Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Tuning Slide- The Inner Game (Part 1)

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it.
It's like stepping into a river and joining the flow.
Every moment in the river has its song.
― Michael Jackson

I have referred in the past to something called "The Inner Game." It began when W. Timothy Gallwey wrote a book in 1974 called The Inner Game of Tennis. Other books on the same theme followed including The Inner Game of Golf, The Inner Game of Work, and, by Barry Green, The Inner Game of Music. The overview blurb to the tennis book said it is
a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning.
The Inner Game Website says
Instead of serving up technique, it concentrated on the fact that, as Gallwey wrote, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.” The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety. Gallwey’s revolutionary thinking, built on a foundation of Zen thinking and humanistic psychology, was really a primer on how to get out of your own way to let your best game emerge. It was sports psychology before the two words were pressed against each other and codified into an accepted discipline

Barry Green decided in the mid-1980s to write the first book about the Inner Game that was not about sports. Instead he applied it to music. Gallwey commented in the introduction that with both sports and music we use the word "play" for things that take a lot of discipline. In music as in sports, "overteaching or overcontrol can lead to fear and self doubt." Hence the techniques and philosophy of the Inner Game work equally well.

Green tells us then:
The primary discovery of the Inner Game is that, especially in our culture of achievement-oriented activities, human beings significantly get in their own way. The point of the Inner Game of sports or music is always the same -- to reduce mental interferences that inhibit the full expression of human potential. (Page 7)
We learn in the inner game that there are two "selves" that can be at work in our heads- Self 1 and Self 2. These are not psychological states, personality traits, the conscious and unconscious, right-brain and left-brain, mind and body, or neocortex vs. reptilian brain. They are brain processes that are judged by their impact, the outcome. Simply put by Gallwey and Green:
  • If it interferes with your potential, it is Self 1. 
  • If it enhances your potential, it is Self 2.
Both Self 1 and Self 2 can access the brain's conscious and unconscious resources, utilize the right- and left-brain styles, or whatever. It's all about the results. (See Green, pp. 16-17)

Gallwey came up with something called The Performance Equation. Green says it this way.
The basic truth is that our performance of any task depends as much on the extent to which we interfere with our abilities as it does on those abilities themselves. This can be expressed as a formula:

P = p - i

In this equation P refers to Performance, which we define as the result you achieve - what you actually wind up feeling, achieving and learning, Similarly, p stands for potential, defined as your innate ability -- what you are naturally capable of. And i means interference - you capacity to get in you own way.

Most people try to improve their performance (P) by increasing their potential (p) through practicing and learning new skills.

The Inner Game approach, on the other hand, is to reduce interference (i) at the same time that potential (p) is being trained -- and the result is that our actual performance comes closer to our true potential. (Green, pp. 23 - 24)
He then applies Self 1 and Self 2 to the equation:
  • Self 1 is our interference. It contains our concept about how things should be, our judgements and associations. It is particularly fond of the words 'should' and 'shouldn't', and often sees things in terms of what "could have been".
  • Self 2 is the vast reservoir of potential within each one of us. It contains our natural talents and abilities, and is a virtually unlimited resource that we cab tap and develop. Left to its own devices, it performs with gracefulness and ease. (Green, p. 28)
Which is, naturally, what we all want as musicians. To be able to play with gracefulness and ease is quite a goal. We all know those moments when it has happened. We also know those many moments when it didn't. Sadly, we often let those less than graceful moments command what we do and how we feel.

When that happens, Self 1 is in full command.

But Green and Gallwey believe that it is possible to work toward a greater role for Self 2 in our lives, and especially in our music.
Inner Game techniques can reduce the effects of self-interference and guide us toward an ideal state of being. This state makes it easier for us to perform at our potential by rousing our interest, increasing our awareness and teaching us to discover and trust our built-in resources and abilities. It is a state in which we are alert, relaxed, responsive and focused. Gallwey refers to it as a state of 'relaxed concentration', and calls it the 'master skill' of the Inner Game. (Green, p. 35)
That's the introduction to the Inner Game. Simply and concisely it will be a way for us to empower Self 2. Since Self 2 has the same access to our experiences, training, desires, and dreams, it becomes the source of our own empowerment and growth in our skills. It will assist us in dealing with the interference we experience from Self 1.

Of course we have to identify Self 1 when it is taking over. We have to hear that voice and know that it is getting in the way of us doing what we can do.

So for the time being, just become more aware of how your Self 1 voice gets in the way of you doing what you are able to do. Become more able to identify it, even when it makes sense.

In the back of my head, for example, I have an image of an old trumpet player I knew once upon a time. When I knew him he was probably about the same age I am today, maybe even younger. He was not an accomplished musician. He enjoyed playing, I think, but he had trouble keeping up. His image has always been there in my head as to what happens to amateur trumpet players as they age.

Or, as Self 1 tells me, as I, myself, age.

Self 2 has learned that this is false. Very false. I mentioned Herb Alpert's age when I saw him in concert back in October. I have more than a decade to get to that. The same as with one of the participants in last year's Shell Lake Big Band Camp. So I have set Self 1 aside over this past year and went on as if Self 2 were the truth. I am glad I did.

This, as I say over and  over, applies to all of our lives. Self 1 is our inner critic for whom nothing will ever be right. Self 1 will always find the faults, the imperfections, the extreme lack of possibilities. Don't let Self 1 get in the way of your joy.


The Inner Game of Music Website

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