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Principle 4: Faulty Sensory Perception

First post since the summer, holidays and return to school seem to have got in the way....

OK so we're up to Principle 4 of the 7 key principles - faulty sensory perception. When you are in a lesson and I give you an instruction and then say, “don’t feel it, just think it”, this is the principle behind those words. In the early years of learning the Technique it is really quite important not to try to feel the directions, but just to give them with the guidance of a teacher. (And I say “years” because I believe the Technique really is the work of a lifetime…it is a process and not an end - but more of that in Principle 7!).

When I talk about habit in the Alexander sense I mean the set of tiny or subtle yet potentially self-ruining muscular patterns of habit everyone develops over years and years. These habit

patterns are so invasive, so difficult to let go off and yet feel so familiar that they are so hard to stop. I’ve been trying to think of an analogy for the habit patterns we all have and the nearest I can come is a pair of old slippers – the slippers may be old, falling apart, do your feet and back no good at all and yet they feel so very, very familiar. Suddenly swap these slippers for a beautifully light, new pair of barefoot shoes that allow proper contact with the ground and they will feel very weird, even though they might be much, much better for you.

Faulty sensory perception is that moment in the Alexander lesson when you have come out of the habit pattern and are experiencing the new, more balanced muscle pattern, but it feels odd. This is when people say “but if I stand like this I feel like I’m sticking my bum out”, or “I feel like my back is twisting”, or “my left leg feels weirdly long”. Alexander called this principle “debauched kinaesthesia” (I love that) because he was trying to find words to describe the kinaesthetic feeling of a wrong muscle pattern as right, or if not right then at least familiar.

I’m struggling slightly to find the right words for this Principle because it is once again the physical experience of coming out of habit and towards more balanced patterns of mind and

body use that we are dealing with. Debauched kinaesthesia refers to the unreliable sense of ourselves that we have due to years of fixed muscular habit patterns. It is why we need a teacher to show us the Alexander Technique, especially in the first few years, and why I much prefer clients to come for a series of lessons close together rather than a few lessons months apart. A newcomer to the Technique needs regular experience of new body use to set themselves on the path for improved use in the future. However, in my experience the more we have lessons in the Technique the more we can begin to trust our own kinaesthetic feedback; it isn’t necessarily debauched forever!

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