Are you a Martyr or a Magician?



by Brett Hershey

So often we hurt ourselves either trying to help others or to ‘get things done.’ This is the Martyr archetype, in which we cast aside care for ourselves to help others or achieve our own goals.

Of course, there are those  situations where this is unavoidable, such as pushing a child out of the way of a speeding car or donating a kidney. These are rare. Most of the time, we could actually get things done, help others AND take care of ourselves.

I would venture to say that we can not only take care of ourselves, but even grow STRONGER. This is the Magician archetype. Growing more powerful as we help ourselves and others.

Perhaps it sounds narcissistic, but why should we constrict or collapse ourselves as we complete our tasks throughout the day? Why should our bodies hurt after cleaning the house or writing a report? Often times we (myself included) get so caught up or fixated in what we are doing, that we fail to see how we are using ourselves.

As an Alexander Instructor, I’ve got to first pay attention to my use. This is for my welfare, but it’s also the primary energy I am transmitting to my students. Have you ever had someone give you a shoulder massage, but instead of feeling it good, it’s uncomfortable? It’s probably because they are carrying a good amount of tension/collapse and they are transmitting that to you.

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And while it’s especially clear in my profession, the same is  true for yours. As Buddha said, we all have our 10,000 things to do and those tasks effect the people around us. I am continually astounded by what happens when my students examine how they are doing things  and improve their ‘psychophysical use’ (posture).

There’s a cost to what F.M Alexander called ‘endgaining’. I’ve worked with a number of massage therapists, like the one above, who damage their backs while trying to relax others. “It’s just a hazard of the trade”,  I’ve heard. This is not true, because I’ve seen massage therapists with some amazing use; and they feel better after giving a massage then when they started.

A helpful parable here is the Tortoise and the Hare: if we rush through and fixate on the end, we often burn ourselves out.  So instead, let’s take a little time to focus on how we are doing our tasks (Alexander call it ‘the means whereby’); it could mean a big archetypical shift from martyr to magician.