“This end-gaining business has got to such a point – it’s worse than a drug” 1
One of the biggest, though not always most apparent, obstacles to applying the twin forces of inhibition and direction in our everyday activities is “end-gaining”. What is “end-gaining”? Is there an underlying metaphysical assumption that predicates it?
At a very fundamental level, end-gaining (i.e. going directly for an end without consideration of or attention to the processes, or the means, whereby such an end can be brought about) is dependent upon a conviction, either conscious or unconscious, that the centre of gravity of one’s life is somewhere else or some “when” else and not in the here and now. It is not a question of speed, or even of tempo. End-gaining cannot be said to be a mental, physical or emotional activity, although it affects all three. End-gaining is a ‘state’. Like a drug, or as FM said “…worse than a drug“, it seems to permeate us at a cellular level.
When I am end-gaining I am “out of sync” with my life.
Unless there is an ontological acceptance that one’s life is happening here and now, and that it cannot be otherwise, we become very susceptible, as is a host to a pathogen when resistance is low, to either end-gaining or, arguably even worse, a kind of dreamy lassitude (see Aimless and Purposeful).
The pull to gain an end is part of the human condition; it is always waiting to reclaim us and our energies. It takes us away from “process”, and consequently away from a real sense of self.
Our “use” – in particular the disposition of our mental, physical and emotional energies – is axiomatically part of any process, whether we are aware of it or not. When we are attending to process – even if only externally – we are open to possibilities which are not there when we are in a state of end-gaining or of lassitude.
It is, in my experience, of great value to try and study for oneself – and in oneself – the phenomenon of ‘end-gaining’.
Here are some suggestions:
- What triggers end-gaining in me? Is it something mental or emotional? For example, is my brain busy making lists of things to do? Am I worrying about getting everything done “in time” or of letting other people down?
- What is the form of it? Does it make me speed up, be more tense, make mistakes? Do I feel as though I am pumped-up with caffeine?
- Can I let it go? Is it possible for me to shift myself back into the here and now and attend to process? Or am I possessed by it? What resists letting go of end-gaining?
- How do I experience myself when I am ‘attending to means-whereby’?
We cannot eliminate end-gaining, but we can certainly reduce its strength and duration.
“I always think the best test one can make on oneself is simply, in the middle of an activity, go away, walk away and maybe look out of the window or open the front door and look out. If you mind the interruption, it means you are end-gaining.”
Erika Whittaker 2
By addressing the universal tendency to end-gain, and developing a practical method of directing attention to means-whereby in activity, Alexander’s work has resonances with teachings from East and West, ancient and modern, about latent possibilities in human beings.
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. In correspondence with the author.
© 2013 John S Hunter
“Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.”
Ecclesiastes 9, 10
What are the values of contemporary society? On the one hand there are the so called “high-achievers”, bent on material gain, political power or sporting glories; on the other hand there is a culture of being ‘laid-back’, ‘hanging loose’ or ‘chilling out’. Where does one find valued for their own sake being purposeful, alert and engaged.
In AT circles, has the rejection of a “driven” attitude to life caused a drift away from the purposeful towards aimlessness? Do muscular release and saying “No” become new habits which generate a kind of lassitude?
What did Alexander have to say on this subject?
“We must cultivate, in brief, the deliberate habit of taking up every occupation with the whole mind, with a living desire to carry each action through to a successful accomplishment, a desire which necessitates bringing into play every faculty of the attention.” 1
Primary Control gives a direction – internally – but this new inner organisation needs a purposeful application; an engagement with life. This can help us develop other faculties and possibilities.
Not end-gaining does not mean giving up ends. Without an end, how can there be a means-whereby one can achieve it? “Non-doing” should not become “nothing-doing”.
© 2013 John S Hunter