Thursday, February 28, 2013

W09.04 Alexander’s Process For Undoing Thoughts That Cause You To Suffer



Yesterday I wrote that undoing stressful thoughts can be integrated into your Service Product – a process which begins with your Self, but then you can also process with your students. To explore this with you, I reference Alexander’s story in undoing his habits, and relate that to my own experiences with this process…

How do I “undo” the thought “something is wrong with me”? I use the same tools Alexander used to figure out his problem: first recognize the cause of my pain; second gather information about it; third analyze that information; fourth experiment with giving up doing what I discovered I did; fifth develop from that a new set of thoughts that turn me around; sixth gain repeated experiences to build my confidence and ability to move in a new way.

1. Recognition: Can you isolate the thoughts that are causing you stress?
When Alexander started out, he had no idea what caused his loss of voice. Often that is true with emotional pain, particularly depression. You feel the effects, but are unable to recognise what you are thinking that results in these feelings. Your old thoughts have been subverted by compensatory behaviours to such an extent that your memory of their origin is lost.

Like Alexander, you enter a process to untangle the mess and discover with clarity the mechanism that causes your pain. In that sense, this process is not linear as my blog would suggest – you might start at step 3. or 2. and return to this step 1. However, until there is recognition, the real work can not begin – so I place recognition at the start of the process.

Like Alexander, you are now deciding to make conscious, habits of thought acquired over your lifetime. Previously I wrote about the many years I spent discovering, that at the heart of my pain was the thought: “Something is wrong with me.” So your new “chairwork for the brain” involves inviting you into this kind of enquiry around the causes of your suffering.

2. Gathering Information: How true is this thought? What’s your proof?
Having recognised the thought that sits at the heart of your pain, you now need to question the truth of this thought. The thought itself is not a cause of pain, it is believing that thought that creates emotion. Any actor knows this.

When a child jokes about “a monster under the bed” they do not believe it, but if they come to believe it, then terror strikes into their little hearts. So belief is the real hidden cause of your suffering; therefore you need to enquire: is there really a monster under my bed?

Take any thought that causes you to “pull down” and ask: How sure are you that this is true? One thing Alexander learned very early on in his process, was that what he believed about what he was doing was not reliable. In Alexander’s case he took a mirror and began to watch his movements. In your case you look at your assumptions and question them – by your own information, by asking others, by sitting deeply in the question: do I really believe this thought? Am I absolutely sure it is true?

3. Analysing Information On What Happens To You When You Believe That Thought?
Alexander watched closely in the mirror and noted the effect on his voice when he did what he did with his head. He spent long hours, and great detail, in noting the effects of his movements. It is possible to do this with your thoughts.

What happens to me when I think this thought “Something is wrong with me.” - I hide, I withdraw; or  I pretend by using a lot of energy to become someone I imagine people want me to be; eventually I get depressed; I get drunk to feel good again; my body gets tight; I breath shallow, almost asthmatically. I get very clear about the physical and emotional results of the thought I am questioning.

4. Experiment: What Happens When I Don’t Do This?
Having catalogued the various effects of his head/spine while speaking the way he did, Alexander wondered what would happen if he stopped doing this? This was a moment of genius – rather than looking for a substitute behaviour, Alexander started with subtracting the behaviour he was already doing.

In the realm of thoughts – how could this process be duplicated?

You can not stop your thoughts – has that ever worked for you? It hasn’t for me. However, you can imagine anything. So what would it be like if you imagined your Self without this thought? This is similar to the process an actor undertakes when he tries to imagine how it would be if he were this other person. Well, imagine you are this other person who does not think in the way you are thinking. How would that be? How would that feel? What would you do if you were that person?

This process leaves you free to continue ownership of your thought, while also visiting a place where it does not exist. I think we do this for students when we touch them – we invite them to move in a way that subtracts what they believe they need to do to move, and it gives them an experience of being a different person.

However, your imaginations are so powerful, when it comes to thoughts you have a capacity to travel this way without anyone touching you. As you imagine life without the thought that is giving you stress, you could also decide to move your head and whole body out of any downward pull associated with your habitual thought…

5. New Direction: Alexander decides upon a turnaround thought
Alexander, having finally figured out what he was doing, then proceeded to figure out a plan that would stop him from doing this. He sought out a way that turned around his painful, old way of speaking.

What was Alexander’s turnaround plan?

He realised he was moving his head/spine “back and down” so his turnaround plan became “forward and up”. Also “Shortening:” became “lengthening”, “narrowing” became “widening” and so on. Notice that this is very different from pushing against what is already going on. Alexander’s turnaround plan is based on simply giving up doing what he was previously doing.

When it comes to thoughts, this is also necessary. My thought “something is wrong with me” loses it’s power when first I recognise it, second analyse its effect on me, third feel it is not true and fourth experience my Self without it. That has been the process up to this point.

Now, like Alexander, I am ready to figure out own turnaround plan: “nothing is wrong with me” and/or “something is wrong with you” and/or “everything is right about me.” All of these I can feel as true, or truer than my thought “something is wrong with me”. With this I become able to enter into another world: a beginners world where I don’t know any more what is true; a world where the possibilities for me open up “like a great big cauliflower” as Alexander’s brother AR was fond of saying.

6. Alexander: “The experience makes the meat it feeds upon.”
I’ve always loved that aphorism of Alexander’s – uttered while teaching one day. In conventional Alexander Technique sessions, our new co-ordination thoughts (or directions) are weak, so we seek to have “experiences” that reinforce them. This we gain through the touch of a teacher, and/or by disciplined use of the new thoughts in co-ordinating our activities in everyday life.

In exactly the same way, I want to experience that “everything is right about me” by giving my Self the experience of how that plays out in everyday life. Your turnaround thoughts alone are still weak – you need experiential conditioning which, in this case, arises from feeling the proof of your turnaround thoughts…

So I find examples in my life where “everything is right about me.” Once I start looking, examples are abundant.

Our brain is designed to seek out proof for whatever we are believing, and edit out any information that would contradict this. There are lots of social experiments that demonstrate this functionality in different situations: try out this selective attention test on YouTube.

You have no doubt also experienced this when in a protracted fight with another person – how hard it is to be “reasonable” and admit facts into evidence which contradict your own position. No brain likes to be proved wrong, so we often pour tremendous energy into seeking out facts and opinions that will reinforce what we already believe.

We can harness this behaviour towards the new thought “everything is right about me” by seeking out examples that are clear – where I can emotionally feel that this is true. Once I start, examples begin pouring out which are as infinite as the proof I found when I was believing “something is wrong with me.”

It All Sounds Very Cerebral – Where is the emotion?
My guess is you did not read my earlier blog this week.

Of course words don’t convey all the tears that poured from my heart as I took my Self through this process over the last few years. Emotion spontaneously released at the moment my understanding grasped what I was thinking was not true. My epiphany unlocked decades of heartache and longing for true Self. In those moments, I became who I am, and ceased being who I believed I should be.

Those of you who followed my two years of FaceBook posts know my emotions were all over the place. Without emotional discharge, there is no undoing. I had noticed years ago that a good cry was often a better Alexander Technique lesson for my students than the touch I offered.

Are you ready to offer your students a true taste conscious evolution? Our work has the potential to expand beyond the sphere of rehabilitation where it is now mostly situated, and invite itself to sit at the table of leading-edge transformational teaching technologies.

TOMORROW: Eileen Troberman is next in the growing line of courageous teachers willing to expose their careers for analysis based upon my 12 Steps That Lead To Financial Success.

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