Chapter 1: Evolution of a Technique

1. What was Alexander’s belief concerning the nature of the human organism before he began his investigation?

2. How did Alexander’s new field of investigation differ from those of other researchers?

3. What does Alexander mean by use?

4. Why did Alexander begin this book with this chapter?

5. Why did he choose the particular style and format he uses in this chapter?

6. Why does Alexander use the word “prevention” and why is he dissatisfied with it?

7. How does he distinguish “prevention”from “cure?”

8. What problem began to occur in Alexander’s reciting career? How did his friends describe his problem?

9. Why did he seek medical advice?

10. What was the medical diagnosis of his problem?

11. What happened as a result of the medical treatments?

12. What had been Alexander’s condition of health throughout his life?

13. How did this condition, coupled with his problem of recurring hoarseness, affect his thinking about his vocal organs?

14. What was the climax of Alexander’s career to this point? Why does he label it so?

15. What did Alexander decide to do in order to make a decision regarding the “important engagement?”

16. What was his doctor’s advice?

17. What were the results of Alexander following his doctor’s advice?

18. What happened during the performance?

19. What was Alexander’s initial conclusion following that evening’s performance?

20. What was his doctor’s advice when Alexander consulted him the next day?

21. What was Alexander’s response?

22. What did Alexander conclude about his throat trouble from the evidence he had accumulated so far?

23. What did Alexander decide to do when his doctor could not satisfactorily answer him?

24. What two facts did Alexander have when he began his investigation?

25. What did he conclude about ordinary speaking and reciting based on these two facts?

26. What did he further conclude he might do once he discovered the difference between the two?

27. How did he begin his experiment?

28. What did he notice when he first watched himself in ordinary speaking?

29. What three things particularly struck him about what he was doing while reciting?

30. What did he subsequently discover when again observing his ordinary speaking?

31. Why had Alexander missed these three tendencies in his ordinary speaking?

32. Why was the difference between what he did during ordinary speaking and during reciting encouraging to Alexander?

33. What happened when Alexander recited passages which made unusual demands upon his voice?

34. What did this observation confirm? Why?

35. What did Alexander conjecture from his observations?

36. Why did Alexander believe he had found the root of his problem?

37. What happened when Alexander tried to make practical use of his discovery?

38. What did he do when he found he couldn’t answer the questions he had posed to himself?

39. What did he discover after some months of experimentation?

40. What further discovery of great importance did Alexander make as a result of his experimentation?

41. Why was this discovery so important?

42. What marked the first important stage of Alexander’s investigation?

43. What further result did Alexander note as a result of the prevention of the misuse of those parts of his vocal mechanisms?

44. What happened as he gradually gained experience in this prevention?

45. What did Alexander notice about the effect of use upon functioning from his experiments?

46. What marked the second important stage in his investigation? Why is this point so important?

47. What had Alexander’s experience to this point shown him?

48. What did he conclude would be a good experiment in light of the evidence he had so far gathered?

49. What was the result of his experiment?

50. Why did he conclude that the effects upon his vocal and respiratory organs was much the same whether he put his head forward and down or pulled it back and down?

51. What did Alexander feel had to be checked if his voice was ever to become normal?

52. What did Alexander hope to find in his next round of experiments?

53. During the course of these experiments, what did he notice about the use of his head and neck?

54. What marked the next turning point in his investigations?

55. What 2 ideas did this new piece of evidence suggest?

56. What did Alexander conclude vis-a-vis improving the functioning of his vocal organs from this evidence?

57. What was Alexander’s next long series of experiments?

58. What did he discover that led to the best conditions of his larynx and vocal mechanisms and the least tendency to hoarseness?

59. What happened when Alexander tried to put his conclusion into practice? Why did this happen?

60. After further experimentation, what did Alexander discover was necessary to maintain the lengthening of his stature?

61. What proved to be the primary control in all his activities?

62. What happened when Alexander tried to put his head forward and up while reciting?

63. What effect did this tendency have on his torso?

64. What did Alexander conclude was necessary in order to maintain a lengthening of his torso?

65. What did Alexander decide his next step should be?

66. Did he have any doubts that he would be able to do what he had decided to do?

67. What did he find happened when he tried to do what he had decided to do?

68. Why did Alexander become suspicious that he was not doing what he thought he was doing, and what did he do to confirm his suspicions?

69. What was Alexander trying to do at the critical moment?

70. What did he see happening at the critical moment when he used the mirror as an aid?

71. Of what was Alexander confident that he could put into practice?

72. What is the first “Universal Delusion” cited by Alexander?

73. What did Alexander do when he saw he was suffering from this delusion?

74. What did he decide was his next step and how did he pursue this step?

75. What did Alexander discover through his patient month after month experimentation?

76. What did he discover about the use of parts other than his vocal mechanism when he stood to recite?

77. What in particular did the condition of undue muscle tension affect and in what way?

78. What reason did Alexander give to account for the particular way he used his legs, feet and toes?

79. What did Alexander believe regarding the following of instructions from a teacher?

80. What is the second “Universal Delusion?”

81. What did Alexander come to realize about the influence of how he used his legs, feet and toes upon his whole organism?

82. Of what did this realization convince him? What strengthened this conviction?

83. What gradually dawned on Alexander?

84. What did he realize about his habitual use, especially with regard to responding to any stimulus?

85. What strengthened his habitual wrong use?

86. According to Alexander, what type of stimulus is provided by a cultivated habitual use?

87. With what proof was Alexander left at this point in his investigations?

88. How does Alexander see parts of his organism relating to other parts when engaged in a specific activity? What part does stimulus play in this conception?

89. Wherein lies the difficulty in making changes from unsatisfactory to satisfactory conditions of use and functioning?

90. How did Alexander move from a consideration of parts to a consideration of the direction of his use?

91. How does Alexander define direction?

92. Upon what did Alexander depend for the direction of his use?

93. What impasse did Alexander face, and how did he know he faced it?

94. What difference did Alexander find between the way he directed himself and the way other people directed themselves?

95. What new field of inquiry did Alexander see opening up before him?

96. Why did Alexander see no difference between how people directed themselves and how animals directed themselves?

97. What had Alexander already realized about instinctive direction of use vis-a-vis civilization?

98. What had he proved in his own case regarding instinctive control and direction of use, and what implications did this proof have if his suspicions about civilized life were correct?

99. How does Alexander show that professional athletes do not consciously control their movements any more than the average person?

100. With what is unreasoned direction associated? With what is conscious reasoned direction associated?

101. What did Alexander do vis-a-vis his own difficulties in light of this new field of exploration that was opening up before him?

102. What three points impressed themselves upon Alexander when he reconsidered his difficulties?

103. What did Alexander realize when he considered the significance of the third point?

104. What was Alexander’s next step after inhibiting the misdirection associated with the wrong habitual use of his head and neck?

105. Why did he want to take this next step?

106. What did Alexander come to see was necessary in order to ensure a satisfactory instead of an unsatisfactory reaction to the stimulus to use his voice?

107. Alexander employed his reasoning processes in order to do what three things?

108. What fallacy did Alexander discover that he believed when he came to put his new ideas into practice?

109. What did he discover about the dividing line between his unreasoned and reasoned direction of himself?

110. At what point in the process did Alexander’s plan break down?

111. What happened at the critical moment, and how often did this happen to Alexander?

112. What did Alexander decide as a result of these experiences?

113. What did he come to see at last?

114. What kind of decision was an immediate response the result of?

115. What was unable to happen if Alexander acted quickly on this decision?

116. What was still able to control the manner of Alexander’s response when he made an immediate response to a stimulus to speak, and what was the result of this control?

117. To what did he next decide to confine his work?

118. What does Alexander mean by “means-whereby” and what do these means include?

119. How long did Alexander spend in this next step in his investigations, and what value did he gain from this experience?

120. What three things did this period of experimentation teach him?

121. What fourth thing did he discover from this experimentation?

122. What will a person find who carries out faithfully the process described as “thinking in activity?”

123. What has proved to be the pons asinorum of every pupil Alexander has so far known?

124. What happened when Alexander started to employ his new “means-whereby” for the purpose of speaking?

125. What did Alexander do next?

126. What did he find when he reconsidered his premises?

127. What else of utmost importance did he see?

128. Where did Alexander look to as possible causes of his failure?

129. What conclusion did Alexander come to after his next long period of investigation?

130. By careful experimentation, what did Alexander discover happened at the critical moment of attempting to gain his end and speak?

131. What reasons did Alexander cite for the instinctive misdirection associated with his old habitual use dominating his reasoned direction on the occasions when he failed in his attempts to maintain his hew directions while speaking?

132. What was Alexander combatting in trying to employ a conscious, reasoned direction to bring about a new use?

133. Why had Alexander not fully realized all the implications involved in the idea of not trusting to feelings as a guide?

134. What fact had Alexander now to face?

135. What had all his efforts up to now resolved themselves into?

136. What did Alexander see he now must do if he were ever to succeed in making the changes in use he desired?

137. What did Alexander discover about trusting his reasoning processes?

138. What did he realize that his new plan had to do?

139. What plan did he finally come up with?

140. At what point in this new plan did the change in procedure come?

141. What was this change in procedure?

142. To what would this change in procedure subject his instinctive processes of direction? Why?

143. What was necessary so that the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end would result in an activity differing from his old habitual activity?

144. How did the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end result in activity differing from the old habitual activity as long as the reasoned directions for the bringing about of new conditions of use were consciously maintained?

145. To what is this new procedure contrary?

146. How did Alexander obtain at last the concrete proof he was looking for, and of what did this proof consist?

147. What benefit did choosing to refuse to gain his original end, or choosing another end to gain provide?

148. What was the further proof Alexander had that he was becoming able to defeat any influence from his habitual wrong use in speaking?

149. What happened when Alexander had worked on this plan for a considerable time?

150. What else convinced him that he was at last on the right track?

Thought Questions

1. Write out a time line for this chapter. Put down the important events that occurred during Alexander’s investigation, including observations, discoveries, conclusions, principles and, asides, and include lenghts of time when he mentions them.

2. Alexander writes (p. 27) “…I came to see at last that if I was ever to be able to change my habitual use and dominate my instinctive direction, it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving the stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response.” Is the act of refusing to respond to a stimulus a response in itself? How do I know, when I refuse to immediately sit down in the chair, that I am only continuing to stand and not sit down, rather than doing something else to not respond to the stimulus?

3. Alexander writes (p. 27) “…I did not give myself the opportunity to project as many times as was necessary the new directions which I had reasoned out were the best means whereby I could attain that end.” How do we know how many times is enough? According to this quote, failure would imply that one had failed to project one’s orders a sufficient number of times. Is it simple repetition that makes the orders effective? If not, what else is required?

4. In the footnote on p. 20 Alexander talks about what he means by “direction” and “use.” He often uses these terms as well as ordering and orders. Is there a difference between ordering and directing, and if so what is it? Must orders or directions be verbal, or can they be non-verbal as well? Is there a difference in their effect if they are verbal or non-verbal? What is the connection between any orders or directions we give and the neuromuscular activity that supposedly is their counterpart?

5. Toward the end of this chapter, Alexander changes the plan on which he was working in order to obtain “concrete proof that my instinctive reaction to the stimulus to gain my end remained inhibited, while I projected in their sequence the directions for the employment of the new use at the critical moment of gaining my end.” The change consisted of reconsidering his original decision and then making a fresh decision (all the while still continuing to project his directions for the new use) either to gain another end, do nothing, or continue on to gain his original end. It seems obvious that if he choose the first or second option his instinctive reaction to the original stimulus would remain inhibited, because he would not go on to gain that end. And obviously practice in projecting his directions in either of those cases would gain him skill in going on to gain his original end via his new means. But what actual proof had he (other than perhaps looking in a mirror) that his instinctive reaction remained inhibited on those occasions when he chose to go on to gain his original end? He had thought it remained inhibited earlier, because it felt like he had moved his head in the way he had decided to. How does he know his instinctive response remained inhibited now?