Niall Kelly, MSc (Mngt), Organisation Development consultant, certified Alexander Technique Teacher
My whole career has been dedicated to helping people change for success. I first became involved in this process when working in marine and aviation communications at the beginning of my career. I then moved on to industrial relations and HR management. This lead me to forming my own organization development and executive coaching consultancy, and since 2001 I began studying and teaching the Alexander Technique.
Initially, I was of the view that when it comes to change if you got to their minds, their hearts would follow. Not so. It was only when I began studying the Alexander Technique for chronic back pain that I discovered you also need peoples bodies, and in particular, their neural system and physiology.
I had injured my back in my early twenties playing rugby. I had been caught in a scrum collapse and suffered a severely over-stretched back muscle injury. Despite doing everything by the book, I endured ongoing back pain for the next 30 years, with intermittent back spasms, which would leave me immobile. I even ended up in traction for a week and under the threat of surgery to fuse two of my vertebrae! My final serious spasm coincided with a workshop on the Alexander Technique and there I finally found relief.
Without realizing it, I had learned to arch my back very slightly to protect myself from the pain of the damaged muscles. While the original injury had cleared up, my arching was putting other muscles under constant chronic strain. In time it didn’t take much to send them into spasm! It was during this workshop that I discovered the negative power of an unnecessary habit.
Through the Alexander Technique I also found that resistance to change also exists in the body. It is not wholly in the mind. Change effectively de-skills people. The immediate response then is the firing of the Fear Reflex. Fight, flight, freeze become the order of the day.
From my work in executive coaching and the Alexander technique, I have come to see how physiologic responses get in the way, unconsciously. They amplify the fear responses, especially if there has previously been a similar, painful experience, and create a resistance even the most willing to change find hard to address.
I now know that through accurate feedback based on these physiological responses and signals we can put these spurious signals into perspective and move on.