The other day I was working with a student who historically had a tendency to pull his shoulders forwards. The student was convinced he was still doing this. Guess what? He wasn’t. His self image was lagging behind the physical reality.
Self image: not seeing ourselves as others see us
FM Alexander writes in his second book about a particular kind of preconceived idea, in which we do not see ourselves as others see us. He uses it to refer to people whose sense of themselves is so out of step with reality that they perceive as entirely normal characteristic that the outside world would view as being well away from anatomic norms.
As an illustration, FM picks an example from his own teaching experience of a man with a stutter. In lessons, speaking slowly, the stutter vanished. But when asked to speak in that way in his daily life, the student relapsed I to his stutter as he commented that “Everyone would notice me!”
It’s an extreme example, but it really demonstrates how we all have the ability to be entirely mistaken about how others see us. As FM said:
He [the student] no longer saw things as they were, and was out of communication with reasoning, where his consciousness of his defects was concerned.
But it works the other way, too.
Self image lag
There’s a particularly fascinating version of this kind of mistaken self-perception that arises in Alexander Technique students. They started coming to lessons with a particular physical issue – like having their shoulders pulled forwards – and have come to identify themselves in some way as someone who has this issue. The student is no longer just Joe Bloggs; they are Joe Bloggs, the Person with the Shoulders.
And even after they’ve done massive amounts of work on their particular issue and made huge improvements, it is likely that they haven’t yet altered their identity. They are still Joe Bloggs with the Shoulders, not simple Joe Bloggs. In order to truly change, the student still needs to do the vital work of changing their self image to correspond with the new physical reality.
My challenge to you today is this: what have you been working on recently? Are you so fixated on the fault that you’ve perceived that it has become part of your identity? Check and see if you too need to do a little bit of work on your self image!
 Alexander, FM., Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, Irdeat ed., p.302.
Image by Skitterphoto on Pixabay.