Willing, will-to-do, will-power

The unfortunate fact which we must face is that such people are practically without control where these failings are concerned, and the general opinion is that these people lack will-power. In my opinion this is not really true.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 37.

It is quite possible that the thief would scorn to take such advantage of a friend. I have known of such cases; hence the phrase, “Honour among thieves.”
Now we do not speak of the other brother as lacking in will-power, but wherein lies the difference in this connection between him and his thief brother? In the case of the thief, the promise to reform was made. He steals again and again, so that people say in the ordinary way, “He is hopeless, he hasn’t the will-power to enable him to reform.” As I have before indicated, I fear this is not a correct solution.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 38..

As a matter of fact this man possesses a great amount of will-power and energy in certain directions, just as he probably lacks it in others. This applies equally to his brother and, in a greater or less degree, to every human being. At the same time I think we are justified in concluding that the thief, as compared with his brother, exercises his energy, will-power and resourcefulness in but limited directions.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 38..

We know that men and women have continued to steal for years without being even suspected, and there cannot be any doubt that in thus escaping detection, they prove that they possess forms of exceptional will-power, energy, resourcefulness, courage, determination and initiative, which, if directed into the right channels, would have made them highly successful and valuable members of society.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 39.

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.”

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 39.

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.”

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 128.

Some well-meaning friend, for instance, may urge the man to use what is called “will-power” to fight and control his desire, but the desire is a sensory desire, and the processes called “will-power” have in this case long since been dominated by the debauched sensory appreciation associated with this desire, and therefore his hope of salvation lies in the restoration of his sensory appreciation to that normal condition which we do not find associated with abnormal and unhealthy desire.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2004, London), page 147.

I mention that because my pupil, as soon as I ask him to lift his arm, is going to flounder, because it does not matter what I say to him, it does not matter how much I explain to him that I do not want him to make a specific act or to use a specific part, he will do it all right, you can’t stop him. It is a habit of life. You might as well ask him to stop eating; it is the same.

Lecture: ‘An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour’ (1925) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), pages 146-47.

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, 1939, London) page, p. 16.

Why does his “will to do” fail him at the critical moment? What is the stimulus that constitutes an apparently irresistible temptation to him to take his eyes off the ball, in spite of his desire to follow his teacher’s instructions and in spite of his “will to do”?

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London) page p. 49.

This apparent anomaly can be explained, and in explaining it I hope to shew not only what is at the bottom of the golfer’s difficulty, but also of the difficulty which so many people experience when, with the best “will” in the world, they find themselves unable to put right something which they know to be wrong with themselves.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London) page p. 52.

A teacher who made a diagnosis on these lines would understand that the difficulty could not be met by any such purely specific instruction as telling his pupil to keep his eyes on the ball, for he would recognize that any “will power” exerted by a pupil whose use of himself was misdirected would be exerted in the wrong direction,1 so that the harder he tried to carry out such an instruction and the more he “willed” himself to succeed, the more his use would be misdirected and the more likely he would be to take his eyes off the ball.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London) page p. 57.

1 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, 1939, London) page 57fn.

This means that the golfer will be able to keep his eyes on the ball when he wishes to do so, for new and reliable “lines of communication” will have been laid down, which ensures that what he “wills” to do he ultimately does; his “will-to-do,” in short, will be effective.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London) page p. 61.

This extreme muscle tension was an impeding factor in the functioning of his mechanisms generally, and rendered impossible a satisfactory use of his tongue and lips, and the more he tried by any special effort of “will” to speak with out stuttering, the more certain he was to increase the already undue muscle tension and so to defeat his own end.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London) page p. 71.

The will-to-do without direction—if you are wrong and you “will” do, God help you.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 208.

True, we have all heard of people who claim to have succeeded in “curing” habits by following precepts of some teaching method, just as others will claim that they have made changes in themselves by “willing” themselves to do, or not to do, on the trial-and-error plan.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 73.

