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.

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