Choosing ways to help ourselves from the myriad of techniques, treatments and methods out there can be a real challenge. It is definitely a buyer-beware world. Once you think a technique may be useful then you need to determine if the practitioner is the right one for you.
One approach I have given a lot of thought to lately is the idea of congruency.
Before we get further let’s define congruent. The non-mathematical definition of congruent, according to Cambridge Dictionary of English language is:
…similar to or in agreement with something, so that the two things can both exist or can be combined without problems.
It is the last part, “both exist or can be combined without problems”, which leads me to think the underlying idea of almost all therapeutic interventions is to increase some type of congruency in an individual. Whether it is of mind and body, nerves and muscles, thoughts and feelings, congruency is at the heart of what is being sought.
If this is the case, it follows that we can assess any intervention by asking what is to be made congruent and why and if the techniques employed actually do that.
For example, I have developed a technique called ReTensioning™ that aims to give clients the ability to have minimal muscle activity at a specific joint when they are resting that joint. (Often people are actively putting unnecessary forces across the joint when they think it is at rest.)
The technique seeks to make the perception of a joint-at-rest congruent with the mechanical minimum of activity across that joint.
Its methodology involves ascertaining the relationships of the bones at perceived rest and at minimal mechanical activity, and then actively giving the client the experience of resting with the joint at minimal activity in order to retrain the nervous system to use minimal activity when resting the joint.
ReTensioning™ has a clear congruence it seeks between the tension across a joint and the minimizing of this tension at rest, and the techniques have been shown to create this congruence in many clients. So as a consumer, I can consider this technique as a possible means to help me if I want to change the mechanical stress in my body, and I can tell in a session or two if the techniques being used are able to get this congruence for me.
The Alexander Technique is another example of a methodology that we can apply such an analysis to. It aims to help people change how they use themselves in daily activity by using their rational mind to determine how they move instead of relying on instinctive or unconscious habitual responses to stimuli.
A component of that is teaching people the mechanisms we have in our design that allows humans to easily control movements so we can use ourselves with minimal strain without having to think about every little muscle contraction and timing.
In short, it seeks to have our ideas of how we use ourselves congruent with how we actually use ourselves.
In its methodology there is a great deal of variance by practitioners: some will say nothing to a client and only have them do simple movements repeatedly with manual guidance, while others will talk with clients and have them do various experiments in changing their thinking to see the effect it has on their movement. And there are many combinations in between. It makes sense that there should be variation in teaching people as there is great variation in how people learn, but the criteria of whether the actual methodology is working to address the congruency sought is a valuable means for the consumer to assess if an Alexander Technique practitioner’s approach is right for them. If, after a few sessions the client is unable to see the desired congruency being brought about then it may be time to seek a different practitioner or methodology.
Nothing fits for everyone and nothing works for everything - even things that on their surface seem to be the same problem someone else has may respond differently to the same intervention – but using this criterion of congruency may help sort out what you need. The idea of identifying the desired congruence and then assessing if the practitioner is able to guide you towards it is a clear way to understand and assess the value of any technique or method you use to improve yourself and your life.