Basics about the Alexander Technique

If you are interested in the Alexander Technique please read the following Chapter from F.M. Alexander’s book The Use of Self. He may be the west’s only true yogi; discovering practical meditation all by himself.

PS It isn’t an easy read. My suggestion is the same as his however, “If you want the results he got then you’ve got to do what he did.” So get a full length mirror and see if you can follow along. It only took him a few years to ‘heal’ himself.


Here is also a few short videos: one of the British Medical Journals report on the Alexander Technique and lower back pain and two others about the lineage of the Alexander Technique that I am part of: Marjorie Barstow. My teacher, Mio Morales, is the guy playing the bongos and talking at the very end.


2 thoughts on “Basics about the Alexander Technique

    “First, then, I must request men not to suppose that … I wish to found a new sect in philosophy. For this is not What I am about; nor do I think that it matters much to the fortunes of men what abstract notions one may entertain concerning nature and the principles of things; and no doubt many old theories of this kind can be revived and many new ones introduced; just as many theories of the heavens may be supposed, which agree well enough with the phenomena and yet differ with each other.
    “But for my part I do not trouble myself with any such specula¬tive and withal unprofitable matters. My purpose. on the contrary, is to try whether I cannot in very fact lay more firmly the founda¬tions, and extend more widely the limits of the power and great¬ness of man.”
    FRANCIS BACON (“Novum Organum”-CXVI).
    My two earlier books, Man’s Supreme Inheritance and Construcructive Conscious Control of the Individual, con¬tain a statement of the technique which I gradually evolved over a period of years in my search for a means whereby faulty conditions of use in the human organism could be improved. I must admit that when I began my investigation, I, in common with most people, conceived of “‘body” and “mind” as separate parts of the same organism, and consequently believed that human ills, difficulties and shortcomings could be classified as either “mental” or “physical” and dealt with on specifically “mental” or specifically “physical” lines. My practical experiences, however, led me to abandon this point of view and readers of my books will be aware that the technique described in them is based on the opposite conception, namely, that it is impossible to separate “mental” and “physical” processes in any form of human activity.

  2. 4 The Use of the Self
    This change in my conception of the human organism has not come about as the outcome of mere theorizing on my part. It has been forced upon me by the experiences which I have gained through my investigations in a new field of practical experimentation upon the living human being.
    The letters I receive from my readers show that a large majority of those who accept the theory of the unity of mental and physical processes in human activity, find difficulty in understanding what the practical working of this theory of unity implies. This difficulty is always coming up in my teaching, but it is possible during a course of lessons to demonstrate to the pupil how the mental and physical work together in the use of the self1 in all activity. Repeated demonstration of this kind brings conviction, but since the number of pupils one can take, even in a large teaching practice, is naturally limited, the opportunities for giving this demonstration are comparatively few, and I have therefore decided in this book to start at the beginning and relate the history of the investigations which gradually led to the evolution of my technique. I shall give as fully as possible the actual details of the experiments I made, telling what I observed and experienced during the process, as I believe that by so doing I shall be giving my readers the opportunity to

    Evolution of A Technique 5

    see for themselves the train of events which finally
    convinced me
    ( 1 ) that the so-called “mental” and “physical” are not separate entities;
    (2) that for this reason human ills and shortcomings cannot be classified as “mental'” or “physical” and dealt with specifically as such, but that all training, whether it be educative or otherwise, i.e., whether its object be the prevention1 or elimination of defect, error or disease, must be based upon the indivisible unity of the human organism.
    If any reader doubts this, I would ask him if he can furnish any proof that the process involved in the act, say, of lifting an arm, or of walking, talking, going to sleep, starting out to learn something, thinking out a problem, making a decision, giving or withholding consent to a request or wish, or of satisfying a need or sudden impulse, is purely “mental” or purely “physical.” This question raises a great many points, and I suggest that a lead may be given towards meeting them if the reader will follow me through the experiences which I will now relate.

    6 The Use of The Self

    From my early youth I took a delight in poetry and it was one of my chief pleasures to study the plays of Shakespeare, reading them aloud and endeavouring to interpret the characters. This led to my becoming interested in elocution and the art of reciting, and now and again I was asked to recite in public. I was sufficiently successful to think of taking up Shakespearean reciting as a career, and worked long and hard at the study of every branch of dramatic expression. After a certain amount of experience as an amateur, I reached the stage when I believed that my work could stand the severer test of being judged from the professional standard, and the criticisms I received justified me in deciding to take up reciting as a profession.
    All went well for some years, when I began to have trouble with my throat and vocal cords, and not long after I was told by my friends that when I was reciting my breathing was audible, and that they could hear me (as they put it) “gasping” and “sucking in air” through my mouth. This worried me even more than my actual throat trouble which was then in its early stages, for I had always prided myself of being free from the habit of audibly sucking in breath which is so common with reciters, actors and singers. I therefore sought the advice of doctors and voice trainers in the hope of remedying my faulty breathing and relieving my hoarseness, but in spite of all that they could do in the way of treatment, the gasping and sucking in of breath when I was reciting became more and more exaggerated and the hoarseness recurred at shorter intervals.1 The treatment I was receiving became less

