Right vs. wrong

The fact is that any increased amount of exercise does give a sense of relief to those who lead sedentary lives, but unfortunately this sense of relief is too often a delusive mental exaggeration of the real changes in the right direction. It is not often a reliable register of benefits derived which make for permanent relief.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 14.

Whenever X attempted to speak he drew down his upper lip. This was the outward sign of a series of vicious acts connected with a train of muscular movements, a sign that the ideo-motor centres were working to convey a wrong guiding influence to the specific parts concerned in the act of speech. These guiding influences rendered X quite incapable of speech, and would, indeed, have had the same effect on any other individual who produced the same working of the parts concerned.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 33.

The reasons for this are two:
. . .
2.         The stimuli to apprehension, or excitement of the fear reflexes, are eliminated by a procedure which teaches the pupil to take no thought of whether what he calls “practice” is right or wrong.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 54.

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. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 55.

What John Doe lacked was a conscious and proper recognition of the right uses of the parts of his muscular mechanism, since while he still uses such parts wrongly, the performance of physical exercises will only increase the defects. He will, in fact, merely copy some other person in the performance of a particular exercise, copy him in the outward act, while his own consciousness of the act performed and the means and uses of his muscular mechanism will remain unaltered.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 58.

Therefore it is essential at the outset of re-education to bring about the relaxation of the unduly rigid parts of the muscular mechanisms in order to secure the correct use of the inadequately employed and wrongly co-ordinated parts.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 59.

Now if he is told to relax those stiffened muscles of the neck and obeys the order, this mere act of relaxation deals only with an effect, and does not quicken his consciousness of the use of the right mechanism which he should use in place of those relaxed. The desire to stiffen the neck muscles should be inhibited as a preliminary (which is not the same thing at all as a direct order to relax the muscles themselves), and then the true uses of the muscular mechanism, i.e., the means of placing the body in a position of mechanical advantage, must be studied, when the work will naturally devolve on those muscles intended to carry it out, and the neck will be relaxed unconsciously. In this case the conscious orders, by which I mean the orders given to the right muscles, are preventive orders, and the due sequence of cause and effect is maintained.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 59.

Before he has even approached it, he will brace or tense the muscles of his arms, back, neck, etc., and when about to perform the act he will place himself in a position which is actually one of mechanical disadvantage as far as he is concerned. Not only are all these preparations of course quite unnecessary, but the whole attitude of mind towards the task is wrong. In such instances as this, any preconception as to the degree of tension required is out of place.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 60.

I seen an example of one of these children employing his physical mechanisms in a correct or natural way. I insist upon the use of the word natural even though it be applied to such relatively artificial activities as drawing and carpentering. For there is a right, that is to say a most effective, way of holding and using a pencil or a carpenter’s tool.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 80.

For this very reason, all aid to progressive development must conform to the principle of the projection of guiding orders and controls in the right direction or directions, with the simultaneous employment of positions of mechanical advantage, irrespective of the correctness or otherwise of the immediate result. The result may be unsatisfactory today and tomorrow, or during the next week, but if the position of mechanical advantage is employed and orders and controls in the right direction are held in mind and projected again and again, a new and correct complex sooner or later supersedes the old vicious one, and becomes permanently established.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 86.

(a) Till now little or no attention on a practical psycho-physical basis has been given to the vital and harmful influence of this faulty direction (of subconscious origin) and of the erroneous preconceived ideas and faulty posture associated therewith. Under such influences the subject can hardly fail to cultivate a wrong mental attitude towards life in general and towards the art of living (evolving satisfactorily), especially in regard to the primary causation of the defects which may be present or which may develop eventually, but also in regard to the essential laws connected with the eradication of these defects.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 113.

c) Whilst these delusions remain, the subject will continue to perform wrong or detrimental actions, for as long as his settled mental attitude towards such actions remains unchanged he will believe that he is performing them in a correct manner.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 115.

Once this new mental attitude is firmly established there is hope for the afflicted person, and he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he is, as it were, working out his own salvation on common sense practical lines, devoid of pernicious sympathy, face to face with real facts, and stimulated by a principle which cannot fail to secure the very best efforts in the right direction of which any ordinary person is capable.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 115-116.

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. Neither teacher nor pupil seems to remember that to know whether practice is right or wrong demands judgement. Judgement is the result of experience. Faulty or wrong experience means faulty or bad judgement, whereas correct experience means good judgement.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 127.

In any case the teacher’s order to relax and straighten the neck is incorrect and primarily the result of a wrong assumption. It started from a false premise which led to false deductions. It started from a false premise which led to false deductions. The pupil and his teacher decided that something was wrong and that therefore something specific had to be done to put it right. The “end” was held in mind primarily and not the “means whereby.”
            The correct point of view is: something is wrong in the use of the psycho-physical mechanism of the person concerned. Is this imperfection or defect a direct or indirect result of this person’s own direction and action, or is it the result of some influence outside of himself and beyond his power to control? It can be proved conclusively that his imperfections or defects are due entirely to causes springing directly or indirectly from his own ideas and acts.
            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. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 129.

As I have already said, I maintain further, and I am prepared to prove, that the majority of physical defects have come about by the action of the patient’s own will operating under the influence of erroneous preconceived ideas and consequent delusions, exercised consciously or, more often, subconsciously, and that these conditions can be changed by that same will directed by a right conception implanted by the teacher.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 133.

