Self-regulation is a relatively new and increasingly important area in psychological research. Since the 1980s, a very large number of scientific articles on self-regulation and various aspects and application of self-regulation constructs including self-regulated learning, self-control and self-management have appeared.
Behavioral Self-regulation and self-regulated learning (learning something or learning to do something) designate one and the same process as there are no innate or spontaneous skills nor automatic behavioral regulation in human being. Every skill you can think of is just the expression of a learned behaviour at a moment in time. Now learning new things, new concepts, new procedures, new attitudes , new problem-solving capacities involves developing and coordinating many different skills. Expanding one’s attention, making memory more voluntary, developping one’s capacity of forming accurate representations, coping with not knowing and uncertainty, postponing satisfaction, maintaining one’s emotional drive, setting goals, organising self-appraisal, implementing intentions, dealing with strategy-failure, all these skills gain in efficacy and are more likely to work in a coordinated fashion when the learner is made conscious of the process of self-regulation which I call conscious guidance.
Self-regulation represents a set of purposive personal processes and actions directed at acquiring or displaying skill. By the expression ‘purposive personal process’, I mean a goal oriented set of highly structured procedures which must be repeated in time and improved in the process, an effortful activity not inherently enjoyable nor motivating, the explicit goal of which is to improve the current level of self-discipline, i.e., to improve the capacity to construct and to OBEY SERIES OF RULES in practice at the propitious moment and in a correct decisional architecture. The idea behind the lessons of the initial Alexander technique is that it is possible to make the whole process of self-regulation more conscious and to directly train our capacity of learning. It is “learning how to learn1“, but not the “learning how to learn” stupid series of numbers or an even more stupid fixed conception of means-whereby.
Every person attempts to self-regulate its behavior in some way to gain goals in life. They are not going to call it self-regulation or conscious guidance and they will do what they can without really knowing what it is or what really enters into self-regulation. Most people for example do not imagine that self-regulation is the greatest tool of emancipation, of setting oneself free of restrictions, cravings and fear.
The most ignored axiom in this domain is that self-speech plays a central role in self-regulation. It is self-speech advancement and the refinement of its use that will thoroughly change the three cyclical phases self-regulation is made of no matter what skill is considered: forethought, performance control and self-reflection on the performance.
Learning to use speech a) to give orders (forethought) and b) verify that these definite orders are obeyed and no others (performance control), c) to construct models (reflection on performance) which will give our speech terminology a new architecture, is the central stepping stone of the growth to the higher stages of regulation. 2
It is not great mystery that there are effective and ineffective forms of regulation and that most people experience self-regulatory dysfunction (learning blockages, inattention, irrational self-judgement, procrastination, addictions, eating disorders, irrational fears, faulty gestural patterns…). Teaching conscious guidance is therefore more important, in the sense that it is more ‘general’, than transmitting a correct use of the anatomical structure. This said, my position is that
- teaching our pupil (ourselves first) to concert decisions of movements is the best scene for covertly teaching [learning] self-regulation and
- as the performance of physical acts in everyday activities is one of the major source (because it is the most constant) of ineffective form of self-regulation leading to self-harm, it is obvious that using self-regulation to improve gestural self-preservation represents the best way to lift the mind out of its prostration3 and find the energy and incentive to engage into the work of constructing for oneself a higher level of self-regulation.
I consider teaching the *initial alexander technique* as teaching a self-regulatory technique which uses the conscious coordination of movements as a springboard to the inquiry into conscious guidance. I often employ the term conscious guidance as a synonym of reasoned self-regulation.
When I say that the initial Alexander technique is a bridge4 between theory and practice and that we study experimentally how each of us translate concerted verbal orders of movements into coordinated actions, I have in mind the process definition of agency or ability defined by Zimmerman. Alexander was very close to this vision when he advised his teachers to make our technique true to the principle of growth and development,5 not teaching people some trick or another, but helping them to develop their own agency, i.e., their own capacity of continuous self-regulated learning.