The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Suck It and See!

There are many times in performance when our thinking gets in our way. The more we think - the worse it gets!

To stop people thinking so much (especially those within teams), particularly about the 'what ifs?' of techniques or outcomes, I get them to think tactically. Its a projecting and external process, taking them largely outside their internal dialogue and self-critical faculty.
A real help here also is deep and controlled breathing to get them grounded, calmer, and with more mental clarity.

I had a recent occasion to work with a young cricketer who, when batting, would move away from a ball that was coming straight at her. This is a natural protective or "flight" reaction carried over from a time when younger. As an embedded habit this is extremely common, and there are a number of ways of tackling it - the choice depending upon which is most effective for any particular individual.

In previous cases I have used anchoring, reframing, and inducing a 'sticky back foot' as a means of correcting the process of avoidance. For the young lady in question she described it as "finding myself thinking what to do when the ball was coming straight at me". Whilst this appears to be part of her shot selection process, she said she had no discernible "thinking" when the ball was not coming straight towards her.

I took a bit of a flyer here and saw the intervention of her over-cautious critical faculty as being the thing to distract or switch off. In terms of ecology, just watching the ball would be enough to tell her where any real danger lay, and she could rely upon this intuitive and autonomic process to protect her, to keep her safe.

As I've said many times, especially in "Don't Think of a Black Cat", to get her to stop thinking whether the ball is coming towards her or not is likely to fail at best! Instead I chose to give her something ELSE to think about - something in close proximity and kinaesthetic in sensual terms. (I chose kinaesthetic rather than visual because visual is critical to her shot selection.) I could have chosen auditory, but I wanted to keep that sensory channel free - for mainly technical reasons, both present and future.

First of all I got her to link a deep-breath sequence into various stages of the process of the ball being delivered to her. This is a very useful anchor for grounding and calmness and improves the shot selection process.
Secondly I asked her to notice and consider what her tongue was doing within her mouth, through the period that ball was in flight coming in her direction. This redirection of kinaesthetic information focus, and engaging thought processes to analyse what that tongue was doing, had an immediate effect.

I would like to add here that when getting her to direct and pinpoint her (kinaesthetic) focus I actually described it as "that tongue" rather than "your tongue". "That" tongue implies that the tongue is somehow separate from her and her control and results in her noticing even more about what it is doing. This process takes only a few moments to talk through and set up, and involves the player in a degree of alteration of state - brought about by their 'going inside' (in this case mouth and mind). I used to call this process "localised trance" but now I'm more comfortable describing it as moving perception around.

It is a huge boost to a player's confidence to find that (almost suddenly) they are not shying away from the ball, and instead they are staying more still and playing better shots as a result. This instant feel-good factor then adds into the loop and the process is enhanced every time they face a ball. The more they do it - the better it gets!

Using the tongue this way, or engaging parts of the mouth in other ways (such as gum-shield or chewing gum) is a good way of distracting over-active thought processes. By adding-in some subtle linguistic and mental artifices it all becomes much more powerful and effective.

Try it for yourself or, as they say "Suck it and See"!

Monday, January 10, 2011

There's often nothing casual in the casual childhood tale!!

I've never been fond of fat on meat, especially meat in stews. Quite early in my school life the cook at primary school would do a stew for lunch. Cubes of meat with floppy, rubbery lumps of fat attached were an awful experience for a child who was not allowed to leave anything on his plate! So I'd spit the unswallowable bits into a handkerchief and chuck them away later. It got so bad that I dreaded school lunches, then dreaded school and so on and on, increasing in intensity. I couldn't tell my parents, or anyone. Then one day my mother found a hankie full of half-chewed meat!! Horrified - yet relieved - I spilt the beans to her. To her it was not a big deal - we talked it through and I felt so much better about school, lunches, leaving food and everything after that!

With weight loss clients in particular I get them to fill out a questionnaire which is pretty basic, and just asks some broad brush questions on their relationship with food.

In the course of one client's "preamble", she (rather tongue in cheek) mentioned that she used to buy sweets on the way home from school and would hide them from her parents! This was a rather casual remark in a rather lengthy resume and could have easily been dismissed as humorous and throwaway.

However, as I listened to her talking about how her food relationship impacts upon personal desires and wishes, it became apparent that the structure of her "emotional eating" needed analysing so she could see the cold logic of what was happening - and from that would spring the opportunities to reprogramme her responses.

When she encountered a less than appropriate food choice, her after-eating response was governed by her mood, her state of mind, at the time. If feeling ok she would proceed as normal, whereas if feeling down she would feel guilty about making a bad choice. This guilt would feed back via a loop into her state and she would proceed to eat more of the same. The guilt would increase and the loop would continue until she had really 'overdone it'!
No matter how logically she told herself what was happening, she was caught in this loop and 'powerless' to intervene.

Quite often, revealing this structure to clients actually gives them some resolve to make their own changes on the inside - though I had an inkling here that for this lady there was something else available to kick start things for her. The hunch was that the "Going home from School" story was a good place to start - mainly because it was not resolved in any way. There, she had hidden the sweets from her parents, never got found out, felt guilty, continued to do it, kept feeling guilty etc. The secrecy and the guilt were all in a loop.

We explored the whole area of this covert childhood tale, seeking to loosen the association between sweet-type foods and guilt. I got her to think and talk through a load of possible scenarios following what would have happened when her parents HAD found out.
Once this 'pathway had been swept' I brought her back to talking about dealing with her present and future food issues. There was a distinct change in her physiology as she talked about things this time, and it was noticeable that there had been some changes on the inside for her.
I did add, before closing the session, that she would now remember the 'schoolgirl tale' every time she reached for the wrong food choice - and that this (now resolved) memory would be useful for her in making better choices and in keeping amplified guilt out of her state of mind!

Do you have any childhood 'secrets' that were never resolved properly that may now be working against your better judgements?

Better go inside and have a "rummage"!