    Evolution of a Technique 7

    and less effective as time went on, and the trouble gradually increased until, after a few years, I found to my dismay that I had developed a condition of hoarseness which from time to time culminated in a complete loss of voice. I had experienced a good deal of ill-health all my life and this had often been a stumbling-block to me, so that with the additional burden of my recurring hoarseness, I began to doubt the soundness of my vocal organs. The climax came when I was offered a particularly attractive and important engagement,. for by this time I had reached such a stage of uncertainty about the conditions of my vocal organs that I was frankly afraid to accept it. I decided to consult my doctor once more, even though the previous treatment had been disappointing. After making a fresh examination of my throat, he promised me that if, during the fortnight before my recital, I abstained from reciting and used my voice as little as possible and agreed to follow the treatment he prescribed, my voice by the end of that time would be normal.
    I acted on his advice and accepted the engagement.
    After a few days I felt assured that the doctor’s promise would be fulfilled, for I found that by using my voice as little as possible I gradually lost my hoarseness. When the night of my recital came, I was quite free from hoarseness, but before I was halfway through my program, my voice was in the most dis-

    8 The Use of the Self

    tressing condition again, and by the end of the evening the hoarseness was so acute that I could hardly speak.
    My disappointment was greater than I can express, for it now seemed to me that I could never look forward to more than a temporary relief, and that I should thus be forced to give up a career in which I had become deeply interested and believed I could be successful.
    I saw my doctor the next day and we talked the matter over, and at the end of the talk I asked him what be thought we had better do about it. “We must go on with the treatment,” he said. I told him I could not do that, and when he asked me why, I pointed out to him that although I had faithfully carried out his instruction not to use my voice in public during his treatment, the old condition of hoarseness had returned within an hour after I started to use my voice again on the night of my recital. “Is it not fair, then,” I asked him, “to conclude that it was something I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble?” He thought a moment and said “Yes, that must be so.” “Can you tell me, then,” I asked him, “what it was that I did that caused the trouble?” He frankly admitted that be could not. “Very well,” I replied. “If that is so, I must try and find out for myself”
    When I set out on this investigation, I had two facts to go on. I had learned by experience that reciting brought about conditions of hoarseness, and that this hoarseness tended to disappear, as long as I confined the use of my voice to ordinary speaking, and at the same time had medical treatment for my throat and vocal organs. I considered the bearing of these two

    Evolution of a Technique 9

    facts upon my difficulty, and I saw that if ordinary speaking did not cause hoarseness while reciting did, there must be something different between what I did in reciting and what I did in ordinary speaking. If this were so, and I could find out what the difference was, it might help me to get rid of the hoarseness, and at least I could do no harm by making an experiment
    To this end I decided to make use of a mirror and observe the manner of my “doing” both in ordinary speaking and reciting, hoping that this would enable me to distinguish the difference, if any, between them, and it seemed better to begin by watching myself during the simpler act of ordinary speaking, in order to have something to go by when I came to watch myself during the more exacting act of reciting.
    Standing before a mirror I first watched myself carefully during the act of ordinary speaking. I repeated the act many times, but saw nothing in my manner of doing it that seemed wrong or unnatural. I then went on to watch myself carefully in the mirror when I recited, and I very soon noticed several things that I had not noticed when I was simply speaking. I was particularly struck by three things that I saw myself doing. I saw that as soon as I started to recite, I tended to pull back the head, depress the larynx and suck in breath through the mouth in such a way as to produce a gasping sound.
    After I had noticed these tendencies I went back and watched myself again during ordinary speaking, and on this occasion I was left in little doubt that the three tendencies I had noticed for the first time when reciting were also present, though in a lesser degree, in my ordinary speaking. They were indeed so slight that I

    10 The Use of the Self

    could understand why, on the previous occasions when I had watched myself in ordinary speaking I had altogether failed to notice them. When I discovered this marked difference between what I did in ordinary speaking and what I did in reciting, I realized that here I had a definite fact which might explain many things, and I was encouraged to go on.
    I recited again and again in front of the mirror and found that the three tendencies I had already noticed, became specially marked when I was reciting passages in which unusual demands were made upon my voice. This served to confirm my early suspicion that there might be some connection between what I did with myself while reciting and my throat trouble, a not unreasonable supposition, it seemed to me, since what I did in ordinary speaking caused no noticeable harm. While what I did in reciting to meet any unusual demands on my voice brought about an acute condition of hoarseness.
    From this I was led to conjecture that if pulling back my head, depressing my larynx and sucking in breath did indeed bring about a strain on my voice, it must constitute a misuse of the parts concerned. I now believed I had found the root of the trouble, for I argued that if my hoarseness arose from the way I used parts of my organism, I should get no further unless I could prevent or change this misuse.
    When, however, I came to try to make practical use of this discovery, I found myself in a maze. For Where was I to begin ? Was it the sucking in of

