Do, doing, non-doing, not doing, undoing

A patient who submits himself for treatment, whether to a medical man or to any other practitioner, may do what he is told, but will not or cannot think as he is told.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 46.

The results, indeed, are all too obvious, and yet it must be presumed that the individual has endeavoured to do the right and not the wrong thing.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 59.

He is swayed first by one force and then by the other, as happens when we hear a man or woman say, “Well, that seems the thing to do, but I feel that I shouldn’t do it.”

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 114.

The teacher does not attach sufficient importance to the fact that the pupil is often under a complete misapprehension as to his own actions, being under the delusion that he is doing one thing when he is often doing the exact opposite.
No real progress in the overcoming of faults can be made until the pupil consciously ceases to will or to do those things which he has been willing and doing in the past, and which have led him to commit the faults that are to be eradicated. “Don’t do this, but this,” says the teacher, dealing with effects. In other words, it is assumed that the defective action on the part of the pupil can be put right by “doing something else.” The teacher accepts and preaches this doctrine without ever analysing the defect to its root cause in the human will, the motor of the whole mechanism. He forgets that in “doing something else” the pupil must use the same machinery which, ex hypothesi, is working imperfectly, and that he must be guided in his action by the same erroneous conceptions regarding right and wrong doing.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 127

It is therefore obvious that the correct order of procedure for teacher and pupil is first for the pupil to learn to prevent himself from doing the wrong things which cause the imperfections or defects, and then, as a secondary consideration in procedure, to learn the correct way to use the mental and physical mechanisms concerned.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 129

When this is the case the teacher must explain that the reason that the pupil is unable to perform the act correctly is that he believes that there is something for him to do physically, when as a matter of fact the very opposite is necessary. He is doing what is wrong. Obviously he should begin then by ceasing to do what is wrong, not by endeavouring blindly to do what is right. The process is this: apprehensively he tries to do what he thinks his teacher desires him to do.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 156

When it is explained to such a pupil that inhibition is the first step in his re-education, that his apprehensive fear that he may be doing wrong and his intense desire to do right are the secrets of his failure, he will invariably endeavour to prevent himself from doing anything, by exerting force usually in the opposite direction. And so he creates a second harmful force which, in conjunction with the first, serves only to increase the undue physical tension and to intensify the already exaggerated apprehensive condition. The fundamental principle in the re-education of such a subject is the prevention of this undue and unnecessary apprehension. He must not attempt to remedy any defect by “doing something” physically in accordance with his sensory appreciation, which is the outcome of his erroneous preconceived ideas and incorrect psycho-physical experience.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 157

My experience has proved that the pupil at first will act in precisely the same way if I attempt to perform the act for him as if I had asked him to do it without my assistance. He is just as apprehensive as a result of one request as of the other, and in this state of apprehensiveness he is, mentally and physically, impossible to deal with from the standpoint of re-education. He conjures up in his mind all kinds of fears that he will do this or that incorrectly. If you mention that he did a certain thing when you placed your hands on him, he will make an endeavour physically to prevent himself the next time.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 158

However expert the teacher may be, the pupil does not possess the psycho-physical equipment which would enable him to take adequate advantage of the instructions given to him. His first attempt to carry these out will reveal defects, and the subsequent attempts new defects. Each request from his teacher to do something, and each injunction not to do something else, means a building-up of a series of specific psycho-physical acts towards the given “end”—namely, learning to write.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 11

The teacher on a subconscious basis believes in this system for dealing with defects. It is his business to teach the pupil to do something to eradicate his defects, the “doing” in this connection meaning to the pupil simply the performance of a series of physical movements to be carried out in accordance with the pupil’s conception of the teacher’s instructions.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 79.

Beyond this I have emphasized in my book the point that manipulation is necessary for the development and establishment of reliable sensory appreciation in the case of individuals who have developed defects, because in everything they are doing themselves by the usual methods to remedy these defects, they are guiding themselves by an unreliable sense of feeling, thus adding to the incorrect experiences which must always result from guidance by unreliable sensory appreciation. Yet in spite of all that I have written on this point, I have been criticized for “keeping things back,” because I would not give in my book instructions and set exercises that people could do at home by themselves!

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 82.

. . . I will begin with the habit which has become established in most pupils trained on a subconscious basis, and to which we have already referred—viz., that of trying to correct one defect by doing something else.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 84.

Illustration I. “Doing It Right”

Section title in Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 85.

In this last decision he will be influenced by his fixed belief that in order to secure the end he desires his first duty is to do something (as he understands “doing”), and to do it right (as he understands “doing it right”).

