Do you have problems following through, trusting decisions that you’ve made? Perhaps you work hard at finding the right answer, but then have trouble trusting your choices when it comes to the crunch?
I think all of us struggle with this at some point. One of my students found trusting decisions a challenge, but recently made a breakthrough. When I first met him, he struggled with following through on what he’d planned. In essays he wouldn’t quite write the sentence that would nail his argument. When playing he would choose in performance to not quite do everything that way he’d rehearsed.
He reminded me of – well, me actually. As a young theatre student, lecturers constantly told me that my acting just didn’t hit the mark. My playing choices were good, but it just looked like I didn’t really commit to what I’d decided was right. I wasn’t trusting decisions that I’d made, and to an audience it looked like I was holding back.
FM Alexander had the same sort of issue when he was trying to solve his vocal problems. He had worked out what he was doing wrong, had experimented with preventing it (with some success), and had worked out a better protocol so he could use his voice more effectively. There was only one problem: when he went to speak, he went back to using the old protocol and using his vocal mechanisms poorly. Why?
Being right vs feeling comfortable
FM realised that he was looking to old habitual feeling pathways to work out if he was doing the new (unfamiliar) thing effectively. It hadn’t occurred to him that doing the new thing might not feel comfortable. And when faced with the choice of feeling uncomfortable doing the new thing or feeling comfy doing the old ineffective thing, he chose the latter.*
It was only when he realised he had to trust in his reasoning processes totally that FM really made progress. He said:
my trust in my reasoning processes to bring me safely to my ‘end’ must be a genuine trust, not a half-trust needing the assurance of feeling right as well.**
This was exactly the problem I’d had as a student actor. I made decisions about what was the right way to play the role at any given moment, but if I had a choice between trusting decisions I’d made and feeling comfortable, I chose feeling comfortable every time.
My student, having studied this section of Alexander’s text, had the opportunity to change his response. He began trusting his decision-making process, and had a lot of success. He got through to the final of a major college music competition, and played beautifully. A couple of days later, I asked him about the experience. He was thrilled, because he’d had a plan for how to handle the final, and he’d followed through on every part of it. He had trusted his decisions.
Can you think of an area where you need to trust in the decisions you’ve made, and just follow through?
*FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, Orion, pp.43-44.
** ibid, p.45.
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