Why you shouldn’t try to fix problems


Most of the world seems to work on the following basis:

  • Person x has a problem.
  • They go to see expert y.
  • Expert y tells them that they can see the problem, and tells them to do z to fix it.
  • Person x goes away and does z. Or not, depending on their commitment to solving their problem.

The Alexander Technique does not work in this way.

FM Alexander’s big problem with this way of working is that it deals with effects.

… it is assumed that the defective action on the part of the pupil can be put right by “doing something else.” … He forgets that in “doing something else” the pupil just use the same mechanism which …is working imperfectly, and…be guided in his action by the same erroneous conceptions regarding right or wrong doing.”*

Here’s an example of how this works in practice. A student of mine was told by a pilates teacher that their sore back was caused by not using their core muscles enough, so they should work on keeping their core muscles held firm.

But what if strengthening the ‘wobbly core’ isn’t dealing with the root cause of the problem, but only with a visible effect of it? Then my student would be piling a lot of muscular tension on top of an already existing problem. This is potentially bad because:

  • They have no way of knowing what knock-on effects that may have
  • They are masking the real problem
  • They probably feel rather virtuous in following the teacher’s advice so carefully.And a sense of virtue tends to cause people to be less willing to give up the behaviour they’ve cultivated.

Look for causes.

FM wants us not to jump to fixes, but to look for causes.

  • Is the problem caused by some influence outside of the person? Or is it inside?
  • If inside, is it structural (a medical problem) or functional (something we are doing to ourselves)?
  • If it is functional, can we stop doing the thing that is causing the problem? Can we prevent it from happening?

If we follow a clear line of reasoning, we are empowering ourselves. We aren’t fruitlessly thrashing around trying to fix things on a trial and error basis. Instead we are moving thoughtfully and efficiently towards a solution.

Can you take on the challenge of not looking for the fix?

*FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.122.
Image by David Castillo Dominici  FreeDigitalPhotos.net