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Concept Spotlight: Fear Reflexes

by Ellen on August 31st, 2011

We have such a strong tendency to want to “do what we are told,” as it were, that pretty much anyone when given an instruction will immediately attempt to “do it right.” However, the only thing we have to go on when attempting this is our own sensory appreciation, which as we have already discussed is usually faulty and unreliable. So we become trapped in a vicious cycle of trying to do what feels right and finding it wrong.

Now, not only does failing each attempt to “do it right” reinforce our old habits, but it also brings into play a whole new series of negative emotions along the lines of worry, fear, anxiety, and discouragement. Alexander describes this phenomenon as the “fear reflex;” it’s related to other similar reflexes such as the “fight or flight” response. As a species, we have a tendency to be afraid of the unknown, and when attempting an unknown (such as a new way of moving and using ourselves), we are likely to experience fear in some form (anxiety, nervousness, worry, etc.). These negative emotions cause us to fix and hold and try even harder, and the cycle continues on.

The only way out of this cycle is for a student to decide that rather than trying to be right, he wants to be wrong. (Wrong, that is, by his own standard of sensory appreciation.) With this in mind, a conscious teacher will work from a place not of trying to “get the student to do it right” or “fix the student” but rather of simply giving the student a new experience, and then repeating this experience until it becomes familiar. In this way the teacher, by not asking the student to “do” anything specific, ensures that the experiences the student receives will be pleasant ones, thus inspiring positive emotions along the lines of confidence, satisfaction and happiness. These positive emotions then cause the student to want to receive more of these new experiences, until they become established as new patterns of use.

By the way, I may be late posting next week’s Quote since I’ll be moving into my new apartment in Pittsburgh this weekend. I will attempt to post next week as usual, but I may have to search out some internet access so it might be a bit later than usual.

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