I saw you site on the internet as I was searching for a sports
psychologist. I was wondering if you could give me some advise,
as I appear to have some sort of mental block that is stopping
me progressing with my horses in my chosen area of dressage.
The problem began around 18 months ago when I purchased a new
horse to bring on for dressage, and to help my older horse into
semi retirement. However she grew too large and ditched me more
time than I choose to remember. I decided to sell the horse on
and buy myself something smaller to do the job. Although the
horse is strong she seems to be a genuine short with no particular
hang ups. But my problem is that when ever I get on this horse,
its as if I've gone back to previous horse and I'm just sat there
waiting for something to happen. I tense up and become very nervous,
and Its got to the point were I can't even get this horse in
to canter. I know it all stems from my bad experience from the
previous horse, but are there any tips or advise you can give
me in order for me to progress. I would be very grateful if you
could advise me. I shall look forward to hearing from you soon.
Warmest Regards, Ellie.
I discussed your situation with my daughters who know quite
a bit about horses (they both competed in jumping shows) and
one of them is soon to provide me with a listing of individuals
who deal with problems such as yours. When I receive the list,
I will forward it on to you so that you might contact them directly.
In the meantime, based on my experience working with athletes,
when beliefs change, there's usually a good reason behind the
change. It may be that just at the time you were switching horses,
something may have happened in your personal life that, up to
this time, you've chosen not to confront. If this is so, not
confronting the issue directly affects how you feel about yourself
and controls, to a great extent, your belief system and your
willingness to take a risk. It also directly affects your ability
Based on the theory of cognitive dissonance, in order to change
a belief, you must receive authenticated information and data
from a source that is not in harmony with what you believe to
be true. When this happens, an imbalance occurs and it is through
the restoration of this balance that beliefs change.
I hope this has been of some help. Good luck. I will pass
the additional information on to you as soon as I receive it.
Bottling up your Feelings
Hello there. Thank your for your availability in taken e-mails
on the subject of "mental blocks". (I am sure that
name isn't the scientific label you may use, it is all I've known.)
I browsed through your letters and replies to find guidance
in solving my personal athletic problem. The letter regarding
the young diver is closely related to my own in that it touches
on diving. Yet, I am sure any block in performance no-matter
the sport is all related.
Well, to get on with it...I am now 24 years old and still
struggling with not being able to perform the same tricks as
when I was 9. I refuse to let my sports go with age. I am still
strong and healthy as well as determined to nip it in the bud.
Around the age of 8 I started gymnastics. Less than a year went
by and I started developing a fear of backward tricks. Ones that
I have done before without fear several times. I had never fallen
or got hurt. I guess just received a conscience. I struggled
for several years with the same fears. Sometimes getting over
them briefly. Sometimes the fear spread to other tricks and apparatus.
When I was in high school, I went out for the springboard diving
team. Friends were able to persuade me being that divers who
were previous gymnasts did very well at the sport. And they are
very similar. So similar that I too, had fears. Fears that would
force me not to go on dives. Even to this very day, I want to
perform so badly and cannot muster up the gut to go. At this
age, being both a diving and gymnastics coach , it sickens me
that I cannot force myself to do this easy tricks. I push my
students past their fears. I use positive reinforcement, etc.
and they are able to go.
I read your solutions on the young diver. My problem is that
it has been many years since I have had the problems that my
have lead to my blocks. I have no idea where to start looking
for my problem.
This block had been a burden for some time. It has lead to
the my retirement in two sports. I cannot be satisfied until
I have fixed the problem. Please help. Thanks again for your
Thanks for your letter... mental blocks are sometimes very
difficult to deal with, since they often involve you changing
your belief system regarding what you can and can't do. But I've
found that generally (not always), but generally, when there
is a mental block, there is also something going on in athletes'
personal lives affecting how they are viewing various issues
in their lives (as the saying goes, "we see things as we
are"...not as they are, but as we are...) So if you've been
bottling up your feelings (which is a possibility) over some
other issues (possibly totally unrelated to your sport) you are
going to begin to see the negative side of what you can and can't
achieve. And these negative beliefs surface in the form of "mental
I must tell you that I am not a licensed therapist, but based
on your letter, it might not be a bad idea for you to see one
locally where you live. You sound like a very intelligent woman
(very introspective) and I've found that very often, those who
fall into your category become engrossed in looking at themselves
and their own behavior...almost to the extreme.
I'm not sure if I've been able to help you, but if you have
any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Secret Mental Block
My daughter who is 14 has been taking springboard diving lessons
in the summer for the last 4 years. The last two years she has
also attended a week long overnight diving camp. She likes diving
a lot and is good at it. Now for the problem. A reverse dive
is a required dive. Amy has probably done less than 12 total.
She worked them at camp last summer and did not perform any.
This summer she worked them her first day and actually did one
that the coach said was awesome. Then her second was a little
close to the board. She did perform one during the exhibition
for parents at the end of camp but you could tell she was tense,
not her normal calm performer. After returning from camp, she
performed a few with her summer coach but never willingly. Now
she has started the high school season. She did two one day last
week (after much encouragement) and then the next day she did
one that was too close to the board. Now she refuses to try them.
Her coach is trying to get her to use mental imaging and her
comment to me was that she kept crashing. She needs to perform
a reverse dive and a reverse summersault, these skills are holding
her back from being a very successful diver. Any suggestions
on getting past the mental block?
Sorry to use the above, but since your letter wasn't signed,
I'm not certain to whom I'm responding. But be that as it may,
I have a few observations for you.
Your daughter's coach is correct in suggesting she use mental
imaging to see herself successfully completing her reverse dive.
But if she continues to see herself crashing, producing a negative
outcome, more than likely, she has some issues going on in her
personal life that are affecting her perspective on how she views
herself and her world around her. (We see things as we are.)
You mentioned that your daughter is 14. That is the age when
young men become an important part of young girls' lives. Without
meeting your daughter, I believe there's a good possibility (and
let me emphasize the word "possibility") that she is
having some kind of "boy problems" that she is withholding
from you. (One way to check this out is by discussing her relationship
with a favorite boyfriend (or boyfriends) and if she breaks eye
contact - that means that your discussion has touched on an issue
that she has yet to resolve - or, that she is in the process
of resolving.) And if her eye contact is not very good, regardless
of the subject, there is a possibility that she is keeping her
feelings bottled up and that means she is not performing anywhere
near her skill level. Withholding is a form of lying that demeans
you and lowers your self-esteem thereby creating psychological
baggage affecting focus.
It's not unusual for young girls and boys to have issues with
the opposite sex, and very often, these issues affect their own
feelings of self-worth (especially if they are keeping them bottled
up) and, as mentioned above, this subsequently affects their
performance in a sport. I would encourage you to allow her to
open up to you about her personal life; and if she doesn't, then
I would then encourage you to examine your own relationship with
your daughter. When parents are "there" for their children,
and will listen to their issues without being judgmental, then
their children will more easily open up to them and discuss any
issues with them that may be preying on their minds.
By the way, the fact that you didn't sign your letter tells me
there is a possibility that you are somewhat secretive about
your personal life, and if this is so, it's also possible that
your daughter is also secretive. (As they say, the acorn never
falls far from the tree.) Keeping secrets bottled up is never
conducive to being successful in sports competition.
Please let me know if I can be of further help.