Imagine this scenario. You’re doing something, and you find yourself tensing really hard. A little investigation decides it’s nothing to do with any specific activity; it’s more of a general, underlying behaviour trait. Sounds familiar?
It happens to Alexander students a lot. There are some favourite underlying causes. And one of the big ones is the need for control.
So how do you define control? Not ‘how does one’ or ‘how does the dictionary’ but ‘how do YOU’?
Well, if you are over-tensing in order to achieve it, your definition probably runs along the lines of ‘a tight grip’, or maybe ‘a good hold on things’. And being pretty determined, you will be gripping tightly. Really tightly. In fact, in order to make sure you’ve got a tight grip, you’ve probably turned on every single muscle in that part of your body to its absolute maximum.
This has consequences. On the plus side, your grip is indeed tight. You feel secure and solid. On the negative side, you’ve just thrown all chance of speed, subtlety, accuracy and adaptability out of the window. Think of it like this. You’re typing at a keyboard. Got that? Now put on a pair of thick sheepskin mittens. Not gloves, mittens, like the ones in the picture. Now type.
Going well? I didn’t think so. You can’t separate out the components (in this case, fingers) that need to work separately. Small movements don’t register, it’s hard to bend the joints, and you can’t really feel what’s happening. It’s a good model for what happens when you turn on all those unnecessary muscles. A high price to pay for feeling secure.
So how about this for a different definition of control:
The ability to influence the outcome.
This means just using enough effort to make the movement you need, and no more. Moving fast enough and small enough to perform the task, and no more. Being accurate and adaptable, and no more. Setting events in motion and no more. Allowing the results to happen, rather than forcing your iron will upon them. And giving up on the idea of ‘a tight grip’.
You can’t have ‘and no more’ while you’re gripping tightly. You have to choose between them. One or the other.