Chapter 3: Sub-Consciousness and Inhibition

1. What is Myers’s concept of the sub-conscious self? What is the difference between Myers’s idea of the sub-conscious and how Alexander uses the term?

2. By what means alone can the human race continue?

3. Do animals have a sub-conscious self? What examples does Alexander give to prove this contention?

4. What misled Myers?

5. What marks the differentiation of humans from the animal worldand how is it first evidenced?

6. Why was inhibition of subconscious animal powers frequently thesource of danger and death?

7. What necessitated the growth of conscious control?

8. Why did the necessity for conscious control grow? What was the chief reason for its growth?

9. What evidence does Alexander put forth of conscious inhibition in a pure state of nature? What is the difference between animals’ instinctive acts of inhibition and people’s?

10. What scenario does Alexander posit as leading to the subjection of instinct by the conscious dominating intellect or will?

11. What fact of supreme importance must not be overlooked in the process mentioned in the previous question?

12. What argument is given to support the idea of the subconscious self as an entity within an entity?

13. What is Alexander’s position regarding this idea? What does he see as the eventual place of things such as hypnotism and faith cures?

14. What is Alexander’s main objection to hypnotism and trances?

Thought Questions

1. Alexander seems to feel that psychology will hold the answers to many of the existential questions raised over the centuries. Do you feel it has fulfilled the promise Alexander saw in it? Can it ever fulfill that promise?

2. Alexander bases his ideas in this chapter on several assumptions, among them that powers of conscious reasoning cannot be attributed to animals. What is reasoning? Is there a difference between conscious and unconscious reasoning? Is there only one kind of reasoning or are there several kinds? Is the type of reasoning Alexander talks about dependent on language, i.e. if you do not have language, you cannot perform this type of reasoning? If there are different types of reasoning, either conscious or unconscious, is there one particular, language dependent type that is necessary to learning and applying the Alexander Technique?

3. Alexander states (p. 13) “My own conception is rather of the unity than the diversity of life.” And further, “…that all the manifestations of what we have called the ‘sub-conscious self’ are functions of the vital essence or life force, which functions are passing from automatic or unconscious to reasoning or conscious control. (This conception does not necessarily imply any distinction between the thing controlled and the control itself….)” And later (p. 14) he states “…I regard it [the subconscious self] as a manifestation of the partly conscious vital essence….Our endeavours should be directed to perfecting the self-consciousness of this vital essence.” Does it seem reasonable, given what Alexander writes in this chapter, to infer that he regards our `mind’ as a whole, without an unconscious, or subconscious parts? Is this view consistent with the findings made in psychology, neuroscience and behavioral science during this century? Is there a difference between `brain’ and `mind?’ If so, what is it?