So what's your story?
Mine is that I am a product of two families--my parents divorced before I was a year old and I spent my childhood straddling two different, intense household cultures, which made me used to constantly adapting to the expectations of others, constantly fearing abandonment. This meant I couldn't please everyone despite trying and eventually led to me being very anxious and withdrawn until late middle school, when I discovered acting as an outlet where it was permissible for me to express myself without trying to please anyone. This fueled my desire to live as a professional actor, which led me to a conservatory program where I encountered the Alexander Technique, which allowed me to bring the freedom I felt onstage into my everyday life and reconcile my divided self more and more. As I worked in my 20's creating my stage career, I found myself a passionate ambassador for this Technique and eventually decided I wanted to teach it to others to give them the same opportunity for healing I experienced.
Why is this story important? Because it is like a filter I view my life through. When I catch myself trying to please students, friends, audiences, partners, I realize that it is part of my old tendency to try to adapt myself to others, which ultimately works against me (they don't want me to 'please them', they want me to give of myself). It can also activate my old fear of abandonment if I am not successful. This fear manifests not only mentally, but physically. A startle response starts to distort my head-neck-back relationship, contracting and narrowing it. My feet contract, I feel groundless, and my most easily tracked habit, tension in my right leg, shows up. This physical manifestation of my story then clouds every interaction I have until I successfully break the cycle (usually through some Alexander work, especially active rest).
The story also has positive consequences--the last part of my journey fuels my daily interactions with students as well as my artistic expression and sense of cohesive identity. This part of my story has positive effects on my head-neck-back relationship and my system as a whole.
The last couple of weeks, I have been aware of how I work not only with my students' habits and physicality, but with the stories they tell themselves as well. It could be as complex as mine, or it could be simple--"I am an anxious person"; "I am too busy to be relaxed"; "I am capable and if I'm not perfect its a failure" or even more insidious-- "I am zen and in control. I am open" (which leaves very little room for further openness or tolerance of imperfection). All of these stories have corresponding physical manifestations, tensions, and habits. There is nothing 'wrong' with these stories, but it is good to have the ability to not be slaves to them. I have noticed that when I can get someone opening physically, there is more possibility to change their story. Similarly, if I can get them to think differently, see a new side of themselves or scrape away old calcified story that is no longer relevant to what is going on now (example: I now have a loving partner who accepts me and I don't have to please in order to get love from; so I no longer need to identify with the beginning of my personal story), they have more opportunity to change physically.
So this week: if you are having a bad day, if you find yourself stuck in a pattern of thought you have felt before, I invite you to challenge yourself to tell yourself a different story, and see what can change as a result. You have the power to determine your own mind, even if you can't control external circumstances.
Until next time, keep thinking up!
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.