I taught Alexander Technique to university students on a drama degree course for about ten years.
One day I was teaching how our thinking affects the way we feel and therefore move and act and how this happens instantly. I used a really simple example, working with the words ‘I like myself,’ asking the students to say multiple times with different expressions in their voice ‘I like myself!’ To really get into saying the words with passion and feeling, conviction and matter of factness. To convince themselves and each other that ’I like myself!’
(Why don’t you try it now out loud. Some students found this task easy, others found it harder, habitual learned discontent, self doubt and negative self image getting in the way of being easily able to say ‘I like myself.’ Does that sound familiar?)
We all seemed to grow as human beings. We grew in energy and tonality in our voices. Joy and ease started to fill the room. We were all bouncy and up! I asked the students to say ‘I like myself’ to each other and notice how it felt in relationship, smiling and looking into each others eyes.
Your whole self believes and wants to believe the words ‘I like myself’, so for those who struggle with the words, lie to yourself until it becomes the truth! It will! Repetition will create change.
I then asked the students to change the words to ‘I don’t like myself!’ It was a pretty instantaneous collapse into a horrible feeling of being de-energised, like falling into a downward pit of grim emotionality and lack of energy physically. Everyone recognised the feeling as a place they sometimes inhabit, a place of unhappiness.
We shifted back to ‘I like myself’ and the energy in the room changed just as quickly back to being up, open, spacious, lively, animated, connected and free. An interesting discussion emerged into what we had noticed and how this simple bit of self talk might affect our lives. It was a fun class with a serious point and grounded in Alexander awareness.
Later that day I was called aside by a staff member and sternly told that my job was NOT to teach the students to like themselves! I was dumbfounded!
To me one of the premises of the Alexander Technique is finding our innate well being – which I could argue is a liking of our self in so many ways. I remember my first teacher giving me the words ‘I let my neck be free’ and feeling a remarkable release into a better state of being. It felt like a miracle and a revelation and a door opening to the power of thought in hitherto unimaginable ways. And so simple. Something I could think about on my own.
My thought for this class was to strengthen the students’ understanding of Alexander directions and of course liking yourself is a jolly good basis for being an actor. And as a simple kindly human condition liking yourself seems to be a pretty good starting place too!
I looked at the tension getting close to fury that my colleague at the university was displaying as she told me off and realised that teaching ‘I like myself’ had hit a nerve with her. I was empowering the students! Wow! I politely disagreed, explained the class to her and that I truly believe the world is a better place when we like ourselves, for then we like each other too!
‘No-one ever suffered by being too kind to themselves!’ – Robert Holden
Copyright Kirsten Harris 2019