Strengthen Your Choice Muscle

man flexing his bicep

One of the most common things that students learn from taking Alexander Technique lessons that they weren’t expecting is that they have more control over their reactions than they realize.

Not just the knowledge of this fact but the skill to put it into practice.

Just like the majority of my students, I initially began to study with an Alexander teacher because of chronic pain that was mainly caused by excessive muscular tension and related postural issues.

Initially, the practice of noticing how I habitually reacted to things and exploring different choices in reaction was on a very physical level for me.

Whenever I concentrated on something (a cue) my habitual reaction was to physically squeeze myself to do it, whatever it was. As I gradually learned that concentration didn’t need to be equated with squeezing myself I began to find some physical relief.

Over time I came to understand that to any given cue you can have a physical reaction, a reaction of thought, and an emotional reaction. Any or all of which may be unhelpful and cause problems.

As each year passes I realize more and more things outside of myself that I don’t have control over.

But I also realize that my ability to choose gets stronger the more I stay curious about my habitual reactions to things and practice choosing how to more suitably respond.

This has played out over the past year in a very interesting way.

I consider myself a relatively intelligent person. However, when I am faced with something new or unknown, particularly if it is technical in nature, my first reaction is to think, “I don’t like it. It’s difficult. I can’t understand it. I can’t do it.”

As you can imagine this habitual reaction of mine just puts a roadblock in the way of learning a lot of new things.

A few months ago I ordered a new toner cartridge for my laser printer. I have had this printer for a long time and have replaced this toner myself before. But the cartridge lasts a long time and it had been several years since the last time I’d had to replace it.

It arrived in its box and I opened it. It came with picture instructions. Although I badly needed to replace the cartridge it sat in my office for a week. Then one day I realized that it was my reaction to replacing the cartridge and the picture instructions—“It’s difficult. I can’t understand it. I can’t do it”—that was keeping me from doing it.

Once I realized my reaction I acknowledged it, set the thought aside, and gave myself more than enough time to work on the project so I wouldn’t feel pressure to figure it out in a certain amount of time.

I ended up having to look up the user’s manual online to get some written instructions, but I did it.

I am sure this reaction has been with me for years.

It is just that I am becoming more and more aware of it when it comes up and as the world presents me with more and more technological challenges I have more and more opportunities to meet these cues—and learn how to productively respond to them.

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  • Julie Williams January 16, 2018, 10:18 am

    What a great example! That one really resonated with me. Thanks.

    • Lauren Hill January 16, 2018, 2:07 pm

      You’re welcome Julie. Glad it resonated.


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