top of page


WEEKLY STUDY TEXTS   Weeks 1 - 10 


Week 4




There are 2 ways to deal with an unwanted effect.


  1. The most common way to deal with an unwanted effect is to do something else or to add something else in to 'correct ' the unwanted outcome or effect.


2.  An Alexandrian way to deal with an unwanted outcome or effect is to remove the cause.


In other words if a particular problem is the outcome of a particular cause and you remove the cause or prevent the cause from happening, then its outcome – the unwanted  effect – cannot occur and the problem disappears.


We need to look at the relationship of the causation of a condition, and the tools used to resolve that condition. Alexander went to see doctors, but they could not help. He also went to see voice coaches and other drama teachers but they could not help.Therefore neither medical nor educational tools helped Alexander. And yet he solved his problem.


What Alexander discovered was nothing less than a whole new category of conditions with a whole new category of causation that created them. In other words his condition was not caused by some kind of medical problem. Nor was it caused by some kind of ignorance. His problem was caused by something he was doing to himself in the way he went about doing what he was doing.


In fact he found these same kinds of self generated limitations - to a greater or lesser degree - in everyone he ever worked with. If people got help from doctors or educationists they didn't go to Alexander! It was only the people who, like Alexander, were not aided by educational tools who came to him for help. And very often he could help them because these people were also individuals who were suffering from problems that they were causing themselves.


When Alexander applied his new tools to the task of helping these people to solve their particular problems, as long as their problems were  being caused by something they were doing to themselves in the manner of performing their activities, they and Alexander enjoyed great success.


Because these people were causing the problems they experienced by the way in which they went about their everyday and specialised activities, when Alexander showed them how to stop creating their problems – that is to say, when Alexander showed them how to take away the cause of their problems – their problems disappeared.


(These extracts are taken from the book ‘Reach Your Dreams’ by Donald Weed)   





What causes people to misuse themselves, thereby creating so much discomfort in their lives?

We can easily make a long list of triggers: education, civilisation, modern life, stress, religion, family life, the lack of family life … potentially, every last thing can be a trigger of misuse.

Talking about his discoveries in the ‘Use of the Self’, Alexander explains how he zeroed in on a fundamental trigger. He realised that his vocal troubles and their accompanying physical characteristics came about on account of his intentions and his goals - that is, the ends he had in mind and heart when he spoke.


He called this phenomenon end-gaining.


Imagine a father and his child. The child is upset and crying. The father has a single wish: for the child to stop crying. Rather than finding out why she’s upset and consoling her, he yells at her to stop crying, which only makes her cry harder. By disregarding the necessary means and going directly to his desired end, the father makes a bad situation worse, both for the child and for himself. We have little compassion for the impatient father, but a fact remains that his behaviour takes him away from the actual goal he has in mind - which is for the child to stop crying. The father is end-gaining.


For the sake of simplicity we’ll say that end-gaining consists in choosing unhealthy goals, or pursuing worthy goals in an unhealthy manner.


End gaining is so prevalent and insidious that most people don't realise that they, and others, are end-gaining the whole time. Business, politics, medicine, art , daily life, personal relationships are all subject to the ravages of end-gaining thought and behaviour.


Let’s look at an illustrative list.


The politician really wants to get elected. He makes promises he knows he can’t keep, and he manages to get elected. There’ll be crises, conflicts, disappointments, a budget in disarray, demonstrations, public violence. The politician end-gained, and the results are there for all to see.


Our pianist wants to play loud, very loud, at least as loud as that other pianist of whom she’s jealous. She bangs at the piano, produces harsh, ugly sounds that don't give anyone any pleasure, and starts suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. She end-gains and misuses herself, on account of an unhealthy goal that she pursues in an unhealthy manner.


I’m irritated and in a bad mood. the highway is clogged with rush-hour traffic, and I just want to get home. Im going to drive on the hard shoulder and speed past all those stupid drivers. I risk causing an accident that might leave me and other people in hospital for several months. But I’m going ahead. I’m determined to end-gain.


