True Self and Self 1 & Self 2

I’ve used the term “True Self” in earlier posts. It’s a phrase I’ve lifted from Richard Rohr and his work on finding our True Selves in absence of ego and other “shadows”. (Which, he most likely picked up from Carl Jung.) While it’s a theme found in a lot of his work, he really develops this in his book about True Self and False Self, The Immortal Diamond. (Spoiler: The True Self is the Immortal Diamond.)

But I’ve had this nagging feeling that I’ve heard something very similar in a book I read about, of all things, sports.

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance (first published in 1972) is a book by W. Timothy Gallwey and in it he develops his findings as a tennis coach into a philosophy for teaching and learning.

The forward to the book is written by Pete Carroll, a football coach who has won championships at the amateur (“collegiate”) and professional level. He’s been known to pass this book on to his athletes. NBA championship coach Steve Kerr says he keeps 10 copies on hand because he’s always giving them out. There have been ESPN segments and Sports Illustrated articles featuring how athletes and coaches have taken his book, and philosophy, and entirely changed their outlook on learning, and athletics.

 Gallwey breaks us down into two parts. Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is the ego, “the teller.” Self 1 talks to you, and judges your results. For example, you hit a ball and it goes out of bounds. A Self 1 statement would be, “Well, that was stupid,” and “Dammit, hit the ball the right way,” or “C’mon! Why can’t I get this right?”

Self 2 is the unconscious mind, “the do-er.” Self 2 doesn’t talk. Self 2 can observe, but it doesn’t judge. As in the earlier example, the ball goes out of bounds. A Self 2 statement would be, “The ball landed out of bounds.”
In sports or athletic endeavors, we let Self 1 run the show because we don’t trust Self 2. Eventually, we hire coaches, join teams, or seek advice that Self 1 just loves. These all become unhelpful cliches and maxims, like “Just relax.”

Gallwey noticed as a teacher that the more instruction he gave, the worse the results would be with his students. As an experiment, he simply stopped instructing during his lessons, and used no words. He showed his struggling students what a forehand looked like, then asked his students to try it themselves. This was enough. The students responded and performed better than lessons full of committing body mechanics to muscle memory and technical advice. The students were allowed to be “unconsciously conscious.” 

There is a larger parallel between Self 1 and Self 2 and the True Self and False Self. I’m going to keep weaving these threads a bit, but I think you can already see a similarity through teaching by showing and practice, versus judgements, and words alone.

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