Reflex, reflexes

It has been shown that when the brain of certain animals has been destroyed, the spinal cord, trunk, limbs, and their nervous connections with the cord remaining intact, that the limbs may still be excited by appropriate stimulation of the skin to execute movements which appear to be under intelligent direction. This is borne out by the fact that reflex movements may be excited in our own bodies while in ordinary deep sleep or under anæsthetization.

“Introduction to a New Method of Respiratory Vocal Re-Education” (1906) in in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 46.

By this process of re-education an effective installation is made of the reflex muscular systems involved through the creation of an intelligent directive power on the part of the individual, thus removing a crude and useless kinæsthesia which must be regarded as either debauched or deformed, and establishing one of valid and unfailing function.

“Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems” (1908) in in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 79.

He has formed a muscular habit of drawing down his lip independently of his conscious control, and the line of suggestion set up by the wish to speak induces at once a reflex action of a complicated set of muscles.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 34.

2.         The stimuli to apprehension, or excitement of the fear reflexes, are eliminated by a procedure which teaches the pupil to take no thought of whether what he calls “practice” is right or wrong.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 54.

As an instance of this, I recently had a case of a boy of three-and-a-half years who suffered from fear reflexes.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 80.

The fear reflexes became less and less subject to excitement, he grew less irritable, his temper was more controlled, and his outbursts of crying were exhibited far less often.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), page 81.

The reflex action which is setting up morbid conditions can only be controlled and altered by a deliberate realization of the guiding process which is to be substituted, and these new impulses to the conscious mind have, analogically, very much the same effect as is produced on the body by the internal massage referred to above. The old accumulations of subconscious thought are dispersed, and room is made for new conceptions and realizations.

Man’s Supreme Inheritance by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1996, London), pages 176-77.

We will suppose that in the course of the analysis, long or short as the case may be, the teacher and the pupil together unravel the knot and decide that the origin of the fear lies in some event, or train of events, which took place in the past and unduly excited the patient’s fear reflexes and established a “phobia.”

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 60.

Further, it occurs to very few of them to consider whether, in this process of “education” (i.e., in certain specific directions), the child’s fear reflexes will not be unduly and harmfully excited by the injunction that it must always try to “be right"...

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 72.

In this matter of sending children to school, we must realize that any undue excitement of the fear reflexes in the daily routine of school work has a very serious effect upon the respiratory processes, which are so closely linked up with the emotions, and when in addition we consider the detrimental effect upon these processes of the defective use of the organism‡ during study at school desks and in school chairs (for in study, as in deep sleep, the respiratory processes are reduced to their minimum of activity) in standing, walking, and, in fact, during the assumption of any ordinary posture, we are faced with a problem which no scheme on a subconscious basis will solve.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 73.

Any attempt, then, made by the child that is imperfectly co-ordinated to use its unreliable sensory appreciation as a guide in its efforts to do something in obedience to directions in order to correct a defect, is bound to result in some form of misdirected activity, accompanied by an increase of the original defect or imperfection, and by the undue development of the fear reflexes.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 81.

They are influenced by and associated with our incorrect conceptions, our imperfect sensory appreciation, our unduly excited fear reflexes and uncontrolled emotions and prejudices, and our imperfectly adjusted mechanisms.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 82.

VI. Unduly Excited Fear Reflexes, Uncontrolled Emotions, and Fixed Prejudices

Chapter title in Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 134.

This represents an unbalanced use of this wonderful process of inhibition, and tends to produce, as a general result, a state of unbalanced psycho-physical functioning throughout the whole organism, and to establish what we shall refer to as “the unduly excited reflex” process.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 134.

The fact is that in all our processes of learning things, the fear reflexes are unduly and harmfully excited by the teaching methods employed, according to which demands are made upon us that we are not able to fulfil. So, for a time, we get bad results, with the undue and harmful development of emotional reflex processes which, as we have seen, inevitably accompanies these unsuccessful attempts.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 137.

This matter of unduly excited fear reflexes has been referred to in the chapter on education, and here I wish to discuss processes used in tests made on children in this connection.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 140.

It must be remembered that during all these “trial-and-error” experiences the fear reflexes are being unduly excited by the fear of falling, and by the general unreliability and uncertainty of the psycho-physical processes which are employed during such subconsciously directed efforts.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 148.

By way of proof by demonstration, then, note the psycho-physical manifestations of the person who believes in concentration during the act of reading, writing, thinking, or during the performance of any other of the numerous daily activities. First observe the strained expression of the eyes, an expression of anxiety and uneasiness, denoting unduly excited fear reflexes; in some cases the eyes may be distorted, and the whole expression one that is recognized as the self-hypnotic stare.

Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Mouritz, 2004, London) page 169.

When I started to work out the technique, I had such a horror of my school that the remembrance of it was still with me all the time, the remembrance of everyone concerned asking me to try to be right, and of my finding out later on in life that my right was wrong, as I knew, by the sensory consciousness that was within me, was wrong. I was horrified, and I decided that before I could enter the teaching work, I would develop a technique which would enable me to teach the child in such a way that the fear reflexes would never be unduly excited, and we have that technique today.

“An Unrecognized Principle” in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 158.


This meant that the stimulus to use my voice no longer brought into play the old  reflex activity which included the pulling of my head back and down, leading to a shortening of my stature, and which constituted my harmful habitual reaction to that stimulus, but instead, a new  reflex activity which included putting my head forward and up to lengthen the stature and which, by its results, proved to be a satisfactory reaction to that stimulus.
            The fact that I was able, through my employment of the primary control, to bring about such an improvement in my reaction to the stimulus to use my voice that vocal activity did not result in hoarseness, is proof that quite early in my experiences a practical means had been found, whereby my habitual  reflex activity was  “conditioned” as a natural consequence of the procedure adopted, since the new  reflex activity to which it was changed in the process was associated with new and improved general conditions of use and functioning.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London), page 40.

First and foremost, I learned from these experiences that I could not enable my pupils to control the functioning of their organs, systems or  reflexes directly, but that by teaching them to employ consciously the primary control of their use I could put them in command of the means whereby their functioning generally can be indirectly controlled.

The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1939, London), page 42.

He worked with me for some time and as he went back to the condition - the “reflex activity” condition of use that was there before he was told to put his shoulder down - so the paralysis agitans disappeared.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture” in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 166.

There they are at the crisis of the match, having this deciding stroke to make. They are both excited. One of them comes along; he has to make his shot and immediately the emotional side of him is disturbed; it starts up again the old reflex activity connected with his wrong experience in learning the game, and so he does now what he used to do when he made the bad shots.

“Bedford Physical Training College Lecture” in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), page 179.

The deformity of the neck, the fixation of the cervical spine and head, the round humped back, the uneven position of the shoulders, the undue lordosis and slight lumbar curve of the spine, the extreme anterior position of the pelvis in standing, the unduly protruded abdomen, the contracted chest, and the undue tension of the arms and legs even when he was in a sitting position, his habitual tendency to slump when seated - all these were evidence of the vicious circle involving reflex spasm in overaction of muscle groups, which Dr Caldwell wrote was “further menacing the deformity and increasing the pain.”

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 27.

Special to this case was the undue excitement of the fear reflexes in response to any stimulus to move or speak.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 29.

To change habitual reaction permanently without the accompaniment of harmful by-products it is necessary to change the manner of use of the self that is associated with it. This reconditions the reflex activity of which this manner of use is a manifestation, and means that for the old reaction associated with the old reflex activity, there is substituted a new reflex activity resulting in a new changed reaction, and a consequent disappearance of the old reaction.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 73.

This accomplished, the teacher will ask the pupil to give the new messages necessary to carrying out the new “means-whereby” required for bringing about that employment of the primary control of the use of himself which is fundamental in reconditioning reflexes.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 82.

The habitual wrong employment of the primary control of the pupil’s use of himself, responsible for his reaction in performing such acts as sitting in and rising from a chair, is prevented, and is gradually superseded by a new and improved manner of use which, by a reconditioning procedure, is associated with new reflex activity.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 83.

As long as the brain is preoccupied with the projection of messages which result in bringing about our habitual manner of use, there is little chance of breaking the vicious circle of the associated reflex activity in “doing.” What we feel to be right is wrong, and before this habitual reflex activity can be changed we need to pass through a series of reconditioning experiences which, because they are previously unknown to us, at first feel wrong, and which must be repeated therefore until the unknown becomes the known and feels right and familiar.
The primary procedure in the technique necessary for gaining these experiences is the inhibition, at a given stimulus, of our habitual reflex activity.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 85.

Further, may I point out that my practice and theory is not affected by the question as to whether or not reflexes are primary and integration of the “total pattern” secondary in behaviour, for the employment of the primary control in my technique is inseparable from the inhibitory procedures necessary to the reconditioning of the reflexes and to integration of the “total pattern” involving the same procedures in a unified process.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 116.

I have found them particularly difficult to teach because of their over-excited fear reflexes and of their habit of instinctively seeking the easy way, even when admitting that it is not the best for their purpose.

The Universal Constant in Living by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 2000, London), page 152.

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