    Evolution of a Technique 11

    breath that caused the pulling back of the head and the depressing of the larynx? Or was it the pulling back of the head that caused the depressing of the larynx and the sucking in of breath? Or was it the depressing of the larynx that caused the sucking in of breath and the pulling back of the head?
    As I was unable to answer these questions, all I could do was to go on patiently experimenting before the mirror. After some months I found that when reciting I could not by direct means prevent the sucking in of breath, or the depressing of the larynx, but that I could to some extent prevent the pulling back of the head. This led me to a discovery which turned out to be of great importance, namely, that when; I succeeded in preventing the pulling back of the head, this tended indirectly to check the sucking in of breath and the depressing of the larynx.
    The importance of this discovery cannot be overestimated, for through it I was led on to the further discovery of the primary control of the working of all the mechanisms of the human organism, and this marked the first important stage of my investigation.
    ‘A further result, Which I also noted was that With the prevention of the misuse of these parts I tended to become less hoarse while reciting, and that as I gradually gained experience in this prevention, my liability to hoarseness tended to decrease. What is more, when, after these experiences, my throat was again examined by my medical friends, a considerable improvement was found in the general condition of my larynx and vocal cords.

    12 The Use of the Self

    In this way it was borne in upon me that the changes in me that I had been able to bring about by preventing the three harmful tendencies I had detected in myself had produced a marked effect upon the functioning of my vocal and respiratory mechanisms. This conclusion, I now See, marked the second important stage in my investigations, for my practical experience in this specific instance brought me to realize for the first time the close connection that exists between use and functioning.

    My experience up till now had shown me
    (1) that the tendency to put my head back was associated with my throat trouble, and
    (2) that I could relieve this trouble to a certain extent merely by preventing myself from putting my head back, since this act of prevention tended to prevent indirectly the depressing of the larynx and the sucking in of breath.
    From this I argued that if I put my head definitely forward, I might be able to influence the functioning of my vocal and respiratory mechanisms still further in the right direction, and so eradicate the tendency to hoarseness altogether. I therefore decided, as my next step to put my head definitely forward, further forward, in fact, than I felt was the right thing to do.
    When I came to try it, however, I found that after I had put my head forward beyond a certain point, I tended to pull it down as well as forward, and, as far as I could see, the effect of this upon my vocal and respiratory organs was much the same as when I pulled my head back and down. For in both acts there was

    Evolution of a Technique 13

    the same depressing of the larynx that was associated with my throat trouble, and by this time I was convinced that this depressing of the larynx must be checked if my voice was ever to become normal. I therefore went on experimenting in the hope of finding some use of the head and neck which was not associated with a depressing of the larynx.
    It is impossible to describe here in detail my various experiences during this long period. Suffice it to say that in the course of these experiments I came to notice that any use of my head and neck which was associated with a depressing of the larynx was also associated with a tendency to lift the chest and shorten1
    the stature.
    As I look back I realize that this again was a discovery of far-reaching implications, and events proved that it marked a turning-point in my investigations.
    This new piece of evidence suggested that the functioning of the organs of speech was influenced by my manner of using the whole torso, and that the pulling of the head back and down was not, as I had presumed, merely a misuse of the specific parts concerned, but one that was inseparably bound up with a misuse of other mechanisms which involved the act of shortening the stature. If this were so, it would clearly be useless to expect such improvement as I needed from merely preventing the wrong use of the head and neck.

    14 The Use of the Self

    I realized that I must also prevent those other associated wrong uses which brought about the shortening of the stature.
    This led me on to a long series of experiments in some of which I attempted to prevent the shortening of the stature, in others actually to lengthen it, noting the results in each case. For a time I alternated between these two forms of experiment, and after noting the effect of each upon my voice, I found that the best conditions of my larynx and vocal mechanisms and the least tendency to hoarseness were associated with a lengthening of the stature. Unfortunately, I found that when I came to practice, I shortened far more than I lengthened, and when I came to look for an explanation of this, I saw that it was due to my tendency to pull my head down as I tried to put it forward in order to lengthen. After further experimentation I found at last that in order to maintain a lengthening of the stature it was necessary that my head should tend to go upwards, not downwards, when I put it forward; in short, that to lengthen I must put my head forward and up.
    ‘As is shown by what follows, this proved to be the primary control of my use in all my activities.
    When, however, I came to try to put my head forward and up while reciting, I noticed that my old tendency to lift the chest increased, and that with this went a tendency to increase the arch of the spine and thus bring about what I now call a “narrowing of the back.” This, saw, had an adverse effect on the shape and functioning of the torso itself, and I therefore concluded that to maintain a lengthening it was not suf-

