Self 1 and Self 2



A major breakthrough in my understanding of the problem of control of mind and body came when, as a tennis instructor, I became aware of a constant commentary going on inside my head as I played.

I realized that my students were subjected to a similar flow of self-instructional thoughts while taking lessons: Come on, get your racket back earlier. … You hit that one too late again… Bend your knee on those volleys… Uh-oh, here comes another high backhand like the one you missed last time. … Make sure you don't miss it again… Damn it! you missed it again. … When are you ever going to hit those things?.. Watch the ball, watch the ball. … What am I going to say to my doubles partner if I lose this match?

As I began to take a closer look at the thoughts going through my mind during a tennis match, I found myself asking, "Whom am I talking to, and who is doing the talking?" I was surprised to discover that there seemed to be at least two identities within me. One was playing tennis; the other was telling him how. I observed that the one doing the talking, whom I named Self 1, thought he knew all about how to play and was supervising Self 2, the one who had to hit the ball. In fact, Self 1 not only gave Self 2 instructions but criticized him for past errors, warned him of probable future ones, and harangued him whenever he made a mistake. It was easy to see that the primary feeling in the relationship between these two selves was mistrust. Self 1 didn't trust Self 2 to hit the ball, and, precisely to the extent that he lacked trust, he would try to force Self 2 to conform to his verbal instructions. I noticed that when I had more confidence in my ability to hit a shot, there was a corresponding decrease in instructions from Self 1 and that Self 2 would perform amazingly well without him. When I was on a streak, there was no talk in my head at all.

Once I became aware of Self 1, it grew increasingly obvious that this judgmental little voice barking away like a drill sergeant inside my head was not the best thing for my tennis game. Self 1 was more of a hindrance than the great help he wanted me to think he was. Thereafter I began looking for ways to decrease the interference of Self 1, and to see what happened if I trusted the potential of Self 2. I found that when I could quiet Self 1 and let Self 2 learn and play without interference, my performance and learning rate improved significantly. My Self 2 was a great deal more competent than Self 1 gave him credit for. Likewise, I found that when, as a teacher, I didn't feed the instruction-hungry Self 1 of a student with a lot of technical information but, instead, trusted in the capacity of his Self 2 to learn, the progress of my students was three or four times faster than average, and they learned with much less frustration.

In short, I found that Self 1-the verbalizing, thought-producing self- is a lousy boss when it comes to control of the – body's muscle system. When Self 2-the body itself is allowed control, the quality of performance, the level of enjoyment, and the rate of learning are all improved.

Although after a time I realized that Self 1 was really a composite of different ego-personalities that would surface at different times, it was still helpful to group all these elements under the identifying label of Self 1 as the source of our interference with our natural selves. I found that in order to decrease interference and increase performance, it wasn't necessary to analyze why doubt, fear, judgment, and lapses in concentration occurred; it was sufficient to recognize their intrusion and then concentrate the mind on something real in the immediate environment. From this realization, a number of Inner Game concentration exercises were developed for tennis players.

Some readers of The Inner Game of Tennis have associated Self 1 and Self 2 with the popular two-hemisphere-brain theory, equating Self 1 with the rational, analytical left hemisphere and Self 2 with the intuitive right hemisphere. I don't make the same association because both right and left hemispheres are part of the human body. I look at Self 2 as the total human organism, the natural entity. Self 1, on the other hand, does not actually have a physical existence; it is a phenomenon of mental self-interference that can and does interfere with both right- and left-hemisphere functions. Self-doubt, for example, can be as crippling in a mathematics test as in a tennis match, on a golf course or in singing a song. But when the mind is concentrated and absorbed in what it is doing, interference is minimized and the brain is able to function closer to its potential.

When Self 1 and Self 2 are clearly defined in this way, the basic premise of the Inner Game can be expressed in a simple equation: P = p {i. The quality of our performance (P) is equal to our potential (p) minus the interference (i) with the expression of that potential. Or: Performance = Self 2 (potential) minus Self 1 (interference).

Thus, the aim of the Inner Game is not so much to try harder to persuade Self 2 to do what it is capable of doing but to decrease the Self 1 interferences that prevent Self 2 from expressing itself fully.

Still, I found that like most tyrants, Self 1 didn't like losing control and resisted efforts to minimize his influence. The process of decreasing his control in favor of Self 2 proved to be a challenging one, which required the development of concentration techniques designed to keep Self 1 occupied in noninterfering activity and consciously to allow Self 2 to hit the ball. Once Self 1 was focused in a concentration exercise, his interference with Self 2 decreased significantly and performance instantly improved.