Sunday, July 16, 2017

TIGoT Thoughts/Notes

I had a free afternoon, so I re-read The Inner Game of Tennis and took notes.

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I did not enjoy TIGoT. It seems like a transition out of a worse sports psyche but nonetheless I thought it was clumsily written and frequently misleading to the extent that any nuggets came across as accidental.

I have three primary gripes and two primary likes.


1) The entire Self1/Self2 dichotomy is a super shitty model.
It’s an attempt to personify anything good or bad for mental game into one of two selves that you can then more readily accept or reject while maintaining a superficial surrender of control. But because this doesn’t hold up to any amount of scrutiny it’s simply a bad model. Sufficient maybe, until you actually think about it at all. Any attempt to reconcile with science or self-awareness requires tedious and stupid translation that reveals how ham-fisted this artificial and oh so convenient self-fissure is.

The better alternative is to identify a present-moment/task/experience-orientation as superior to a past/future/self-orientation for performance/learning/experience . This is a direct, demonstratable truth rather than a messy illustration. It would solve all of the same problems better.

2) TIGoT is not honest about what it’s actually about.
The structure of the book is pretty straight-forward. It decries a necessarily strawman traditional learning/performance approach but not because it’s ineffective, rather because it’s unsatisfying. Then it describes a more satisfying approach to learning with anecdotes. But because there is no evidence of efficacy, Gallwey is forced to move the goal-posts from peak performance to satisfying experience, implying that they are sufficiently the same. In support, he throws in a chapter about how the goal of tennis doesn’t have to be to actually win the game of tennis but to discover a new internal game to prioritize. That is problematic for a book that says “The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance” right on the cover.

The book actually describes an attitude for maximizing satisfaction. It does not necessarily involve (and thus doesn’t necessitate) the pursuit of excellence.

While it is possible for IGoT to lead to some improvement, its paltry methodology reveals that its primary goal is actually to change the subject from how good/bad you are to your direct experience. This is supported by the surprising number of scrubs that recommend it—the number of recommendations from people that are advanced remaining proportionate to the number that would have been without the book. Disproportionate are those that have a new-found satisfaction in learning and performing period (not at an escalated rate). That is valuable, but not in the way that it is portrayed.

3) TIGoT is inarticulate.

TIGoT is pocketed with powerful and valuable ideas that I recognize from my reading about CBT and cognitive science in education; Little truisms that started to reappear in writing and research in the 70s. But much like in The Art of Learning, none of these ideas are sufficiently expanded on. These writers have clearly experienced what they’re talking about but aren’t able (or aren’t willing) to organize that experience verbally. The lack of a clear context or expansion on these ideas comes across at best as vague and at worst as inarticulate. You could say that Gallwey’s coaching method of expanding as little as possible with words has evidently seeped into his writing.

MAC is a mind-bogglingly better organization.


1) Gallwey’s coaching model is very good.
He’s constructed a methodology that readily matches the intensity of the student’s motivation and is instructive without being overwhelming. By reconfiguring instruction to bolster experience rather than the other way around, he teaches a more total game of tennis at a clean and individualized level.

2) Gallwey’s description of the Inner Game as intrinsic motivation (chapter 8) is great.
It's completely different than the Inner Game described elsewhere in the book, but is a wonderful description of why games are worth playing. Obviously by better understanding our intrinsic motivations we can better fulfill them. Not everyone wants to be the best in the world and sometimes they need some direction or introspection to discover exactly what it is that they do want and how best to go about it.

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Raw Notes

Self1 = Teller, Self2 = Doer
In a bad relationship Self1 doesn’t trust Self2 and uses up all the resources, preventing Self2 from doing its job. Improving the relationship between the selves is synonymous with translating instruction to action, but Gallwey finds it easier to emphasize dumping instruction as much as possible. Maybe that’s appropriate, I don’t know. Well, definitely for performance. For learning that seems a stretch. Or you could, you know, use a better model lol.
A cheat is to distract Self1 by focusing on breath, noise, looking at the seams on the ball, etc.

Self2 is like, “the real you,” a you that is disconnected from unrealistic standards.
Shifting focus to self 2 allows for real expansion/evolution of the real self (as opposed to an unreal self)

Is the reader really so unaware that the idea of unconscious competence is radical? I guess presumably he did teach a lot of people with different levels of competence/experience…

Identifying the body or the unconscious etc as a second self is in effect alienating. It isn’t a second self at all, it’s a part of a total self. That isn’t emphasized at all in this book. Misleading.

Anything outside of the model gets lumped in as the pseudo-mystical ability of Self2…..

It’s mostly to do with complexity. Simple tasks don’t get so convoluted because they’re simple. Something like a forehand, with 50 parts, is too much to manage consciously, so Gallwey identifies a way to instruct AND to accept the notion of intuitive learning and mastery.
Good form is incredibly complex. It’s /necessary/ that self2 be allowed to learn and to execute because self1 simply can’t handle it.
Self1 interferes with the complex intuitive wisdom of the body.
Instruction -> Action -> Result. If bad result and good instruction then we believe bad action and then place the blame on ourselves for bad performance.
But the error was in not trusting Self2 enough and relying on Self1’s control.
wtf kind of conclusion is this? Sure, micromanaging experience rather than accepting and experiencing it is to your detriment but how does it follow that it requires a revamping of learning itself? Sure, maybe learning needs revamped but this is just fallacious.