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 85

As soon as the teacher observes that the pupil (following out his fixed idea) is setting out to do something he thinks right to bring about the end he desires, he will point out to the pupil that, in trying to remedy his defects by “doing something” himself, he is relying upon his own judgement, but that his (the pupil’s) judgement cannot be sound in this respect, based as it is on his previous incorrect sensory experiences.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 86

Illustration II. Doing Things “His Way”

Section title in Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 89.

And so it comes about that, although a teacher may demonstrate to a pupil over and over again that he will never be able to do what he is trying to do unless he changes his “means-whereby” (gives up, that is, “his way” of doing it), the pupil will still go on trying to overcome his difficulty “his way.”

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 90.

The words “volition” and “inhibition” are in constant use in these pages and I wish at this point to make it clearly understood that they are used merely as names for two respective acts, volition standing for the act of responding to some stimulus (or stimuli) to psycho-physical action (doing), and inhibition standing for the act of refusing to respond to some stimulus (or stimuli) to psycho-physical action (not doing). In other words, volition is used to name what we intend to do, and inhibition to name what we refuse to do—that is, to name what we wish to hold in check, what we wish to prevent.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 91.

When Professor John Dewey read the MS [manuscript] of my last book, he came in to me one morning and said, “Alexander, I am delighted that you hit upon that wonderful principle of non-doing in your technique.” You see, I do not work any of these things [out] as a theory. Anything I have done, I have worked out as a technique.
He said, “I am delighted that you have come upon this principle of non-doing.” He had just come back from China and he said, “I find that that was the philosophy of the Chinese philosophers 3,000 years before Christ, but they had not the counterpart and hence the difficulties in China today. Here in America we have the ‘doing’ habit with no counterpart, and that is why we are having the troubles we are having today.”
I don’t know, but probably a number of members of the Society have been in America, where I have some of the best friends in the world, but the one thing that the American people have got to watch is this terrible habit of “doing”. I know that plenty of my pupils who used to come to me really had nothing to do, but they will make it for the sake of doing, just as a person will try to be good in order to get to Heaven, not for the sake of being good, and it is to this principle of non-doing that we have to look in the future for the real change that is to take place in human behaviour.

“An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour”, 1925, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 147.

Once he gets to the point that I can give him that order and he indulges in non-doing, simply refuses to do anything, I then explain to him the guiding orders which I wish him to deal with.

“An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour”, 1925, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 148.

This time I say to him, “I want you to sit down.”
He says, “No, I am not going to sit down. I am going to order my neck to relax, and allow my knees to go forward and when I touch the chair, I am going to allow the chair to support me. I am not going to slump down,” and if he remembers not to do when he touches the chair, he will not slump on the chair. Then the next thing is, once you get him into a satisfactory condition on the chair, I want him to go back and repeat that process, and I say, “Now I want you to go back to the chair, and I want you to go back again to the non-doing principle.”

“An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour”, 1925, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 149.

Every new thing we do will cause trouble if we go on using ourselves as we have used ourselves, and yet this wonderful man, he never does think what is happening to himself. He attempts to do these things, and he never stops to think for a moment, what strain do crossword puzzles involve? He never for a moment thinks what he is doing to himself.

“An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour”, 1925, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 157.

I had sent to me a young man of twenty-four, a fine young fellow. If ever you have seen an animal chained up, this young fellow sat in my room with those eyes, frightened out of his life, and yet there was nothing to fear. His mother said to me, “Mr Alexander, why is he frightened?” I said, “He is frightened of himself. If you were doing the absurd things with yourself that that boy is doing, you would be frightened too.”

“An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour”, 1925, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 158.

In this connexion I would refer to the benefits derived by the children and young people in our little school where they learn to put into practice the technique for the direction of a improved use of themselves in all their “doings,” in their reading, writing, etc.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page viii.

“Is it not fair, then,” I asked him, “to conclude that it was something I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble.” He thought a moment and said “Yes, that must be so.” “Can you tell me, then,” I asked him, “what it was that I did that caused the trouble?” He frankly admitted that he could not. “Very well,” I replied, “if that is so, I must try and find out for myself.”

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 8.

To this end I decided to make use of a mirror and observe the manner of my “doing” both in ordinary speaking and reciting, hoping that this would enable me to distinguish the difference, if any, between them, and it seemed better to begin by watching myself during the simpler act of ordinary speaking, in order to have something to go by when I came to watch myself during the more exacting act of reciting.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 9.

