By Eve Bernfeld
Have you ever had the experience of seeing a video of yourself and thinking, “Holy Smokes! Do I really look like that?” Quirks, twitches, slumping or puffing up, all manner of things we never knew we did suddenly jump out as clear as day. In the Alexander Technique, we have a term for our lack of accurate awareness of what we are doing: Faulty Sensory Appreciation.
Faulty Sensory Appreciation, or the inaccuracy of one’s judgment of what one is doing, was one of the first things F.M. Alexander stumbled upon in his own process of self-examination. He was trying to make a change to how he coordinated his head, neck and trunk when he performed and he thought the process was going quite well. Until he checked in the mirror. To his dismay, he found that he hadn’t actually changed his coordination a bit—he was still engaging in the same old pattern and he couldn’t feel it at all.
He realized that our habits, even the things we’d like to change, even the things that are damaging us, feel normal to us. Any deviation from that well-worn groove, even if it’s “better,” is likely to feel unfamiliar, even wrong.
So Alexander took a radical step. He stopped relying on his felt sense of what he was doing for accurate feedback. He stopped trying to change himself based on what felt right.
When you take a course of Alexander Technique lessons, your teacher will begin to subtly show you the ways in which your Sensory Appreciation is unreliable. You will be introduced to a process of change that doesn’t depend upon your feeling your way through it, but instead engages you in constructive self-talk that helps the changes to occur. You will still feel yourself. In fact this felt sense (“sensory appreciation,” “proprioception,” kinesthetic awareness”) gradually becomes more accurate as you go along. But you will no longer be a slave to it.