Language Does Matter

Mind and Muscle
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When your body feels tense and tight how do you express what is going on?

Do you say something along the lines of…

“My shoulders are tense”

“My back is tight”

Or do you say something along the lines of…

“I am tensing my shoulders”

“I am tightening my back”

Is there really a difference between these statements?

You might think it’s all just semantics. The meaning is the same after all.

I beg to differ.

The way you choose to describe a situation sheds light on your beliefs about that situation.

And your beliefs about a situation will affect how you choose to react to the situation.

When you describe what is going on using the first two statements above it is as if you believe you have no responsibility for (and therefore no control over) what is going on. But is there some external force that is tensing your shoulders and tightening your back for you? I very much doubt it.

When you describe what is going on by using the second two statements you acknowledge responsibility for (and therefore some control over) what is going on.

By accepting responsibility, you also empower yourself with the ability to choose and make a change.

If I am tensing my shoulders, then I can choose to stop tensing them (or at least stop tensing them a bit)

If I am tensing my back, then I can choose to stop tensing my back (or at least stop tensing a bit)

At the core of the Alexander Technique is the principle of stopping doing what is getting in the way.

Not doing something new.

The first step in this process is to take a good look at your ideas and beliefs about yourself.

It’s interesting that you say “I am holding my breath”. You don’t say “My breath is being held”. That just sounds weird. Who is holding your breath anyway?

The language you use indicates that it is clear to you that you are doing the breath holding. And because you are holding it, you can choose to stop holding it.

So, take how you view your breath holding and see if you can apply it to other areas of yourself when you are feeling tight and tense.

  • Examine your beliefs about the situation
  • Realize that it is often you who is doing what is getting in the way and
  • Practice doing less of what is getting in the way

Change your language for a week and see what happens.

2 comments… add one

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  • Sandi Sherman June 6, 2016, 8:50 pm

    Great advice Lauren. First step is to realize there is tension. Paying attention is the first step.

    • Lauren Hill June 20, 2016, 7:22 am

      Exactly Sandi. And very often just bringing attention to how you are doing what you are doing creates a beneficial change–without any more effort on your part.


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