Unreliable Sensory Appreciation

For the time being the child ’s body was comparatively straightened out, that is, without the extreme twists and distortions that had been so noticeable when she came into the room. When this was done, the little girl looked across at her mother and said to her in an indescribable tone, ‘Oh! Mummie, he's pulled me out of shape.’ 

(Constructive Conscious Control, p. 94) 


He must recognize that guidance by his old sensory appreciation (feeling) is dangerously faulty, and he must he taught to regain his lost power of inhibition and to develop conscious guidance. (Constructive Conscious Control, p. 43-44)


Some indication of the role of unreliable sensory appreciation has already been given in the section on Recognition of the Force of Habit.  Indeed the first quotation in this section indicates further the interconnectedness of Alexander’s concepts relating it to inhibition. Unreliable sensory appreciation includes sensory experiences conveyed through all the senses, in particular the kinaesthetic sense, which are the triggers for psycho-physical action and reaction. 


As long as we have not acquired a clear idea of ‘what is required for the successful performance of a certain act’, together with 'a knowledge of the psycho-physical means whereby those requirements can be met', the mode of control we choose is likely to be haphazard. What if our success is due to chance or good luck? Can we ever be certain of repeating it? In the long run, Alexander argues, an approach based on the trial-and-error method and unreliable sensory appreciation contributes considerably to diminishing our chances of succeeding; and repeated errors are bound to reinforce the uncertainty and fear. 


Alison rejects a course of steroid injections for back pain because, she says, ‘I need the pain to know what the hell I’m doing, because I know how badly behaved I can be if I feel fine.’ But the question follows: once you recognise how badly you behave, how do you go about changing that behaviour? 


Christine reaches the realisation that it is ‘time to give up a habit I’d had for over thirty years of sitting on a cushion when I was driving. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t drive without it. I took a chance, and I was quite safe!’ 


Richard cannot see what his Alexander Technique teacher is talking about until the teacher ‘placed a mirror in front of me and I could clearly see that I was twisting to the right while leaning at least twenty degrees to the left. Yet, despite the fact that I could clearly see that I was sitting in a very crooked way, I still “felt” perfectly straight.’ 


Acknowledging that you cannot rely on how things feel - on your sensory appreciation, which has accumulated over a lifetime - is a big step toward allowing the possibility of change.