Non-mechanical problem solving: injury recovery

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on April 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

Experiment: your dominant hand is now unable to take weight or pressure, and your dominant thumb is partially immobilized. Pain allows a much reduced range of movement. Attempt, within limits of safety and pain, the following activities: cut with scissors, write a check, brush your teeth,  prepare dinner, open a pain medicine bottle with child proof cap.

The above, with the addition of teaching my full schedule of hands-on Alexander lessons since the day after injury, are some of the challenges that are guiding me to recover, renew, relearn.  How can I move from undoing to doing without doing too much within the context of injury?

The tools of the Alexander Technique are intention and attention. These are not static tools, but constantly refined and changing means of thinking with the entire integrated self.

My primary intentions as I proceed in activities are: to not hurt myself further, to allow pain to be a friendly signal, and to attend to my unified self in the wider world. I don’t want to push through pain in order to, say, open the pain med bottle. If it hurts to open the bottle, I can: attempt the activity in a new way, give myself the time for a different means, or ask for help from more fully able others. Or, I can decide I don’t need the pain meds at all!  I also remind myself that what hurt yesterday or even an hour ago may not hurt now. New means may have occurred to me, and injured ligaments, tendons and muscles may have changed. They are alive and responsive after all. The injured tissues do not function in isolation, but in the larger complexity of my entire thinking self.

A happy curiosity works best for problem solving. This quality of curiosity relies upon a wide attention span, and trust in the abilities of my entire self, rather than a narrowed focus on the area of injury.  When my attention zooms to my wrist and what I can’t do, my entire self pulls in and down. I become discouraged and despondent. If, instead, I allow the time to see and hear the world outside myself, to notice how the ground supports me, that my breath can move through my entire spine, and that my instrument of self changes constantly, the solutions seem to do themselves.  I am hopeful again.

Injury has also given me the opportunity to notice habits that were previously invisible to me. Writing with pen and paper, which remains challenging, is an example. As I attempt to form letters and proceed from thought through arm to fingers to paper, I notice unnecessary tightening throughout myself. This is not merely bracing against pain (I have some of that too, of course), but most likely what I typically do while writing. I can ask bracing to cease, even if writing then seems impossible. The moment of seeming impossibility is when friendly curiosity comes in handy. I don’t have to figure out the means; I do have to allow the time and curiosity to let the means flow from brain to hand to paper.

Injury, and the full recovery I intend to experience, may thus give me new problem solving skills, and improve my overall use in the process. Within limits of safety and pain, I continue the exploration.

Yet another crisi-tunity: injury as opportunity

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

There is no rushing recovery from injury. The entire integrated system of self takes the time needed to repair, renew and relearn. This is not a “parts” repair but an entire self opportunity to do life differently. We are, after all, integrated systems of complexity.

As I recover, renew and relearn from injury (severe sprain to my dominant hand/wrist/arm), the following inquiries seem essential

Q.How can I do what I would like to do within limits of pain and safety?

As is natural after an injury, attention focuses on further protection of the injured and painful area. Although I am in no way suggesting ignoring or minimizing pain, a broader  attention to the entire self can be a constructive tool. As I attempt to use my hand to write, teach a lesson, open a door, brush my teeth, I can adjust attention to include how I am contracting in my thinking, how I am disconnecting from the ground, how I am no longer seeing or hearing the evidence of Spring. Once I widen and expand attention, solutions in co-ordination occur to me. I know more clearly what is safe to attempt and what isn’t, and how to problem solve in either case.

I can see pain as a friendly signal of current limits, not an alarm meriting contraction and panic.  I can respond to the friendly signal  with constructive solutions instead of freezing into an overall mode of protection that typically hurts more, not less.

Q. Can I allow a new way of doing nearly everything?

Injury to a dominant hand brings so many activities, so much identity, under scrutiny. This is also where opportunity lies, the crisis that brings new learning (crisi-tunity).  I welcome the time, the uncertainty, the potential unfamiliarity of allowing a new response.  This seems to me to be the heart of the Alexander Technique: a means of dynamically refusing to interfere so that uncertainty is the reliable rule, and response to uncertainty a creatively shifting response.