Tips4Pupils – Spontaneity

…the thing we are trying to kill in you is what you think is your ‘individuality’ 1

FM Alexander

Whilst visiting a training course some years ago I was asked a question by one of the students. She said that she was walking home through a park, feeling lively and energised after a morning in class,  and saw a group of children playing with a ball. She felt a strong impulse to go and join them and just throw a ball around for a few minutes with some of the neighbourhood kids. But then – remembering that she was training to be an Alexander teacher – she decided that she really ought to inhibit this “inappropriate response” and, instead, attend to her Primary Control. What, she asked me, is the relationship between inhibition and spontaneity? 2 Does the former necessarily block the latter?

I found this question, and the example she gave, intensely interesting.

The way I see it is like this.

We need to differentiate between what might be termed “real spontaneity” and what is actually nothing more than self-indulgence in certain superficial and not always wholesome personality traits. The latter are habits, just as much as pulling the head back while sitting down. They are what Alexander was referring to in the above quote.

Real spontaneity comes from a deeper, more real impulse – which it would be unhelpful and unhealthy to suppress. There is a danger that this suppression can masquerade as inhibition.

However, there is a way in which inhibition and spontaneity can connect.  When an impulse to act is felt, then there can – in some people – be a tendency to block it which is habitual. It is not the impulse which should be inhibited, but the thing that blocks both it and the flow of energy which becomes available to carry it out.

If we try to notice where our impulses come from, we can distinguish between what is reactive “old stuff” endlessly repeating, and what is a fresh, appropriate and “spontaneous” response to a situation.

And sometimes we will be surprised at what we find!

1. Teaching Aphorisms: The Alexander Journal No 7, 1972, published by the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. Also published in Articles and Lectures by Mouritz (1995).
2. From Late Latin spontaneus “willing, of one’s free will,” from Latin (sua) sponte “of one’s own accord, willingly;” (see Online Etymology Dictionary).

© 2013 John S Hunter

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