This was my first at tempt to combine “prevention” and “doing” in one activity, and I never for a moment doubted that I should be able to do this, but I found that although I was now able to put the head forward and up and widen the back as acts in themselves, I could not maintain these conditions in speaking or reciting. This made me suspicious that I was not doing what I thought I was doing, and I decided once more to bring the mirror to my aid.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 15.

Here then was startling proof that I was doing the opposite of what I believed I was doing and of what I had decided I ought to do.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 15.

I was indeed suffering from a delusion that is practically universal, the delusion that be cause we are able to do what we “will to do” in acts that are habitual and involve familiar sensory experiences, we shall be equally successful in doing what we “will to do” in acts which are contrary to our habit and therefore involve sensory experiences that are unfamiliar.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 16.

I went back to the beginning again, to my original conclusion that the cause of my throat trouble was to be found in something I was doing myself when I used my voice. I had since discovered both what this “something” was and what I believed I ought to do instead, if my vocal organs were to function properly. But this had not helped me much, for when the time came for me to apply what I had learned to my reciting, and I had tried to do what I ought to do, I had failed. Obviously, then, my next step was to find out at what point in my “doing” I had gone wrong.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) pages 16-17.

This belief is very generally held that if only we are told what to do in order to correct a wrong way of doing something, we can do it, and that if we feel we are doing it, all is well. All my experience, however, goes to shew that this belief is a delusion.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 18.

I had proved in my own case and in that of others that instinctive control and direction of use had become so unsatisfactory, and the associated feeling so untrustworthy as a guide, that it could lead us to do the very opposite of what we wished to do or thought we were doing.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 23.

It dominated my will to do what I had decided was the right thing to do, and although I was trying (as we understand “trying”) to do it. Over and over again I had the experience that immediately the stimulus to speak came to me, I invariably responded by doing something according to my old habitual use associated with the act of speaking.
After many disappointing experiences of this kind I decided to give up any attempt for the present to “do” anything to gain my end, and I came to see at last that if I was ever to be able to change my habitual use and dominate my instinctive direction, it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving the stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) pages 26-27.

I therefore decided to confine my work to giving myself the directions for the new “means-whereby,” instead of actually trying to “do” them or to relate them to the “end” of speaking I would give the new directions in front of the mirror for long periods together, for successive days and weeks and sometimes even months, without attempting to “do” them, and the experience I gained in giving these directions proved of great value when the time came for me to consider how to put them into practice.
            This experience taught me
(1) that before attempting to “do” even the first part of the new “means-whereby” which I had decided to employ in order to gain my end (i. e., vocal use and reciting), I must give the directions preparatory to the doing of this first part very many times;
(2) that I must continue to give the directions preparatory to the doing of the first part while I gave the directions preparatory to the doing of the second part;
(3) that I must continue to give the directions preparatory to the doing of the first and second parts while I gave the directions preparatory to the doing of the third part; and so on for the doing of the fourth and other parts as required.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) pages 27-28.

Faced with this, I now saw that if I was ever to succeed in making the changes in use I desired, I must subject the processes directing my use to a new experience, the experience, that is, of being dominated by reasoning instead of by feeling, particularly at the critical moment when the giving of directions merged into “doing” for the gaining of the end I had decided upon.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 32.

To the question why he continues to take his eyes off the ball, in spite of his intention to follow his teacher’s instructions and in spite of his “will to do,” the answer is that in everything he does he is a confirmed “end-gainer.”

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 50.

Not long ago a professor brought a friend to watch a lesson given to one of his students in whose progress they were both interested on account of her attainments. “You should have no difficulty with this pupil,” he said, “because she is so willing and anxious to help you.” “Yes,” I replied, “that is one of the curses of the ‘will to do.’ “ His companion held up her hands in horror at this, exclaiming, “Surely, even if it’s wrong, it’s better to exert the ‘will to do’ than not.” This gave me the chance to point out that the “something wrong” meant that there was a wrong direction somewhere, so that what she was really urging was that the addition of the stimulus of the “will to do” would be beneficial, even though it involved an increased projection of energy in the wrong direction. It is not the degree of “willing” or “trying,” but the way in which the energy is directed, that is going to make the “willing” or “trying” effective.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 57 fn.

But, more important than this, my pupil in the course of this procedure had learned that if he inhibited his immediate instinctive reaction to any stimulus to “do,” he could prevent the misdirection of his use and the associated undue muscle tension which had been the marked feature of all his reactions to stimuli, . . .

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 81.

When she came to see me, I recognized that the manner of her habitual use of herself was most harmful, and that in everything she was doing she was using herself in such a way as to bring about harmful pressures.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 107.

