Definitions for Some Commonly Used Terms

By Catherine Kettrick, Ph.D.

End-gaining: End-gaining is something we all do. It means going directly for our goal without stopping to consider the means-whereby, or the “how” we might gain our end. End-gaining happens when we react immediately to a stimulus–the phone rings and we immediately go to answer it or someone says something and we immediately shoot an answer back. When we end-gain, we are always reacting habitually.

Means-whereby: Using an appropriate means-whereby to achieve any goal means that we have considered that goal, figured out what steps are necessary to reach it, and that we then do each step, in their proper order. Paying attention to the means-whereby allows you to notice how you are doing what you are doing, and to improve your doing of any activity in the process of doing it. It is an indirect, process oriented way of successfully reaching any goal.

Inhibition: If we end-gain, we don’t give ourselves time to stop and consider what might be a better means-whereby we can reach our goal. Inhibition simply means to wait before reacting immediately to any stimulus, to give yourself that brief moment so you can react consciously and constructively. The process of inhibition continues while you are employing the means-whereby you have decided upon to reach your desired goal.

Primary Control: Alexander used this term to describe the observation he made about the relationship of his whole head to his whole body. He used the word “primary” because when you make any change in your coordination, the change begins here. He used the word “control” because the quality of this relationship determines the quality with which you move.

When you leave your head alone, it easily balances on the top of your spine. This balance continuously changes, depending on how you are moving from moment to moment. If you leave your neck free, so that your head can balance delicately on the top of your spine, then any movement you make can be free, balanced and coordinated. If you tighten the muscles of your neck so that your head is not free, then your movements will be out of balance and mal-coordinated.

Sensory Appreciation: Sensory appreciation refers to the information we get from our senses, and how we interpret that information. For example, you place a hand in some water and say “Wow! That’s hot!” The water may be “hot,” i.e. 130 degrees, or it may be only 60 degrees in temperature, but you might have just come in from scraping the frost off your windshield, without gloves on, in sub-freezing weather. Sensory appreciation is also how you know where you are in space, and how you are moving. The terms kinesthesis, kinesthesia and proprioception all refer to the sensory appreciation that we use to know how and where we are.

Faulty Sensory Appreciation:
Remember that sensory appreciation is not only the information we get from our senses, but how we interpret that information. Was the water in the example above really hot? Are you actually moving the way it feels like you are moving? We get accustomed to the way we move and think, and it feels right and natural to us, but how we are actually moving may be very different from what we believe we are doing, and very not natural (natural in the sense of “non-interfered with”).

Directing: Directing refers to the process we use, either consciously or unconsciously, to make any kind of movement. If we want to pick up a pen from our desk, for example, we direct our hand and arm to move in such a way that we pick up the pen. Because we are always moving it follows that we are always directing ourselves in movement. Most of the time we direct ourselves habitually, i.e. unconsciously. We can learn to direct ourselves consciously, and doing so will improve our use and functioning.

Orders or Directions: The commands which Alexander devised to enable him to consciously direct himself. The basic directions are: My neck to relax, so that my whole head can go forward and up, so that my whole body can lengthen and widen.

Habit: Any unconscious pattern of behavior.

Habitual Use: The way in which we habitually direct ourselves in movement; the way we move without thinking.

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