Wednesday, February 07, 2018

3.33- The Tuning Slide- Beyond the Negative

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age,
which means never losing your enthusiasm.
-Aldous Huxley

The topic this month is attitude. It’s that simple- and that difficult. There are a number of good thoughts from last summer’s trumpet workshop that can guide us in looking at attitude so let’s not waste any time and get right to it.

One of the worst things we can have is a bad attitude. Here's one of the quotes from last summer's Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop:

✓ Negativity is exhausting. You will be negative about others if you are negative about your self.

We have all been around Negative Norman or Debbie Downer. Nothing is ever right for them.

Me: What a beautiful day.
Negative Norman: Yeah but we’re going to pay for this nice weather one of these days.

Me: I really enjoyed that book.
Debbie Downer: Yeah but the author did use a lot of big words.

We soon give up being around them. I once heard a preacher say, “There is no way to make a whine sound good.” Anytime I hear “Yeah, but…” after a positive statement, I shut down. I can almost feel my own energy being sucked out of me and my attitude starting to head down.

Unless I’m saying it, in which case I probably don’t hear it and just fall into my own negativity. Then I wallow in the bad attitude and usually ramp it up so I can feel even worse.

One of the reasons for this type of negativity is that we often have this fear that there’s only so much good stuff to go around or that happiness is what’s called a “zero-sum” commodity. In the end, I fear, I will have to balance all this good I have with bad so that in the end it’s just plain old average- ten good days has to be offset by ten bad days. I can’t be that lucky.

Notice that this is all about me? I can’t be that lucky…. I can’t have all these good things…. I will eventually fail… Pretty soon that permeates everything and naturally the bad “luck” begins to happen, the “good things” sour, and I “fail.”

My best friend in college was just the opposite of that. Everything always seemed to go well for him. He never had “bad luck.” Those of us around him would shake our heads in disbelief that everything always seemed to work out for him. How lucky can you be to fall into that proverbial vat of manure and come out smelling like a rose?

Except it wasn’t luck. It was attitude… and a willingness to learn and change.

✓ Animals can’t change emotion- we can.

That was another of the statements on the summary board at the end of the workshop last year. I am not entirely sure that non-human animals can’t change their emotions since I’m not one. What we do know is that human animals can! It happens all the time.

Now, one note of caution. Changing emotions or attitudes to avoid feeling them is not good. Emotions are present in our lives for very good reasons. We have evolved with them; they are signs and indicators. It is right to feel sadness when someone important has died; it is right to feel fear when something is attacking us; it is right to feel angry when someone has hurt us. The issue is not that we have emotions and attitudes- of course we do. It is whether they are appropriate, based on reality, and do they lead us into doing something positive about them and ourselves?

Negativity is the “attitude” that keeps us from doing something helpful and positive about what’s happening. It allows us to get stuck and to wallow around in that depressing and unhelpful place.

As I was working on this I came across an article from New York Magazine from last March. It was titled “How New Evidence Supports the Classic Advice From a 1972 Book About Tennis.” Yep- the Inner Game which we spend a great deal of time putting into practice around here- because it works. That’s what the article was about.

The author pointed out that the book is still a best-seller and that is because its premise works:
you need to get out of your own way — is not only a timeless key to peak performance on the playing field, but also off of it. But what’s especially fascinating is that more than 40 years after the book first came out, now-emerging science supports nearly all of its insights, many of which, like how to thrive in unsettling times, are as relevant as ever.
He goes on leading toward an excellent example:
“It is Self-1’s mistrust of Self-2 which causes the interference known as ‘trying too hard’ and that of too much self-instruction.” Both result in tightening up, overthinking, and losing concentration. We are better off “letting it happen,” trusting instead of fighting our Self-2, Gallwey writes, than we are “trying to make it happen.”
The example he gets to next in the article is “performance anxiety.” This can, we all know, be devastating. I have written a number of times about my personal struggle with playing solos. It goes back in many ways to a couple of incidents over 50 years ago that I have only been able to deal with constructively in the past three or so years. I would often tell myself, “Just relax, Barry. You can do this.” I would be pressuring, pushing, dragging myself into making sure that I got it right. Usually I didn’t. The article picks up on this and the Inner Game approach:
When you tell yourself “I need to relax,” your Self-1 is sending a signal that something is wrong — that you are stressed — and begins trying to fight the physical sensations of Self-2. Yet, as Gallwey writes, this often just leads to further tightness and angst. When you stop trying to fight the sensations and instead embrace them — telling yourself that what you are feeling is excitement, that the body is engaging all the systems it needs to be fully alert — an enhanced experience and outcome often follows.

Guess what? That was also on the board at trumpet workshop.

✓ Are you nervous or excited? Read yourself

Nervous means something is wrong- I am stressed.
Excited means I can hardly wait to play this and share it with the audience.

One is negative and unhelpful; the other is positive and helpful. Self-1 doesn’t trust itself (you) or Self-2 (also you). Self-2 knows it (you) can do the solo or performance and is eager to show it and wants Self-1 (again, you) to watch and see.

The study the New York Magazine article was reporting on concluded:
Compared to those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement perform better.
Now obviously, this doesn’t mean you can pick up the Haydn Concerto and just rattle off the solo. It doesn’t work that way- it is not some magical way of getting by without practicing. Self-1 is essential to keeping us on track and focused on what we are doing and raising warning signs. That’s why the quote from Shell Lake ends with “Read yourself.” That is the hours of practice from long tones through the particular solo piece. That is the “woodshed” of getting to know the piece and internalizing it. But “read yourself” does not mean to allow fear or uncertainty (Self-1) block you from doing what you (Self-2) can do.

Attitude change works!

LINK to article.

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