The CSGA Links Volume 6 Issue 4 August 2018 - Page 40

The Mindful Golfer By Dr. Josh Brant, Clinical Psychologist and Sports Performance Coach What Are You Afraid Of ? S tanding on the tee box at a CSGA qualifier a couple years back, I had never been so afraid in my life. Despite my theoretical understanding of the impact of fear on performance, my body’s survival instincts took over. My heart was pounding. My breathing was getting shorter and tighter, and my mind went blank. My hands were shaking so badly that it took me three tries to get the ball to stay on the tee. You may think sport psychologists are immune to the anxieties that so often plague our clients. No such luck. When the body is told by the mind there is something to fear, even the most mentally tough struggle. From evolutionary perspective, fear is a natural, physiological response to danger. Which makes perfect sense if you’re confronted by an angry bear, or a speeding car, or sitting in a plane bouncing through turbulence. But the first tee of a Connecticut Amateur qualifier? Other than the possibility of hav- ing a heart attack because I was so terri- fied, my life was hardly in danger. So, why was I reacting this way? The simple answer is that to our nervous systems, a threat is threat. It doesn’t matter whether or not the threat is real or imagined, rational or irrational. In my mind I was afraid I was not good enough to be playing in a CSGA event, I was going to fail, and people were going to laugh at me for my incompetence. To my body, I might as well have been floating in shark infested waters wearing a bloody steak around my neck. In golf, being at the mercy of one’s nervous system is a problem: Our thinking becomes quick and impulsive rather than slow and deliberate. We are more apt to be guided by our emotions than by critical thought. Our ability to focus, pay attention and be creative decreases. So does our working memory. We become defensive, pessimistic, and primed to see a threat in situations where it doesn’t exist. Our ability to Xܘ[ZH[][ܛX][ۈ\[\Z\Y \H\HYۚYX[[ܙX\H[]\H[[ۋB H[ ]Y\ N˘[[˛ܙ