In his former lessons he had been told to try to improve the utterance of simple sounds and words, without any analysis or pointing out of the wrong means which he had previously employed to this end. All his efforts to carry out his teacher’s directions were made in accordance with his original preconceptions and former experience. His muscular mechanisms were employed in the same (wrong) way, and his whole consciousness and explicit and implicit self-directions were exactly the same as they had been previously.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 140-141.

One by one the wrong actions and reactions are inhibited, the tightening of the neck, the throwing back of the head, the tension of the lower jaw, the deep “sucking” breath, the jerks of the limbs, the grimaces; and then, on the positive side, the right actions are gradually built up, such as the free, controlled opening of the mouth, the even, “pneumatic” breath, the upright, balanced poise, the clear enunciation and correct vocalization.*

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 141-142.

The tension of the muscles of the arm will almost certainly be unnecessarily high, and the general use of the wrong muscles will tend to destroy the proper equilibrium rather than to maintain it.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 147.

Naturally a teacher is forced to point out at the beginning that this or that is wrong. All too frequently the pupil at once shows distinct signs of unnecessary apprehension. As this condition is the most retarding feature in any teaching work, I have for years in my own work devoted special attention to it and at once make an attempt to prevent it by endeavouring to put the pupil into “communication with his reason.” There are numerous and widely differing means to this end in the early stages of re-education to the description of which a whole book might easily be devoted, but it is sufficient here to mention it in a general way. I begin by pointing out that we expect these different things to be wrong, that their being so is not case for worry or apprehension, seeing that they assuredly can be corrected. I draw attention to the obvious fact that a pupil comes to a teacher because there is something wrong. That must be the primary idea, otherwise the teacher’s help is superfluous.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 155-156

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. The old, wrong, subconscious orders follow in their usual channels, and before he realizes the fact he is performing the act in the old, wrong manner. Therefore he must learn to inhibit these incorrect subconscious orders, which result in undue physical tension and the imperfect use of his muscles. But instead of employing inhibition, he adds to his difficulties by renewing his efforts on the old basis to put right what he is told is wrong, and he actually employs increased force in accordance with his own estimate of the amount needed to perform the act.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 156-157

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.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 157.

His reasoning power is dominated by his sense of feeling where his psycho-physical self is concerned, so that he cannot even attempt to carry out any physical act except the one he feels to be right, despite the fact that by his reasoning faculties and practical proof he knows that his sense of feeling is misleading and is the outcome of erroneous preconceived ideas.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 157.

These same rules are equally applicable in principle to the acts of sitting and of rising from a sitting position. Very few people have the right mental conception of the “means whereby” of these acts or of the correct use of the parts which should be employed in their performance, and this despite the fact that we are performing these acts continually, and with such apparent ease from our own point of view.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 173.

To most people the educational process is one by means of which the child is to acquire knowledge and be put right in all matters where he is judged to be wrong.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 72.

Further, it occurs to very few of them to consider whether, in this process of “education” (i.e., in certain specific directions), the child’s fear reflexes will not be unduly and harmfully excited by the injunction that it must always try to “be right,”† indeed, that it is almost a disgrace to be wrong; that the teachers concerned do not even know how to prevent the child from acquiring the very worst psycho-physical use of itself whilst standing or sitting at its desk or table, pondering over its lessons, or performing its other duties; that on account of the methods of cramming and other means adopted in the act of learning, there is being cultivated a harmful psycho-physical condition—one result being recognized in a loss of memory—which in our time has developed to such a serious point that it has paved the way for the exploitation of educated people by means of various methods, such as “memory systems,” etc.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 72-73.

As a result, by the time the ordinary child reaches school age, certain wrong uses of the psycho-physical mechanism have become established, constituting a serious condition which baffles the most thoughtful teachers.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 74.

On the other hand, the whole procedure of teaching on a plane of constructive conscious control is based on the opposite principle—namely, that those who have developed a condition in which the sensory appreciation (feeling) is more or less imperfect and deceptive, cannot expect to succeed in remedying this condition by relying upon this same deceptive feeling for guidance in their efforts in re-education, readjustment, and co-ordination, or in their attempts to put right something they know to be wrong with the psycho-physical organism.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 80.

The technique, therefore, in which we are interested has been developed throughout from the premiss that, if something is wrong with us, it is because we have been guided by unreliable sensory appreciation, leading to incorrect sensory experiences and resulting in misdirected activities.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 82.

In this connection, therefore, a teacher in dealing with the shortcomings of a particular case, must give due consideration to the pupil’s fixed conceptions, otherwise these will greatly complicate the problem for both teacher and pupil. Certain of these fixed ideas are encountered in the case of almost every pupil; fixed ideas, for example, as to what constitutes the right and what the wrong method of going to work as a pupil; fixed ideas in regard to the necessity for concentration, if success is to attend the efforts of pupil and teacher; also a fixed belief (based on subconscious guidance) that, if a pupil is corrected for a defect, he should be taught to do something in order to correct it, instead of being taught, as a first principle, how to prevent (inhibition) the wrong thing from being done.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 83-84.

