I was digging in my front garden today and came across several worms. Worms are wonderful. They munch through the soil and plant debris and make new organic matter and help aerate the soil.
My son noticed that when I picked them up, or the spade disturbed them that they shrank and tried to move away. He also noticed that “when they stopped being scared they got big again”.
People are like this too. When we are scared we have an in-built startle response which makes us shrink and stiffen – freeze. Its a fundamental part of our evolutionary development that helps to keep us alive. When only the essential senses and functions are left ‘on’ we are better able to assess a situation and get as much information as possible in a split second. Our head gets closer to our body, our limbs retract inwards and we freeze for a moment whilst we figure out what to do. We literally shrink and freeze.
Once the startle has gone and we decide what action to take, like the worm we should get “big again”.
Sometimes some of us fall short of our fullness. We may be releasing the initial scare when something else startles us. Nowadays its as likely to be seeing the number of emails coming in, as any sabre toothed tiger of yesteryear! Its the same effect on our nervous system. So some residual fear can remain in our system. Even if its only a bit, we are a bit stiffer, more shrunken and perhaps a tiny bit frozen still. And we carry on with our To-Do-List and life, but with slightly diminished height, and slightly reduced functioning in our organs – for example our breathing and digestion.
Working with a teacher in an Alexander Technique lesson can help us to melt the last bits of freeze with the warmth and attention of another human who is giving their presence to us. This presence also comes with an invitation to reclaim our fullness, not through striving or stretching, but really allowing the undoing and releasing. Our body gets a chance to un-stiffen and un-shrink.
Back to “big again”.
Lucy Ascham is an Alexander Technique teacher who loves to notice the power of nature in its various forms.