Noticing Habitual Reactions

Today I want to share with everyone an article published on the website Salon by a wonderful writer, Sarah Hoffman (a pseudonym), called My Son, the Pink Boy.  This isn't about the Alexander Technique, or wellness, or healing.  At least, not specifically.  But it is a great example of what happens when we are not aware of our habits of reaction.


One of the principles of the Alexander Technique is that, for the most part, we live our lives in utter disregard for how we are using ourselves; we are a bundle of unexamined habits of tension, misuse and lack of balance. Until we begin to notice our patterns, we will continue to be subtly (or not so subtly) damaging ourselves unnecessarily.  Once we do begin to see what we are doing in activity, then we have some choices about how we'd like to proceed.  We can respond mindfully rather than react mindlessly.


I believe this is true for the whole human species. The society and culture we create is a reflection of our beliefs and ideas.  As a society, if we remain mindlessly reactive, we will continue to damage ourselves.  If we can begin to look at our assumptions and habitual reactions, maybe we can make some different choices and continue to evolve.


Unfortunately, there is a big barrier to noticing habitual reactive patterns: they feel normal. Whether on an individual or group level, habits become ingrained and normalized, to the point  where we don't question or even notice them.  They just become the sea we swim in, or the background noise of the refrigerator humming that you don't hear until it shuts off.


The situation Sarah Hoffman describes in her article gives many good examples of how people often react mindlessly, from assumption and prejudice, even when their intentions may be "good."  If you also read the comments readers have made that follow the article you will see more reactivity.  They are all based on some notion of what "normal" is.  


Based on years of many repeated experiences, it is my opinion that we do not have an accurate sense of what "normal" is, either individually or as a society.  We think we know what "normal" is, but we are wrong.


If possible, as you read the article, notice your own reactions, both physically (what happens in your body as you read?) and mentally/emotionally (what thoughts and feelings erupt?). Observe yourself without judgment.


I am also sharing this article because I work with a number of people who struggle with how their physical expression of themselves sometimes causes them pain and difficulty.  Ultimately, we all project something of ourselves by the way we walk, talk, and behave.  Alexander Technique helped me become comfortable in my body, after years of being taught, explicitly and implicitly, that I could not trust it and it was not beautiful.  Along with other habits of misuse, this was one of the more fundamental habits I was able to overcome through the patient and loving instruction of my teacher.


So now, enjoy, My Son, the Pink Boy.
I welcome your comments!