ArticlesBeating the Fear Beast (Athletes)
Jan 01, 2010
Alison Arnold Ph.D.
Ever have those days where you just feel like crud? Where every thought is negative and you feel like crawling under a smelly gym mat and hiding?
In the last segment of this series, I wrote about how Mental Choreography can help you deal with fear in the gym. This article will help you work with negative thoughts that come into your head when you least expect them! Think about learning a new skill. What happens when you have loose body position? The skill is inconsistent, right? It is performed poorly and extremely hard to learn. It is the same with your mind. When your mind is "loose" negative thoughts "sneak" in causing fear and balking. Mental Choreography is one way to tighten up your mind, keeping it focused on what needs to happen instead of what you are afraid MAY happen. This article will teach you another exercise to overcome fear it's called the "Two-Minute Turn-Around".
What you think is what you do.
We all know that thoughts create feelings and actions, right? Positive thinking creates positive actions, and negative thinking creates negative actions. The Two-Minute Turn-Around helps you practice changing negative thinking as if you were changing a channel on TV. This takes some practice, so it is very important you are patient with yourself. Being able to change negative thinking to positive is like a muscle. It needs to be worked and conditioned to gain strength. Doing a push-up one time does not make you strong. It is the same with mental exercises, they need to be practiced so your "mental muscles" become strong too.
Identifying your Beast and Beast thoughts
"Alison, What are Beast thoughts" you ask? (Good question)
The Beast is the voice inside your head that beats you up. It tells you "I have to perform exceptionally to be OK", "You'll never be as good as you were last season," "You're fat", "I am nothing unless I live up to what others expect of me". The Beast is merciless and most of the time leaves you discouraged and depressed. It is not helpful to you. This is the main difference between the Beast and other parts of you that help with motivation and evaluating performance. The Beast just beats you up while other parts of you help with motivation. A thought like, "I know I can do better" is motivating, while "Everyone was watching and you blew it like usual" is self-defeating. That is your Beast and Beast thoughts. As I mentioned above, the Beast is fueled by unrealistic expectations put upon you by yourself or others. It can also echo things you are afraid someone might say, making your greatest fears come true! Some Beastly messages are impossible like, "I need to be perfect all the time". It's important to be aware of messages you tell yourself that come from the Beast. These messages are barely ever the truth. The Beast keeps you down and stands in between you and your goals. . It is important to realize that everyone has a beast. Your parents have negative beast thoughts, even your coaches have beasts and beast thoughts! Beating your beast thoughts and thinking positive is a life long process. And beast thoughts aren't simply in gymnastics. Many people have math beasts, public speaking beasts, and beasts that come our when you are mad at a friend. So, it's important to remember the two-minute turn-around as a skill you can use your entire life!
The part of you that beats up your beast is something I call your Vision. Your Vision is the ideal picture of the gymnast you want to be. She has all the qualities you admire in other gymnasts and people you respect in your life. She is every positive thought you can thing of. She is your ideal performance state. Imagine yourself feeling totally confident, aggressive, graceful, relaxed, and fearless. Imagine you are in "the zone", whatever that is like for you. This is your Vision. When you are firmly grounded in your Vision, nothing can throw you off. Not even negative beast thoughts. Your Vision is all-powerful. She can tell off the Beast, Ignore the Beast, laugh at the Beast, and beat up the Beast. Even when the Beast is roaring it's loudest, your Vision can help you say "Go ahead, I've heard this before. This is an old tape...and it's boring", or "I know this isn't true....I know what the truth is". Your Vision is Your Truth. She cannot be pushed down and can beat any beast thought.
The Two-Minute Turn-Around to Beat the Beast
Now we will practice the two minute turn-around the beat the beast. First get a piece of paper. Fold the paper in half with two columns. Label one column "Beast thoughts" and the other column "Vision thoughts". Under the Beast thought column write every negative thought that comes into your head when you are feeling afraid and negative. Don't leave anything out. These thoughts might be negative statements you tell yourself ("youíll never get this, you may as well give up", or "I canít do it"), or feelings ("I feel a brick wall and just canít break through it."). After you write down all your beast statements, write your comebacks to the beast under the Vision column. Be sure you have more Vision statements then Beast statements. Your Vision needs to be strong and powerful. Some examples of strong Vision statements are, "I can do it, donít listen to him", "I can turn this bad day around", "Breathe, visualize my routine", and "I know I can do itÖIíve heard this Beast 1,000 times - I'm going to ignore it".
Now that you have written your Beast and Vision thoughts, we will practice the Two-Minute Turn-Around. To practice the Two-Minute Turn-Around, we will use the code S, B, V, Go!! , to change your Beast Thoughts into Vision Thoughts. SBV, Go!! is a very powerful tool. Here's what it stands for:
S stands for STOP! As you notice any Beast thought the first thing you do is say to yourself STOP!!
B stands for BREATHE . Remember, breathing gets you into the present. Not stuck in past or future fear thoughts. After you say "Stop!" inside your head, the next thing you do is take a deep breath.
V stands for Vision . After you Breathe, change your beast thoughts to either Vision thoughts or neutral, motivating, thoughts.
Go!!! Will help you energize yourself and get motivated so you can Beat Your Beast!
OK - It's time to practice. Don't let frustration ruin your day. Practice the Two-Minute Turn-Around.
Close your eyes and think of your Beast thoughtsÖlet the Beast beat you up. Do this for a few minutes. Imagine yourself having a bad day. See yourself balking, feeling frustrated, crying, or whatever typically happens on your worst day. Let your Beast thoughts get the best of you. Then, imagine yourself getting off of the event, going to get a drink (or stepping to the side of the event) and tell yourself "Stop!" and take a deep breath.
On the exhale, flood yourself with Vision thoughts and change your thinking. That means, begin flooding yourself with your Vision thoughts. Imagine your Vision is a powerful river drowning the Beast thoughts. Flood with your Vision two times, taking a deep breath each time. Feel the difference? Changing your thoughts creates confidence! Practice this twice either at home, in the car, or before bed . This will train your mind so when you are in the gym you can flood out that mean ol' Beast anytime!! Remember, changing negative thinking to positive thinking is a life-ling practice. It doesn't change over night. Keep working on your mental strength as you do any new task. Practicing the Two-Minute Turn-Around helps you become mentally tough both in the gym and in your life!
Alison Arnold Ph.D. is a sport psychology consultant for USA Gymnastics. A former gymnast, she views training the mind as important as training the body.