Illustration I. “Doing It Right
sub-title in chapter “Incorrect Conception”

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 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”). This is not surprising, as it is probable that all his former teachers will have instilled into him from his earliest days the idea that when something is wrong, he must do something to try and get it right. Beyond this, he will have been told that, if he is conscientious, he will always try to be right, not wrong, so that this desire to “be right” will have become an obsession in which, as in so many other matters, his conscience must be satisfied.
            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. The teacher will therefore advise the pupil to stop relying on his own judgement in these matters, and, instead, to listen to the new instructions, and to allow the teacher to give him by means of manipulation the new correct sensory experiences.
            The idea, however, of ceasing to do the wrong thing (as a preliminary measure in re-education) makes little or no appeal at first to the average pupil, who, in most cases, goes on trying to “be right” in spite of his experience and of all that his teacher may say.*
            There are many reasons for this, chief among them being, in my opinion, the fact to which I have already drawn the reader’s attention—namely, that in our conception of how to employ the different parts of our mechanisms, we are guided almost entirely by a sense of feeling which is more or less unreliable. We get into the habit of performing a certain act in a certain way, and we experience a certain feeling in connection with it which we recognize as “right.” The act and the particular feeling associated with it become one in our recognition. If anything should cause us to change our conception, however, in regard to the manner of performing the act, and if we adopt a new method in accordance with this changed conception, we shall experience a new feeling in performing the act which we do not recognize as “right.” We then realize that what we have hitherto recognized as “right” is wrong.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 85-87.

For instance, suppose the teacher, in trying to change some malcondition in the pupil, asks him to bend his knees. The pupil, thinking only of what his teacher asks him (the “end”) and desiring to do it right (as he understands “doing it right” in connection with the act of bending his knees), bends his knees, and bends them as he has always bent them—that is, with a great amount of unnecessary tension and pressure, interfering with his equilibrium, shortening his spine* (by increasing the curve, etc.), stiffening his neck, and so attains his end (the bending of his knees), but at the cost of undue strain and disadvantage in the use of the organism. I do not mean, of course, that the pupil is conscious of all this. He has probably never thought out how (the “means-whereby”) he has performed such acts as “bending his knees,” and though he knows in a general way that something is wrong with him (else it is improbable that he would be coming to a teacher at all), he has not associated this “something wrong” with anything that he has been doing himself—that is, with his own misdirected activities. Therefore, when he bends his knees in response to his teacher’s request, he is not conscious of anything being wrong in his manner of doing it. He bends them as he has always been accustomed to bend them. This satisfies him, it feels right to him.
            Now suppose that the teacher, after drawing the pupil’s attention to the very disadvantageous manner in which he has been using himself during the process of bending his knees, gives him some help (into the details of which we will enter in the following chapters), and succeeds in inducing him to bend his knees to the best advantage in the general use of his mechanisms. When this occurs, the act of bending the knees becomes, as far as this pupil is concerned, to all intents and purposes, a new act, bringing with it a new feeling. This time the act is not what he is accustomed to, and so it feels wrong to him.
            Henceforward, whenever the conception of bending the knees comes to this pupil (whether in response to his teacher’s directions or through his own initiative), the choice lies before him of bending them in the old way (i.e., at great disadvantage to himself) and “feeling right,” or of changing the manner in which he performs the act and “feeling wrong.” As a little girl said quaintly when this point was explained to her in connection with something she was doing, “Oh, I see ! If I feel at all, I must feel wrong. If I don’t feel wrong, I mustn’t feel.” Unfortunately, the average adult pupil, unlike the little girl, does not “see,” or, if he does, he will not act accordingly. Indeed, we have to face the fact that the adult, as a rule, does not like a new feeling; in some cases he is positively afraid of it. A new “feeling” gives him a sense of insecurity when he experiences it in connection with acts that he has been accustomed to associate with a different feeling all his life. This sense of insecurity is particularly marked in connection with the maintenance of his equilibrium in the acts of standing, walking, etc., in accordance with the newly acquired feeling.* And so it comes about that, when a pupil is faced with the alternative of using his mechanisms badly and “feeling right,” or of using them well and “feeling wrong,” he is apt, as we say, to lose his head, does not stop, therefore, to consider (that is, inhibit) and falls back upon “feeling right.”
            This is only one example of the difficulty which a pupil’s incorrect conceptions and misdirected activities in certain directions will present both to him and his teacher in any endeavour to convey or acquire knowledge in the psycho-physical sphere. In such a case as the one we have cited, the pupil’s fixed ideas as to what constitutes “right” and what “wrong” in certain conditions will produce a deadlock. For how can new and correct experiences be given to a pupil who, in all the movements he makes, is working subconsciously to reproduce certain feelings that he has grown used to and likes? The situation is one that no teacher, be he ever so expert, can deal with satisfactorily, one from which the pupil cannot possibly be extricated, until he stops trying to get things right—stops, that is, working blindly for his ends, and gives thought instead to the new means† given to him by his teacher, whereby his ends can be attained.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 87-88.

Similarly, although a teacher may assure his pupil over and over again, that, if only he will adopt the new means given to him, he will be able to do quite easily the thing he has always believed he cannot do, the pupil will not make any attempt to adopt the new means. He will go on, in fact, trying to be right “his way,” and always being wrong.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 90.

As a striking instance in this field of human delusion, we will take the attitude of the stutterer towards the things he thinks of as “right” or “wrong” in himself, when he is faced with the practical problem of speaking in everyday life.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 92.

