Really interesting thread to me. I apologize in advance for the long and rambling reply.. It's just the way I think, so.. skip it if you don't like it.
The more I think about it, I think I do count. I just don't use numbers..
I keep a "beat" going in my head.. or actually it feels like the beat is taking place in my right hand lately, especially during rests.. I keep the beat going with my fingers, but don't play the strings. Kind of how you keep strumming even when not playing to keep time when playing rhythm guitar.
I don't full on move the fingers, just very very small like micro movements keeping time when I'm not playing, if that makes sense at all.
I've always kept time while listening to music.. so I do think I've had a lot of practice feeling the beat and that's probably why my methods are working for me.
To me rhythms go like Da de de de, Da de de de or Da de de, Da de de. For 1234 or 123. I always keep this beat going, and always track the emphasized first beat through rests and everything.. I do think my timing is pretty good using this method.. whether or not it would stand up in an orchestra or ensemble is obviously in question. I have no idea! But, it works for me right now and allows me to play!
I might try this counting stuff since people seem to really seriously advise it.. I just figured most people could feel the beat.. but, the more I think about it.. I do see people struggling to keep time, so I guess it's not a natural thing! My dad actually struggles with this.. Too bad he's too stubborn to teach anything to most of the time, because he would probably benefit from this counting.
Haha. I don't know anything, I'm a beginner! Just trying to help! To those who need to count, don't be discouraged and listen to those who know what they are talking about, I'm not one of them. You will get it with time!
I definitely can and do keep time, without counting though.. and that's all I was trying to let the OP know. It is quite possible to feel a beat internally instead of counting while playing.. Whether or not it's proper.. Well, apparently not.. but, it works for me for now.
Once again, I am left feeling like I might be walking completely down the wrong path with CG. Oh well, so it goes for the self-taught.. I probably wouldn't get on with a teacher, anyways.