    Evolution of a Technique 15

    ficient to put my head forward and up, but that I must put it forward and up in such a way that I prevented the lifting of the chest and simultaneously brought about a widening of the back.
    Having got so far, I considered I should now be justified in attempting to put these findings into practice. To this end I proceeded in my vocal work to try to prevent my old habit of pulling my head back and down and lifting the chest (shortening the stature), and to combine this act of prevention with an attempt to put the head forward and up (lengthening the stature) and widen the back. This was my first attempt to combine “prevention” and “doing” in one activity, and I never for a moment doubted that I should be able to do this, but I found that although I was now able to put the head forward and up and widen the back as acts in themselves, I could not maintain these conditions in speaking or reciting.
    This made me suspicious that I was not doing what I thought I was doing, and I decided once more to bring the mirror to my aid. Later on I took into use two additional mirrors, one on each side of the central one, and with their aid I found that my suspicions were justified. For there I saw that at the critical moment when I tried to combine the prevention of shortening with a positive attempt to maintain a lengthening and speak at the same time, I did not put my head forward and up as I intended, but actually put it back. Here then was startling proof that I was doing the opposite of what I believed I was doing and of what I had decided I ought to do.
    I break my story here to draw attention to a very curious fact, even though it tells against myself.

    16 The Use of the Self

    My reader will remember that in my earlier experiments, when I wished to make certain of what I was doing with myself in the familiar act of reciting, I had derived invaluable help from the use of a mirror. Despite this past experience and the knowledge that I had gained from it, I now set out on an experiment which brought into play a new use of certain parts and involved sensory experiences that were totally unfamiliar, without its even occurring to me that for this purpose I should need the help of the mirror more than ever.
    This shows how confident I was, in spite of my past experience, that I should he able to put into practice any idea that I thought desirable. When I found myself unable to do so, I thought that this was merely a personal idiosyncrasy, but my teaching experience of the past thirty-five years and my observation of people with whom 1 have come into contact in other ways have convinced me that this was not an idiosyncrasy, but that most people would have done the same in similar circumstances. I was indeed suffering from a delusion that is practically universal, the delusion that because we are able to do what we “will to do” in acts that are habitual and involve familiar sensory experiences, we shall be equally successful in doing what we “will to do” in acts which are contrary to our habit and therefore involve sensory experiences that are unfamiliar.
    When I realized this, I was much disturbed and I saw that the whole situation would have to be reconsidered. I went back to the beginning again, to my original conclusion that the cause of my throat trouble was to be found in something I was doing myself when I used my voice. I had since discovered both what this “something” was and what I believed I ought to

    Evolution of A Technique 17

    do instead, if my vocal organs were to function properly. But this had not helped me much, for when the time came for me to apply what I had learned to my reciting, and I had tried to do what I ought to do, I had failed. Obviously, then, my next step was to find out at what point in my “doing” I had gone wrong.
    There was nothing for it but to persevere, and I practiced patiently month after month, as I had been doing hitherto, with varying experiences of success and failure, but without much enlightenment. In time, however, I profited by these experiences, for through them I came to see that any attempt to maintain my lengthening when reciting not only involved on my part the prevention of the wrong use of certain specific parts and the substitution of what I believed to be a better use of these parts, but that this attempt also involved my bringing into play the use of all those parts of the organism required for the activities incident to the act of reciting, such as standing, walking, using the arms or hands for gesture, interpretation, etc.
    Observation in the mirror showed me that when I was standing to recite I was using these other parts in certain wrong ways which synchronized with my wrong way of using my head and neck, larynx, vocal and breathing organs, and which involved a condition of undue muscle tension throughout my organism. I observed that this condition of undue muscle tension affected particularly the use of my legs, feet and toes, my toes being contracted and bent downwards in such a way that my feet were unduly arched, my weight thrown more on to the outside of my feet than it should have been, and my balance interfered with.
    On discovering this, I thought back to see if I could

    18 The Use of the Self

    account for it, and I recalled an instruction that had been given to me in the past by the late Mr. James Cathcart (at one time a member of Mr. Charles Kean’s Company) when I was taking lessons from him in dramatic expression and interpretation. Not being pleased with my way of standing and walking, he would say to me from time to time, “Take hold of the floor with your feet.” He would then proceed to show me what he meant by this, and I did my best to copy him, believing that if I was told what to do to correct something that was wrong, I should be able to do it and all would be well. I persevered and in time believed that my way of standing was now satisfactory, because I thought I was “taking hold of the floor with my feet” as I had seen him do.

    The belief is very generally held that if only we are told what to do in order to correct a wrong way of doing something, we can do it, and that if we feel we are doing it, all is well. All my experience, however, goes to show that this belief is a delusion.

