Gain Control by Surrendering Control

"Control should be in process, not superimposed." - FM Alexander

The idea of surrendering control as a form of control can be understood in various contexts, such as personal growth, creativity and emotional well-being, as well as general functioning and mobility. It's a centuries long tradition that can be found in Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. It's also central to the Alexander Technique were it's known as Non-Doing. In doing, you do it, in Non-Doing, it does you. Natural breathing could be said to be an example of non-doing. The only thing you can do with your breath is interfere with it. This also extends to other areas of functioning and movement including your posture. This is why I prefer the word poise instead of posture. You either have poise, or you don't. It's a quality rather than something you proactively do.


I often like to think of the Alexander Technique as Western Taoism, and although there is a philosophical element to that, it's also incredibly practical. A major reason people have back pain, for example, is due to what they're doing to themselves. They need to stop doing unhelpful habits and allow natural coordination, without interference, to guide them. 

"You are doing what is called leaving yourself alone." - FM Alexander

 Surrendering control does not mean being passive or indifferent. It means being active and engaged, but without attachment to a specific outcome or expectation. It's a quality that neutralizes the desire for what is known as End-Gaining behaviour in the Alexander Technique. That is, trying to achieve a certain result without considering the process that would best lead to that result. This is a psychology that is in evidence in many movement habits.

woman with self control
"You can't do something you don't know, if you keep on doing what you do know." - FM Alexander
  1. Personal Growth: Surrendering control involves letting go of rigid expectations and accepting uncertainty. By letting go of the need to control every aspect of your life, you open yourself up to new experiences and opportunities for growth. In this sense, surrendering control becomes a form of control over your own mental and emotional state, allowing you to adapt and thrive in changing circumstances. In Alexander terminology it could be described as having greater Inhibition, the ability to say no to a stimulus. Surrendering control does not mean giving up one's power, agency, or responsibility. It means choosing to focus on what you can control, such as your actions, attitudes, and responses, rather than what you cannot, such as other people, events, or outcomes. This is the Means-whereby, or the process, in the Alexander Technique. 
  2. Emotional Well-being: Holding onto a need for control can often lead to stress, anxiety, and frustration, especially when faced with situations beyond our control. Surrendering control in these moments involves accepting things as they are and focusing on what you can influence rather than what you cannot. This shift in mindset can lead to greater peace of mind and resilience in the face of adversity.
  3. Creativity: From a creative perspective, surrendering control can be seen as a way of unleashing one's imagination, intuition, and inspiration. By letting go of the rules, expectations, or judgments, one may feel more free, playful, and expressive. Surrendering control can also be a form of innovation, discovering new possibilities, solutions, or perspectives that were not apparent before. However, surrendering control does not mean being chaotic or random. It means being flexible and adaptable, but with a clear intention or vision.
  4. Functional Movement: We have evolved to move in balance with our environment. A useful metaphor is like being a fish in water. The water provides everything a fish needs to function, to swim. By looking for external support from the ground we can allow ourselves to be part of, and supported by our environment.The more you try to directly control your movement, the more you get in the way of freedom of movement. If you've developed unhelpful movement habits you'll treat them like Stockholm Syndrome, you'll protect them as part of your self definition. Control will inadvertently protect the habit. Only through Inhibition and Non-Doing can you take control of habits and overcome them to achieve greater coordination and functional movement. 

The bottom line is, if you can't surrender control, you can't claim to have had it in the first place.


A personal anecdote. Whilst training to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique one of my trainers gave me a wry look, and with a twinkle in his eyes said "inhibit your inhibiting!". It is possible to end-gain your inhibition, or try too hard to surrender!


So, surrendering control can paradoxically result in a sense of control over your own life, actions, and circumstances. It allows you to embrace uncertainty, empowers you, creates a greater sense of inner peace and resilience, and generates greater freedom of movement. 

"Prevent the things you have been doing and you are half way home." - FM Alexander


Man with self control

Write a comment

Comments: 2
  • #1

    Michael (Monday, 11 March 2024 20:45)

    Very useful article. Thank you.

  • #2

    Darla Rosen (Thursday, 14 March 2024 08:45)

    Thank you for this. It is a wonderful reminder for me to be with things just as they are.