I have found that in this process of acquiring a conscious direction of use my pupils gradually develop a higher standard of sensory awareness or appreciation of what they are doing in the use of themselves, so that when it comes to carrying out a course of activity they have decided upon, they possess a criterion within themselves which will enable them to judge whether the use they are employing is right or not for the purpose.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 113.

The reader will remember how in my own case (and this applies equally to the golfer and the stutterer) my “trying” to do the thing which I believed was the right thing to do was based upon the conviction that if I knew what the right thing was, I should, by trying, in time be able to do it, and it was only after a prolonged experience of constant failure that I was driven to the discovery that I was not doing the thing I believed I was doing when I was “trying” to do it.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 117.

As a result, the functioning of his sensory processes has become so unsatisfactory that the use of his mechanisms is constantly misdirected in his efforts to “do,” and when he “tries” to put right the results of this misdirection, he has no other criterion for self criticism to guide him in these attempts but that of the untrustworthy sensory processes which originally led him into error.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932, London) page 118.

The next point is this: from the very beginning, all the attempts that people made to put things right show that they must have reasoned rather like this: “Here is something wrong with you. Therefore I want you to do so and so . . . ” (what it was does not matter here)    “. . . to put it right.”

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 164-165.

There is nothing wrong with us except what we put wrong ourselves. You all know that nearly as well as I do. Therefore, when we first began to help others who had “something wrong,” what we ought to have done was—not to teach them to do something—but what not to do, to prevent themselves from bringing about the wrong conditions which were there.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 165.

If anything is wrong with a person’s use of himself, the first thing is to find out what it is he is doing that is causing the trouble, and to get him to stop doing that. Any other work to help him comes after.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 166.

Now, you see, if an arm is wrong and in order to correct it we go on using that arm and doing something with it, we are simply using the same old wrong experience.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 170-171.

If you are all satisfied that on this principle our first step must be to prevent our pupils from doing the things which have brought them to the point of having had to come to us for teaching, I will go a little further.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 172.

You cannot lengthen a human being really, but you can in the sense of undoing the shortening.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 173.

That is where the trouble comes in. If I ask her to get up out of the chair, she will do something to get up, for at school and all through life she has been taught—like her parents and grandparents before her—that when learning something we have to superimpose a doing. When we wake up in bed in the morning and say we are going to get up, we do not have to try to do anything, we just get up. Pupils who come to me—and I have some of the best brains in the world—simply will not believe that when they come to learn something they have nothing to do to learn. But, believe me, that is what is the matter. We are trying to superimpose a “doing,” when all we need is to give consent.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture”, 1934, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 181.

When you are asked not to do something, instead of making the decision not to do it, you try to prevent yourself from doing it. But this only means that you decide to do it and then use muscle tension to prevent yourself from doing it.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 194.

You are doing what you call “leaving yourself alone.”

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 195.

I can tell you the messages to give, but I can’t tell you what to do.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 195.

Doing in your case is so “overdoing” that you are practically paralysing the parts you want to work.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 195.

You want to think the devil of a time before you do it because the old idea of doing comes back to us.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 195.

You can’t tell a person what to do because the thing you have to do is a sensation.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 195.

What you feel is doing is “undoing.”

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 195.

You can’t do something you don’t know, if you keep on doing what you do know.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 196.

Everyone is always teaching one what to do, leaving us still doing the things we shouldn’t do.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 196.

However people thought they could change by doing the thing they have always done, which repesents their habit, beats me.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 197.

Prevent the things you have been doing and you are half way home.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 198.

How can an order be anything but “doing”—but not doing as you understand doing.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 200.

It is no use giving orders whilst you have an idea at the back of your brain of doing something.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 201.

The right thing to do would be the last thing we should do left to ourselves, because it would be the last thing we should think would be the right thing to do.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 203.

When it is right you won’t do it. It’s only when it’s wrong that you will do it.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 204.

Specific prevention is permissible only under conditions of non-doing, not of doing.

“Aphorisms”, 1930s, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 207.

But when I came to appreciate fully that it was what I was doing in following out instructions that was leading me into the wrong use of myself that was causing my throat trouble, I realized that self-accusation must replace self-pity, and that, in fact, I had to accuse myself of “doing” the undue depression of my larynx, the contraction of my chest, as well as the wrong axis of my head, which were some of the most serious symptoms in my throat trouble,

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 23

I saw that I must find out for myself what I was doing that constituted a wrong use of myself, and then learn how to prevent myself from continuing in this “wrong doing.”

