freedom for life

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

Friday, 25 November 2016

Getting Into Action

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I started this blog back during the summer after a conference in Padua where I volunteered to organise the next European Personal Construct Psychology conference here in Edinburgh in 2018. I am coming back to it now, after a gap in blogging that has been too long. As a background it might not seem to augur well for a blog about getting into action and yet that is exactly what I have been doing. In that I have started an Apprenticeship in Movement Medicine, which is a conscious dance practice; put together the plan to bring the conference to Edinburgh; and prepared and delivered a training day for the Hampshire Counselling and Psychotherapy Association – which was in part about getting into action.

The blog has been there on my ‘to do’ list each week, only to get bumped to the next, as deadlines came and other priorities needed attention. Which is a familiar part of life for us all and involves prioritising and choice. Included amongst the choices is a choice of how we react, especially when there is a lot to do and we are in danger of, or actually become, overwhelmed.

That there is a choice there is sometimes missed and, if it is missed, we then lose the opportunity to grow and develop what Alexander would have called ‘constructive conscious control.’ This is the aim of his Technique and as a phrase is rather a mouthful and if approached too cognitively and intellectually misses the simple import of his work, which is that it is possible to gain control of our behaviour over time and channel our energies consciously in the direction we want to go in.

The use of the word control, for some people, including some Alexander Technique teachers can be off-putting, as it is often associated with forcibly making oneself do things by tensing up and discipline, which can be another problematical word for us, as it can also carry some pretty heavy connotations. Yet the essence of the work I do, both as an Alexander Technique teacher and as psychotherapist, is to help people put aside such habitual ways of being and acting towards themselves and to cultivate a ‘freedom in thought and action’ as Alexander put it, that allows them to be more fully themselves and to act as such.’

And ‘freedom in thought and action’ and therefore getting into action, is very much what psychotherapists are interested in, as the Existentialist psychotherapist Irvine Yalom has noted. Elsewhere he has written that the ‘mechanics of action’ are all too often missing from therapy trainings, and one of the strengths of Alexander’s work is the understanding of the ‘mechanics of action’ that it offers. This enhances my work as a psychotherapist. Which in turn, through my training in Personal Construct Psychology with its understanding of personal meanings, relationships and the roles we play, complements my Alexander training in helping people to become aware of their early habits of relating and moving. Habits which when unrecognised can lead to difficulties in personal relationships and musculo-skeletal pain, as they tighten up in anxiety and nervousness in an attempt to control their reactions. It was this part of my work that I presented in Hampshire, and as ever the necessity of knowing what to stop to allow ourselves to breathe and begin to see the possibilities of our way forward were highlighted as a first step in advancing along our way, whether our difficulties are with others or the mechanics of action. And learning how to do this for oneself is central to the Alexander Technique and the development of constructive conscious control for it is also central to any therapeutic endeavour, indeed any endeavour to get to know oneself and be fully oneself, alive and in action.

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.