No Auto-Correct for Habitual Tension – Part 1


Auto-correct has made one area of my life easier. Others have required conscious intervention.

I’ve never been a good speller.

When I was about to graduate from high school and head off to university, our class was given a standardized test to measure our abilities across in a number of key areas.

I scored well in every category but one: my spelling ability was that of a sixth grader!

The principal called me into his office and expressed concern about how that would effect my future school career.  I summoned up all my teen-aged bravado and assured him that it wouldn’t be a problem, that unlike high-school teachers, university professors would be interested in my ideas, not my ability to spell.

And as it turned out, I was right!  Oh yes, a few papers would be returned with misspelled words circled on the first page or two, but it seemed that when instructors continued reading, and realized the enormity of the problem, they simply gave up.

Later, when I entered a graduate program in metallurgical engineering, the office secretary discretely added an extra “L” to “metalurgy” on one of the forms I had filled out and gently suggested it might be a good idea to learn to spell at least that one word correctly!

Over the years, my spelling improved a bit, but I was always asking whoever was around questions like “Are there two S’s in success” or “does the I come before the E in belief?”

Imagine my delight when word processors came along, and auto-correct kicked in.  As you read this blog right now, you’re experiencing the benefits of that development!

But really my inability to spell well was neither a serious concern or problem for me.  It could have continued forever with no serious consequences as far as I was concerned.

However in other areas of my life I wasn’t so lucky.

I didn’t realize it for a long time, but I had developed some very harmful ways of holding my self upright and of walking, which when I look at old photos, I can now see were pretty bizarre.  Occasionally someone would make a comment, but I had no idea what they were talking about.

Those patterns would likely have continued throughout my life, and probably caused some serious problems had I had not by chance discovered the Alexander Technique.

My height increased almost an inch in the first month of lessons and my suit jackets, shirts and sweaters were now suddenly way too tight.  My pants were all too short.

I was aware enough to realize that I must have been unconsciously pulling in on myself before.

Over the years lessons in the Technique allowed me to become aware of many interconnected constrictive patterns, often at the very time they were beginning to dissipate.

What I take away from these and many later experiences with the Technique – and the experiences of my own Alexander Technique students over the past 30 plus years – is that unconscious patterns of tension tend to remain unconscious.  And the consequences of those patterns also remain unchanged, or more likely, worsen over time.

There is no automatic self-correcting mechanism for habitual tension in our body.

Releasing harmful tensions – not just re-arranging them – requires conscious and constructive intervention of the sort Alexander Technique students learn to use for themselves.

Part 2 will delve into this fundamental idea in a bit more detail.  In the meantime, it’s worth contemplating this thought by F. Matthias Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique:

fm2We must, as a book title from another field nicely suggests, “Use our Brain for a Change”.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at

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