No Auto-Correct for Habitual Tension – Part 2


Habitual pain is unlikely to disappear on its own.

In my last post, No Auto-Correct for Habitual Tension – Part 1, I explored the fact that habitual excess tension in our bodies will not resolve itself.  Some sort of intervention is required to release it.

This is quite different from the many self-correcting mechanisms we see all around us.  I mentioned auto-correct on a word processing program, but a much simpler, and older, example is the humble thermostat.  When the temperature gets too hot, it turns off the heat.  When it gets too cold, the heat is turned back on.

Typically that cycle repeats many times a day without us being aware of it.

There are many other, more complicated, systems of self-correction have come into being to help with the complexities of advanced technology.

It might surprise you to know that modern commercial airliners can go from take off, to landing at the destination airport, completely on autopilot, correcting for changing weather, runway conditions etc.  Pilots rarely use it this way, but autopilot is often used for long stretches of flying time.

Looking ahead, Google has suggested that once it’s driver-less car is perfected (test models are already on roads of California), human drivers will be banned.

Auto-correct extends to many functions in our bodies as well such as maintaining body temperature and the proper balance between acidity and alkalinity (pH).

But it does not extend to the neuro-muscular system when that system gets out of balance for an extended period.

Perhaps due to a traumatic event, such as an accident.

Or, more likely, when it’s due to unconscious imitation of people around us, particularly when we’re young.

As F. Matthias Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique noted:

…a child imitates its parents or nurses in tricks of manner and speech, yet we do not stop to consider that it will also imitate our carriage of the body, our performance of muscular acts, even our very manner of breathing. This faculty for imitation and adaptation is a wonderful force, and one which we have at our command if only we would pause to consider how we may use it in the right way. The vast majority of wrong habits acquired by children result from their imitation of the imperfect models confronting them. But how many parents attempt to put a right model before their children? How many learn to eradicate their own defects of pose and carriage so that they may be better examples to the child? How many in choosing a nurse will take the trouble to select a girl whom they would like their children to imitate? Very, very few. And the reason is simple. In the first place they do not realize the harmful effect of bad example, and, in the second, the great majority of parents have so little perception of truth in this matter that they are incapable of choosing a girl who is a good specimen of humanity, and are sublimely unconscious of their own crookedness and defects. –  from the chapter “Race Culture and the Training of Children” in Man’s Supreme Inheritance

Elsewhere Alexander notes that the more bizarre the posture or movement pattern they are  exposed to, the more likely it is for young children are to imitate, and eventually adopt, them.

Obviously appropriate education of parents could help matters.  Most parents these days thoroughly vet potential nannies to make sure they aren’t hiring an ax-murderer or a child molester.  But as Alexander observed, they are not likely looking for harmful posture and movement patterns.  Indeed they are usually blissfully unaware of their own distorted physical use of themselves, not to mention the harm it is causing their children.

And so their children may find themselves unconsciously generating excess tension as they go through life.  And, like their parents, they are much more likely to be aware of the results of that tension – poor balance, restricted breathing etc – than the underlying causal patterns.

These patterns can persist generation after generation – unless some sort of useful intervention is brought to bear to encourage conscious awareness and learning practical tools for releasing them.*

I know it sounds like a commercial, but that’s exactly what Alexander figured out how to do for himself – and what lessons in the Alexander Technique can teach you how to do for yourself.


* It may be the topic of another blog, but the question of just why this kind of intervention is necessary.  In the Old Testament, God repeatedly admonishes the stiff necked people, but doesn’t provide a practical solution.  (See, for example, Was God the first Alexander Technique Teacher?)

And when He hardens Pharaoh’s heart, he seems pretty sure that it won’t “un-harden” any time soon.  One possibility: He created a non self-correcting system precisely so that we would eventually figure out how to do the kind of self-observation and self-directing that would allow us to learn how to change harmful patterns of tension, take responsibility and control of ourselves, and ultimately develop our higher consciousness.

This idea is hinted at in the titles of F. Matthias Alexander’s books.  His first was titled Man’s Supreme Inheritance!  His second was Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, his third The Use of the Self and his fourth The Universal Constant in Living.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Image courtesy of sixninepixels at

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