Anti-thinking thinking

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

What is it with this practically phobic response to the idea of consciously directed thinking?

“Eeuw, all that ‘think yourself happy sh*t!” or, “oh, yeah, right, ‘what you need is to take a dip in the river You’, har har,” or, “that’s just phoney” - or even my beloved late parents’ favourite: “That's very… American (no greater insult than this, for them, while still enjoying Gershwin, Copeland, Burroughs, Tennessee Williams and Sgt. Bilko).”

But is it wrong to direct your thinking this way, as opposed to that? Will you somehow no longer be ‘you’ if you merely direct your attention to whatever you are thinking about, and make some choices about whether it’s useful?

This seems a very common response to the idea of choosing to do something differently. “I don’t do it that way.” “No, that’s not how I do it.” “That’s not me.” “If I did it like that, it wouldn’t be me,” and even, “If I did it like that, I wouldn’t be me.”

But we make choices all the time, every single day, anyway, don’t we? Didn’t you at some point decide that this music is to your taste, and you like your hair done this way, but you don’t like that type of food? We make choices, we’re happy with them, we get comfortable, and we settle down and stay right there, thank you.

Great – until we’re stuck somewhere we’re not so happy. If we haven’t kept ourselves tuned in with that ‘choosing channel’, we may end up wondering how we got where we are, and struggle to get out again. It’s terribly easy to think in certain comfortable patterns, but these can become life limiting; it can become difficult, after a while, to think differently - even if we want to.

This is what the Alexander Technique is all about.

It’s OK to be more conscious, people. It’s really useful “to bring more practical intelligence into what you are already doing; to eliminate stereotyped responses” – Frank Pearce Jones – Freedom to Change. Who doesn’t like ‘useful’?

Here is one of my all-time favourite quotes from F.M. Alexander, which anticipates the current super-trendy concept of neuro-plasticity by over a hundred years (bright spark, that Mr. Alexander): “The brain becomes used to thinking in a certain way, it works in a groove, and when set in action, slides along the familiar, well-worn path; but when once it is lifted out of the groove, it is astonishing how easily it may be directed. At first it will have a tendency to return to its old manner of working…but the groove soon fills, and although thereafter we may be able to use the old path if we choose, we are no longer bound to it. “ Man’s Supreme Inheritance

How does taking a little trouble to think about your thinking sound now?