Making Friends With My Computer
Recently I’ve been having some Alexander Technique lessons for myself with a wonderful teacher, Ariel Weiss, partly as continuing education, and partly to help me deal with a shoulder injury (more about this coming soon!). During a recent lesson we decided to look at how I was using myself while working at the computer. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that this is something to which I have devoted a lot of thought. I had, however, a bit of an “aha” moment—I could actually use the computer to help my posture!
As I mulled this over for myself afterward, I realized that part of my way of interacting with the computer was to very subtly put myself on guard against, or protect myself from, the poor coordination that so often inflicts computer users. As I’ve stated before, I am well aware that working at the computer itself is not typically the cause of neck strain, shoulder tension, headaches, or RSI, for instance. Rather, these are caused by the way we coordinate ourselves—the amount of excess tension we bring to the task—as we work at the computer. And while this is true, being even slightly “on guard” against slumping or straining can, paradoxically, lead to a little unwanted tension.
Through the Alexander Technique we can learn to use anything we interact with—other people, animals, inanimate objects—to help us come back to ourselves and improve our coordination and our connection with our self and others. Touching that object can enhance this further—it can act as a reminder and a stimulus to help us connect with our self, rather than disconnecting and putting all our attention on the object. I decided to remember this as I type on my keyboard, click my mouse, and look at my screen. This amounted to a shift in attitude and a complete turnaround, along the lines of Byron Katie, that goes something like this:
Original (prevailing) belief:
Working at the computer is detrimental to my posture and causes excess tension.
Typical Alexander Technique turnaround:
The way I work at the computer may, or may not, be detrimental to my posture and cause excess tension, depending on how I use myself while I work at the computer.
New “complete” turnaround:
Working at the computer is good for my posture and helps me relieve tension!
What an epiphany! Maybe there’s a possibility that spending time at the computer could actually help me improve my posture and let go of tension! Instead of treating my computer like the enemy, I decided to “make friends” with it!
So, here are some steps I came up with to help you treat your computer like your best friend, and in so doing improve your posture and release tension:
1. Give Your Computer Some Space!
Don’t stare at your friend/computer intently for hours, neck strained and head jutting out. That would likely put anyone off – a real person would run a mile. Instead, give your friend/computer some personal space and you’ll interact with each other a lot more pleasantly.
2. Treat Your Computer Gently and with Respect!
Treat your friend/computer gently and with respect – just as you would like to be treated – including the way you type on the keyboard and click your mouse. Have patience if your friend/computer is not responding as quickly as you would like! 🙂
3. Take Breaks from Each Other!
Give your friend/computer a break occasionally. No matter how good friends you are with someone, everyone needs a short break now and again to help keep the relationship healthy. Some great ways to take a break include simply getting up and moving around every so often, going outside for a walk, a trip to the gym, and of course, my personal favorite, Constructive Rest.
4. Set Reminders!
Let your friend/computer help you. Your friend/computer will happily send you alerts, once you set them up, to remind you to take a break every so often. A reminder to come back to your self every 15 minutes for just a “micro-pause” will be helpful.
We are all constantly making new discoveries and refining what we know. The attitude we bring to any task, however unconscious or subtle, has an effect on what we are doing. How do things change for the better when you think “Working at the computer helps my posture?” or “I relieve tension when I work at the computer?” While obviously not a panacea, allowing for these possibilities can, I believe, only enhance practical recommendations, such as those in my blog series on Alexander Technique Help for Computer Users. So make friends with your computer today!
Do you have any strongly held beliefs around using a computer or other devices? Do you think your attitude is helpful? If not, could you turn it around?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment in the space below.
I love this idea of befriending our computers! Great analogy!
Thanks, Victoria. I’m glad it resonated with you.
Imogen, thanks for posting this – it definitely resonates with me. I have been on a very similar journey of discovery, concerning my use at my laptop, RSI from bad use, improvement through changed behaviour towards the computer. I have been fumbling in the dark, and now you have shed light on what is happening and articulated the process I am experiencing. Thank you! I shall make the computer my ally and friend!
So glad this post resonated. It feels to me like this is the missing piece of the puzzle to me.
I also love this idea of making a friend of your computer. For the longest time I’ve battled with how I type, which is typically to pound the keys really hard (a left-over from learning to touch type on an ancient manual typewriter, when you really DID have to pound the keys) without making much headway. I think the making friends idea will help. Now we need you to write a post on how not to get tense when the computer crashes, or Windows starts updating when you are trying to finish something really important!
Well, if your friend has a breakdown would you swear and get mad (tense up)? Or would you try and look after him or her calmly and compassionately? Maybe the “friend” approach would be useful here too 😉
You can always put ‘Alexander hands’ on your computer. The problem usually resolves itself — as they do, in time, while one goes into quiet, enjoying the absurdity. Thank you, Imogen, for a great insight.
You are welcome, Yvette! “Alexander hands” – absolutely!
Love, love, love this! I also worked with Ariel a few times and found her to be fabulous. Great turnaround in your thinking. Just the subtle background thought that “I’m doing potential damage” or “this activity is a struggle” or “this will activate my poor habits of use, I better beware” — sometimes all that is operating underneath even our best intentions. Thanks so much for reminding me of this.
So glad this resonated, Amy. Always good to uncover another layer… What will be next?!
What a delight to work with you and to see our work together put into such eloquent, clear words and put to such good use! I am honored to work with such a gifted colleague as you Imogen 🙂
Thank you so much, Ariel. I am getting so much out of our work together, and am enjoying uncovering more layers in this process of self-discovery.