In connection with unreliable sensory appreciation and with perverted ideas or conceptions of what is “right” or “wrong,” where the human creature’s uses of his own mechanisms are concerned, the following is a most significant illustration.
            A little girl who had been unable to walk properly for some years was brought to the writer for a diagnosis of the defects in the use of the psycho-physical mechanisms which were responsible for her more or less crippled state. When this had been done, a request was made that a demonstration should be given to those present of the manipulative side of the work (the child, of course, to be the subject to be manipulated), so that certain readjustments and co-ordinations might be temporarily secured, thus showing, in keeping with the diagnosis, the possibilities of re-education on a general basis in a case of this kind. The demonstration was successful from this point of view. For the time being the child’s body was comparatively straightened out—that is, without the extreme twists and distortions that had been so noticeable when she came into the room. When this was done, the little girl looked across at her mother and said to her in an indescribable tone, “Oh! Mummy, he’s pulled me out of shape.”
            Here, indeed, is food for reflection for all who are concerned in any attempt to eradicate psycho-physical defects! In accordance with this poor little child’s judgement, her crookedness was straightness, her sensory appreciation of her “out-of-shape” condition was that it was “in shape.” Imagine, then, what would be the result of her trying to get anything “right” by doing something herself, as she had always tried and had always been urged to try to do, whilst practising remed-ial exercises according to the directions and under the guidance of a teacher. Small wonder that all attempts to teach her had resulted in failure!

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 94-95.

Her experiences in connection with the functioning of her organism were consequently incorrect and harmful experiences, and as her judgement in these spheres was the result of these experiences, little wonder that her judgement of what was right and what wrong in her case was not only practically worthless, but constituted a positive danger to her future development. Unless in such cases a child is re-educated and co-ordinated on a basis of conscious control, it cannot acquire a new and reliable sensory appreciation, and, lacking this, it will grow up employing guiding sensations which are delusive and which tend to become more and more so with the advance of time.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 95.

Almost all civilized human creatures have developed a condition in which the sensory appreciation (feeling) is more or less imperfect and deceptive, and it naturally follows that it cannot be relied upon in re-education, readjustment, and co-ordination, or in our attempts to put right something we know to be wrong with our psycho-physical selves.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 98.

In this way all responsibility for the final result is taken off the pupil. He has no “end” to work for, and therefore nothing to get right.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 101.

Now it would seem that this procedure, by relieving the pupil from all responsibility as to results, should, from any common-sense point of view, relieve him also from strain and anxiety; and those pupils who are satisfied that they do not know how to put themselves right, and are therefore willing to remain quietly giving themselves certain guiding orders or directions at the prompting of the teacher, but leaving to him all responsibility in the matter of enabling them to bring about the desired result, are able to gain the new and correct experiences without strain and with a gradually increasing sense of power and control.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 102.

And so, when pupils insist that giving orders is a difficulty, what they really mean is that because of their long-established habit of reacting quickly and unthinkingly to a direction, a habit fostered by years of training, they find it difficult to stop, to wait, to be content just to give orders and to say “No” when the impulse comes to carry out the orders. In other words, they find it difficult not to want to be obedient, not to want to be right, not to work directly for their end.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 105.

The teacher therefore asks him to perform:
            (1) an inhibitory act, by inhibiting “his way” of taking breath—in other words, by preventing or holding in check, in connection with the act, the wrong subconscious guidance and direction, which constitutes the bad habit he has formed when taking breath at the end of each sentence.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 107.

Once, however, he has been taught to act in accordance with the new instructions, his defects will gradually disappear, because he will have learned to prevent the wrong use of the mechanisms responsible for these defects.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 107.

But here again we have one of the numerous instances where a person will refrain from doing the thing he knows he can do (in this instance, to watch the hands—“means-whereby”), and will prefer to depend instead on the old haphazard method of “trying to do it right” guided by his feeling, and this despite the fact that in every experience in which he has taken “feeling” for a guide he has found it to be unreliable and even delusive.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 121-22.

In other words, the exponents of these breathing exercises act in direct pursuance of their “end,” remaining oblivious to the harmfulness of the means whereby they are attempting to bring this “end” about, and to the many wrong uses they are cultivating during the process.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 129.

He may “want” to do it, he may “try and try again” to do it, but as long as the psycho-mechanics by which he tries to carry out his teacher’s directions are not working satisfactorily, every attempt he makes to carry out his teacher’s directions “correctly” (trying to be right) is bound to end in comparative failure. For in making these attempts, as we point out elsewhere, the pupil has only his own judgement to depend on as to what is correct, and since his judgement is based on incorrect direction and delusive sensory appreciation, he is held within the vicious circle of his old habits as long as he tries to carry out the directions “correctly.” Paradoxical as it may seem, the pupil’s only chance of success lies, not in “trying to be right,” but, on the contrary, in “wanting to be wrong”—wrong, that is, according to any standard of his own. In this connection it is most important to remember that every unsuccessful “try” not only reinforces the pupil’s old wrong psycho-physical habits associated with his conception of a particular act, but involves at the same time new emotional experiences of discouragement, worry, fear, and anxiety, so that the wrong experiences and the unduly excited reflex process involved in these experiences become one in the pupil’s recognition; they “make the meat they feed on,” and the more conscientious the teacher and the pupil are on this plan, the worse the situation becomes for both.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 135-136.

When this plane is reached, the individual comes to rely upon his “means-whereby,” and does not become disturbed by wondering whether the activities concerned will be right or wrong.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 139-40.

We would therefore endeavour to convince him by demonstration that his efforts to improve his walking by “muddling through by instinct” are not only futile but quite absurd. By the same process (demonstration) he would be shown that, as soon as he receives the stimulus to walk, he must begin his remedial work by employing his inhibitory powers to prevent the use of the wrong subconscious guidance and direction associated with his conception of “walking.”

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 152-53.

