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Peak Performance Psychology

P-3: A New Sport Psychology for Golfers.

by Nick Rosa, Ph.D

Wouldn't it be great if you could recapture and bottle the wonderful feelings and thoughts you had immediately after you effortlessly drilled the ball off the tee, with great distance, right down the middle of the fairway? Wouldn't it be great if you could recapture and bottle the confident feelings and thoughts you had when you were naturally relaxed and focused, knowing that you would sink that long putt? And wouldn't it be great if you could experience these resources consistently on the golf course? Do you think such resourceful feelings and thoughts would improve your game? You can count on it!

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Well, it may be a great surprise to discover that you can recapture and bottle such resourceful feelings and thoughts and use them to play consistently better golf. In brief training sessions golfers are learning how to recapture, store and then trigger such resourceful feelings and thoughts on the golf course; thereby, playing reliably better golf..

How? Through a system to be overviewed here, a system that combines Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Haven't heard of 'em? Not to worry, neither have most golfers nor sport psychologists.

The system, called Peak Performance Psychology for golfers (P-3), is a culmination of five years of tailoring Ericksonian and NLP techniques for use with athletes in general and adapting them for golfers in particular. Field test results, which include data from an earlier and less effective version of P-3, demonstrate that after an hour and one half, club pros, scratch and low handicap golfers were able to reduce their 18 hole score by an average of 4.6 strokes.

To understand how P-3 works, an orientation to traditional hypnosis versus Ericksonian Hypnosis would be helpful. Generally speaking, hypnosis is used to help the person reach desired goals by; creating an altered or trance state, using the trance to develop useable resourceful feelings and attitudes, and using techniques that realize desired goals quickly and effectively.

Creating an altered or trance state: Unlike traditional hypnosis which empowers the hypnotist, the method of hypnosis developed by Dr. Milton H. Erickson empowers the person. Through conversation and astute observation, the Ericksonian hypnotist skillfully guides the person as to what to do to create an altered state. The Ericksonian hypnotist is the navigator, the person is the captain. Because the person has complete control, resistance is minimized and the probability of a successful trance induction is extremely high. This method is more effective and faster.

Using the trance state to develop usable resourceful feeling and attitudes: Traditional hypnosis relies mostly on visual imagination; especially seeing one's self as if on a screen. However, Ericksonian Hypnosis uses all five senses; what the person sees, hears, touches, smells and tastes in an imagined experience as well as what the person thinks and feels; thus, making the imagined experience more realistic. Furthermore, in Ericksonian Hypnosis a person is more apt to be guided to mentally step into a resourceful experience; thereby, creating more powerful resourceful feelings and attitudes.

Using techniques that realize desired goals quickly and effectively: Most authorities on hypnosis agree that the goal oriented techniques developed by Erickson are considered almost magical for their speed and power to help people accomplish their goals. His techniques were the genesis of NLP. NLP analyzed and modeled them so that they could be taught to others. The end result is an array of powerful techniques that effectively and efficiently help people to successfully realize their potential.

Peak Performance Psychology (P-3)

The general sequence of a P-3 session is as follows:

    ....... Brief Interview
    ....... Hypnotic Induction
    ....... Utilizing NLP Techniques
    ....... Field Test the Results

Brief Interview (Question - Answer Synopsis):

Q. "What is your behavioral goal, what do you want to be able to do on the golf course?

A. "I want to one or two putt the greens more consistently than I am now."

At this point a determination is made as to whether the goal is a realistic one, given the golfer's technical skill level. The implication of "more consistently" is that the golfer has the technical skill to have holed out with one or two putts in the past.

Q. "What is preventing you from achieving your goal of one or two putting consistently?

A. "Ever since I 6 putted the 12th at Overbrook, I lost confidence in my putting and I'm uptight as a result."

At this point it can be concluded that regaining confidence is a goal that is viable. And, while it is clear that this golfer does not want to be "up tight", it is not clear what resource he needs. For example, the golfer's metaphor for not being "up tight" could be relaxed, centered, loose, loosey goosey, and so forth. Accordingly, the next question is asked to find out.

Q. "What feelings or attitudes do you need to help you to one or two putt more consistantly?"

A. "...regain the confidence and composure that I had in my putting..."

The words confidence and composure will be used in establishing the resources in the personal trigger technique. It is important to note that this golfer said "regain" and "that I had" which means that these resources have been experienced previously when putting.

Hypnotic Induction:

As is typical, it takes about 5 minutes from the time this golfer closes his eyes and, with guidance, reaches an altered state required for working. Having done so, the golfer's eyes are closed, his breathing is slow and rhythmical, his muscle tone loose; yet he is awake, he can converse and he is obviously mentally sharp.

