Inexorable deterioration, anyone?

traffic sign

Are you on a path of inexorable physical deterioration? Or is your body (and mind!) capable of ongoing change and improvement?

I think I, like most people, just accepted without question the point of view that I was on the downhill path. I’d done all the growing and blossoming I was capable of doing, and from then on I had decades ahead of merely trying to slow down my inevitable physical decline. A very jolly point of view for someone who was then in her mid twenties, agreed. But I suspect not uncommon.

Thing is, I’d accepted this doctrine without question. And the evidence for it is looking increasingly shaky. Remember how we used to be told that once we reached a certain age, our brain cells would begin dying off and not being replaced? The field of neuroplasticity has dealt that notion a pretty firm blow! *

You see, FM Alexander didn’t work from that point of view at all. When he was trying to solve his vocal problems, he experimented with the idea that the three odd things he did with his head when he was reciting were “a misuse of the parts concerned.” So all he had to do, he reasoned, was work out which one of the three ‘harmful tendencies’ (as he called them) caused the others, stop that first one, and everything would be fine.

And it was.

FM found that just by preventing the initial pulling back of his head, he not only stopped the other two ‘harmful tendencies’, but that his vocal condition improved.** By stopping the wrong thing from happening, he allowed his body to assert its natural ‘okayness’.

This is why one of my favourite quotations from FM is “You are all quite perfect – except for what you are doing.” For me, it really cuts to the heart of this issue. We are quite perfect. We are okay. We just disrupt our natural okayness with all the stuff we think we need to do to carry out the activities we love.

So… What if you are fundamentally, essentially, basically okay? What if the problems you are experiencing are things you are doing?

What one thing will you try stopping today – just to see if it makes a difference?


*A great introductory book on neuroplasticity is Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself
** FM writes: “with the prevention of the misuse of these parts I tended to become less hoarse while reciting, and that as I gradually gained experience in this prevention, my liability to hoarseness tended to decrease. What is more, when, after these experiences, my throat was again examined by my medical friends, a considerable improvement was found in the general condition of my larynx and vocal cords.” Use of the Self, IRDEAT edition, p.414.
Image by phanlop88 from