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Collapse is Part of Life

Disappointment is one of those negative but essential experiences in life. Despite our best efforts almost everyone will experience disappointment at one time or another and most will react in the same way, they will collapse or curl into themselves. Those who are familiar with the Alexander Technique may think that a collapse is something to be avoided and generally they would be correct. However, I would argue in times of disappointment, collapse is exactly what the body needs.

We know from experience that the body does all kinds of things to protect us from the environment and even ourselves. Alexander asserted that the generalized pattern of the neck, head, and back being pulled back and down was because the human system felt as if it was continually under attack by the constant bombardment of stimuli in the surrounding environment. This stimuli included loud noises, stress, violence, and disappointment.

We can observe this kind of patterning or “startle reflex” in other animals when they are anxious or scared. Take a dog who is anxious about his environment, it will tuck its tail, arch its back and pull its head down and toward its body. The big difference between most other animals and humans however, is that after the threat is removed from the animal they will return to a state of normal optimized functioning. Humans will often get stuck in that collapse or tucked position.

The constant state of being startled is what causes a lot of the issues Alexander Technique instructors try to help their clients out of but as I tell my students a brief collapse is not a bad thing. After experiencing a disappointment sometimes collapse is exactly what the body needs to comfort itself, as well as, to provide the appropriate signals to the brain that what just happened needs to be recorded in memory as a negative experience to be avoided or amended in the future. Dr. Jordan Peterson said in an interview once that memory is not there to torture us, it is there to provide useful information about previous experiences to help inform our future decisions.

From our experience with the Alexander Technique and current scientific research we know that the mind and the body feed off each other in a continual feedback loop. In order to properly allow an individual to move through their environment. So, without our body performing the appropriate response to a negative experience one could argue that information would not be properly recorded.

Even though, I do believe that collapse is a completely appropriate response to a negative experience and emotion, like disappointment, I am not advocating continual collapse. What is needed is a short-term collapse and then the use of the Alexander principles of awareness, direction, and inhibition to allow oneself to move on from the collapse and return to a normal optimized level of functioning.

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