South Bank Alexander Centre

Alexander Technique in London SE1

Alexander Centre's Eve Salomon on the Alexander Technique and Authenticity

The recent viral hit of a the BBC interview with Prof Robert E Kelly which was gloriously interrupted by the appearance of his children raised much commentary and even a New Zealand parody of how a woman might have reacted. But why does Prof. Kelly’s situation make us squirm so? Of course it’s the invasion of children into what appeared to be a sacrosanct work space, but the parody creates a scenario where this doesn’t grate. The difference is roles.

Robert Kelly is being an expert; he is in work mode, rather than father mode. These are two separate roles which do not normally interact – at least not on live television. And this is what most of us do with our lives. We ‘act out’ different roles according to the situation we are in and behave according to our understanding of the expected normative standards the circumstances requires. So in the morning, Prof. Kelly probably puts his “Dad” hat on and plays with the children while he gets ready for work, at which point he puts his “work” hat on. Maybe after work he gets into his “friend” role if he has a quick drink before putting his “husband” hat on to go home for dinner with his wife.

Many of us do this. We ‘play the part’ of what we think is expected of us in any given circumstance. It’s exhausting! And ultimately can lead to a terrible ennui as we wonder who we really are. I certainly used to feel this way. I remember every evening as I walked home from my high-powered job towards my family of small children, I’d get stomach pains and a sense of dread. This was because the transition between my two roles was difficult and actually caused me pain. And underneath it all I wondered who I really was….

Fast forward to working with FM Alexander’s discoveries and finding my authentic self (the topic of another future blog!). And with it, realising that I no longer need to play any roles, be in any ‘mode’, wear any hats (unless it’s cold!). Instead I am just me all the time. I may – and do – alter my behaviour to different conditions, but it is still the same me wherever I am. So I may get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren and sit at a board table at my charity meetings, but I am no longer ‘being a grandmother’ or ‘being a trustee’; I am merely being Eve.

And oddly, that is exactly what is happening in the parody of Robert Kelly; the woman is being her same self whatever is thrown at her. And this is why the parody is not at all as funny as the real Prof. Kelly!