Monday, July 1, 2013

Not Just Pumping Iron, Part Nineteen

                        The person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts,
                        and so he loses touch with reality.
Alan Watts

Exploration and Experience

Given this discovery, this new awareness of the message, our lifter is ready for the second step, exploration and experience. In order to make the second step easier, our lifter may decide to make the voice more vivid. He could do this by intentionally repeating the message several times. If our lifter has the benefit of privacy, he may choose to say the message aloud, adding to the vividness of the voice. Staying open to the experience, our lifter lets himself feel the impact of the message. Saying it again and again, our lifter comes to understand very clearly how he or she has been quenching the spark of enthusiasm. The impact of the message becomes obvious and undeniable. Perhaps our lifter remembers how Dad used to ridicule his childhood attempts at athletics, saying, "You'll never be good at that" Our lifter has now diagnosed the problem. He understands the historical origins (Dad's ridicule), but much more importantly, he understands the dynamics of the problem (I am telling myself to give up, that I am not going to be any good at lifting. This discourages me and takes away my enthusiasm for training.)

Having diagnosed the problem, our lifter is now in a position to do something to resolve it. So, he vows to let the critical message go. Perhaps our lifter has some degree of success with letting go. The critical message is gone, most of the time. But, still, during some workouts, the voice returns with its discouragement. It seems to come back on days when our lifter is a bit tired, a bit rushed, or in some other way not at his best.

The persistence of the critical voice calls for doing something else, instead of energizing the voice. So, our lifter creates a counter voice. Each time that he hears the internal critic, our lifter says back, "I like this, and I am getting better and better at it!" He says this with force and conviction. And, he repeats it until the critical voice is quieted. Our lifter does this countering consistently. Every time the critical voice is heard, it is thoroughly countered.

After several weeks of successful countering, the critical voice is but a rare whisper. At this point our lifter finds that he can simply let go. The introjected voice of discouragement has been expelled. Now our lifter trains with enthusiasm, undampened by an internal critic. 

If one uses this method diligently for several weeks and is not successful in quieting the voice of the internal critic, then I would suggest getting some professional help. A psychotherapist can be of immense help in these more resistant situations.

Thus far I have discussed the quieting of internal chatter and the quieting of the voice of the internal critic. If one is bothered by internal chatter and an internal critic, as many, perhaps even most people are, then the use of the methods outlined can make a dramatic change in one's life. One's training and performance in competition can be enhanced remarkably. With the banishing of the mental chatter comes a clarity of mind, which allows for both keener perception and keener thought. And, the energy which had gone into maintaining the chatter is freed for other uses. With the quieting of the internal critic comes a release from negative forces, a freedom from the heavy mantle of discouragement and disrespect. 

Once the mental chatter is quieted and the voice of the internal critic is quieted, you are ready to use self-talk as a positive force. If in quieting the internal critic you used counter messages, then you have had some experience with positive self-talk. I do recommend that you have grown to the level that you can control mental chatter and your internal critic before you begin to use the following method. Otherwise, much of your efforts will be lost. Mental chatter can distract and drown out positive self-talk, and a strong internal critic can negate it leaving it as empty words.

The particular method which I am about to present involves the creation and use of a mantra. The mantra will encapsulate the essence of the positive message which one would benefit from hearing. There are several guidelines for the creation and use of the mantra. I suggest that the reader follow these guidelines carefully until you gain familiarity with the method. Then, if you wish, you can experiment with variations.

First, the idea is to tell yourself something which would serve to motivate you to do the very best of which you are capable. It will not work, in the long run, to tell yourself anything that is not true. Stay within realistic limits. Thus, you would not tell yourself that you could lift a weight which is fifty pounds in excess of your best. Nor would you tell yourself that you are the most awesome physique of all time. You might, with beneficial effect, however, tell yourself that you could lift five more pounds than your previous best, or that you can do your best poses.

Second, the mantra is most effective when it is short, simple, and pithy. "This is my chance to do my best deadlift ever, and I am confident that the probability of my success is very high." This preceding is NOT a mantra. The following is - "I can do it!" Excess verbiage, even if it contains qualifiers which make a technically more complete and accurate statement serve only to detract from the essential message. Again, keep the mantra brief, simply worded, and to the point.

Third, use the mantra over and over. The repetitiousness of the mantra is a key to its success. Remember, this is a mantra to be chanted, not a statement to convey new information. Its purpose is to motivate, not to inform. So, repeat the mantra over and over until you feel its effect. When you have chanted it long enough, you will know it. Something inside you will shift, and you will recognize it. This criterion of an internal shift is far more effective than is the counting of the repetitions or the timing of the chanting by the clock. It is an internal, subjective experience which is sought, so external, objective criteria such as repetitions or clock time miss the point. So, find your rhythm and keep chanting until you feel the internal shift. That could take six repetitions or sixty.

Fourth, use the mantra until it is no longer needed, and if it suggests or evolves into a new one, then use the new one. This often happens. One may wear out a mantra on a given occasion, to find that a new mantra then appears spontaneously.

Next: More on the mantra, and visual imagery.

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