Saturday, 29 September 2012

self 1, self 2

I've referred quite a lot in my musings here to Barry Green's idea of self 1 and self 2, in his book The Inner Game of Music. I seem to keep coming back to it, whatever different perspectives on creativity, and blocks to creativity, I find.  I've decided that I'm going to read the book again, and perhaps post key ideas from it here as I go along.

Whether you are playing tennis, engaged in business, or making music, each activity has its own challenges and ways to overcome them. It is, if you like, a game.

This game, the 'outer game', is the one we all know we are playing. You play it in the 'outside' world, against 'outside' opponents. The obstacles are your opponent's backhand, the cut-throat competition or the intricate fingering. Your goal is to win the point, or land the contract or play the difficult passage. And there are many books on the market designed to teach you how to play it better.

The fundamental insight of Tim Gallwey's approach is that you are also playing a second, or 'inner', game all the time you are playing the 'outer' game. This second game is subtler, less easily noticed and more quickly forgotten. It is played out in the arena of your mind. The obstacles are mental obstacles, such as lapses of concentration, nervousness and self-doubt. Your goal is to express your potential to the fullest. And very few books talk about it.

These two games, the inner and the outer, are closely interrelated - and each one has considerable impact on the other. It simply isn't possible to engage in any human activity without playing both games. The problem arises when we are playing both games but think we're only playing the outer game. These are the times when, as Tim puts it, 'the game ends up playing the person', rather than the other way round (p21-22).

So, this is a general introduction to the overall idea of The Inner Game, which was developed by Tim Gallwey in relation to learning to play tennis. I read that book decades ago, but one image from it has stayed in my mind. This is Gallwey's story about a guy practising his tennis serve into an armchair placed on the other side of the net. He's practising and practising, trying and trying, but however hard he tries to focus, the ball just will not land in the centre of the chair. In the end he gets completely pissed off with the whole thing and decides to give up. Sod this, he says to himself, as he does one last serve and turns to walk away. When he looks back, he sees that the ball has landed perfectly in the middle of the chair.

What I took away from this, all those years ago, was the idea that somehow the mind interferes with what we're trying to do. It doesn't seem logical, as we're urged to 'concentrate', and 'pay attention', and 'focus' on the thing we're trying to achieve. But actually, it seems that the harder we try, the more we interfere with what it is we're actually attempting to do.


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