If only you could capture the magic that makes the difference between playing well and doing poorly. Especially on those days when you're healthy and ready to go, but you just can't pull it together.
Making matters worse, losers get no sympathy. With the slightest ripple in your game, others are ready with the cheap shot.
Overheard hundreds of times:
You play hard. You put it on the line every game. The criticism hurts.
The Flip Side
On the flip side, there are days when you hit your groove and everything falls into place. You see the ball in slow motion; your opponent's moves are obvious; and your shot feels smooth.
When you're in your groove, playing is pure pleasure.
Are there ways to ensure you play well under pressure? We've seen the great ones perform: they always seem to hit the shot at the buzzer, and they stay centered in the biggest games. Somehow they pull it off, so there is hope.
Will hypnosis help? Maybe.
"Maybe" is a pretty weak answer, especially in an article on Hypnosis and Performance. Hypnosis will help, but it is only one of several key performance factors.
Performance factors include:
Let's examine each element.
The on-line book, Finding Your Groove, talks about training methods, handling distractions, and internal messages. That leaves your focus level.
Your Focus Level
How does hypnosis come into play?
Hypnosis deals with shifting concentration levels. When you find your groove, your consciousness has changed. You've slipped into a state where you're experiencing things differently. You feel smooth; you're hearing the right messages in your head. The game looks different. Your groove is a different consciousness, and that is what hypnosis is about.
In sports, most "groove" benefits can be achieved by slipping down a couple of concentration levels (called trance levels by the hypnosis community).
Groove like experiences don't require very deep trance states. For example, if trance levels range from 1 to 20, your groove would be about Level 2 or 3. That's good news, for it's pretty easy to slip down one or two notches.
You've already experienced this concentration shift. If you've ever spaced out while watching TV, or glazed over during a boring lecture, you know what it's like to slip down a couple of levels.
Since you already know how to space out, that's an ideal starting point. The goal is to get good at it. This involves two elements, recognizing what it feels like to be "spaced out," and being able to do it at will.
If your trance levels run from 1 to 20, with 20 being the deepest, "spaced out" is about Level 2.
Fair enough. We could use other terms. "Relaxed" is the most conservative; "zoned out" might be more current. As long as it means a very light trance level. Use whatever words feel right to you.
Let's step through a simple exercise. It only takes 30 seconds, so give it a try.
An exercise Shifting Levels:
As simple as this exercise may seem, it is a very important sequence. In it, you focused your attention, shifted down a trance level, and returned. Each of these is critical hypnotic step.
If you stepped through these instructions, you just conducted your own hypnosis session. Congratulations!
Your next task is to get good at it. Practice shifting in and out of Level 2, spacing out, several times a day.
Your groove is a refinement of being spaced out.
Here's how it goes:
When you're playing, let something catch your attention. Let it help you "space out" and slide down a level. No too far, just deep enough to slip into your groove.
By starting with something that catches your attention, you avoid forcing it. Something will always catch your attention.
Props can help you shift concentration levels, and sports are full of props. There's always a ball, a stick, or a glove around.
Let's try a concentration shift using a prop.
A prop exercise:
If you're bouncing in and out of your focus level, try to stay down a little longer each time. It doesn't have to be an extended time.
Even if your shifts were small, you were taking control of your consciousness. Nice work!
It's important to exercise your new skill. Throughout the day look for practice opportunities. Let something catch your attention. Let it pull you down a notch.
Reinforce the work. Each time you do this type of exercise, remember to return to full awareness refreshed and alert. Appreciate your good work and the value of the exercise.
Minimum training is four concentration shifts a day. You'll be surprised at how many opportunities surface.
When you feel comfortable slipping up and down in your concentration levels, it's time to experiment in more complex environments. Where you might find it easy to focus in the quiet of the library, moving to a situation with additional distracters will stretch your skill.
Examples of more distracting situations:
Look for distracting situations. In the midst of the turmoil, let yourself slip down a level. Notice the difference in your awareness and ability to focus. Use a prop whenever you can.
Props are great for road trips. They will help you settle just by being familiar. However, if your prop gets accidentally connected to a distraction, it could work against you. (More on contaminated props in Finding Your Groove).
As you develop these concentration skills, you'll start looking forward to focusing in "big game" situations. Your game will be a lot more fun.
By getting good at "spacing out" and using props to focus, you have acquired a core skill in sport hypnosis the ability to shift your concentration level.
Again, being able to shift your focus level is a huge step. This can be applied to almost any sporting event and improve your game.
To continue your development, you should read through Finding Your Groove. It deals with distractions and offers a more in-depth treatment of focus control. Yes, it goes beyond the "space out" approach presented here.
Practice, practice, practice. You'll be surprised how quickly these techniques become part of your game.
Finding Your Groove: A Guide to Playing Your Best by James Davis. AWSS Publications, 2003.
Run Like a Chicken: The Use of Hypnosis in Sports by James Davis. AWSS Publications, 2004.
Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D (Vol 2)
by Milton H. Erickson, John Grinder, Judith Delozier, Richard Bandler. Metamorphosis Press, 1997.
The Structure of Magic: A Book About Language and Therapy (Vol I)
by Richard Bandler, John Grinder. Science & Behavior Books, 1990.
Experiencing Erickson: An Introduction to the Man and His Work by Jeffrey Zeig. Brunner/Mazel, 1985.
Hypnotic Realities: The Induction of Clinical Hypnosis and Forms of Indirect Suggestion by Milton H. Erickson. Irvington Pub, 1976.