    On recalling this experience I continued with the aid of mirrors to observe the use of myself more carefully than ever, and came to realize that what I was doing with my legs, feet and toes when standing to recite was exerting a most harmful general influence upon the use of myself throughout my organism. This, convinced me that the use of these parts involved an abnormal amount of muscle tension and was indirectly associated with my throat trouble, and I was strengthened in this conviction when I reminded myself that my teacher had found it necessary in the past to try

    Evolution of a Technique 19

    and improve my way of standing in order to get better results in my reciting. It gradually dawned upon me that the wrong way I was using myself when I thought I was “taking hold of the floor with my feet” was the same wrong way I was using myself when in reciting I pulled my head back, depressed my larynx, etc., and that this wrong way of using myself constituted a combined wrong use of the whole of my physical-mental mechanisms. I then realized that this was the use which I habitually brought into play for all my activities, that it was what I may call the “habitual use” of myself, and that my desire to recite, like any other stimulus to activity, would inevitably cause this habitual wrong use to come into play and dominate any attempt I might be making to employ a better use of myself in reciting.
    The influence of this wrong use was bound to be strong because of its being habitual, but in my case it was greatly strengthened because during the past years I had undoubtedly been cultivating it through my efforts to carry out my teacher’s instructions to take hold of the floor with my feet” when I recited. The influence of this cultivated habitual use, therefore, acted as an almost irresistible stimulus to me to use myself in the wrong way I was accustomed to; this stimulus to general wrong use was far stronger than the stimulus of my desire to employ the new use of my head and neck, and I now saw that it was this influence which led me, as soon as I stood up to recite, to put my head in the opposite direction to that which I desired. I now had proof of one thing at least, that all my efforts up till now to improve the use of myself in reciting had been misdirected.

    20 The Use of the Self

    It is important to remember that the use of a specific part in any activity is closely associated with the use of other parts of the organism, and that the influence exerted by the various parts one upon another is continuously changing in accordance with the manner of use of these parts. If a part directly employed in the activity is being used in a comparatively new way which is still unfamiliar, the stimulus to use this part in the new way is weak in comparison with the stimulus to use the other parts of the organism, which are being indirectly employed in the activity, in the old habitual way.
    In the present case, an attempt was being made to bring about an unfamiliar use of the head and neck for the purpose of reciting. The stimulus to employ the new use of the head and neck was therefore bound to be weak as compared with the stimulus to employ the wrong habitual use of the feet and legs which had become familiar through being cultivated in the act of reciting.
    Herein lies the difficulty in making changes from unsatisfactory to satisfactory conditions of use and functioning, and my teaching experience has taught me that when a wrong habitual use has been cultivated in a person for whatever purpose, its influence in the early stages of the lessons is practically irresistible. This led me to a long consideration of the whole question of the direction of the use of myself. “What is this direction,” I asked myself, “upon which I have been depending?” I had to admit that I had never thought out how I directed the use of myself, but that

    Evolution of a Technique 21

    I used myself habitually in the way that felt natural to me. In other words, I like everyone else depended upon “feeling” for the direction of my use. Judging, however, from the results of my experiments, this method of direction had led me into error (as, for instance, when I put my head back when I intended to put it forward and up), proving that the “feeling” associated with this direction of my use was untrustworthy.
    This indeed was a blow. If ever anyone was in an impasse it was I. For here I was, faced with the fact that my feeling, the only guide I had to depend upon for the direction of my use, was untrustworthy. At the time I believed that this was peculiar to myself, and that my case was exceptional because of the continuous ill-health I had experienced for as long as I could remember, but as soon as I tested other people to see whether they were using themselves in the way they thought they were, I found that the feeling by which they directed the use of themselves was also untrustworthy, indeed, that the only difference in this regard between them and myself was one of degree. Discouraged as I was, however, I refused to believe that the problem was hopeless. I began to see that my findings up till now implied the possibility of the opening up of an entirely new field of enquiry, and I was obsessed with the desire to explore it. “Surely,” I argued, “if it is possible for feeling to become untrustworthy as a means of direction, it should also be possible to make it trustworthy again.”
    The idea of the wonderful potentialities of man had been a source of inspiration to me ever since I had come to know Shakespeare’s great word picture:

    22 The Use of the Self

    What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!
    But these words seemed to me now to be contradicted by what I had discovered in myself and in others. For what could be less “noble in reason,” less “infinite in faculty” than that man, despite his potentialities, should have fallen into such error in the use of himself, and in this way brought about such a lowering in his standard of functioning that in everything he attempts to accomplish, these harmful conditions tend to become more and more exaggerated? In consequence, how many people are there today of whom it may be said, as regards their use of themselves, “in form and moving how express and admirable”? Can we any longer consider man in this regard ”the paragon of animals”?
    I can remember at this period discussing with my father the errors in use which I had noticed both in myself and in others, and contending that in this respect there was no difference between us and the dog or cat. When he asked me why, I replied, “Because we do not know how we use ourselves any more than the dog or cat knows.”‘ By this I meant that man’s direction of his use, through being based upon feeling, was as unreasoned and instinctive as that of the animaI.21 I refer to this conversation as showing that

    Evolution of A Technique 23

    I had already realized that in our present state of civilization which calls for continuous and rapid adaptation to a quickly changing environment, the unreasoned, instinctive direction of use such as meets the needs of the cat or dog was no longer sufficient to meet human needs. I had proved in my own case and in that of others that instinctive control and direction of use had become so unsatisfactory, and the associated feeling so untrustworthy as a guide, that it could lead us to do the very opposite of what we wished to do or thought we were doing. If, then, as I suspected, this untrustworthiness of feeling was a product of civilized life, it would tend, as time went on, to become more and more a universal menace, in which case a knowledge of the