On the other hand, when a person sits down or stands up in accordance with the demands of constructive conscious control, the process involves an adequate and continuous state of increasing awareness in regard to the use of the mechanisms, so that immediately there is a wrong use of these mechanisms, the person concerned becomes aware of it, and at once substitutes a satisfactory for the unsatisfactory use.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 198.

The time had arrived when I had so altered the co-ordination and adjustment of the body, that the old unsatisfactory conditions were changed, and the behaviour was such that I was able to get the shoulder down, without any undue pressure of course. The shoulder went into its place immediately I supplied the sensory activity which brought about those conditions in the working of the whole organism which were present before the shoulder was interfered with. There we get the first stage in which the pupil recognized the right and wrong activity and had sufficient consciousness of [the] change which had taken place, to allow the shoulder to fall into its right place in the general adjustment.

Lecture: ‘An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour’ (1925) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), pp. 143-44.

It is just the same with the physical exercises. Something is wrong, you give the person a physical exercise to put it right, and you are using the same directions, the same guiding mechanisms {and we are trying to use the same guiding orders, to use the organism} in the performance of those exercises that we are using prior to the time of having that lesson when the defects were developed. I am trying to prevent that, and, therefore, I ask the person to inhibit a desire to sit down.

Lecture: ‘An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour’ (1925) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), pp. 147-48.

When I started to work out the technique, I had such a horror of my school that the remembrance of it was still with me all the time, the remembrance of everyone concerned asking me to try to be right, and of my finding out later on in life that my right was wrong, as I knew, by the sensory consciousness that was within me, was wrong.

Lecture: ‘An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour’ (1925) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 158.

You know, pain, after all, is a wonderful thing. That is the sensory appreciation, that is the warning that something is wrong, and if we see ourselves imperfectly, we must have some warning, and there is the warning. In the outside world, for instance, where we are using machinery, no man or woman would think for a moment, for example, of trying to get to America or Australia on a ship if they knew that its compass was wrong. The first thing to do would be to take that compass and see that it was put right.

Lecture: ‘An Unrecognized Principle in Human Behaviour’ (1925) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 158.

Not being pleased with my way of standing and walking, he would say to me from time to time, “Take hold of the floor with your feet.” He would then proceed to shew me what he meant by this, and I did my best to copy him, believing that if I was told what to do to correct something that was wrong, I should be able to do it and all would be well. I persevered and in time believed that my way of standing was now satisfactory, because I thought I was “taking hold of the floor with my feet” as I had seen him do.

            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, 1939), p. 18.

It gradually dawned upon me that the wrong way I was using myself when I thought I was “taking hold of the floor with my feet” was the same wrong way I was using myself when in reciting I pulled my head back, depressed my larynx, etc., and that this wrong way of using myself constituted a combined wrong use of the whole of my physical mental mechanisms. I then realized that this was the use which I habitually brought into play for all my activities, that it was what I may call the “habitual use” of myself, and that my desire to recite, like any other stimulus to activity, would inevitably cause this habitual wrong use to come into play and dominate any attempt I might be making to employ a better use of myself in reciting. The influence of this wrong use was bound to be strong because of its being habitual, but in my case it was greatly strengthened because during the past years I had undoubtedly been cultivating it through my efforts to carry out my teacher’s instructions to “take hold of the floor with my feet” when I recited.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 19.

In the present case, an attempt was being made to bring about an unfamiliar use of the head and neck for the purpose of reciting. The stimulus to employ the new use of the head and neck was therefore bound to be weak as compared with the stimulus to employ the wrong habitual use of the feet and legs which had become familiar through being cultivated in the act of reciting. Herein lies the difficulty in making changes from unsatisfactory to satisfactory conditions of use and functioning, and my teaching experience has taught me that when a wrong habitual use has been cultivated in a person for whatever purpose, its influence in the early stages of the lessons is practically irresistible.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 20.

Certain points impressed themselves particularly upon me:
... (3) that this instinctive misdirection leading to wrong habitual use of myself, including most noticeably the wrong use of my head and neck, came into play as the result of a decision to use my voice; this misdirection, in other words, was my instinctive response (reaction) to the stimulus to use my voice.
            When I came to consider the significance of this last point, it occurred to me that if, when the stimulus came to me to use my voice, I could inhibit the misdirection associated with the wrong habitual use of my head and neck, I should be stopping off at its source my unsatisfactory reaction to the idea of reciting, which expressed itself in pulling back the head, depressing the larynx, and sucking in breath.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 24.

Like most people, I had believed up to this moment that if I thought out carefully how to improve my way of performing a certain act, I should be guided by my reasoning rather than by my feeling when it came to putting this thought into action, and that my “mind” was the superior and more effective directing agent. But the fallacy of this be came apparent to me as soon as I attempted to employ conscious direction for the purpose of correcting some wrong use of myself which was habitual and therefore felt right to me.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 25-26

For instance, as soon as any stimulus reached me to use my voice, and I tried in response to do the new thing which my conscious direction should bring about (such as putting the head forward and up), and speak at the same time, I found I immediately reverted to all my old wrong habits of use (such as putting my head back, etc.). There was no question about this. I could see it actually happening in the mirror. This was clear proof that at the critical moment when I attempted to gain my end by means which were contrary to those associated with my old habits of use, my instinctive direction dominated my reasoning direction. 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.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 26-27.

This meant that the old instinctive direction which, associated with untrustworthy feeling, had been the controlling factor up to that moment in the building-up of my wrong habitual use, still controlled the manner of my response, with the inevitable result that my old wrong habitual use was again and again brought into play.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 27.

