I ride my bike carelessly over broken glass and thorns, and the tire gets punctured, leaving me unable to ride any more.
I routinely use a pair of fabric scissors to cut through cardboard and packing straps. After a few days it is no longer sharp enough to cut fabric. After a few months it loosens and breaks.
I do not use the clutch in my car correctly, often driving in a gear too low or too high for the speed and grinding the gears when shifting. The transmission does not last as long as it is supposed to.
When I use things in a way that is not well thought out they get damaged. Do I ever use my own self in a way that is damaging?
I have often made choices that interfered with my best functioning: staying up all night before an exam, wearing new shoes that are stiff and tight and then trying to walk a long distance, talking so loud at a noisy party that I lose my voice. Perhaps there are subtle things I am unwittingly doing every day that are causing me problems?
We are familiar with the idea that our use affects our functioning. Doctors will often give advice based on proven connections between use and functioning. For instance, they may suggest that to reduce your risk of cancer or diabetes you get more exercise, stop smoking, drink less, or eat different foods. Sports, music, dance and acting coaches aim to teach people to use their “mechanism,” both mental and physical, in a way that optimizes their performance. It is unusual but not illogical that Frederick Matthias Alexander, an actor in the late 1800s whose voice problems threatened to end his career, began his journey of discovery with curiosity and this simple theory: I must be doing something to cause this.
Through careful observation and experimentation, he eventually discovered how to use his whole body and brain in a way that eliminated strain on his vocal mechanism and solved his vocal problems. Wanting to share his discoveries, he began teaching, and soon realized his students could improve their overall functioning (not just vocal production) when they could learn the new healthy patterns of use he had discovered. Fortunately, in addition to teaching private students, he also trained a number of people how to teach his work, who in turn trained more generations of teachers.
In Alexander Technique lessons, over time, your teacher helps you discover your patterns of misuse, guides you with gentle hands-on guidance to create new healthy patterns, and helps you learn the process by which you can change your own use in any activity. Elimination of subtle patterns of misuse may improve your general sense of well-being. As one student said, “After a lesson I feel like I am the best version of me.”