    24 The Use of the Self

    means whereby trustworthiness could be restored to feeling would be invaluable. I saw that the search for this knowledge would open out an entirely new field of exploration and one that promised more than any that I had yet heard of, and I began to reconsider my own difficulties in the light of this new fact.
    Certain points impressed themselves particularly upon me:
    ( 1) that the pulling of my head back and down, when I felt that I was putting it forward and up, was proof that the use of the specific parts concerned was being misdirected, and that this misdirection was associated with untrustworthy feeling;
    (2) that this misdirection was instinctive, and, together with the associated untrustworthy feeling, was part and parcel of my habitual
    use of myself;
    (3) that this instinctive misdirection leading to wrong habitual use of myself, including most noticeably the wrong use of my head and neck, came into play as the result of a decision to use my voice; this misdirection, in other words, was my instinctive response (reaction) to the stimulus to use my voice.
    When I came to consider the significance of this last point, it occurred to me that if, when the stimulus, came to me to use my voice, I could inhibit the misdirection associated with the wrong habitual use of my head and neck, I should be stopping off at its source my unsatisfactory reaction to the idea of reciting, which expressed itself in pulling back the head depressing the larynx, and sucking in breath. Once this misdirection was inhibited, my next step would be to

    Evolution of A Technique 25

    discover what direction would be necessary to ensure a new and improved use of the head and neck, and, indirectly, of the larynx and breathing and other mechanisms, for I believed that such direction, when put into practice, would ensure a satisfactory instead of an unsatisfactory reaction to the stimulus to use my voice.
    In the work that followed I came to see that to get a direction of my use which would ensure this satisfactory reaction, I must cease to rely upon the feeling associated with my instinctive direction, and in its place employ my reasoning processes, in order
    ( 1) to analyse the conditions of use present;
    (2) to select (reason out) the means whereby a more satisfactory use could be brought about;
    (3) to project consciously the directions required
    for putting these means into effect.
    In short, I concluded that if I were ever to be able to react satisfactorily to the stimulus to use my voice, I must replace my old instinctive (unreasoned) direction of myself by a new conscious (reasoned) direction.
    The idea of taking the control of the use of the mechanisms of the human creature from the instinctive on to the conscious plane has already been justified by the results which have been obtained by applying it in practice, but it may be many years before its true significance as a factor in human development is fully recognized.
    I set out to put this idea into practice, but I was at once brought up short by a series of startling and unexpected experiences. Like most people, I had believed

    26 The Use Of the Self

    up to this moment that if I thought out carefully how to improve my way of performing a certain act, I should be guided by my reasoning rather than by my feeling when it came to putting this thought into action, and that my “mind” was the superior and more effective directing agent. But the fallacy of this became apparent to me as soon as I attempted to employ conscious direction for the purpose of correcting some wrong use of myself which was habitual and therefore felt right to me. In actual practice I found that there was no clear dividing line between my unreasoned and my reasoned direction of myself, and that I was quite unable to prevent the two from overlapping. I was successful in employing my reasoning up to the point of projecting the directions which, after analysing the conditions of use present, I had decided were required for the new and improved use, and all went well as long as I did not attempt to carry these directions out for the purpose of speaking. For instance, as soon as, any stimulus reached me to use my voice, and I tried in response to do the new thing which my conscious direction should bring about (such as putting the head forward and up), and speak at the same time, I found I immediately reverted to all my old wrong habits of use (such as putting my head back, etc.). There was no question about this. I could see it actually happening in the mirror. This was clear proof that at the critical moment when I attempted to gain my end by means which were contrary to those associated with my old habits of use, my instinctive direction dominated my reasoning direction. It dominated my will to do what I had decided was the right thing to do and although I was trying (as we understand try-

    Evolution of a Technique 27

    ing”) to do it. Over and over again I had the experience that immediately the stimulus to speak came to me, I invariably responded by doing something according to my old habitual use associated with the act of speaking.
    After many disappointing experiences of this kind I decided to give up any attempt for the present to “do” anything to gain my end, and I came to see at last that if I was ever to be able to change my habitual use and dominate my instinctive direction, it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving the stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response. For I saw that an immediate response was the result of a decision on my part to do something at once, to go directly for a certain end, and by acting quickly on this decision I did not give myself the opportunity to project as many times as was necessary the new directions which I had reasoned out were the best means whereby I could attain that end. This meant that the old instinctive direction which, associated with untrustworthy feeling, had been the controlling factor up to that moment in the building up of my wrong habitual use, still controlled the manner of my response, with the inevitable result that my old wrong habitual use was again and again brought into play.
    I therefore decided to confine my work to giving myself the directions for the new “means-whereby,”l

