Updated: Mar 7
We all play movies in our minds whether we are conscious of them or not.
They can be pleasurable movies, they can be fun movies, and they can be scary movies.
We play all types of movies in our minds, and in this blog, I want to talk about the scary ones and I what I did to overcome them at the beginning of my boxing career.
There is a presupposition in NLP that says:
"People are not broken, they work perfectly to get the results they are getting."
So, If someone is getting a result, they must be doing something right to get that result.
Be it a result they want or they don't want.
I want you to take a moment and imagine a woman standing on a warm, sun-kissed beach, her feet nervously shifting in the soft sand as she cautiously looks out into the ocean. The gentle waves are lapping onto the shore, and she watches the other people have fun while they swim and surf.
She wants to go swimming, but she is frozen with fear. The fear of sharks!
She hasn't seen a shark but she just knows they are in the ocean and to go out for a swim would make her vulnerable to one.
Ask yourself - for her to be getting the result of fear, to the point of being unable to swim.
What is she doing? What movie might she be playing in her mind?
Is she playing a movie in her mind of herself having fun swimming?
Or is she playing a movie that scares the hell out of her?
That's right, she is likely imagining herself being viciously eaten by a shark.
She is also likely to be imaging all the traumatic and chaotic feelings she might feel while being attacked by a giant shark.
So she stands in the sand on the beach in total fear, heart racing and all.
She isn't having this response because of a shark, she is responding this way to the movie in her mind.
And if she does this enough times, she will become really good at playing this movie and feeling these feelings. It will happen unconsciously and It will become her truth.
I think most of us would feel the same if we were thinking and feeling the same thing before swimming in the ocean. So, she works perfectly.
What she is doing works perfectly to get the result she is getting.
When a person is anxious and afraid to go near the edge of the balcony on a 15 story building, what might be the movie playing in his mind?
He is very likely playing the movie of imagining himself jumping over the edge and falling to his death.
He imagines what it feels like to fall to his death. He might even be imagining his own funeral.
Of course he would be trembling going near the edge!
When we imagine things clearly enough, the body doesn't know the difference between real life and imagination.
This is why people can become genuinely fear struck and frozen stiff by the traumatic movies they play in their mind.
What about a person who is paranoid to the point of fear and jealousy about their partner going for a night out with her friends. What movie might be playing in this persons mind?
It's obvious right... they're imaging their partner having a fling or connecting in a sexual way with someone else. And even though it's not real, the person's heart breaks thinking about it.
Could it happen? Sure. But It's not reality, it's just the persons out of control imagination.
The solution to the above three examples is within the individuals beliefs and thinking patterns.
When we play movies in our mind of a future that scares us, we will feel anxious.
This ability to imagine the future is an important part of our survival mechanism and its intention is to keep us safe.
But If we let it get out of control this fear of the future will hold us back from truly living life the way we truly want to.
We can change this when we learn to think about and focus on what we do want to happen in the future. And when we take the time to map out and mentally rehearse how we can best act to actualize the outcome we want to achieve. Then we can begin see with more grounded eyes.
So, it's the movies we play in our mind that cause us trouble's like anxiety.
When we get conscious of the movies in our mind, we can begin to manipulate them to make them more resourceful for the lives we want to live.
I used to face the same problem early in my boxing career when I was 14-15 yo.
At first, I would let my mind run wild with thoughts of what "could" happen - I would play movies in my mind of exactly what I didn't want. I would imagine myself running out of gas half way through the fight and how embarrassing it would be.
I would visualise getting knocked out in front of the crowd and how everyone might respond. I would imagine these things I didn't want to happen and I wouldn't be able to sleep the week before my fights. Often this visualisation of what I didn't want would pull me out of my body and I would feel weak from the fear.
Doesn't sound very useful for a person to perform at their best does it?
Luckily I was quick to recognised that what I was doing was holding me back from performing and enjoying the process of boxing. And that what I want to be doing instead is focusing on what I do want and what I can control.
So I began developing a mental preparation process for the fights that I would start as soon as I knew I had a fight on.
I would start by remembering what I can control - the three things: myself, my effort, and this moment.
Everything is out of my control and it is none of my business.
I would take back my power by recognising and taking charge of my responsibilities - what I can control.
Inside and outside of training for the fight would think about what I control.
"I control my body, I control my foot work, I control my hands, I control my punches and I control how prepared I am coming into this fight."
This would be my self talk during training with the upcoming fight in mind.
Weeks before the fight I would also consistently visualise everything from the calm, centred breaths I would take in the locker rooms before the fight, I would see myself walking out calm, focused and in control of myself. I would visualise every situation that could happen in the fight and how I will take control of it. I would visualise my fast foot work, my punches landing perfectly, my body moving how I wanted it to.
I took ownership of my mind by forcing myself to visualise what I did want to happen.
If my mind played a negative movie, like one of me getting hit with a big punch. I would re-play the movie again in my mind and change it so instead I slip the punch and counter his punch.
And think about what combination of punches I could throw after that.
I would play the most powerful and resourceful movies in my mind so often in the lead up to a fight that they become the natural thoughts I think. It was repatterining my mind.
In the change rooms before each fight I would be calm because I have mentally rehearsed this hundreds of times. I don't need to remind myself of what I am in charge of and what I control because my mind is already running that pattern. It's my truth.
I am able to be present, in the moment, calm and focused.
The rest future is in God's hands, so to speak.
Acknowledgements: Some of the concepts and ideas in this blog have come from the fields of NLP and Neuro Semantics