Yesterday I went for a haircut, and walked in on a rather fraught conversation. The customer had noticed her hair dye never lasts very long, and it turned out the problem was the shampoo she uses. It’s a very common, ordinary shampoo, but it strips the colour out of hair(*). The customer was desolated. “I’ve been doing the wrong thing all this time!” she wailed. No matter how much my lovely hairdresser reassured her that it wasn’t wrong, it was fine, it just took the colour out, she was inconsolable. Her last words as the door closed behind her were “I’ve been doing the wrong thing”.
Now that’s what I call a stick. A great big stick, which she is using to beat herself up.
Students quite often turn up to Alexander lessons with sticks. Invisible sticks used to beat themselves for being wrong, making mistakes, being slow, not being good enough, and so on. I have an aversion to sticks, unless they are holding up my runner bean plants.
You could argue that it’s none of my business if someone else chooses to beat themselves up. Well, I’m a teacher. My job is helping people learn. If someone is busy giving themselves a hard time, just how much of their mental focus is available for the process of learning? Miniscule amounts. If they are consistently telling themselves off inside their head, just how much will they be listening to me? Barely at all.
So my students get gently persuaded to put their sticks down, and turn that mental energy to better use(**)
The same thing can be said outside of lessons as well. If someone is thinking “I’ve been doing it wrong all this time” they ain’t gonna be thinking about head in relation to body, analysing the conditions present, or reasoning out the best means-whereby. In fact, they won’t have room in their heads for Alexander Technique at all.
(*) Note for the menfolk: this is A Bad Thing. Note for the womenfolk: apparently any shampoo with sulphates in it will strip your colour.
(**) I’m not alone in this. Jen Mackerras actually puts her students’ sticks into a cupboard http://ow.ly/cGeyx