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Alexander used the term inhibition before it acquired a different definition through Freudian psychology. FM Alexander originated this term to describe the principal idea of how to prevent what he had mistakenly trained himself to do. The founder offered the story about his choice of the word: inhibition is the action an animal hunter might do to strategically choose the exact moment to spring for prey. It involved stopping the urge to instantly and instinctually satisfy its natural hunger by prematurely jumping too soon ineffectively.

There are many expressions of inhibition, as well as levels of how it is employed to address increasingly more difficult challenges. There are as many ways inhibition may be taught as there are Alexander Technique teachers. If you are an Alexander Technique teacher, please feel free to add your innovations or experience about how inhibition is best communicated to these attempted descriptions.

  • Inhibition in the Alexander world does not mean possessing some sort of unconscious hang-up, as is its common definition now.
  • inhibition is any strategy done as a preventative action to redirect the power of habit to control outcome,
  • Inhibition is how to deal with a backlash of self-preservation that is felt as a depressing resistance or disillusionment.
  • Inhibition is refusing to be controlled by any habitual routine you have decided you want to change for whatever reason
  • Inhibition is the ability to choose a new, more appropriate means in spite of the power of thoughtlessness, habitual training or any routines
  • Inhibition techniques in the context of Alexander Technique lessons commonly use
  • a pause,
  • a full stop,
  • deliberate suspension,
  • an active "allowing" = meaning, to be free and do nothing instead of reacting
  • a deliberate choice to do something different or unexpected

In conclusion, inhibition is an Alexander Technique buzz word for the (mental) discipline of stopping habitual reactions to any stimulus. Once we stop for a moment, our Inner Observer has the chance to notice what (and how) we wanted to do something else other than what we were about to habitually do. Inhibition is any action drives a wedge of choice between stimulus and reaction, making a new or less obvious option possible. Below are listed the different types and expressions of inhibition. Inhibition creates the freedom to choose a more appropriate or efficient way of doing things. It also allows discovery of new options, because using inhibition refreshes sensory ability that helps notice new possibilities, once the old ways give up their protective control.

Inhibition as prevention[]

Inhibition works most simply when it is used preventatively. This is the most commonly understood strategy of "doing something else" that most people use to solve most problems. You cannot do one thing while doing another, based on the idea that one action will tend to extinguish another. If you have a problem, do what you believe is its opposite as a solution. So the easiest expression of the ability to inhibit is to use a form of effective distraction. The idea is that, usually, an opposing action will "cancel out" its opposite directive.

Preventative inhibition is most easily expressed by clearly identifying what you do not want. Needed is to identify what direction and means will lead away from what you do not want. Then, simply unify your intention to do just that - and act.

An example of this is that many adults forget they have the capacity to move because they so often do not often want to move in a certain way. They get into a certain pattern of movement merely because they forget what is possible. Once you remember that you can move - it is relatively easy to free yourself. For instance, because we so often sit in chairs with a back or do not want to elbow people behind us, many adults edit out the motion of allowing their elbows to move behind them. They stop doing the motion of flapping their elbows like a chicken or swinging their elbows as in a jogging motion. Exploring these motions will easily remind us of where else our heads, necks and shoulders are able to move with the rest of our body.

If you do not imagine that inhibition is powerful, perhaps conduct an experience about how the refusal of attention affects performance in a social context. Think of the most compelling story that you know. Ask your audience to refuse to give any indication of interest in your story as you tell it, in fact, ask them to give indicators that they do not want to be told this story at all. Record results of how it makes you feel and how their refusal to react to you affects the way you tell your story. Then choose a different story that is not so interesting. This time, the audience to give you their undivided attention, along with all of the non-verbal (and maybe verbal, if they are inclined) indicators that they are passionately interested, along with applause. Describe and compare the results, (which are often surprising.)

In conclusion, this inhibition strategy is expressed by exploring what the abstract concept of "opposite" means. It is most usefully applied to uncover assumptions about what may have been forgotten or is missing. The advantage is, once these secrets are uncovered, they are easy to do to replace those actions that were forgotten, ineffective or unnecessary.

Inhibition by gradually undoing the triggers of habitual reaction[]

There are situations where this simplistic prevention strategy isn't appropriate. In these instances, inhibition can be used gradually, nipping away at the the problem before the routine solution gets going. This approach takes some strategy and persistence, but is permanently effective.

For instance, a prevailing behavior is running in the background imperceptively that has previously been trained to become innate. You have no idea why you continue to do it when it does not make any sense. It must be cancelled before a new action may be done because you seem to be trying to do both at once. How to undo what you can't perceive is happening and do what you want to do?