As the reader knows, I had recognized much earlier that I ought not to trust to my feeling for the direction of my use, but I had never fully realized all that this implied, namely, that the sensory experience associated with the new use would be so unfamiliar and therefore “feel” so unnatural and wrong that I, like everyone else, with my ingrained habit of judging whether experiences of use were “right” or not by the way they felt, would almost inevitably balk at employing the new use. Obviously, any new use must feel different from the old, and if the old use felt right, the new use was bound to feel wrong I now had to face the fact that in all my attempts during these past months I had been trying to employ a new use of my self which was bound to feel wrong, at the same time trusting to my feeling of what was right to tell me whether I was employing it or not.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 31-32.

This meant that I must be prepared to carry on with any procedure I had reasoned out as best for my purpose, even though that procedure might feel wrong. In other words, my trust in my reasoning processes to bring me safely to my “end” must be a genuine trust, not a half-trust needing the assurance of feeling right as well.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 32-33.

And the experience I gained in maintaining the new manner of use while going on to gain some other end or refusing to gain my original end, helped me to maintain the new use on those occasions when I decided at the critical moment to go on after all and gain my original end and speak the sentence. This was further proof that I was be coming able to defeat any influence of that habitual wrong use in speaking to which my original decision to “speak the sentence” had been the stimulus, and that my conscious, reasoning direction was at last dominating the unreasoning instinctive direction associated with my unsatisfactory habitual use of myself. After I had worked on this plan for a considerable time, I became free from my tendency to revert to only wrong habitual use in reciting, and the marked effect of this upon my functioning convinced me that I was at last on the right track, for once free from this tendency, I also became free from the throat and vocal trouble and from the respiratory and nasal difficulties with which I had been beset from birth.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 35-36

The reader who reviews the experiences that I have tried to set down in the previous chapter will notice that at a certain point in my investigation I came to realize that my reaction to a particular stimulus was constantly the opposite of that which I desired, and that in my search for the cause of this, I discovered that my sensory appreciation (feeling) of the use of my mechanisms was so untrustworthy that it led me to react by means of a use of myself which felt right, but was, in fact, too often wrong for my purpose.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 39.

These unsatisfactory reactions manifest themselves as symptoms of defect, of so-called “mental” or ‘‘moral’’ failing, disorder and disease, and their presence may therefore be taken as an indication of the presence also of wrong use and functioning2 through out the organism.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 44.

For this reason I claim that the primary requirement in dealing with all specific symptoms is to prevent the misdirection which leads to wrong use and functioning, and to establish in its place a new and satisfactory direction as a means of bringing about an improvement in use and functioning throughout the organism.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 45.

1 I admit, of course, that a wrong use of other parts might have a more direct bearing upon the golfer’s problem, but for the purpose of illustration I have chosen the wrong use of the eyes, because the experts are unanimously agreed (as unanimously as experts ever are) that failure to keep the eyes on the ball is one of the most common and persistent hindrances to the making of a good stroke.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 50 fn.

Now one would suppose that repeated experience of failure would of itself lead him to set to work on a different principle, but my teaching experience goes to shew that in this respect the golfer’s method of procedure is in no way different from that of other people who use themselves wrongly, and who are trying, with out success, to correct a defect. Strange as it may seem, I have always found that a pupil who uses him self wrongly will continue to do so in all his activities, even after the wrong use has been pointed out to him, and he has learned by experience that persistence in this wrong use is the cause of his failure.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 51-52.

The habitual use of his mechanisms which the golfer brings to all his activities, including golf, has always been accompanied by certain sensory experiences (feelings) which, from their lifelong association with this habitual use, have become familiar to him. Further, from their very familiarity, they have come to “feel right,” and so he derives considerable satisfaction from repeating them. When, therefore, he at tempts to “make a good stroke,” he brings to the act of swinging his club his faulty habitual use, including the taking of his eyes off the ball, because the sensory experiences associated with this use are familiar and “feel right.”
            On the other hand, the use of his mechanisms which would involve his keeping his eyes on the ball during the act of making a stroke would be a use entirely contrary to his habitual use and associated with sensory experiences which, being unfamiliar, would “feel wrong” to him; it may therefore be said that he receives no sensory stimulus in that direction. Any sensory stimulus he receives is in the direction of repeating the familiar sensory experiences which accompany his faulty use, and this carries the day over any so-called “mental” stimulus arising from his “will to do.” In other words, the lure of the familiar proves too strong for him and keeps him tied down to the habitual use of himself which feels right.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 52-53.

It is the dominating influence of his desire to gain his end by means of a use of his mechanisms which feels right, but is in fact wrong for the purpose, that explains not only why he continues to take his eyes off the ball and so to fail in his stroke, but also why, in spite of this repeated experience of failure, he does not give up “end-gaining” and set to work in a different way.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 54.

It is true that a pupil may start out with an “intellectual” conception of what is required for the “means-whereby” procedure, but in my experience I have found that the moment the idea of performing any act in that procedure comes to him, his habit of “end-gaining” causes him to try to “do” the act in the habitual way that feels right, and this in spite of the fact that I have repeatedly demonstrated to him that the sensory appreciation upon which he is depending to “know” whether his means are right or not is deceiving him, so that what he feels is the right use of himself in gaining his end is in fact wrong.
            In the case of such a pupil, working on the “means whereby” principle means working against a habit of life, and difficult as it is to work to a principle against any habit of life (as anyone who tries it will find out), the difficulty is enormously increased when it comes to working contrary to the habit of “end-gaining,” for this habit is so closely bound up with faulty habits of use which feel right, that to give it up means giving up the lifelong familiar habits of use that go with it, and employing in its stead a new use which feels wrong.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 63-64.