    28 The Use of the Self

    instead of actually trying to do” them or to relate them to the “end” of speaking. I would give the new directions in front of the mirror for long periods together, for successive days and weeks and sometimes ‘ even months, without attempting to “do” them, and the experience I gained in giving these directions proved of great value when the time came for me to consider how to put them into practice.
    This experience taught me
    (1) that before attempting to “do” even the first part of the new “means-whereby” which I had decided to employ in order to gain my end (i. e. vocal use and reciting), I must , give the directions preparatory to the doing: of this first part very many times;
    (2) that I must continue to give the directions preparatory to the doing of the first part while I gave the directions preparatory to the doing of the second part;
    (3) that I must continue to give the directions preparatory to the doing of the first and second parts while I gave the directions preparatory to the doing of the third part; and so on for the doing of the fourth and other parts as required.
    Lastly, I discovered that after I had become familiar with the combined process of giving the directions for the new “means-whereby” in their sequence and of employing the various corresponding mechanisms in order to bring about the new use, I must continue this process in my practice for a considerable time before actually attempting to employ the new “means-whereby” for the purpose of speaking.

    Evolution of a Technique 29

    The process I have just described is an example of what Professor John Dewey has called “thinking in activity,” and anyone who carries it out faithfully while trying to gain an end will find that he is acquiring a new experience in what he calls “thinking.” My daily teaching experience shows me that in working for a given end, we can all project one direction, but to continue to give this direction as we project the second, and to continue to give these two while we add a third, and to continue to keep the three directions going as we proceed to gain the end, has proved to be the pons asinorum of every pupil I have so far known. (The phrase “all together, One after the other” expresses the idea of combined activity I wish to convey here.)
    The time came when I believed I had practiced the “means-whereby” long enough, and I started to try and employ them for the purpose of speaking, but to my dismay I found that I failed far more often than I succeeded. The further I went with these attempts, the more perplexing the situation became, for I was certainly attempting to inhibit my habitual response to the stimulus to speak, and I had certainly given the new directions over and over again. At least, this is what I had intended to do and thought I had done, so that, as far as I could then see, I should have been able to employ the new “means-whereby” for the gaining of my end with some degree of confidence. The fact remained that I failed more often than not, and nothing was more certain than that I must go back and reconsider my premises.
    This reconsideration showed me more clearly than ever that the occasions when I failed were those on which I was unable to prevent the dominance of my

    30 The Use of the Self

    wrong habitual use, as I attempted to employ the new “means-whereby” with the idea of gaining my end and speaking. I also saw (and this was of the utmost importance) that, in spite of all my preliminary work, the instinctive direction associated with my habitual use still dominated my conscious reasoning direction. So confident was I, however, that the new means I had chosen were right for my purpose, that I decided I must look elsewhere for the cause of my unsatisfactory results. In time I began to doubt whether perhaps my failures were not due to some shortcoming in myself, and that I personally was unable to do a thing with satisfactory “means-whereby” when someone else might have been successful. I looked all round for any other possible causes of failure, and after a long period of investigation I came to the conclusion that it was necessary for me to seek some concrete proof whether, at the critical moment when I attempted to gain my end and speak, I was really continuing to project the directions in their proper sequence for the employment of the new and more satisfactory use, as I thought I was, or whether I was reverting to the instinctive misdirection of my old habitual use which had been associated with all my throat trouble. By careful experimentation I discovered that I gave my directions for the new use in their sequence right up to the point when I tried to gain my end and speak, but that, at the critical moment when persistence in giving the new directions would have brought success, I reverted instead to the misdirection associated with my old wrong habitual use. This was concrete proof that I was not continuing to project my directions for the new use for the purpose of speaking, as I thought

    Evolution of a Technique 31

    I was, but that my reaction to the stimulus to speak was still my instinctive reaction through my habitual use. Clearly, to “feel” or think I had inhibited the old instinctive reaction was no proof that I had really done so, and I must find some way of “‘knowing.”
    I had already noticed that on the occasions when I failed, the instinctive misdirection associated with my old habitual use always dominated my reasoning direction for the new use, and I gradually came to see that this could hardly be otherwise. Ever since the beginning of man’s growth and development the only form of direction of the use of himself of which he has had any experience has been instinctive direction, which might in this sense be called a racial inheritance. Was it then to be wondered at that in my case the influence of this inherited instinctive direction associated with my old habitual use had rendered futile most of my efforts to employ a conscious, reasoning direction for a new use, especially when the use of myself which was associated with instinctive direction had become so familiar that it was now part and parcel of me, and so felt right and natural? In trying to employ a conscious, reasoning direction to bring about a new use, I was therefore combating in myself not only that racial tendency which causes us all at critical moments to revert to instinctive direction and so to the familiar use of ourselves that feels right, but also a racial inexperience in projecting conscious directions at all, and particularly conscious directions in sequence.
    As the reader knows, I had recognized much earlier that I ought not to trust to my feeling for the direction of my use, but I had never fully realized all that this implied, namely, that the sensory experience as-

