Today’s post is inspired by my students who ask me ‘Am I getting it right?’ What I want to talk about is:
- What my students are really asking for
- How this relates to the difference between proof and trust
‘Am I getting it right?’
This is a common question in lessons. Typically a student had a good experience in last week’s lesson, and they’ve been so inspired that they’ve thought about it all week. They come in, sit down, and say something like, “I’ve thought about this thing all week. And I’m wondering, am I doing it right now?”
That is what the student says. But if I probe, their underlying meaning is usually this: “I think I’m doing better with this thing. But I want you as an expert to agree with that.”
They’ve worked hard. They think they’re doing okay. But they want me to validate their opinion. They want proof.
One of my favourite movies is called, amusingly, Proof. It’s a little-known Australian flick starring Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe (pre-Gladiator), and is about a blind photographer. Well, that’s the way it was sold. It is actually about a blind man (Martin) who has an overwhelming distrust of other people. He photographs the world so that he has some sort of objective ‘proof’ that their spoken versions of the world are truthful. The tag line on the posters was ‘Before love comes trust. Before trust comes proof.’
Of course, the whole point of the movie was that Martin is setting his standards impossibly high. He expects those close to him to be perfectly truthful and consistent all the time. And he wants proof of this before he will trust them. But there will never be sufficient proof. In the course of the movie, Martin is forced to learn that everyone makes a mistake, and that the nature of love and friendship is such that if he wants friends, Martin will have to trust first, and forgive if necessary.
In other words, trust and proof are not conditional. In fact, they are could almost be said to be mutually exclusive. If you need proof of something, then you aren’t trusting.
Trust, proof and FM Alexander
This is something that FM Alexander had to learn. At the end of his lengthy experiments that led to the work we now call the Alexander Technique, Alexander realised that he needed to have “trust in my reasoning processes to bring me safely to my ends,” and that it needed to be “a genuine trust’ not a half-trust needing the assurance of feeling right as well.” *
Yet in the very next sentence, Alexander says that he decided he “must at all costs work out some plan by which to obtain concrete proof ” that his process was successful.
Well, by sheer dint of hard thinking and ever such a lot of practice, Alexander came up with a plan that would give him the concrete proof that he desired. At the time. But when he wrote his final published work in 1941, Alexander could say this:
“Only time and experience in the working out of the technique will convince him that where the ‘means-whereby’ are right for the purpose, desired ends will come. They are inevitable.. We should reserve all thought, energy and concern for the means whereby we may command the manner of their coming.” **
I don’t know about you, but if I had two boxes, one labelled Proof and one labelled Trust, and I had to put this quote in just one of them, I’d be choosing the Trust box.
Lesson of the day
If we use our tremendous powers of reasoning, make a plan, then stick to the plan; if we keep sticking to the plan; then we will have success. It is inevitable. So do you want proof? Or are you brave enough to trust in yourself? Tell me in the comments!
* FM Alexander, Use of the Self in the Irdeat Complete edition, p.427.
** FM Alexander, The Universal Constant in Living in the Irdeat complete edition, p.587.