COMPANION

Concepts

Direction, Inhibition, Consent

In Alexander’s writings antagonistic action may refer to the stretch obtained when two parts are releasing away from each other; however the term appears too infrequent to deduct any useful definition. In anatomical terms the antagonist is the muscle which, if activated, would oppose the work of the agonist. In most situations the antagonist would reflexly be inhibited and be passively stretched when the agonist is being activated. For example, if the biceps muscle (agonist) is being contracted, the triceps (antagonist) would relax so as not to interfere with the workings of the...
‘Antagonistic pulls’ in Alexander’s writings probably refer to a toning up of the musculature under conditions of stretch (and therefore may be identical to what is known in physiology as eccentric contraction). Antagonistic pulls may also be synonymous with ‘antagonistic action’ which Alexander calls ‘the great principle’ in his technique.[1] Before UoS, ‘pull’ is used by Alexander in either the positive or the negative sense. The ‘right pull’ refers to a stretch, an appropriate toning of the muscles involved, i.e. a non...
The importance of attitude for learning the Alexander Technique is emphasised by Alexander throughout his writings. Several of his early articles emphasise the need for a ‘correct mental attitude’ for learning the Technique, although he never states exactly what it is. From his writings it can however be inferred that it involves an understanding of the principles of prevention and non-doing, an acceptance of present conditions, of the new means-whereby, of new ideas, and of the processes associated with change (e.g. feeling ‘wrong’). The importance of a correct...
F. M. Alexander would use the terms ‘conception’, ‘mental conception’, ‘preconception’ and ‘misconception’ in his writings. He first refers to ‘conception’ in 1908,[1] and the term appears in all of his books. In summary it may be said that since our conception of an activity governs how an activity is performed, discovering, addressing, and if needed, correcting a conception associated with an activity is fundamental to learning to improving the use of the self. The importance of addressing a pupil’s preconceived ideas...
‘Conditioning’ here refers to the process by which a subject comes to associate a desired behavior with a previously unrelated stimulus, also known as ‘classical’ or ‘Pavlov’ conditioning. The word ‘condition’ in the sense of causing to be in a certain condition, shape or influence is used throughout F. M. Alexander’s books but Pavlov’s ‘conditioning’ is only referred to in UoS. John Dewey, in his introduction to UoS in 1932, writes: The school of Pavlov has made current the idea of the conditioned reflex. Mr...
Conscious guidance and control may be described as the aim of the Alexander Technique. It is necessary for man’s adaptation to the rapid changing circumstances of modern life. The Technique involves the process of substituting conscious control for unconscious, habitual control of human reaction, and eventually building up a conscious direction of our use of our self. Definition and importance The term features in some of the titles to Alexander’s books: Conscious Control (1912), Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923), and the subtitle to the 1918 MSI is...
‘Giving consent’ is used to indicate a conscious decision to respond, e.g. to a stimulus, to carrying out an activity. Similarly, not giving consent is used to indicate a decision not to do something, e.g. to withhold consent to a request or a wish. Consent is therefore synonymous or closely allied to the concept of volition, of deciding to respond or not respond; not responding is the same as inhibition. Alexander is clear in his writings that since not giving consent is a conscious decision (like inhibition), it is not, and cannot be, suppression. It is part of Alexander...
The term coordination was used frequently by F. M. Alexander up to and including CCC, and infrequently thereafter. History ‘Coordination’ first appears in ‘Introduction to a New Method of Respiratory Vocal Re-Education’ (1906), concerning vocalization. In 1908 Alexander leaves the specialized area of breathing and vocal re-education to a description of the coordinated use of the whole muscular system. Description and meaning His description of what he means by coordination is given in a number of places, e.g. in ‘The Dangers of Deep Breathing’ (...
The ‘critical moment’ refers to the moment when proceeding to perform a movement whilst consciously continuing to give the new directions, i.e. when gaining a familiar end by new means-whereby. It is an almost universal difficulty to keep the directions for the new use going when engaging in a familiar activity, and Alexander solved the problem by subjecting the activity to be engaged in to a fresh decision: According to this procedure the subject starts by consciously projecting the directions for the means whereby he will gain a certain end, and, at the critical moment of...
F. M. Alexander did not define the Alexander Technique, partly because he did not use the name ‘the Alexander Technique’ himself, but in later years only referred to it as the ‘work’. F. M. Alexander Although F. M. Alexander did not define his work there are indications of how he viewed it. For example, the aim of the Technique appears to be to reach ‘a plane of constructive, conscious control’,[1] and he is making clear the differentiation between the aim and the method: ‘In this connection I wish it to be understood that throughout this book I...
