Comment by thebigbadviolist on A heuristic for predicting minor depression in others and myself, and related things · 2015-05-14T03:36:47.452Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hello LessWrong!

I'm happy to see that my site: has been linked a couple of times here.

I'd like to throw my two cents in on the discussion about understanding these "zen-like" ideas, why it takes so long, and why conveying them in words is problematic.

It's good to remember that words are only descriptions of ideas, not the ideas themselves, thus trying to learn from a verbal description is bound to have problems as interpretation of bodily feelings and many other subjective things (which are affected by everything from genetics to personal experience). Similarly the descriptions of thought (what we hear as language in our head) isn't thought but a description of a thought- some substance is lost in translation and then the blanks are filled by our habits.

The Alexander Technique is unique in that the primary vehicle for transferring the skill is not verbal, but by the teacher giving a direct experience of the desired state through hand-on work. It is not somatics or body work although there is a bit of that included in the process. Alexander believed (and rightly so) that the mind-body were one unified thing; there is not anatomical division of mind and body of course; everything is connected.

Every thought that enters your head has a physical and emotional response. Therefore thought is action, or at the very least thought initiates action. i.e.: you are angry and clench your jaw, you are happy and smile. “I didn’t get the job” (fill in emotional/physical response here). What we experience as the mind (pre-frontal cortex), body (reptilian brain & nervous system), and emotions (limbic brain) work as a whole, they are literally connected of course, to create our version of reality (perception). This is a simplification in terms of brain function, but generally holds true.

In regards to depression to get on topic with the OP, Its this habitual perception that is a major cause of depression- your interpretation of reality becomes a stimulus that is reacted to with a depressed emotional response; this becomes cyclical as the habitual depressed reaction affects your perception of reality. It is important to point out that the "true reality" doesn't change but our perception which is functionally equivalent to our personal reality does and its near impossible to make a distinction if you are in a hypnotic depressed (could also be described as some-what unconscious or less-conscious and aware, lower vibration level, etc.) state.

To work with this with the AT it's a three part process that is cyclical and ultimately simultaneous:

1) Awareness- becoming more conscious of your self and environment around you; this is far deeper than it seems on the surface as until you become aware of what's there all kinds of things you are doing (stimulus and response) feel like you are doing nothing or "normal", when in fact you are doing all kinds of habitual behaviors.

2)Inhibition/direction- This is not Freudian inhibition. Once you are aware of what's going on you have to learn to not react to the stimuli that you react to in harmful ways. This is not the same as holding yourself still while reacting- it's stopping the reaction at a nervous system level; catching the impulse while it's still a thought and choosing to not react. Direction is the intention/conception of what you do want. It is related to Zen in that you can't do direction. It happens when you set up the space for it to happen and then get out of the way. Like a compass points north but doesn't go north, our job isn't to micromanage the mind-body with consciousness but to provide subtle direction and inhibition in a very wide-angled general way.

3)A healthy relationship of the head-neck-back, also known as "Primary Control" in AT jargon. Alexander discovered that the organization of the Primary Control profoundly affects the quality of general use of the whole self. If the Primary Control is well organized, the general coordination of the self trends toward integration and organization, whereas if the Primary Control is not in a healthy relationship there is a tendency toward mal-coordination and disintegration. The Primary Control does not operate in a vacuum, as use of other parts affect it and the whole, but as the area in question contains the majority of our nervous system and is the central axis of support for balance and movement its role to play is both basic and of the utmost importance. If the habitual use of the Primary Control includes mal-coordination and disintegration it will manifest in the specific parts and in the activities of life which depend on the use of the self (everything).

Put simply, use affects functioning. Most therapies try to change functioning without addressing use- we do not have the conscious bandwidth to directly control all aspects of balance, breathing, movement, or even thinking, so again we must form habits. The quality of all these habits collectively can be called the habitual use of the self. “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” Charles C. Noble. By changing how you do the things you do, it interrupts the cyclical patterns in place making more room to change the behavior. People generally aren't successful quitting smoking in one step, but not having a cigarette after every meal can lead to realizing that you didn't even want one, it was just a habit leading one to question the source of the desire of the cigarette- is it truly wanting one or just the habit of smoking?

This turned into an essay, so I'll stop :) Thanks again for the patronage of my site. Best,

Comment by thebigbadviolist on Two angles on Repetitive Strain Injury · 2015-03-06T04:54:29.781Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Alexander Technique is incredible valuable in working with RSI; I'm a violinist & AT teacher in NYC and have seen people who couldn't turn a page in a book or press an elevator button without pain learn how rid themselves of RSI by improving their "use" as Mr. Alexander called it.

Here's a little essay that explains some of the ideas behind the work; but it must be learned by hands on experiences to be truly understood.