End-Gaining isn’t necessarily a matter of life and death. Little things in your daily routine can manifest the end-gaining principle too. A dropped plate in the kitchen. A finger nail cut too short. A smudge of ink on a card you're writing to offer condolences to a relative. Maybe your goal was simple to get something done - to get the dishes done, to get the nail trimming done, to get the card done. You end-gained only a tiny bit, but you end-gained for sure.


End gaining exists in many gradations. One little thing: not too much of a problem. A thousand little things, one after the other: more of a problem. A big thing: a big problem. a thousand big things, one after the other: a gigantic problem.


Goals setting, in itself, isn't the same thing as end-gaining. To be human is to have goals. To be happy and healthy is to have goals. To be happy and healthy is to pursue worthy goals in an intelligent manner. But you can only pursue these worthy goals if you stop end gaining.


We have arrived at another of Alexander’s helpful insights: to change the way you use, the important thing is not what you DO, but what you STOP doing and what you prevent yourself doing. This is the corner stone of the Alexander Technique and we’ll call it

NON-DOING and what you prevent yourself from doing.


End-gaining is the cause of misuse and non-doing is the solution.


Here’s a modest poem using Alexander’s vocabulary:


End- gaining causes misuse.

Misuse causes poor functioning.

To improve your functioning, stop misusing yourself.

To stop misusing yourself, stop end-gaining.

Learn to ‘do nothing’ before you ‘do’ anything.


And here’s another modest poem, saying a similar thing with a different vocabulary:


Your goals and motivations get in the way.

Then you twist yourself into a knot and suffer.

To stop suffering, stop twisting yourself into a knot.

To stop twisting yourself into a knot clarify your goals and motivations.

Learn to ‘do’ nothing before you ‘do’ anything.


(This extract is taken from The Alexander Technique - A Skill for Life’  Pedro De Alcantara)






“Boiled down, it all comes to inhibiting a particular reaction to a given stimulus. But no-one will see it that way. They will see it as getting in and out of a chair the right way. It is nothing of the kind. It is that a pupil decides what he will or will not consent to do!”

(F.M. Alexander)


“In his writings, Alexander often discussed non-doing and it’s fundamental importance. He also employed the word inhibition to refer to it. Give yourself a task or goal, then inhibit your desire to pursue it - that is, do nothing at first. Organise yourself and your energies, the better to figure out the way forwards. Then go ahead and act, if you’re still interested in your original goal. In this context inhibition doesn’t mean to suppress your emotions. Rather it means to suspend your habitual reactions, to keep them in check, to prevent them racing out the gate and overwhelming your intention to achieve a worthy goal.”  


(Extract taken from Ther Alexadner Technique- A Skill For Life by Pedro De Alcantara)





The following quotes are from the book ‘Not To ‘Do’ by Fiona Robb. This book is a personal account of Fiona Robb’s lessons with the Alexander Technique teacher Margaret Goldie; these quotes are things Fiona Robb recounts Margaret Goldie saying to her in her lessons.



”The idea is not to reduce the amount of energy in the system, but rather to re-channel it.”


”Don't just wait for the panic to happen, rather ask for something else before it gets to that stage. It is a brain thought, a decision, a choice. You can choose for something else to happen - no, you can't make it happen.”


“Brain activity should not involve muscle activity. Often it does, but it need not.”


”If you worry; you use up all your energy to do the worrying and you have none left in reserve to think clearly and deal with the problem quietly - and there to realise that the perceived problem was not actually a problem at all.”


“The Technique is about `non-doing'- learning not to ‘do’.”


”If you fix on anything, you've lost it. It's a continual process - a process of continual growing and change.”


”None of us know what ‘stopping' really is, but we can explore the possibility of it.”


"The problem is that we think we have to ‘do' so much to ‘stop'. It is not a ‘doing' stopping- rather a decision at brain- thought level.”

bottom of page