The secret here is self-observation. Describing some of the characteristics of what you do not want to do is useful, so you can recognize when you are about to do it. The sooner back in time you can prevent the routine from going into action, the easier it will be to change the course of action into what you believe is a better choice. Once a routine gets going, it's much more difficult to redirect it's course.

The traditional way taught is to develop the general ability to refuse one action before beginning another. For this to occur, a definite stop is inserted between the routine action and whatever comes next.

This can be

  • a definite stop or
  • a pregnant pause,
  • a renewed action of choosing an other unrelated action,
  • a refresh, (in computer language to turn everything off and then on again, to reload, to restart)
  • an allowing or renewal of choosing what is wanted - clearly specifying how and what is wanted,
  • a welcoming of what is unfamiliar or new
  • a definite surrendering of the desired goal.

These techniques of inhibition are most effectively applied if experimentation is absolutely arbitrary and safe, so that which course of action that ends up being chosen makes absolutely no difference at all.

An additional strategy is to slow down the ability to make a choice to a very slow pace. The habitual routine in place that usually swiftly performs the action gets so bored that it gives up control entirely. This allows the new means to be successfully practiced and trained.

Training a new, less dominant and more efficient means is the strategy means toward the suspended goal. Merely interrupting the old habit is effective, because it points toward freedom. Surrendering the desire to "do it" and surrendering the need to "do it" (at any cost) helps the person to refuse to allow the trigger to activate the old habit. Now the habit will not coerce the way the action gets done.

Surprising to most is that specifying a replacement habit is not required. New pathways may be carved out and shaped by merely thinking of doing the new behavior. (This is in keeping with visualization and brain research done much later than when Alexander Technique was invented.) In fact, s

Obviously, this principle of inhibition may be used and is effective on its own, without being combined with other working principles of Alexander's discoveries.

A more sophisticated strategy that addresses this same situation requires competence in combination with the other Alexander Technique skill of Direction. Here the strategy is to learn to recognize the unwanted behavior and interrupt it sooner and sooner. It will not matter if a person does not know why they are doing what they do not want to do. This works best with habits of response that occur unpredictably, where the challenge is to pay attention when a lack of attention is the problem. No psychological searching is necessary. Tracing the beginning of the action back sooner and sooner will show an emotional motive, (perhaps help the memory of the situation in history) that put the strategy into place in the first place.

Once known, usually this made perfect sense at the time the habit was trained, but had become out of date. A new and more flexible way to answer this emotional need will require enduring the emotion that required a solution - the ability to refuse to perform the original solution. Also necessary will be the ability to move out of the postural expression of this emotion with additional Alexander Technique tools in this crucial moment. The benefit in this case is much greater. As the source of the behavior is found, moving out of the old postural expression of the emotional state by using Direction will allow new solutions to occur as insights. This is somewhat challenging in the moment, as the habit is quite challenged to need to insert its' remedy, but refusing to follow the old remedy in that moment will be very effective in dislodging the need for the habit. The ability to endure the challenging emotion while refusing to use the old solution is key. The ability to physically move out of it using Direction will result in discoveries about more effective solutions that make the previously unwanted over-reaction unnecessary from that point forward. Improvement is permanent.

Inhibition as guerilla warfare[]

There are further situations where both these approaches are a significant challenge. The action gets going before noticed, and it seem impossible to stop it from happening. In this case, it's time to bring out the "big guns."

Habits are resistant to change because of self-protection, and seem to have their own sense of self-preservation. They require subversive action to be convinced that stopping is a good idea. This is the time to sneak, lie, cajole, detour, fool, bribe, bait and switch - all those things that social niceties say you must not do. Any of these are fair game to use against the challenge of stopping or interrupting an insistent, established habit. The strategy is that direct confrontation is ineffective. It will not work to use one's own "will-power." What works is strategic guerilla warfare.

For instance, let's say someone finds out that they cannot move their fingers without all their fingers jerking at once. Each time they move, all the muscles fire in a panic as if they have been wired together. First needed would be some sort of feedback of what is in fact really happening. In this case, holding their other hand on their forearm will allow them to feel by touch the quality of how the motion of finger movement is beginning. Now, the objective is to use the tiniest motion that sneaks underneath the radar of their expectation of what a movement is. Using inhibition would sound like this: "I'm not really going to move my fingers, I'm just going to wiggle one of my fingers...and maybe the second finger will wiggle along with it." Essentially, they would be lying to their urge to react while breaking the activity down into the tiniest chunks of the process will not gain the attention of the need for the habit to engage. So no need to protect anything. The signal or trigger word that results in the habitual action going off is not uttered. Instead, stick to the steps of the action, and eventually they would arrive at the goal because they followed the steps and stayed with them, moment-to-moment.

ATwriter 03:50, March 7, 2010 (UTC)

Inhibition is a foundation principle of F.M. Alexander's work.