative, and left the patient subject to the same thing in some other form; in fact, their own doctrine of transfer is an unconscious admission of the fact; no ‘transfer’ is possible with Mr Alexander’s method.[3]

Marjory Barlow wrote in 1964, in ‘Alexander’s view of psycho-analysis’, that although psychotherapy has moved on since Alexander, the criticism of the division between body and mind is still valid.[4]

Walter Carrington was also critical of the body-mind separation premise in many types of psychotherapy:

. . . you [the Alexander teacher] are not going to deal with people’s problems by utilising procedures that fail to take into account the working of the organism as a whole. Undoubtedly, you will find people who will claim that psychoanalysis or whatever relieves their depression, but it has to be recognised that ‘cure’ can be obtained by transfer. So often a condition can be helped or relieved at the expense of something else.[5]

Criticism of F. M. Alexander’s criticism of psychotherapy

  • ‘The Alexander Technique and psychotherapy’ by John Naylor examines Alexander’s objections, and answers several of them from the viewpoint of modern psychotherapy.[6]

Freud

  • ‘Psychoanalysis and Religion’ is a 1942 article by a psychologist, Richard Want, who sees parallels between Alexander’s teaching and psychoanalysis, and then considers some Christian scriptures from a psychoanalytic point of view. [7]

Jung

  • ‘Jung and Alexander – The common ground’ by Nina Meyer argues that what Alexander describes as ‘endgaining’ is a manifestation of the Ego as described by Jung; that the ‘total pattern response’ is very close to Jung’s idea of an Archtype.[8]
  • ‘Jung and Alexander – Some interesting parallels’ by Robert M. Rickover argues that Carl Gustav Jung’s early essays, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, contains a number of ideas similar to those of Alexander.[9]
  • ‘Reflections on the psychological dimension of the Alexander Technique’ by Linda Murrow discusses dance therapy, release of physical and emotional tensions, and a comparison of Jung’s ‘complexes’ with Alexander’s ‘habit patterns’.[10]
  • ‘Balancing body and psyche’ by Duncan Woodcock discussing emotional and mental balance with reference to C. G. Jung.[11]

Wilhelm Reich, Donald Winnicott

  • ‘Teaching from the heart’ by Sue Pepper suggests with reference to literature (Reich, Winnicott) and case histories that our body structure contains much of the story of our psychological life.[12]

Donald Winnicott and R. D. Laing

  • ‘The false self’ by Mark Arnold uses two psychological case histories to illustrate the psychologies of R. D. Laing and D. W. Winicott.[13]

John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory

  • The article ‘Attachment theory and the Alexander Technique’ by Elizabeth A. Buonomo argues for the relevance of attachment theory in teaching of the Alexander Technique, and points to some corollaries between AT concepts and attachment theory.[14] [15]
  • ‘Psychotherapy and the Alexander Technique’ by Naomi Shragai; on how psychotherapy and the Alexander Technique can inform each other with reference to attachment theory.[16]

Melanie Klein’s Projective identification

  • ‘Projective identification – An Alexander perspective’ by Gill Wilkinson; on projective identification; a process whereby ‘specific impulses, wishes, aspects of the self . . . are imagined to be located in some object (person) external to oneself’.[17]

George Kelly’s Personal Construct Psychology

  • ‘Choosing to change’ by Stacy E. Gehman contains a brief overview of Personal Construct Psychology followed by the author’s way of using Kelly’s framework to look at the process of learning the Alexander Technique.[18]
  • ‘Our own Newton’ by David M. Mills; on using the Technique and Personal Construct Theory (George Kelly) which can form a powerful method of self-investigation; contains an introduction to Kellys’ theory of personal constructs.[19]
  • ‘The interpersonal and the act of living’ by Richard Casebow, examines the Technique from the point of George Kelly’s Personal Construct Psychology, in which there has to be an ability to construe the construction process of another person in order to play a role in a social process. This ability is closely related to the development of the self which starts with the relationship between mother and baby.[20]

Stanley Keleman’s Formative Psychology

  • ‘A brief look at the relationship between the Alexander Technique and Stanley Keleman’s Formative Psychology’ by Ruth Diamond; on the similarities between Keleman’s ideas about somatic therapy and ‘Alexander’s ideas about somatic re-education’.[21]

Carl R. Rogers

  • ‘A way of teaching’ by Robert M. Rickover; on Rogers’ A Way of Being, as a help for teaching.[22]

Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy

  • ‘Alexander and psychotherapy’ by Louise Hérard relates her own story of how psychotherapy helped her, in particular Primal Therapy, and the Continuum Concept.[23]

Heimler Method

  • ‘The need for communication in the Alexander Technique: Similarities and differences between the Alexander Technique and the Heimler method’ by Miriam Bracha Heimler; the Heimler method is a form of psychotherapy that uses a client’s own language and thought constructs to aid them in finding their own solutions.[24]

Systemic Psychotherapy

  • ‘A meeting of worlds: The Alexander Technique and systemic psychotherapy’ by Max Rutherford reports on a workshop by Judith Kleinman and Barry Mason.[25]

Re-evaluation Counselling

  • ‘The Alexander Technique and Re-evaluation Counselling: Parallel tools for self realization’ by Elizabeth Huebner; on Re-evaluation Counselling as well as incorporating the emotional component of the use of the self.[26]

Robert Thayer

  • ‘Robert Thayer's work on mood and arousal in the context of the Alexander Technique’ by Richard Casebow; on how the work of Robert E. Thayer (1935–2014) can help understand some of the effects taking place in the Alexander Technique. Thayer examined the biopsychology of mood, including a range of factors such as energy, tension, and arousal.[27]

Process-Oriented Psychology (Dreambody Process Work)

  • ‘Dreambody: Process-oriented psychology and the Alexander Technique’ by Aileen Crow; on the many psychological issues which may arise in Alexander Technique lessons.[28]

See also Emotions, Psychology.

