Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 23

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 23

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Helping others, Helping Yourself

Most of us have heard, probably more than once, that the only way to help someone else is to help yourself or to first help yourself.  I believe this, but I think that it's a complex and nuanced philosophy and can work in a way that may at first glance appear to be exactly the opposite.  

I've often felt stuck in terms of how I can help my partner when he's struggling and it's become clearer and clearer to me that there are two key reasons for this.  The first reason is that I take what's going on with him personally.  I immediately reflect it back to myself and feel less secure because he's feeling unstable or I interpret what he's feeling as negative feelings about me, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy because my reactions based on those assumptions tend to lead him to feel frustrated with me because he feels that I'm not genuinely listening and understanding his problem.  I'm making it all about me.  The second factor is that I have a tendency to feel helpless and wonder what the heck I can do for him.  This response reflects a lack of confidence in myself to be a stable support and to be able to offer reassuring or helpful feedback.

I've been working diligently on being aware of and changing as much as possible how I take in and respond to challenges that he is going through.  I sometimes allow myself to get caught up in my old habits, but more and more I am able to break free, to receive him clearly, and to not make it all about me. 

I am finding that what may look from the outside as me helping him, is equally me helping myself and that my focus on being present with him even when it feels uncomfortable and I feel tempted to slip back into habits.  So, it turns out that productively helping him is a great way to, in turn, help myself.  If cabin pressure drops, it's probably a good idea to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs, but if we make this a metaphor for other situations, sometimes the demand of a challenging interaction can force a person to put on their oxygen mask when they wouldn't have in the first place, that in helping someone else put on theirs their own must go on as well.

So then, how do we differentiate between when we are helping someone else at the expense of helping ourselves and when helping someone else helps us to help ourselves.  If you are in a situation like this and you are unsure, think about how you feel.  And by feel, I mean how do you feel in your body.  Do you feel like you are opening up and becoming more receptive, not only to that person, but to yourself and the world around you or do you feel that you are trying to fix the other person based on how you think they should be and you feel frustrated and angry if they don't do what you want or expect?  If it's the later, you are likely stuck in a rigid pattern mentally and physically (and I can certainly relate to this).  I've learned that in opening up my receptive field to others, that I open up my receptive field to myself.  I feel globally more expanded, curious, and forgiving.  If you're not sure how you're reacting and interacting, listen to your body.  If you are truely receptive, you'll feel open.  If you're not, you'll likely feel closed off.  You might find that you are somewhere in-between or that you intellectually want to be receptive, but that your body takes over and does otherwise.  I think that this is to be expected.  I can take time to change habits.  In drama school, part of our speech warm-up was saying the phrase "It takes time to untangle twenty-two tutus."  Give yourself time and focus to untangle your habits and they will likely begin to unravel, even if the process goes slowly.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 22

Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 21

The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!

Back to Blogging - A Chaos Theory

I took a fairly long hiatus from what I was calling a daily blog.  One of my reasons for writing this summer edition of the Posture Police was to give myself a daily public forum in which I would hold myself accountable for my choices and actions in regards to resolving some family difficulties, all the while keeping the content thought-provoking, at times humorous, and of course related to the main topic at hand - The Alexander Technique.

I took a break because I opened myself up to the unknown.  I took my head out of the sand (freed my neck, of course!) and focused fully on challenges that I had been ignoring, putting off, thinking they would resolve themselves or weren't such a big deal.  I didn't exactly have an agenda, but I think that I thought that everything would go more smoothly and become easier once I started really being present and addressing matters head-on.  I was surprised (and not surprised) to find that upon opening myself up to forward motion and change, all sorts of unexpected stuff started to come up - fears from the past that I'd nearly forgotten about, oddly timed hindrances to accomplishing goals in making our home more pleasant and liveable, and generally feeling like the bedrock of my life as I've know it for the past several years was shifting and opening up a sea of uncertainty.  It was all so jarring, that I felt a public forum wasn't really the best place to be sorting things out or even reporting.  

I am grateful that I'm taking the time to face my family and myself head-on, perhaps in a way that I never have before.  I feel that I have a clearer understanding as to what our problems are and who is contributing to them in what ways at what times.  I feel uneasy, but I'm starting to feel more confident feeling uneasy and uncertain and would not trade it back in for feeling stuck.  I keep wanting to kick myself for having not been more receptive and insightful sooner, but if everything does happen at the "right" time, then there is no better time than now and waiting longer would be even worse.  I'm continuing to swim in the sea of uncertainty and my goal is to stay focused on my and my family's priorities, while not "end-gaining" for a particular outcome. 

In June, I attended the yearly American Society for the Alexander Technique annual conference, which was here in NYC this year. My friend, Dawn Shalhoup, ran a workshop there on marketing for Alexander Technique teachers.  She's a PR and Marketing expert and I arranged for her to do the workshop as I thought that her style would particularly resonate with Alexander Technique teachers.  One exercise that she asked us to do was to jot down three positive and negative attributes about ourselves.  I wrote the same three for both categories as I saw the three items that I chose as potential strengths and weaknesses in different situations.  One attribute that I noted for myself was "tolerance of chaos".  

In a positive sense, I seek out challenging situations and projects.  Studying the Alexander Technique successfully involves tolerating a great deal of change and allowing yourself to feel temporarily discombobulated or wrong in order to then rediscover a more natural balance.  I have invited these types of changes again and again, even though they were difficult to handle at times.  I lived abroad for three years, which was very disorienting at first, but I eventually felt very much at home.  I remember at camp sitting on a platform fifty feet up in a tree next to a counselor who told me that it was my turn to zip down the zipline and I went.  Others hemmed and hawed for awhile or cried.  I went for it instantly without saying a word.  I lept to it so quickly that the two campers at the bottom who were making the knot in the zipline that would prevent me from crashing face-first into a tree, were looking off in the other direction and got their act together just in time to barely catch me.  

When I answered that question in the workshop, I was thinking that the negative aspect of this tendency of mine to tolerate chaos is that I sometimes tolerate a chaotic situation that is problematic and do nothing about it.  I was thinking about my situation with my family.  Now reconsidering back on what I was thinking, I disagree with myself.  I wasn't tolerating chaos in the situation with my family.  I was tolerating stagnation and avoiding the chaos, disorientation, and anguish that would arise from dealing with the problems head-on.  It was easy to think chaos because things seemed really disorganized - our stuff, our scheduling . . . but it wasn't chaos.  It was a lack of coherency and a huge, heavy lid on a pot that's turned up to high on the stove.  When the lid came off, that's when the chaos began to bubble over.  I'm learning more about the nature of chaos and how it can be a crucial step in finding a resolution.

I will also add that another sign that things are headed in a healthier direction is that even amidst all of this chaos, my back and shoulders have never felt wider and I clearly feel the support and elasticity of my own back.