Tag Archive | means-whereby

Tips4Pupils – End-gaining

“This end-gaining business has got to such a point – it’s worse than a drug” 1

FM Alexander

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

Tips4Pupils – Means-whereby

When I need to undertake a task of some sort there is an inner activity and an outer activity. The sequence, according to Alexander’s ideas,  of “inner events” is something like this:

  1. say “no”!
  2. consider my options
  3. make a decision
  4. organise myself (head, neck & back etc.)
  5. work out my “means-whereby” (the best way to do it)
  6. reconsider (I can still change my decision)
  7. let my head go forward and up and get on with it

Is it not the case, though, that there is often an assumption that as long as my neck is free (etc.) I am “using” myself well?

Think of any task involving a number of necessary actions. For example, decorating a room: I might need to move all the furniture into the centre of the room or even out of the room all together.

Where am I going to put everything? Which items should I move first? Should I empty drawers or bookshelves before trying to move heavy furniture? Where might I store the contents ? Etc, etc……That’s before I even start preparing the surfaces to be painted.

Unless I work out my means-whereby before I start, I am likely to have to do a lot more work than necessary.

If I start moving a sideboard around with no idea where to put it because I filled the only large enough space with piles of books, BUT….. I keep a free neck – does that mean I have “good use”?

Compare this with the practical man or woman – amateur or professional decorator – who, before starting, thinks things through and works out the optimum sequence of events, BUT….. stiffens or collapses somewhat while doing the practical work.

Whose “use” is better?

Taking a moment or two to consider the means-whereby we are going to carry out an activity (the best way to do it) can bring a new dimension to our understanding of the use of the self.

© 2013 John S Hunter