‘Sensory appreciation’ is a fundamental concept in the Alexander Technique. Like other concepts it has its own special meaning; it is not exactly synonymous with kinaesthesia, perception or feeling.
F. M. Alexander’s definition
Sensory appreciation is ‘the associated activity, in action and reaction, of the processes concerned with conception and with the sensory and other mechanisms responsible for the ‘feeling’ which we experience.’
Origin and Development
‘Sensory appreciation’ appears to be Alexander’s own neologism. It first appears in ‘Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems’ (1908) where a subtitle is
A Presentation of Principles and Laws Exemplified in Mr F. Matthias Alexander’s Method of the Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems (Sensory appreciation of Muscular Movement) Concerned With the Development of Robust Physical Well-being.
Like other special terms in the Technique the meaning of ‘sensory appreciation’ has evolved. In MSI the term was predominantly synonymous with kinæsthesia, ‘feeling tones,’ or ‘sense of feeling.’ In UCL he also indicates that ‘the sense of feeling’ is synonymous with ‘sensory appreciation’. In CCC Alexander sometimes writes ‘sensory appreciation (‘feeling’),’ thereby indicating that the two are synonymous. ‘Feeling’ is a much broader term than kinæsthesia or perception, as it includes emotions, beliefs, opinions, judgements – processes of conceptions which are a consequence of, and yet inseparable from, the process of perceiving. At the same time Alexander implies a distinction between ‘sensory appreciation’ and ‘feeling.’ By his definition (quoted above) he states that sensory appreciation is, in effect, a process which precedes feeling: he writes that ‘feeling’ is an outcome of that associated activity which he refers to as sensory appreciation.
‘Sensory appreciation’ appears no fewer than 205 times in CCC. The book also has a section headed ‘Sensory Appreciation.’
In the UoS Alexander was inspired by the thought that ‘if it is possible for feeling to become untrustworthy as a means of direction, it should also be possible to make it trustworthy again.’ Later, he is quoted as having said: ‘When the time comes that you can trust your feeling, you won’t want to use it.’
Alexander used ‘sense register’ several times in CCC.
Lulie Westfeldt used the term ‘sensory registration’.
‘Sensory consciousness’ is a term used by John Dewey in the introduction to CCC.
‘Sensory awareness’ is used by Patrick Macdonald., e.g. ‘Recognition of faulty sensory awareness’.
In the Alexander literature
The term was taken up by some of Alexander’s supporters, such as John Dewey and Peter Macdonald, but most would use ‘feeling’ instead. For example, Peter Macdonald in a talk 1926 said that sensory appreciation is ‘the knowledge which he derives from his feelings of what he is doing’.
The Alexander literature rarely considers sensory appreciation in Alexander’s later, more inclusive meaning, but almost exclusively discusses ‘unreliable sensory appreciation’ (e.g. feeling ‘wrong’) in the context of learning the Technique. Another term used for this concept is ‘miscalibrated proprioception–coordination’.
Alexander’s usage and meaning of ‘sensory appreciation’ is examined in the editor’s ‘Note on the text’ to CCC.
‘Unreliable sensory appreciation’ has frequently been used as synonymous with ‘feelings being unreliable’. As ‘feeling’ is often used in the English language to refer to emotions or an emotional state, it has happened that people adopted an attitude of being dismissive of their emotions, classifying them as unreliable. Walter Carrington has discussed Alexander’s view on emotions in Explaining the Alexander Technique and in a paper for the 6th International Congress.
Writings – Articles
- ‘Unreliable sensory appreciation’ by Ken Thompson is a brief report of his workshop.
- ‘Faulty sensory perception’ by Don Mixon and Peter Burton reframes some principles of the Technique as eight hypotheses and considers questions as to whether people are born with good proprioceptive sensitivity and what is good kinaesthesis.
- ‘Making sense of our senses – Sensory re-education in the Alexander Technique’ by Jane Saunderson is a lecture on faulty sensory appreciation given to a BAPAM conference on the Alexander Technique and the Medical Profession.
For a selection of F. M. Alexander quotations on sensory appreciation, see the Mouritz Key Concepts Library.
See also Emotions.