Unity of Self – You React as a Whole,
Integrated Person to Your Environment

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Unity of Self

We respond to the environment as unified organisms, so conceiving ourselves as a separate “mind” and “body” is an outdated dualism that leads to false conclusions.

Sometimes the stuff that’s going on in your body can dramatically influence what goes on in your brain. Sometimes what’s going on in your head will affect every single outpost in your body.

Robert Sapolsky
Neuroscientist

The Belief

The belief that we are a body and the mind that are somehow connected to each other but basically independent is a deeply ingrained concept in our culture. Starting from Platonic idea that true reality exists an abstract world of concepts, and “modernized” by Descartes, in the 1600s, it is a mainstay of popular thinking. However, it is wrong.

In activity, we react as a single organism: we take in information through our sensory systems, the process that information in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and then we act through motor control.

Here is an experiment: raise your arm. now, did your mind do it, or did your body do it? It was you who performed the action, not your body and not your mind, but you.
Here is another: make an exaggerated frowny face.
Do you feel frowny?
Imagine you are about to give an important presentation in front of your boss.
Do you feel your neck tightening?
Did your voice change?
Any “gut” reaction?

The point is, when we react to and interact with the world, there is no use in trying to divide ourselves in ‘body‘ and ‘mind‘. Just so, in the Alexander technique, we learn improved use of the self, period.

Actually, thinking about your body as separate from yourself is a kind of dissociation, a sort of schizophrenia if you will. Consider the following statements that I have heard:

Preschool Teacher

We’re going to walk up the stairs because we have strong bodies.

Question by a Masseuse

Tell me the story of you and your body.

Lots of People Say

I want to get more in touch with my body.

Now consider the following translations:

  1. We are strong so we are going to walk up the stairs.
  2. Tell me about yourself; do you have any pain or conditions?
  3. (I am honestly not sure what this last one is supposed to mean. Probably that the speaker senses that something is wrong, and needs to find an Alexander Technique teacher post-haste!)
What do you think? And, why is this important?

The way that a person conceives of him or herself influences that person’s reactions. Dissociation (talking about “my body” instead of “me”) relieves us in a sense of our responsibility of reacting as a unified organism. Does your body not let you concentrate? Is your body causing you back pain (externalization)? Or, does how you carry yourself and function cause you back pain?

This is not to say that there is any easy fix, or necessarily any “fix” at all, for some conditions. But separating body and mind, and the externalizing conceptualization that goes with that separation takes away your power to act and change. The Alexander Technique is a tool to help us, whatever our conditions and situation, to react as a whole person in a way that does bring about change, and helps us realize our ideals and achieve our goals.

Please enjoy reading about the Alexander Technique on our website! Feel free to contact us for more information or to try out a lesson with an AmSAT-certified Alexander Technique teacher today.