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The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Alexander Botox For The Soul

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The face of decision or, as I some times more colloquially put it, having first warned my pupils of an impending profanity, the ‘what the fuck face', is something that we all share. Charles Darwin observed that it exists across culture, although different cultures will construe its meaning differently. From a functional perspective, it is a psycho-physical attitude, as Alexander would have called it.

 face of decision

What the fuck? - The Face of Decision

The ‘face of decision’, a phrase that I wish that I had come up with but which belongs to Alain Berthoz, commonly occurs, when things do not go our away, our anticipations about the world are invalidated and ‘we go what the fuck’, not necessarily verbally but in our psycho-physical attitude and our way of being in the world. What Berthoz also notes is that what goes with this is a closing down; we narrow and hold our breath.

The type of thinking that emerges is very characteristic of Western thought. It is representational, abstract and objective;it inhibits free flowing movement. The return to free flowing movement is what I am always aiming to help people work towards whether I am in my role as an Alexander Technique teacher or Constructivist psychotherapist. In both my practices the face of decision is encountered in relation to physical or emotional hurt, life challenges, anywhere we face difficulties. And sometimes, if those difficulties have been pronounced enough, the face of decision becomes the predominant and defining psycho-physical attitude to being in the world. Resolving this attitude into some other attitude that is open, expanding, that allows for wonder, curiosity, joy, play and ultimately love where the invalidation is or has been core, is a common element to both my working hats.

With core interpersonal invalidation where someone has failed to behave the way we want, the way we need, the way we anticipated and ‘we go what the fuck,’ we tend to objectify them. We lose sight of where they or we may be coming from; we lose our capacity to understand them and ourselves; we lose our ability to move freely with others, disrupting the free flow of all of our relationships.

This can happen in our most important relationships and often hides where we experience ourselves as most vulnerable, our e-motion halts, sometimes even freezing. Objectifying the other becomes all too easy at this point, we relate to an 'it' rather than a 'thou'. In the couples work that I do, Gottman’s four horsemen of the apocalypse, the habits that destroy a relationship, are unleashed, in criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. The move in couples work is the same move that I invite people to make in individual therapy and Alexander Technique but approached differently according to the practice we are working with. In Alexander Technique lessons, I invite people to apply the Alexander Technique, by using inhibition to the mental act that is occurring in the psycho-physical attitude that is the face of decision. In doing so, I invite them to accept whatever emotional experience they are having and to understand themselves in relation to whatever is happening in their relationships. As they do, it becomes possible to return to their partner with a psycho-physical attitude that involves a look of love towards their partner. They find a spontaneity, a way to move freely, to dance with their e-motion. In doing so, their reasoning starts to flow, allowing them to find ways forward together with their partner, if their partners are willing, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Working at this level with constructive conscious control and the psycho-physical attitudes at this core level is something of a specialism of mine and not something that everybody needs to work with. However, we are all tempted to use the face of decision, leading to less productive ways of thinking and reasoning, where we successfully inhibit it and find the flow, we lose the worry lines, we look younger, we are practising Alexander Botox for the soul!

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.

The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.

I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.