Making yourself a puppet – comments

My good friend, Michal, has sent me some comments on my puppet posting and she has permitted me to add them here:

I think that becoming like a puppet is allowing rather than doing in the ordinary sense of the word, though one could also argue that allowing (inhibiting, giving permission, trusting) is another kind of doing. Personally I think that it is an ability, to be like a puppet, to be adaptable, receptive. If I have the ability to be like a puppet I am probably nothing like a puppet in the sense of “Our tendency is to think of a puppet as passive, as a non-responsive body entirely, and quite literally, in the hands of the person controlling the strings or sticks, and subject to their urges and caprice” (see below).  So, by being able to apply the puppet metaphor to a learning situation or as a chosen way of being, as a way of improving attention, one has the choice to be like a puppet as a means to an end.

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Michal has also mentioned very clearly that it having the ability to trust and become receptive rather than directing is a kind of non-doing:

By striving to make oneself like a puppet in the context of learning the Alexander Technique, one is consciously opening oneself to new possibilities. It is the prerequisite to learning, of letting go of preconceived ideas in order to open oneself to new sensory experiences, in order to allow change.  Alexander called it Non Doing.

“The question of doing and non-doing, again in our special sense, is one that is intimately bound up with that of giving directions, and is one that has caused a great deal of confusion.

The long and short of it is that we, as teachers, require that certain activities should, as we say “do themselves”. This we call non-doing. On the other hand, any activity that interferes with this “doing itself” we call “doing”, and it is the aim of the teacher to get the pupil to inhibit it.  Alongside of this actionless activity, which is set in motion by directions either from the teacher’s hands or from the pupil’s brain, or from both – there is also, in everyday living, the need to use the ordinary physical kind of doing with which everyone is familiar.

In learning the Alexander Technique (and I speak now of the actual lessons and not everyday living where much must be left to luck and to the unconscious influence of the lessons), these ordinary doings must be inhibited until they can be done without interference with the behaviour of the neck-head-back relationship, or what Alexander called the Primary Control.

When a pupil is capable of acting without interfering with the Primary Control, or perhaps I should say with only slight interfering, the actionless activity that is going on in the body modifies the physical activity and bring it into harmony with itself, so that physical activity grows out of the non-doing of the Primary Control. To a trained eye, it is a great pleasure to watch anyone whose physical actions are determined in this way”.

By Patrick Macdonald

Macdonald, P. (1963) “On Giving Directions, Doing and Non-Doing”, Lecture to the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique at the Medical Society of London on November 12th, 1963

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