The Alexander Technique and States of  Shock, Trauma, Bereavement, Injury, or Life-changing events

Have you ever experienced being in a state of shock? Shock can take many forms, for example a bereavement, a divorce, recovering from an injury, accident or surgery, being overtaken by fear or nerves, experiencing something traumatic……. and usually creates a strong physical reaction within the body. The tensions that are created as a result of a shock may lead you to an Alexander teacher in order to find some sense of release or comfort, however in this situation, the teacher will need to work with a slightly different focus and time-scale in order to be fully effective.

This is an area of work that both fascinates and excites me and I have had many experiences of working with pupils in varying forms of shock – both conscious (acute shock) and also unconscious (archaic, buried shock from the past).

When someone experiences a shock, the body will tighten….and from an Alexander perspective, we may judge those tensions to be creating a state of ‘Bad Use’ that needs to be improved upon, in order to create a state of ‘Good Use’. However, this tightening is actually appropriate in reaction to the shock, and needs to be honoured! This is a person whose ‘Use’ is actually appropriate to what they are experiencing and dealing with, and therefore, we could say, is actually a form of ‘Good Use’. A premature ‘taking away’ of this ‘Use’ and the muscular tightenings that present themselves, before the shock has been fully worked through in the body, can be detrimental. For this reason, when working with pupils in some form of shock, tend not work with F.M. Alexander’s principle of ‘Direction’ in the same way as in traditional Alexander teaching, as I find that in these situations, giving a mental Direction, far from being helpful, can actually stimulate a further tightening, and slow down the process of change.

Instead, my approach when working with someone in shock, is to work more with F.M. Alexander’s principle of ‘Inhibition’. With both my hands, and the whole of my being, my focus is on quietly listening to the pupil and the multiple stories and messages her body may be holding on to. Through this listening, a safe, containing environment is created in which the pupil is able to gradually become more present within themselves. This in turn enables release on all levels to gradually take place naturally and spontaneously as and when the pupil feels (unconsciously) ready and willing for this to take place.

For this to be optimally effective I find myself working patiently and acceptingly from a state of ‘prolonged Inhibition’. From this place I find that the pupil is more easily able to gradually allow layers of physical and emotional holding, protecting and reaction to whatever the shock was / is, to dissolve and no longer have such a painful hold on them. This is a complex journey of listening and tuning into the signals and subtle messages that a pupil’s body may be giving out, and the work usually necessitates a slower pacing than in conventional lessons. The process can be invaluable and hugely rewarding, truly allowing the pupil to ‘grow through and out of’ whatever the traumatic experience has been. I enjoy working in this way with pupils on a one-to-one basis, and also run workshops for teachers of the Alexander Technique to explore this valuable territory.

Follow the South East Alexander School: