Chapter 2: Use and Functioning In Relation To Reaction

1. What has Alexander found to be present in varying degrees in all of his pupils?

2. What is the result of this discovery?

3. What is of the utmost significance in relation to the problem of the control of human reaction?

4. How was Alexander able to bring about the improvement in the sensory appreciation of his mechanism?

5. With what was the improvement in sensory appreciation associated?

6. What was Alexander able to do when his new manner of use had been established?

7. What was the effect of establishing his new manner of use vis-a-vis the stimulus to use his voice?

8. What proof did Alexander have that his habitual reflex activity had been “conditioned?”

9. How did this result constitute proof?

10. Why, in Alexander’s opinion, is “the substitution of conscious for instinctive direction in the changing of use” of primary importance, especially in the field of education?

11. What did Alexander learn first and foremost from dealing with his own difficulties that was of great value to him in dealing practically with the difficulties and requirements of his pupils?

12. What is necessary to the development of a method for meeting the problem of the control of “conditioned” behavior?

13. What is human activity primarily a process of?

14. Why is it impossible to describe any act as wholly mental or wholly physical?

15. What happens between the receipt of a stimulus to lift an arm and the performance of the act? (Please note that the Centerline Press 2nd Edition omits the underlined phrase in: “The result of the receipt of a stimulus to lift the arm is, as we all know, a “mental” conception of the act of lifting the arm, this conception being followed by another so-called “mental” process, that of giving or withholding consent to react to the stimulus to lift the arm.”)

16. What happens with most people once consent has been given to react to a stimulus?

17. Why does instinctive direction of use become a misdirection?

18. In what ways do unsatisfactory reactions manifest themselves?

19. What happens to these symptoms when a new and satisfactory direction of the use of the mechanisms has been brought about?

20. What does Alexander mean by use and functioning?

21. What does Alexander claim to be the primary requirement in dealing with all specific symptoms? Why?

22. To what principle is Alexander’s indirect procedure true?

23. Given the principle that the nature of the human organism is indivisible, what is the effect of making a fundamental change in any part of the organism?

24. What does foregoing principle imply vis-a-vis eradicating defects?

25. Upon what must a diagnosis be based to be complete?

Thought Questions

1. Alexander states (p. 41) that “in cases where the knowledge of how to direct the primary control has led to a change for the better in the manner of the use of the mechanisms throughout the organism, the results of this “conditioning” can safely be left to take their own form.” What is the neurophysiological basis for his belief? Has your experience been similar? He also talks about “reflex activity” as in (p. 40) “…the stimulus to use my voice no longer brought into play the old reflex activity…” What are reflexes? What does Alexander mean by “reflex activity?”

2. On page 42 he talks about “the building up of a conscious direction of use…” which must be made “…the primary consideration…[in}…dealing with the problem of the control of human reaction…[or]…we are not likely to develop a method for meeting the problem of the control of conscious, or, as it is sometimes called, “conditioned” behavior.” He seems to be using the word “conditioned” and “conditioning” in different ways in this chapter. In the question above, “conditioning” is a positive development following on the knowledge of how to direct the primary control, which is a conscious, reasoned process. In this section “conscious, or as it is sometimes called, “conditioned” behavior…” is a problem. How do you explain this seeming discrepancy, where conscious behavior seems to be valued on one hand, and a problem on the other?

3. On page 43 Alexander writes “The result of a receipt of a stimulus to lift the arm is, as we all know, a “mental” conception of the act of lifting the arm, this conception being followed by another so-called “mental” process, that of giving or withholding consent to react to the stimulus to lift the arm. If this consent is withheld, the reaction which would result in a lifting of the arm is inhibited, and the arm is not lifted. If consent is given, the direction of the mechanisms required for the act of lifting the arm becomes operative, and messages are sent out which bring about the contraction of certain groups of muscles and the relaxation of others, and the arm is lifted.” We ordinarily talk about a reaction to a stimulus as some physical act, as in I receive a stimulus to speak, and I speak, or perhaps I do not speak if I inhibit my immediate reaction to the stimulus. In this quote Alexander seems to be describing the reaction to the stimulus as a series of mental processes of which the physical act is the result. Which of the two characterizations of reaction to a stimulus do you think is more the case? What is the basis for your belief? Does choosing one model over another make a difference in how one teaches?

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