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 23

Obviously, in all “doing” there is a conception of what is to be done and how to do it.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 24

In working out my own problem I was immediately caught in this vicious circle, for my habitual reaction to any conception of “doing” fitted in with my own peculiarities of misuse and faulty functioning, and with the deceptiveness of sensory appreciation that went with these.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 24

As long as we continue to react in “doing” according to our familiar habit of use, we, by our own doing, make change of use and reaction impossible.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 24

As soon, therefore, as he gave consent to doing anything in an endeavour to help himself, these impeding influences at once came into play, operating against him in his “doing” as they would operate against him in any “doing” in physical culture, remedial exercises, or any other method.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 27

Here let me re-emphasize the fact that as such a person has been guided hitherto by what he has felt to be right in all he has done in daily life, and as this “doing” has led to unsatisfactory structural conditions of posture and functioning present in his case, it is obvious that what in the past had felt right to that person must have been wrong.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 77

The only way in which such a pupil could perform exercises or any other activity so that his practice of them would not have this result would be by doing what he feels is wrong; and he is not likely to do that for it would be the unknown to him.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 77

. . . together with other misgivings arising from a situation in which doing what feels wrong is paradoxically associated with a gradual improvement in the pupil’s general use and functioning. In time, however, these difficulties are overcome by experience, as in any other field of learning to do.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 83

As long as the brain is preoccupied with the projection of messages which result in bringing about our habitual manner of use, there is little chance of breaking the vicious circle of the associated reflex activity in “doing.”

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 85

Hence as a result of reasoning on these lines we, on the receipt of any stimulus to activity, make the important decision not to give consent to doing anything in response, as this “doing” would be due to our projection of the habitual messages which have led us into wrongness.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 86

When movement outruns the messages in this way, it means either that the pupil has ceased to project the new messages or that he is “doing” them, relying upon the habitual sensory guidance which he has found by experience is constantly misleading him.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 87

In doing this they depend upon instinctive (automatic) guidance and control of themselves on the trial-and-error plan, without giving consideration to the question of how to “do” the “doing” that is inseparable from the practice of “wishing” and “willing.”

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 94

And when we remember that any new change in his reaction is the result of his “doing” in carrying out his will-to-do plan, and that the nature of this ‘‘doing” depends upon his particular manner of use, which in its turn determines the nature of his changed reaction, it must surely be clear that change which results from decisions carried out by the direct method of “doing” guided by instinctive (automatic) control can only be of a palliative nature, and will almost certainly be associated with the development of undesired by-products.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 96

His problem is to resist the temptation to “do” whenever his “doing” can be shown to be causing his trouble, . . .

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 97

Withholding Action Or Non-Doing

Section title in The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 98

In my work we are concerned primarily with non-doing in the fundamental sense of what we should not do in the use of ourselves in our daily activities; in other words, with preventing that habitual misuse of the psycho-physical mechanisms which renders these activities a constant source of harm to the organism.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 98

But although they may have become convinced that it is what they themselves are doing that is responsible for the wrong manner of use they are anxious to change, and that as a first step in acting on this conviction they must learn how to stop this “doing,” there is little to show that, in learning, their intellectual grasp of the theory furnishes them with the assistance they need for putting it into practice.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 98

It is a curious anomaly that acceptance of the theory and practice of non-doing should be comparatively easy in attempts to help the self in external activities, but so difficult in similar attempts connected with internal activities. Such help involves a form of non-doing which must not be confused with passivity, and which is fundamental because it prevents the self from doing itself harm by misdirection of energy and uncontrolled reaction; it is an act of inhibition which comes into play when, for instance, in response to a given stimulus, we refuse to give consent to certain activity, and thus prevent ourselves from sending those messages which would ordinarily bring about the habitual reaction resulting in the “doing” within the self of what we no longer wish to “do.” It follows that the putting into practice of the theory of non-doing where the manner of use of the self is concerned is a fundamental experience, and is the most valuable experience to be gained by those who wish to learn to prevent themselves from harmful “doing” in carrying out activities outside themselves. Such prevention is the form of non-doing which is essential to the changing of bad habits and to the control of human reaction.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 99-100.

Now, if I ask you to get out of the chair, the first thing I would say in a lesson is, “Don’t do anything I ask you to do,” because the matter of inhibition comes in.

“St. Dunstan’s Lecture”, 1949, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 185-86.

I think I have made it clear that you are not to try to “do right” because, if you do, you will be simply repeating the use of yourself that is your habitual use which is associated with your “bad posture”—to use that word, for example.

“St. Dunstan’s Lecture”, 1949, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 186-87.

Alexander: The point I am after is that I am interested in what you are doing with yourself in moving, for instance, your arm.

“St. Dunstan’s Lecture”, 1949, in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 188.

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