Using NLP Techniques:

In order to avoid a lot of technical information and for the sake of time and space, three of the most frequently used NLP techniques adapted to golfers will be reviewed here. These representative techniques will give you a clear idea of what P-3 does. The techniques are the Slump Neutralizer, Personal Trigger and Environmental Trigger.

The Slump Neutralizer neutralizes the conscious and unconscious negative effects that previous bad play might have on your mind and body. As one club pro put it, "This technique helps me to 'get rid of ghosts and loosen up'.". This technique is designed to help you avoid going into a slump, come out of a slump or psychologically recover from an injury. It effectively neutralizes any anxiety, fear, apprehension, tension, worry or flashbacks that typically result from your having played poorly or having been injured. As a result, the thoughts and feelings that block or interfere with effective performance are eliminated.

The Personal Trigger is used to either recapture or generate and store resourceful feelings and attitudes. It is, also, used as a means of creating a trigger that you can use whenever you want to experience the resources. This technique teaches you how to trigger within yourself, by using a specific word, image, or action, a desired resource state such as being in your "zone" or maintaining your "rhythm". Or, you may want to use the technique to trigger within yourself specific resources such as being relaxed, focused or confident. Thereafter, on the golf course, you can use the word, image or action to trigger the desired resource state or specific resources that will enhance your golf game.

The Environmental Trigger technique provides a means of having your resource state automatically triggered by the typical stimuli on the golf course. That is, as a result of this technique, things that you typically see, hear and touch, feel, even smell or taste on the golf course would automatically trigger the resource state or resource(s) recaptured and stored via the Personal Trigger technique.

Field Test the Results:

Some post-testing is done at the end of each P-3 session. Regarding the Slump Neutralizer, the golfer simply has think about the event that had caused negative feelings and attitudes and evaluate the degree of their absence. All that needs to be done in order to test the Personal Trigger is for the golfer to use it and verify how well it creates the desired physiology, inner feelings, mental set and/or attitude; that is, the desired resource state or specific resource(s). Certain Environmental Triggers such as golf clubs/ putters and wearing apparel can be used to verify how well they elicit the resources or resource state.

The ultimate test, however, is to check on how well all this works on the golf course. When doing P-3 at a golf course, the results can be readily checked. For this reason I prefer to work with golfers at a course or club, if it is a viable option. By and large, after one session, positive results have been immediate. Although infrequent, a second, shorter session, may be needed.

What has been stated thus far may seem to pertain to you only if you are a low handicap player or better. That is, the examples given assumed that the golfer had been in a zone and/or experienced specific resources such as being highly focused on or confident with his/her golf game. And, unlike seasoned golfers, novice golfers probably have not had the experience of being in a zone nor having confidence on the golf course.

However, if you are a novice golfer, the techniques mentioned above apply to you as well. You could use the Personal Trigger and get specific resources such as being relaxed, confident or focused, generated from other life experiences. For example, given that you probably have had the experience of being confident in many aspects of your life or being focused when watching T.V. or reading, the Personal Trigger enables you to generate, store for retrieval and, subsequently, trigger these desired resources for use on the golf course as described above. Likewise, the Environmental Trigger would be utilized exactly as described above. Finally, the Slump Neutralizer would prove to be beneficial to you if only to deal with self consciousness or frustration regarding your play.

If you are a novice, there's more good news. The preliminary P-3 results suggest that greater than a 4.6 stroke improvement can occur for you. This is logical since you have more room for improvement than does the more advanced golfer.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know:

If your appetite has been wetted, you may want to consider reading an NLP book written by Richard Bandler entitled 'Using Your Brain for a Change'. Even the title captures what Ericksonian Hypnosis, NLP, and P-3 are all about; learning how to change how to use our brains to get the results we want.

Very few sport psychologists have training in Ericksonian Hypnosis and/or NLP. If you know someone in your area who does, you may want to give him/her a try. I strongly believe, as I hope you are beginning to, that you are apt to get more bang for your buck from a sport consultant or psychologist who does use these psychotechnologies. However, if you consider someone, find out if (s)he is certified. Quality control is usually enhanced if the person holds at least a practitioner' s certificate in either Ericksonian Hypnosis or NLP. All the better if it be a trainer's or master's certificate in both.

You are invited to inquire about P-3 which is not yet well known outside the Villanova - Wilmington - Philadelphia area. Also invited are inquiries from country clubs, golf clubs and golf associations that may consider sponsoring a P-3 Workshop for Golfers for their membership.

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