I used to believe that to have any chance of stopping harmful habits it was necessary for us to first become aware of what we were doing, for which an accurate bodymap would seem to be a prerequisite. I’m no longer sure this is the case.
Clearly, something other than knowledge of what is going on inside us best regulates the manner of that ‘going on’; and I suspect that attending to the kinesthetic niceties of our behaviour can get in its way almost as much as ignoring our plight in the first place. To my mind, Alexander said as much in his discourses on conception.
That ‘something’ may lie behind what Alexander termed the Primary Control. Most teachers tend to see this as the physical matter of how the head relates to the neck and back. However, rather than try and encourage optimal functioning, based on our understanding of poor use, it might be more fruitful to turn our attention to what once allowed the Primary Control to influence us unaided (ie, before our habits intervened).
The way we perceive the world, and the manner in which we perceive ourselves to be alive in it, constitutes our habitual outlook; and it is almost certainly this that determines how well the Primary Control functions. Unfortunately, the way we approach the process of living while intending to avoid tightening our necks is fundamentally not that different to the way we approach it with no such intention. Poor use would seem to be a constant, either as an unseen presence, or an ever present danger, of our established outlook.
This could hardly be otherwise, since to inhibit something requires its existence – or the threat of it. To circumvent this, we could adopt a different outlook altogether, one which did not bring poor use in its wake. What this outlook might be is a matter of conjecture; but that it exists is indisputable.
There are some fascinating developments of Alexander’s work – David Gormanâ€™s and Peter Grunwaldâ€™s approaches spring to mind – that suggest ways in which we might perceive the world and ourselves in it (adopt a new outlook) that would encourage good use, with no attention on our part to its details, rather than have us, as tradition demands, seeking, through an unchanged outlook, to emulate that use by monitoring ourselves kinesthetically.