Direction has two meanings: 1) the psycho-physical act of directing (the process referred to above), and 2) the instructions (preventive guiding orders such as ‘neck free, head forward and up’, etc.) – verbal or not – used for the process of directing. This could also be stated as: direction (noun): the orders or instructions given for the use of the self. directing (verb): the act or process of giving directions. Definition Directing is defined by Alexander as follows: When I employ the words ‘direction’ and ‘directed’ with...
Doing A first step in learning the Technique often consists of ceasing to ‘do’, i.e. refraining from performing an activity in the familiar, habitual manner. For F. M. Alexander this was the first step in evolving the Technique; he identified the loss of his voice as something he was ‘doing’. ‘Is it not fair, then,’ I asked him [his doctor], ‘to conclude that it was something I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble.’[1] During the process of evolving the Technique he found out that he could not...
Endgaining: gaining one’s end, aim or objective, unconsciously, without consideration of the means-whereby. It is a ‘direct approch’ as opposed to an indirect approach to solving a problem or change behaviour. Endgaining is frequently used in opposition to the process of attending to the means-whereby. Alexander also refers to ‘end’, and endgaining also appears as two words, e.g.: The ‘end-gaining’ principle involves a direct procedure on the part of the person endeavouring to gain the desired ‘end’.[1] Endgaining first...
Energy is the ability or capacity to produce an effect. It also denotes the power or resources needed to make a change. Apart from ordinary usage (especially in MSI) Alexander applies the term to the use of the self. It would appear that with energy, as with attention or directions, the question is not one of ‘creating’ more, but of developing a more efficient use of what is available.[1] It is in UoS that Alexander makes most frequent use of the term ‘energy’ as applied to the self, e.g. in chapter 1, the ‘conduction of energy’ is what makes the...
Ideomotor first occurs in Alexander’s ‘Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems’ (1908) and five times in MSI. It has not been used since. ‘Ideomotor’ is a 19th century psychological term first used (in English) by Carpenter in his influential Principles of Human Physiology (in print 1842–1881) to distinguish between movements resulting from an idea and from an emotion.[1] The concept was developed over the years and its meaning changed to indicate a volitional action where movement followed from some sort of concept (idea) of the movement. That is...
Inhibition, the process of consciously not reacting, of withholding action, to a stimulus or stimuli, is one of the most fundamental concepts of the Alexander Technique. Frank P. Jones wrote: F. M. said on many occasions that his technique rested on inhibition as its base. A pupil who understands the principle of inhibition can learn the Technique in a relatively short time, he said. Without it he will be learning something quite different.[1] Among the many descriptions and related terms in the Alexander Technique literature are: stopping, pausing, saying ‘no’, refusing...
Kinæsthesia (also kinæsthesis): of Greek ‘to move’ and ‘sensation.’ Coined in 1880 by Henry Charlton Bastian as an alternative to ‘muscle sense’, it means ‘the sense of muscular effort that accompanies a voluntary motion of the body,’ (OED). It should not be confused with proprioception which includes all information relating to position, posture, equilibrium etc. Whereas kinæsthesia is thus limited to sensory information from muscles, proprioception also includes information from – for example – tendons and the...
Means-whereby: the reasoned means adopted by which an end (aim, objective) is obtained indirectly. Adopting the means-whereby approach involves projecting the new directions necessary for maintaining the optimal use of the self in activity. Attending to the means-whereby is also termed an indirect process and a process of prevention. Means-whereby is frequently used and defined as the opposite of end-gaining. Alexander defines means-whereby in UoS: 1. The phrase ‘means-whereby’ will be used throughout this book to indicate the reasoned means to the gaining of an end...
The position, or attitude, of mechanical advantage is the one which makes for greatest efficiency, i.e. maximum effect (output) for minimum expenditure. The term may have its origins in physics where mechanical advantage denotes the force-amplifying effectiveness of a simple machine, such as a lever, an inclined plane, a wedge, a pulley system. There are numerous references to mechanical advantage in Alexander’s writings, most of them in MSI. It first appears in Alexander’s writings in 1907 and last in CCC. Meaning Alexander explains in MSI that adopting the position of...
Misuse – that which is not good use – consists of those actions which are detrimental to the individual’s health and wellbeing. Like use, misuse are those activities which the individual has, or potentially has, choice over. The origin and causes of misuse are complex as it deals with fundamental human behaviour such as the development of habits (good and bad), and the mental and physical processes involved in adapting behaviour according to changing circumstances (or rather the lack of adapting existing habits to new circumstances). General explanations General...

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