“Your Feelings Are Wrong”

NOTE: This post originally appeared at the Kensho Education blog.

“Look straight ahead,” Alexander Technique instructor Jim Coates said to me in November 2015.

“I am,” I responded.

“No you’re not.”

“I’m not?”

“Your chin and nose are pointing above the horizon. They should be pointing straight ahead.” Jim adjusted the position of my head on my neck so my head would be facing straight ahead.

“It feels like my chin is pushing my throat in.”

“Well, you can’t trust your feelings. Your feelings are wrong. You’ve trained yourself to believe what’s wrong is right. Your head ain’t straight, man.”

I met Jim via an invitation from Zach Ferres at Coplex, which is a few buildings away from my full-time job at meltmedia in Tempe, AZ. Zach had found Alexander Technique to be life-changing, as had I thanks to a music instruction course where AT was demonstrated.

I’ll never forget the conversation Jim and I had that day. While I may not recall it word-for-word, what’s written above is pretty close.

Apparently, over 33 years I’d taught myself to lean my skull backward a few degrees. This might have been due to wearing glasses or some sort of vain attempt to conceal the appearance of a second chin. I nevertheless grew to believe that “straight ahead” was actually “a few degrees above the horizon.”

Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at — and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. — Peter Drucker, “Managing Oneself”

What Jim ultimately taught me is that I can’t truly trust my own feelings because my feelings may be provably wrong. Even something as simple as objectively understanding the position of my head on my neck was beyond me. It was astounding to realize that “straight ahead” wasn’t straight ahead.

If I literally didn’t have my head on straight, what else might I be misbelieving or misunderstanding? My interaction with Jim helped me to understand that even in a program like Pause, which I’d been writing for almost a year at that point, I was just as much a participant as anyone else who might go through it.

It’s easy to listen to the ego and say, “I’m writing a professional development program,” when the reality was that it was re-writing me.

Jim’s statements that my “feelings are wrong” and that I can’t trust them led to an incredible realization and a wonderful moment of correction. I’m grateful to Zach for connecting me with Jim that day and I’m grateful to Jim for setting my head on straight.

Author of “Clueless at The Work” and founder of Make Weird Music. I write about management, music, and technology. Mesa, AZ, USA.

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