Mental Block

Mental Block Dear Marv,

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.

Dear 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 to focus.

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.

Marv Fremerman

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 time.


Dear Alexis,

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 blocks."

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.

Marv Fremerman

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?

Dear JLSK2000,

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.


Marv Fremerman

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