    32 The Use of the Self

    sociated with the new use would be so unfamiliar and therefore “feel” so unnatural and wrong that I, like everyone else, with my ingrained habit of judging whether experiences of use were “right” or not by the way they felt, would almost inevitably balk at employing the new use. Obviously, any new use must feel different from the old, and if the old use felt right, the new use was bound to feel wrong. I now had to face the fact that in all my attempts during these past months I had been trying to employ a new use of myself which was bound to feel wrong, at the same time trusting to my feeling of what was right to tell me whether I was employing it or not. This meant that all my efforts up till now had resolved themselves into an attempt to employ a reasoning direction of my use at the moment of speaking, while for the purpose of this attempt I was actually bringing into play my old habitual use and so reverting to my instinctive misdirection. Small wonder that this attempt had proved futile!
    Faced with this, I now saw that if I was ever to succeed in making the changes in use I desired, I must subject the processes directing my use to a new experience, the experience, that is, of being dominated by reasoning instead of by feeling, particularly at the critical moment when the giving of directions merged into “doing” for the gaining of the end I had decided upon. This meant that I must be prepared to carry on with any procedure I had reasoned out as best for my purpose, even though that procedure might feel wrong. In other words, my trust in my reasoning processes to bring me safely to my “end” must be a genuine trust, not a half-trust needing the assurance

    Evolution of a Technique 33

    of feeling right as well. I must at all costs work out some plan by which to obtain concrete proof that my instinctive reaction to the stimulus to gain my end remained inhibited, while I projected in their sequence the directions for the employment of the new use at the critical moment of gaining that end.
    After making many attempts to solve this problem and gaining experience which proved to be of great value and interest to me, I finally adopted the following plan.1
    Supposing that the “end” I decided to work for was to speak a certain sentence, I would start in the same way as before and
    (1) inhibit any immediate response to the stimulus to speak the sentence,
    (2) project in their sequence the directions for the primary control which I had reasoned out as being best for the purpose of bringing about the new and improved use of myself in speaking, and
    (3) continue to project these directions until I believed I was sufficiently au fait with them to employ them for the purpose of gaining my end and speaking the sentence.
    At this moment, the moment that had always proved critical for me because it was then that I tended to revert to my wrong habitual use, I would change my usual procedure and
    (4) while still continuing to project the directions for the new use I would stop and consciously reconsider my first decision, and ask myself

    1This plan, though simple in theory, has proved difficult for most pupils to put into practice.

    34 The Use of the Self

    “Shall I after all go on to gain the end I have decided upon and speak the sentence? Or shall I not? Or shall I go on to gain some other end altogether?”-and then and there make a fresh decision,
    (5) either
    not to gain my original end, in which case I would continue to project the directions for maintaining the new use and not go on to speak the sentence;
    to change my end and do something different, say, lift my hand instead of speaking the sentence, in which case I would continue to project the directions for maintaining the new use to carry out this last decision and lift my hand;
    to go on after all and gain my original end, in which case I would continue to project the directions for maintaining the new use to speak the sentence.
    It will be seen that under this new plan the change in procedure came at the critical moment when hitherto, in going on to gain my end, I had so often reverted to instinctive misdirection and my wrong habitual use. I reasoned that if I stopped at that moment and then, without ceasing to project the directions for the new use; decided afresh to what end the new use, should he employed, I should by this procedure be subjecting my instinctive processes of direction to an experience contrary to any experience in which they had hitherto been drilled. Up to that time the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end had always resulted in the same

    Evolution of a Technique 35

    habitual activity, involving the projection of the instinctive directions for the use which I habitually employed for the gaining of that end. By this new procedure, as long as the reasoned directions for the bringing about of new conditions of use were consciously maintained, the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end would result in an activity differing from the old habitual activity, in that, the old activity could not be controlled outside the gaining of a given end, whereas the new activity could be controlled for the gaining of any end that was consciously desired.

    I would point out that this procedure is contrary, not only to any procedure in which our individual instinctive direction has been drilled, but contrary also to that in which man’s instinctive
    processes have been drilled continuously all through his evolutionary experience.

    When I came to work on this plan, I found that this reasoning was borne out by experience. For by actually deciding, in the majority of cases, to maintain my new conditions of use either to gain some end other than the one originally decided upon, or simply refuse to gain the original end, I obtained at last the concrete proof I was looking for, namely, that my instinctive response to the stimulus to gain my original end was not only inhibited at the start, but remained inhibited right through, whilst my directions for the new use were being projected. And the experience I gained in maintaining the new manner of use while going on to gain some other end or refusing to gain my original end, helped me to maintain the new use on those occasions when I decided at the critical moment

    36 The Use of the Self

    to go on after all and gain my original end and speak the sentence. This was further proof that I was becoming able to defeat any influence of that habitual wrong use in speaking to which my original decision to “speak the sentence” had been the stimulus, and that my conscious, reasoning direction was at last dominating the unreasoning, instinctive direction associated with my unsatisfactory habitual use of myself.
    After I had worked on this plan for a considerable time, I became free from my tendency to revert to my wrong habitual use in reciting, and the marked effect of this upon my functioning convinced me that I was at last on the right track, for once free from this tendency, I also became free from the throat and vocal trouble and from the respiratory and nasal difficulties with which I had been beset from birth.

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