Debauchery of the Senses



by Brett Hershey

Could Your Mechanism for Evaluating Yourself be Flawed?

I had a student once who came in for a first lesson because he, in addition to experiencing back pain, was told by his wife that he had bad posture. Together, they had tried to ‘fix’ it, but to no avail.

I asked him to show me (although I could already see what was happening). He lurched up from the chair and planted his feet, sinking forward and down into his pelvis, and slumping his back down and back. To compensate, his head jutted forward.

His posture was similar to that of the woman in the left photo:


When I used my hands to encourage his fuller stature (like the photo on the right), he reported that it felt wrong. In fact, he started waiving his hands as if he were going to lose his balance, and told me that if i removed my hands he would certainly fall forward.

So I took a photo with my phone and showed it to him. As he studied the image, his hand waiving slowed, then stopped. He couldn’t believe what his eyes were telling him because he ‘felt’ so out of balance. It took him several weeks to get used to this organization, before it became normal.

My student was experiencing what F.M. Alexander called ‘Debauchery of the Senses.” It’s when the mechanism for evaluating ourselves is flawed or compromised.

As humans, we are creatures of habit and excellent at normalizing our current situation. So if we slowly collapse or begin constricting on ourselves, the brain will adjust it’s perception, so that the new habit becomes ‘normal.’

For example, this can become just how we sit, despite the heavy toll on our system:


Unfortunately, while it ‘feels’ normal or natural, it may be far from how the body was designed to function. So without knowing it, we are decreasing movement quality, increasing risk of pain and injury and diminishing our charisma.

When pain does arise, we are often so lost in our habit that we don’t know what it is that we’re doing to cause it. In fact, we often think it’s not us at all. I’ll hear over and over:

“I  have a bad back.”

“My neck is killing me.”

“Golf is not good for my body.”

“I’m just getting old.”

And then we’ll do everything – from pills, to massage to braces to duck tape to tiger balm – but examine what it is we are actually doing. How are we standing? sitting? Washing dishes? Folding laundry?

That’s why I find mirrors, photos and video so useful in my practice. They show us what’s really happening, what we’re really doing to ourselves.

This can be a blow to the ego at first, that we are responsible for our misuse. But the good news is that then we can actually do something about it rather than live in the delusional and often painful debauchery of the senses.