Last month I was teaching a group class at the ITM Teacher Training Course and found myself talking to the students about shame.
For many years, when I had an Alexander Technique lesson I experienced an almost overwhelming sense of shame. Looking back I am surprised I persevered in the face of that kind of emotional discomfort, but the benefits of the work were so stunning that they kept me moving forward.
One of the surprising things that often happens in an Alexander Technique lesson with an ITM teacher is that your performance in any given activity improves dramatically in a very short time. Singers immediately gain better pitch and tone, yogis get instantly more flexible and even a simple activity like sitting becomes more effortless and elegant. People grow more beautiful and charismatic before your eyes.
I interpreted this sudden and easy improvement when I worked with a teacher to mean that I had been doing something very wrong before.
And I made a terrible and incorrect mental leap to see this as proof of not only the lack of value in my performance and abilities, but a lack of value in myself.
The powerful tool that allowed for these almost miraculous improvements to happen in a lessen has also served as the antidote to those feelings of shame.
You see, in the ITM Alexander Technique, we learn how to develop and use the incredible power of our reasoned, conscious mind.
This use of reason teaches us to see beyond our immediate feelings in a situation. We can learn to respect our feelings but choose to look at situations through the lens of reason.
And while it has taken time and work, this development of my reasoning processes has helped me to break through to a more realistic and positive view of myself and humans in general.
I no longer feel shame, but excitement and joy when I experience improvement in myself.
The instant improvements we experience in lessons happen because we are so intelligent, so creative and so flexible both mentally and physically.
Through this work, I have come to see that constant improvement is part of our very DNA. We are incredible beings who are forever learning and changing. And even more incredible, we can determine which direction we want to grow towards. We can direct our reasoning, conscious mind toward our desires. Our potential for improvement is open ended.
When I look at my shame response through the lens of reason, it is very clear that what I DO, how well I perform has nothing to do with my value as a human being.
We are all the same. We are all special and none of us are special. How well we perform or how we feel does not change anything about our intrinsic values as human beings.
For me, these two concepts have been incredible helpful to navigating my life.
First of all, understanding that I will always have room for improvement and secondly always remembering that what I do, achieve or don’t achieve has nothing to do with my value as a human being.
Have you ever struggled with shame in the face of improvement or growth? I would love to her about your experiences in the comments below.