1 I must again impress upon the reader that these new sensory experiences will at first feel wrong.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 64 fn.

Unfortunately, the familiar amount of tension that “felt right” to him was the unnecessary amount associated with the wrong habitual use of his mechanisms of which his stuttering was a symptom, and I therefore urged him to recognize from the beginning that the “feeling,” upon which he was relying to tell him when his use was right for speaking, was untrustworthy as a register of muscle tension, and that he must not depend upon it for guidance in his attempts to speak.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 72.

He would agree to do this, but as soon as I asked him to pronounce some sound or word, he would fail to inhibit his response to the stimulus of my voice, and forgetting all about the new directions he had been asked to employ, he would immediately try to repeat the sound, with the result that he was at once dominated by his old habits of use associated with the extreme muscle tension that felt right to him, and so stuttered as badly as ever.1 In short, his very desire to “be right in gaining his end” defeated the end.
            In every stutterer of whom I have had experience this habit of reacting too quickly to stimuli is always associated with sensory untrustworthiness, undue muscle tension and misdirection of energy, but in this pupil’s case the habit of going directly for his end, and of trying to “feel right” in doing it, had been positively cultivated in him by the methods employed by his previous teachers in trying to “cure” his stutter.1

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 74-75.

Unless, therefore, the person attempting to make a change in the use of a specific part has an understanding of what is required to bring about at the same time a corresponding change in the use of the other parts which will make for a satisfactory working balance and therefore be complementary to the new use that he is trying to bring about at one point, one of two things is bound to happen:
either, (1) the stimulus of the desire to gain his end, by means of the old use associated with the habitual working balance which “feels right,” will be so strong that it will dominate the stimulus to cultivate a new and improved use of a certain part associated with an unfamiliar working balance which “feels wrong”; or, (2) . . .

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 78.

In this way he simply reinforced the old sensory experiences of undue muscle tension already associated with his habitual use, and with his habit of trying to feel right in gaining his end.
            To deal with this difficulty I made a point of giving my pupil day after day the experience of receiving a stimulus to gain a certain end and of remembering to refuse to gain that end, since this refusal meant that at one fell swoop he inhibited all the wrong habits of use associated with his habitual way of gaining that end.1 In proportion as he was successful in inhibiting his immediate response to any stimulus, he became able to defeat his desire to gain his ends in the way that felt right to him, and as long as he continued this inhibition, I on my side was able to repeat for him, until they became familiar, the new sensory experiences associated with an improved general use of his mechanisms, including the right use of his tongue and lips.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 80-81.

 

He cannot believe that the end can be gained with these improved conditions present; they “feel so wrong,” as he puts it, that he instinctively refuses to employ them. When this difficulty arises, it is necessary for me to give him the actual experience of gaining his end by what he feels is a wrong use of his mechanisms, and when I have succeeded in doing this, he invariably remarks how much easier the new way is than the old way, and how much less effort it requires. Yet in spite of this admission, the actual experience of gaining his end in this new way has to be repeated for him again and again before the improved use “feels right” to him, and before he gains the necessary confidence in employing it.

            The lesson to be learned from all this is that since our particular way of reacting to stimuli is in accordance with our familiar habits of use, the incentive to try to gain any given end is inextricably bound up with this familiar use. This explains why, if a pupil’s familiar use is changed to one that is unfamiliar and therefore unassociated with his habitual way of reacting to stimuli, he has little or no incentive to gain that given end. As long as the conditions of use and the associated feeling are wrong in a person, the incentive to gain a given end by the familiar wrong use appears to be almost irresistible, but when these conditions have been changed to conditions which are best for the purpose of gaining the end, there seems to be practically no incentive to gain it.

            This if not surprising, for when a person’s sensory appreciation of his use is wrong and his belief as to what he can or cannot do is based on what he feels, gaining an end by a use that is unfamiliar means for him taking a plunge in the dark. Even when I have explained to a pupil why this difficulty has arisen in his case, and he understands the reason for it “intellectually,” he win need, more often than not, considerable encouragement and practical assistance in order to be enable to make the experience of gaining a given end by means of a use that is new and unfamiliar to him. Once this has been done for him, however, he becomes conscious of a new experience that he is desirous to repeat, and repetition of this experience in time convinces him that his previous beliefs and judgments in this connexion were wrong.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), pp. 82-84.

 

1 The late Mr. Joseph Rowntree after one of his lessons described my work as “reasoning from the known to the unknown, the known being the wrong and the unknown being the right.”

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 87 fn.

The standard of relative values that he thus acquires is one that will stand him in good stead in reacting to the stimuli of modern life, in which conditions change so constantly that they cannot be adequately met by any external standard or fixed code as to what is right or wrong. Seeing that the self is the instrument of all his activities, it follows that a valid criterion relating to the use of this self will be a criterion that is valid in relation to all his activities, both so-called “mental” and “physical.”

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 112.

I wish, however, to emphasize here the importance of inhibition in this process, for on account of the habit of end-gaining which is practically universal, such difficulties as we have indicated cannot be permanently overcome unless inhibition is allied to the process of reasoning out the right “means-whereby” and acquiring a higher standard of sensory direction. The reader will remember how, in my own case, my failure to continue to inhibit, due to the habit of end-gaining, was the obstacle to my employing the new ‘‘means-whereby’’ in reciting, although I had reached the point where I could command these new “means-whereby” in ordinary speaking and knew by experience that they were “right” for my purpose.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939), p. 114.

