"Take a breath and count to 10..." and other life skills

The Alexander Technique is a well-developed method for managing your response to life. It combines many capacities we have to regulate how we respond to life. The tools Alexander combined are not unique to his work and we all have concrete experiences that relate to the main concepts used: awareness, inhibition and direction. This post with focus on inhibition.

What do we mean by inhibition?


As a child, I remember receiving the instruction “If you feel angry, take a breath and count to 10 before you say or do anything you’ll regret”. Of course, I didn’t really hear it and couldn’t make use of it until I had enough life experience to know it was good advice. This seems like a simple enough tool, but it’s not always easy to stop the flood of intense feelings and the need to discharge by expressing the first thing that comes to the lips.

In Alexander Technique, the ability to pause and reflect before responding is taught and developed in tandem with awareness and direction. In many cases, the stimulus/response we explore in lessons begins observing the impulse to move, which is why teachers frequently use sitting and standing from a chair as a simple process to practice and develop this skill.

Inhibition can be applied beyond how we coordinate balance, posture and movement. Over time, by practicing and observing the results of taking time, many students come to understand our emotional, intellectual and thinking patterns can be altered and made more effective through inhibition.

For a performing artist, inhibition can be used to help manage performance anxiety. An actor in a play can use the ability to calm her nerves so that she can see, hear and relate to her scene partners and stay present in the life being created onstage.

For a manager in the business world, inhibition can help him take the time needed to better handle a crisis on the job. It may be that his go to strategy is not as effective as another approach to solving the problem. It may take a bit of time to calm down his sense of urgency to be able to consider more options for how to address the situation.

In personal relationships, inhibition can create the possibility of clearer and more effective communication. When my partner interrupts me with a request or a need, having the space to choose how to prioritize what to attend to, can give me a better chance that I won’t end up pulled in two directions, and needing to spend more time in the long run dealing with my own and/or my partner’s upset.

In sport, waiting for the starting signal to go off before a running race, inhibition can help a runner avoid “jumping the gun” while still getting a good start to the race.

Quotes that relate to inhibition

“Look before you leap”

“Act in haste, repent in leisure”

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting” -Joyce Meyer

“A stitch in time saves nine”

“Slow and steady, the hare wins the race”