Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Inhibition ≠ "End Gaining"

A concept used by the Alexander Technique with which I'm struggling is "inhibition," which means the act of resisting one's habitual bad habits in movement and posture, so that one can have a chance to act on the new habits one's trying to form. That is, before you can make the positive choice to stand in alignment, you need first to feel what it's like NOT to stand in alignment and not immediately attempt to 'fix it' by making radical, but unhelpful, adjustments. By not going for the quick fix--not panicking--the new habit you wish to instill has a place to stick.

And thus it is with everything, not just movement and posture. I told you that I began writing a story last week. Even though I am using a Flannery O'Connor story as a structural model, I'm nonetheless stuck, only 500 words into the piece. This is EXACTLY the place I've always gotten stuck when writing fiction. I get to end of the first episode, or tableau, and then panic. I'm afraid to joint the episode together with whatever-the-hell-it-is to come next. I almost always quit at this point a few hundred or a couple of thousand words in. I then throw the thing out, beat the crap out of myself for being so stupid and unimaginative, and eat a big lunch.

Not this time, both because I'm bruised from earlier beatings, and I don't want to get fat. So, what do I do? Nothing. Don't panic. Feel out what is happening in this moment without over correcting. Then, just as I'd ease myself, without pushing, into a more 'forward and up' position in Alexander work, go back to the O'Connor story and get a better understanding of what SHE's doing-- that understanding itself is an adjustment--and allow myself the chance to learn. Then, put pen to paper, with less thought about where I'm headed than where I already am, with less thought to "end gaining," as the weirdo, Victorian language of the Alexander Technique would put it. Inhibit my habitual response, first, to make room for the new one.

Something like that. As I said, I'm struggling with the notion.



suzy said...

Weirdo Victorian language aside-- end-gaining, eyes-on-the-prize, however you put it, you're right. It's deadly. When you're stuck, go deeper rather than further. When you go deep, you get the leap. (Horrible, horrible, that rhyme.) Flannery O'Connor is great because she emjambs like a poet. I guaran-god-damn-tee you she didn't whip that stuff up in a flurry or without a lot of water-treading. Find the particular. Unpack the moment. Have fun.

- Franis said...

Works even easier if you think of inhibition purely as preventing whatever you can percieve is in the way.

Before psychology of today's culture which has sung the benefits of the cathartic approach, people who were in a psychological jam just identified what they didn't want and went in a more positive direction.

Psychologists today might call it "denial," but that old approach is merely moving toward a more positive direction with full knowledge of where the old habits usually take you. You know what you don't want, so you go ahead and dare to walk into the unfamiliar territory of discovering more about what you do want.

Good work!

Franis Engel