There are oh-so-many myths about how we move, the way a person does what they do, and why they do it that way. Things we believe firmly, utterly and completely that aren’t actually true.
Take the idea of collapsing:-
You collapse into a chair.
You flop onto the sofa.
You slump over your computer keyboard.
Hands up if you associate any or all these things with relaxing, and with turning off the muscles that are holding you upright. Were you one of the people putting your hands up? You weren’t alone.
It’s one of the most insidious Alexander myths, and one of the hardest to dispel. In reality, when people flop, slump, collapse they are turning muscles on to achieve it. Lots of muscles, working really hard, putting pressure on bones and joints. They are pulling and pushing themselves down.
You believe me? No, I thought not.
It doesn’t feel like you’re pulling or pushing. It feels like you are letting go. And the reason why it feels this way? Because it’s familiar. All that extra muscle effort is an old friend. You’ve lived together for years, sometimes for many, many years. A bit like the annoying neighbour who has been irritating you for so long you hardly notice any more. Doesn’t mean it’s not there.
And since it’s such an entrenched idea, convincing a student of it is really difficult. I have a few hands-on demonstrations up my sleeve which help for a while. But then the lure of the familiar(*) becomes too much. And so we dance around the ideas a few times, each time getting a little closer to something convincing.
Eventually the student decides to go with the idea, and give it a try. Now they are on the road to taking apart this myth, leaving the way clear for something more constructive.
(*) This is not my own idea. It’s straight out of FM Alexander’s third book, ‘The Use of the Self’, where he says, “the lure of the familiar proves too strong for him and keeps him tied down to the habitual use of himself which feels right.” (his italics, not mine) IRDEAT editionp.437