Rather than as opportunities, Self1 considers mistakes as signs of identity.
Lousy serve->I’m serving badly->I have a bad serve->I’m no good.
This is just cognitive bias! Not some methodological weakness! Not inherent to anything, it’s literally a bad mental habit that’s totally solvable!
“Then self2 lives up to it” But I thought self2 was supposed to be shut out.
How helpful is it to identify conscious thought/effort with cognitive biases and any/everything bad for mentality? That’s disingenuous.
Bad understanding or at least bad representation of psychological principle.

Explicitly identifying instruction with fear and doubt. Wow. Wtf kind of anti-intellectualism is this?
Over Control, Thinking/Trying too hard. Sounds like being back in public school….
Instead harmonize with your “natural learning process.” But there's minimal description of. Very bullshitty.
Ask why someone's forehand is good today and it apparently stops. Maybe if they aren’t self-aware. I guess that’s not unusual. But then the problem is their lack of awareness, not their awareness. Disagree with this assertion.

Should statements and expectation as distracting from current moment.

Compliments are the negatives of insults, they too imply judgement/expectation. Expectations are food for Self1.

Traditional Learning Structure
(total strawman, but whatever)
1. Criticism
2. Instruction
3. Effort
4. Judgement

IGoT Learning Structure
1. Observe Existing Behavior
2. Picture Desired Outcome/Process
3. Let it Happen
4. Observe Results

Instead of identifying what is wrong and giving instruction, Gallwey asks you to put your attention on where the racket head is and when the ball hits the net.
So: If the goal is to train the unconscious then train the unconscious. Rather than instruct the body, simply ask it to do what is necessary.
The obvious utility of “observe->let learn” is taking the attention from a goal or result and focusing it on process and experience.

Rather than “Hit the ball with your arm fully extended,” his instruction is “Notice the degree of bend in your elbow at the moment of impact.” No suggestion, just awareness. Any correction that will happen (is motivated) will happen. This is obv a more total method of teaching/learning. Won’t work without effort being matched/exceeded by the student, as it doesn’t teach anything directly but instead offers the opportunity to problem solve under direction (guided ground-up learning. Pretty powerful).
A good teacher, then, guides experiential discovery.
Instruction should not limit or define action, it should guide experiential learning. Marrying an intuitive level “why” and “how” rather than simply providing a “what.”
Rather than break habits, make new ones. But this is followed by a posit: to unlearn, identifying bad habits is irrelevant compared to awareness of process.
Clumsily written. Should be: prioritize process-engagement over correction-engagement.

Mirror. You need to see yourself. Need for experiential bottom-up learning.
Dwelling. The mind need not dwell. Move forward on pace with the present.
In this book “feeling” is sometimes a (bad) word for a more total, experiential or procedural knowledge. Introduces ambiguity.
Present moment orientation (Return to Breath)

! ! !
Removing Self1 to get to total Self2 immersion is identified with flowstate. TIGoT says that its goal is to approach flowstate, but it then says that flowstate comes when it will and is actually prevented by intention and thus can’t be intended… so the book can help you not help yourself which can but won’t necessarily help you. Nice.
This is just an untrue premise. Not sufficient understanding of flow, maybe because the book is dated. ! ! !

Relaxation of control, what’s the point? To avoid tightness. Judgement produces tightness. Tightening = choking. But this is better said as choking = diverting attention from the task and onto self or onto expectation and that tightening is a symptom. Don’t treat the freakin symptom, cure the disease.

Blegh. Visualize the result and let it happen. Then an anecdote (x_x )
There needs to be a distinction between visualizing process and visualizing results. Obviously imagery/visualization is amazing for learning. It’s more total and literally more real than words. But there’s a big difference between visualizing the process as a learning tool and visualizing a trophy. The first is task-orientation, the second is expectation.

1) clearest picture of a desired outcome
2) learn how to trust self 2
3) learn to see non-judgementally, “what” rather than “how well/badly.”
all subsidiary to relaxed concentration, a state of being and of doing in the moment.
Yes. This is Centering.

“thought intervenes with original unconsciousness.” No. This is Stupid Zen.
There’s a difference between not thinking and non-verbal thought.

stupid note about the expanded self by adopting the opposite “style”
there are a lot of strats here that seem best NOT for improving performance or even learning but to increase the perception of, the amp up the FEELING of improvement/enjoyment NOT the results. This necessitates the inclusion of the chapter at the end about NOT playing Tennis, but an Inner Game.

someone that needs IGoT and actually improves is the exception. What improves is their self-preception. Even without improved results people often feel improved with the IGoT method because it is forgiving and experience-oriented so it’s more/differently satisfying. It cuts out tying results to self-worth, which is liberating.

the impulse that a loss “doesn’t count” if you didn’t try etc. This implies that something matters more than the result itself.

Games People Play on the Court. Fantastic Chapter.
Winning the Inner Game (intrinsic motivation)
but funnily at odds with the rest of the book
Gallwey identifies the value of winning as largely vitalism. Means he’s a vitalist? lol

actually he describes two Inner Games
the first is a palty and weird mentality guide
the second is an examination of intrinsic motivation

That is, that when you enter into a game of tennis or melee etc you have a certain intrinsic motivation. The mental game is subservient to the game of tennis which is in turn subservient to but independent of the intrinsic motivator. Thus, you can lose the game of tennis while still satisfying your intrinsic motivator. Naturally, this makes playing tennis more fulfilling by virtue of engaging the real underlying why.

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