Oh, the dialog!

"Whateva! Whateva, I do what I want!" - Cartman, Southpark

That's the beautiful part of being self-employed. I can do "whateva" I want. I'm able to barter services for other services, such as cello lessons for guitar lessons. Tara Ward is both my new student and my new teacher.

It's a good exercise to begin again from scratch with an instrument. The feelings that were so strong when I started the cello are a little closer in my memory than they used to be. "What the heck are my fingers trying to do here?!" or "Why won't they just do what I want them to do?!"

It's the same feelings, except the things I've learned and taught my students have become a routine internal dialog. The negative self-talk I had in high school during practice sessions has become the same dialog I have with my cello students in class/lessons. This is such a good thing. & boy, do I not miss that kind of self-talk...

  • Black or White Thinking (You’re either perfect or a total failure!)
  • Catastrophic Thinking (Exaggerating the significance of one single event!)
  • Pessimistic Thinking (Seeing only the negatives and assuming the worst!)
  • Self-fulfilling Prophecy
  • Should Statements (Being ruled by a rigid set of rules!)
  • “It’s-not-my-fault” Thinking (Shifting responsibility for your behaviors!)
  • Mind Reading (Assuming people are thinking the worst about you!)
  • Discounting (Can’t accept positive feedback!)
  • Comparing (Always comparing self to others!)

The funny thing is that after just re-reading that list (thank you random pdf from UCLA via google), my first thought was, "Boy is that a lot of exclamation points." But it's true that's exactly how a practice session feels when you've got a negative self-dialog. It's awful.

My honest to God belief is that is the only reason why someone would begin to hate practicing. I can think of a few relationships I've had with folks who have an external negative dialog. They are no fun to be around. Your relationship with your practice sessions can be just as toxic as any other relationship.

Fortunately the only way to learn something is to teach it - in this case, for me, it's the negative self-talk. There's no way that I would make the same presumptuous accusations towards my own students! Heaven's to Betsy! That'd be a terrible experience for both of us. Unbeknownst to me, I've been practicing the correct self-dialog with my students.

So as I'm trying to teach my clumsy right-hand fingers a wee bit more autonomy through finger picking on the guitar, I'm discovering both the familiar feelings of drowning in unfamiliarity and also the bright new voice in the dialog of practicing. I want to remind myself of the most important facets of learning an instrument and a very important facet of living - effective and encouraging self-dialog. I only hope that my students can get a glimpse of how to better treat themselves through practicing and through their lessons.