Chapter 5: Habits of Thought and of Body

1. According to Alexander, what is a major problem with modern medical practice?

2. How does Alexander surmise that many cases of insanity have been allowed to develop?

3. What must be done when seeking to give a patient conscious control?

4. In what way have A and Z influenced their own minds? What is the consequence of such influence?

5. For Alexander is there any difference between “small” fixed mental habits and “large” ones?

6. According to Alexander, how did the fallacy of assuming an entity for the subconscious self arise?

7. At the last analysis, of what is the subconscious self made up?

8. By what means can habits of mind be changed?

9. What is the first step in changing incorrect habits of mind and body into correct and beneficial habits?

10. What is the difference between the habit that is recognized and understood and the habit that is not?

11. What becomes of `habit’ once real conscious control if obtained?

12. According to Alexander, what are subconsciousness and consciousness?

13. What did John Doe lack? Why is this lack a serious matter?

14. What must John Doe do before attempting any form of physical development?

16. What did Alexander mean by registration of tension?

17. What are the biases or predisposing habits of mind that often balk us at the outset?

18. What type of attitude does Alexander recommend in place of these biases?

19. Why do some people not want to be cured? What happens when a cure is finally sought?

20. What is the first step towards being rid of our own peculiar mental habits?

21. Why is it so necessary that we should acquire conscious control of the mental and physical powers as a whole?

22. What advice would Alexander give to those wishing to embark on a control of their habits? Why would he give that particular advice?

23. What results in adequate performance?

24. What does Alexander propose as counter to concentration?

25. What is the first and only real difficulty to overcome in efforts to apprehend and control mental habits?

26. What is Alexander’s response to those who are “quite content” as they are?

27. What problem was mainly responsible for the issue of this book?

Thought Questions

1. Since Alexander wrote this book a great deal of research has been done on biofeedback. People can now learn to consciously control functions such as blood pressure which were previously thought to be out of the realm of voluntary control. Do you think Alexander would regard learning to control one’s blood pressure through biofeedback as a step toward the plane of conscious control, or a trick similar to the yogi’s of stopping his heart?

2. Alexander states “…the consideration of mental attitude must precede the performance of the act prescribed” (p. 20). How as teachers (regardless of subject) do we discern a pupil’s mental attitude? What examples of mental attitude does Alexander cite in this chapter? Have you seen examples of these in Alexander Technique lessons?

3. What skills are necessary for discerning a pupil’s mental attitude? Once we have done so, how do we test our hypotheses?

4. How do we decide “what to do about” a pupil’s mental attitude, and how do we go about putting our decisions into action?

5. Of what relevance are a pupil’s fixed ideas vis-a-vis our plan of action? (See the example of A and Z from this chapter).

6. How are fixed ideas in a “mental sphere” similar to dissimilar from fixed ideas in a “physical” sphere?

7. What fixed ideas, beliefs or delusions did Alexander have when beginning his investigation (as he describes in the first chapter of the Use of the Self)?

8. How do we know when our ideas are fixed?

9. How do our fixed ideas relate to our belief structures?

10. How does Alexander’s concept of the subconscious self differ from the concept which assumes an entity for the subconscious self? Is his concept different in kind or only in degree?

11. What is Alexander’s concept of the working of the technique in this chapter? Does this concept change over time as evidence by his subsequent writing?