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.”
There you have the fundamental error that runs right through everything we are doing in life today.

‘Bedford Physical Training College Lecture’ (1934) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), pp. 164-65.

To go back for a moment, here is someone with something wrong with him. Are we to believe that some outside force, Nature or God or something else, has come and put that wrong? No. 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), pp. 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), pp. 166.

Supposing, for instance, that we are dealing with a person who has some little trouble with the use of his arm or hand, not paralysis agitans, but some simple little difficulty, and supposing I ask that person to do something with the arm itself to help. Don’t you see that I am at once asking him to use the experience, the old experience—for I have done nothing to alter it by altering the primary control through the torso, legs and so forth—which he has always had when he used the arm that was wrong. 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), pp. 170-71.

The point is this: all these things are relative. A position that is right today, cannot possibly be right tomorrow if you have improved. How can it be? It must be wrong tomorrow, and it will be wrong again the next day if you have improved, because it will have changed with the rest of your changing conditions. This is the principle that I am trying to get to you today, the principle that we must get into our technique and into whatever we are doing.

‘Bedford Physical Training College Lecture’ (1934) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), pp. 171-72.

Four or five years ago I was asked to dine with Bernard Darwin, because Darwin, who, as you know, has been writing on golf for years, had recently asked this question: “When two professional golfers are playing a match and A has to make one shot to win, while B has to make two, why is it that A will go and miss a shot that he will get 999 times out of a 1,000 on any other day?” I went to see him and in an interesting discussion told him what, from my experience, I thought was wrong. You see, when we are learning things in the ordinary way, we get nineteen wrong experiences out of every twenty and one right one. When we get more wrong experiences than right, our emotional side is disturbed.

‘Bedford Physical Training College Lecture’ (1934) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), pp. 178-79.

Under the ordinary teaching methods, the pupil gets 19 wrong to 1 right experience. It ought to be the other way round.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 196.

Mr S— came and said he had trouble with his eyes. He spent three days in bed, when he found his eyes working quite normally, and this continued all the time he was in bed. As soon as he got up again and began walking about, his eyes went wrong again.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 197.

You say it is wrong for the boy to be frightened. I say you are wrong in saying so. I should say it would be serious if he were not frightened when he is in the condition he is.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 197.

You can’t know a thing by an instrument that is wrong.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 198.

Go on with the orders right through the whole piece, once, twice, thrice. You have inhibited the wrong movements at the beginning, and giving the new orders as you make the movement, how can you be wrong?

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 200.

You have been too anxious to be right despite the fact that you learned early in your lessons that your right was wrong.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 201.

Suppose you had the power to change a thief by magic, it would be of no use. The man would have had no experience in resisting temptation (that is, no experience of reacting rightly or wrongly to certain stimuli), and reacting 99 times rightly to once wrongly, which is the experince a man must get before he can change from being a thief.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 202.

You all believe that you must know whether you are right or wrong if you are to make progress.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 202.

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.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 203.

You all want to know if you’re right. When you get further on you will be rigt, but you won’t know it, and you won’t want to know if you’re right.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 203.

You wait to feel out whether you are right or not. I am giving you a conception to eradicate that. Directly you don’t care whether you’re right or not the impeding obstacle is gone.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 203.

Of course, you must remember your orders in order to project them. But you’re not satisfied with that: you will try and feel out whether the thing is working out right or not.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 203.

The old idea of trying to be right has remained with us, in spite of the fact that conditions have changed and our right is wrong.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 204.

The stupidity of letting children go wrong is that once they go wrong their right is wrong: therefore, the more they try to be right, the more they go wrong.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 204.

Here are you, a young fellow of 17, knowing that you are wrong, as I know you are. Doesn’t that show that your “right” is wrong, for you never tried to be wrong. You were always trying to be right. All I want you to do is to give certain direction for me, and then inhibit the tremendous effort you are making to be right.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 204.

To know when we are wrong is all that we shall ever know in this world.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 204.

Everyone wans to be right, but no one stops to consider if their idea of right is right.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 205.

When people are wrong, the thing which is right is bound to be wrong to them.

‘Teaching Aphorisms’ (1930s) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 205.

It is true that Nature has provided us all with the potentiality for the reasoning out of means for preventing wrong use of the self, but we have not developed any preventive measures to this end because we have assumed, quite erroneously, that our manner of use of ourselves cannot go wrong or fail us.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), pp. 6-7.

Dr Caldwell’s next statement, therefore, that “Alexander teaches how to inhibit the reflex spasm, that is the real secret,” is most significant, for it shows that he understands why the particular means employed in my technique in Mr B.’s case came about as an indirect result of the pupil’s learning to inhibit the wrong employment of the primary control of his use. When he became experienced in inhibiting the misdirection which led to the wrong employment of the primary control, and could maintain the resultant new manner of use when responding to any stimulus to activity in his daily life, his reaction no longer resulted in overaction of the muscle group or reflex spasm.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), p. 21.

Take my advice: don’t trust your feeling at all. I advise you whenever you feel a thing is wrong, to do it that way and test it out. You will probably find it is right. But if you do what you feel, once your use has been interfered with, then your feelings will deceive you. There must have been a time when man used himself reasonably well and without any bad effect on his general functioning. He used to depend on feeling for guidance and he still does it. But why did he go wrong? . . .

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

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