Another incentive to end-gaining on the pupil’s part is his desire to gain in a given time the maximum benefit from his lessons irrespective of the conditions to be changed. Unfortunately for him, in view of the nature of his educational training, this very commendable desire causes him to make a special will-to-do effort in his desire at all costs to be “right.” But as his “right” is wrong, this merely means a stronger effort in the wrong direction* and an exaggeration of his habitual way of “doing” the very things he must get rid of, if he is to gain the improvement he desires.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 80

According to the conception of change most generally held in the past and which still persists today, “creative power,” “willing” and “wishing,” as expressed in the words “I will” or “I will not,” are means whereby change can be brought about, and those who favour methods based on this conception employ them as an aid to their accomplishment in all fields of activity. 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

Man still relies upon an undue proportion of limited and deceptive experiences as a basis for judgement in too many spheres of activity and in regard to too many problems; and this can account in a great measure for the position in which he finds himself today, a position which would seem to show that he has long since been in need of something more than “wishing” or “willing” on the trial-and-error plan, if he is ever to meet successfully the added demands made upon him by changes in living, let alone those that are likely to be made upon him in the future. He has been “wishing” for continued progress, development, and freedom of thought and action, “willing” himself to this end, at one time concentrating upon “physical,” at another on “mental” means, and also on “spiritual” means.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 95.

His only idea of “cure” for his disabilities is to concentrate still harder on “wishing” and “willing” on the same old plan as before, and therefore the only kind of change he makes is that which comes from ceasing to concentrate on one point in order to concentrate on another, as when, for instance, he claims to be depending more upon “spiritual” than upon “mental,” or more upon “mental” than upon “physical” means and so forth. Therefore no matter how much people may differ as to the merits of any particular change in his reaction that he may bring about by his concentrating on his will-to-do decision, there can be no divergence of opinion with regard to the fact that not only during, but after the making of the change by this method, he will not have brought about any change in that manner of use of himself which has hitherto tended to lower the standard of his general functioning; and the resultant harmful influence of this will become intensified through any special effort he makes, and remain a retarding and disintegrating constant, associated with conditions of disorder and complication which are bound to lead sooner or later to other harmful habits of use, and gradually to the development of organic trouble and disease.
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), pages 95–96.

But when it has been demonstrated to him that any specific “doing,” such as indulging in a particular habit, is always associated with a particular manner of use of himself, he will appreciate that it is futile to try to control this specific “doing” (habit) directly, because this would mean leaving unchanged the manner of use and conditions of functioning associated with this “doing.” He does not, therefore, try to suppress his desire to indulge in this habit by sheer force of his will-to-do, but instead learns to approach his problem indirectlyby inhibiting his habitual manner of use in reacting to the old stimulus.

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

Past and present teachers in the field of religion as in other fields offer us in their writings and instructions theoretical help, good thoughts, and advice as to what we should or should not do to realize their ideals, but their methods are on the trial-and-error plan and do not provide those they wish to help with adequate “means-whereby” for the gaining of their end; especially in the matter of making changes in the self, these people, with all their stimulation of our will-to-do, provide no means whereby we are enabled to carry out consistently the well-intentioned decisions which result from this stimulation, leaving us in the dilemma in which St. Paul found himself when he made his agonized exclamation: “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. vii:19).

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), pages 150–51.

Until their manner of use has been improved, which means that some reconditioning has been effected, it is almost impossible to get them to use their reasoning processes in trying to understand new “means-whereby” to their ends. One of them actually said: “I don’t want to understand what I am doing.” He really meant that he had no desire to use his will-to-do in carrying out consciously the new procedures he had decided were to his advantage.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 152.

I know many people will try to explain all this away by telling us that we wanted peace. No one will disagree, but the trouble lay in the nature of the “wanting,” which was too closely allied to the attitude of “willing” and “wishing” as such.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 185.

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