References

[1] Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 60.
[2] ‘The Alexander Technique and Psychotherapy’ by John Naylor in Adam Nott (editor), The Alexander Journal No. 9, 1988, p. 25.
[3] ‘Another Letter From the Pen of Professor John Dewey, 22 May, 1918’ in Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. xxx.
[4] ‘Alexander’s view of psycho-analysis’ by Marjory Barlow in The Alexander Journal no. 3 edited by Edward H. Owen (STAT, 1964), pp. 2-4. Also in More Talk of Alexander edited by Dr Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2005 [1978]), pp. 137-40.
[5] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2001 [1986]), p. 94.
[6] ‘The Alexander Technique and Psychotherapy’ by John Naylor in Adam Nott (editor), The Alexander Journal No. 9, 1988, p. 25.
[7] ‘Psychoanalysis and religion’ by Richard Want in The Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, vol. 17, 1939, pp. 241-250.
[8] ‘Jung and Alexander – The Common Ground’ by Nina Meyer, published in Owen, Edward H. (editor), The Alexander Journal No. 3, 1964, pp. 5-7.
[9] ‘Jung and Alexander – Some interesting parallels’ by Robert M. Rickover in The Alexander Review vol. 1, no. 1 (Centerline Press, 1986), pp. 9–12.
[10] ‘Reflections on the psychological dimension of the Alexander Technique’ by Linda Murrow in The Congress Papers 1994, The Meaning of Change, 125 Years On, edited by David Garlick (Direction, 1996), pp. 46-50.
[11] ‘Balancing body and psyche’ by Duncan Woodcock in The Congress Papers 1994, The Meaning of Change, 125 Years On, edited by David Garlick (Direction, 1996), pp. 58–62.
[12] ‘Teaching from the heart’ by Sue Pepper in Connected Perspectives edited by Claire Rennie, Tanya Shoop, Kamal Thapen (HITE, 2015), pp. 39-47.
[13] ‘The false self’ by Colin Egan in Direction vol. 1, no. 10 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1993), pp. 392-93.
[14] ‘Attachment theory and the Alexander Technique’ by Elizabeth A. Buonomo in AmSAT Journal Journal no. 7, Spring 2015, pp. 19–22.
[15] ‘Response to attachment theory and the Alexander Technique’ by Lesley Glover in AmSAT Journal Journal no. 7, Spring 2015, p. 22.
[16] ‘Psychotherapy and the Alexander Technique’ by Naomi Shragai in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 2 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 215–20.
[17] ‘Projective identification – An Alexander perspective’ by Gill Wilkinson in STATNews vol. 6, no. 16 edited by Ann James (STAT, June 2005), pp. 20–21.
[18] ‘Choosing to change’ by Stacy E. Gehman in The Alexander Review vol. 2, no. 1 (Centerline Press, 1987), pp. 9–17.
[19] ‘Our own Newton’ by David M. Mills in The Congress Papers 2004, Exploring the Principles edited by Anne Oppenheimer (STATBooks, 2005), pp. 264–73.
[20] ‘The interpersonal and the act of living’ by Richard Casebow in The Alexander Journal no. 24 edited by Paul Marsh and Jamie McDowell (STAT, 2014), pp. 35-47.
[21] ‘A brief look at the relationship between the Alexander Technique and Stanley Keleman’s Formative Psychology’ by Ruth Diamond in AmSAT News issue no. 65 (Fall 2004), pp. 13–15.
[22] ‘A way of teaching’ by Robert M. Rickover in The Alexander Review vol. 1, no. 2. (Centerline Press, 1986), pp. 35–36.
[23] ‘Alexander and psychotherapy’ by Louise Hérard in STATNews vol. 6, no. 6 edited by Ann James (STAT, January 2002), pp. 20–21.
[24] ‘The need for communication in the Alexander Technique: Similarities and differences between the Alexander Technique and the Heimler method’ by Miriam Bracha Heimler in The Congress Papers 1996, Back to Basics edited by Shmuel Nelken (Shmuel Nelken, 1999), pp. 150–55.
[25] ‘A meeting of worlds: The Alexander Technique and systemic psychotherapy’ by Max Rutherford in STATNews vol. 4, no. 6 edited by Malcolm Williamson (STAT, June 1993), p. 13.
[26] ‘The Alexander Technique and Re-evaluation Counselling: Parallel tools for self realization’ by Elizabeth Huebner in The Congress Papers 1991, A Spirit of Learning Together edited by Jeremy Chance (Direction, 1992), pp. 102–106.
[27] ‘Robert Thayer's work on mood and arousal in the context of the Alexander Technique’ by Richard Casebow in The Alexander Journal no. 17 edited by Francesca Greenoak (STAT, 2001), pp. 12–14.
[28] ‘Dreambody - Process-oriented psychology and the Alexander Technique’ by Aileen Crow in Direction vol. 1, no. 9 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1992), pp. 347–350.