As human beings, we experience pressure for many reasons, which may be professional, personal or both. Because we live in a society where a multitude of pressures are considered “normal,” we have a catch-all term for them: “stress.” To be “stressed,” “overstressed” and “stressed out” all basically mean the same thing to most of us, and we presume a familiarity with each other’s “stresses” in conversation, for the sake of the exchange, whether we really have any idea what the other person is experiencing or not.
We take innumerable differing strategies to deal with this aspect of modern life that falls under the “stress” umbrella: tea, coffee, Red Bull, harder drugs for some. A smorgasbord of meditations that you might learn from a teacher for hundreds or thousands of dollars or download from a website for free. Some deal with stress by throwing themselves into work; some by procrastinating as a way of life. Some ignore it or refuse to believe that it’s there.
The merits and benefits of any number of methods of dealing with stress can be debated till the cows come home; likewise the scientific and physiological effects, short-term and long-term. But in using “stress” as a synonym for “pressure,” my aim is to illustrate that although we usually think of pressure as something that comes from without, that has an external cause, pressure can come from within as well.
There are pressures involved in the daily functioning of the human body; there are pressures implicit in the distances between where we are at any given moment and where we expect or want to go to (going from home to work, moving from relationship to relationship, moving through a career – even reading a novel creates pressure; if we don’t keep turning pages due to the pressure that’s created in us of *wanting to know* what happens next, it isn’t a very good novel.)
When the pressures we experience become too much to handle in some way, and bleed over into bad habits, we call these addictions. And just like pressures, addictions can be trivial, serious or life-threatening. And life-threatening addictions can, and do for many people, go on just below the surface, unnoticed by others, mistaken for the mere “stress” of daily life; perhaps even to the self, until they spill over.
There is no “one way” to handle such pressures, just as there can be no one way to handle stress, because as human beings we have both obvious, easily grasped commonalities and vast differences. Personally, I have spent many years searching for a way to handle dangerous pressures that would be A) reliable (meaning that it would work whenever I needed it to) and B) easy (meaning that I would not have to disrupt my normal rhythm of life, sit down and do an hour of yoga to get past the pressure I was experiencing).
A couple months into my Alexander work, I have begun to suss out the ways in which Alexander does indeed provide ways to handle pressures; in the colloquial, to “deal.” Because Alexander is not a “doing” thing, but a “releasing” or “un-doing” thing; which is easily said, but cannot be experienced until the work has been ongoing long enough to become habitual.
This week I’ve been continually reminding myself of core Alexander principles regarding the neck, head and shoulders: to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen. And this does in fact provide a release from my personal pressures that is both reliable and easy; the effect flows in starts and stops (meaning that five minutes after I’ve freed the neck, I may have to free it again… and again…) but it is a method of “dealing” that doesn’t force me to break up, or break down, my life in order to use it. And that is *extremely* valuable.