Athletes Are Not The Only Ones Who Practice – We all practice being who we are.

Posted: July 10, 2011 in Basic Concepts, The Uncoscious

This is a concept that I will also refer back to. It is one of the profound concepts. Having to refer back is a reality of this thought and self exploration that I am writing this blog (and hopefully book) for. These understandings are woven together like a grass mat. Remove 1 and the whole thing starts to fray and falls apart.

Why athletes practice
I think that all of us will agree that even the best athletes have to practice to remain “the best”. Here is a question that seems rhetorical at first. “Why?” What is it that Tiger is doing by repeating the same swing, or a Verlander “warms up” before taking the mound, Eliot Fisk practices the same tune over and over again, or Armstrong would do anything else but ride in the Tour for? I would get much agreement if I said, “They do it to make the perfect swing, pitch, performance, ride something they don’t have to think about.” They push it to the unconscious. They strive to make the right behavior is just a reaction. How well a batter does against Verlander depends on how quickly he can assess the speed and trajectory of the oncoming ball and the brain transmits the appropriate commands to all the muscles and ligaments. The less an athlete has to think about it, the better he is at his task. Sometimes athletes learn wrong, or are convinced there is a better way. Golfers often “learn a new swing”. It means replacing that which they have ingrained with the new way. This is considerably more difficult.

We all practice being us
I think that I can still keep heads nodding if I say that sports and music are more then just physical but also mental. Aside from the above mentioned motor related mental connection, there is also an emotional related attribute to any activity. For example, I play darts a lot. I am actually not as good as I should be for as much as I play. (ADD might be partially to blame for this.) I know how to hit the bull’s eye every time. Yet at best, when I am playing a relaxed game with people who are just doing it for something to do at the bar, I only hit it 33.3%. That percentage dramatically increases when I force myself to focus OR I am in a clutch game. My whole mental focus must be grabbed and forced into one task. I play with others who do not have to put as much a conscious effort to achieve the same results. To them, the task of throwing darts has been assimilated into their subconscious. The reason I like darts so much is because it takes such concentration that it distracts me from the chaotic and painful life that has surrounded my day to day. That only works because it isn’t that natural for me.

What do you practice
So here is where I try to walk you into a new understanding. Athletes and musicians are not the only ones who practice. In fact, emotionally we have all been practicing (at least) since the moment we were born. We have been trying to learn what behavior to emulate since day one. A desire turns into a conscious debate of all the possible reactions to that desire that we know of. A conscious debate turns into an action. If that action brings us a pleasurable result, it is registered as a “behavior”. We repeat that behavior until it becomes a personality trait. A personality trait is something we do without conscious debate. When a mental health professional is tasked with addressing or changing a behavior, it is their job to trace that process backwards. This is called a “psychological pathology”. When it becomes a personality trait, it is a reaction. It no longer requires conscious thought. Because of that reason, patients often don’t even remember where they learned it. Many times they are not even aware they are doing it.

A later post to discuss the mechanics
Because I want to tackle this in bits, I will hold off on going too deeply into the process of debate and reaction as a concept. But the lesson is that how we treat our parents, siblings, family, friends, spouses, and children are the result of lifelong practice. (doesn’t matter if that “life” is a couple of years or 80 years.) BUT we do things without thinking about them. This concept can be applied to everything from aspects of abuse to lifestyle choices. AND, just as breaking an arm can change the physical aspect of an athlete’s performance, a major emotional break can change personality traits. (Think about what has happened to Tiger Woods since he had that marital trouble.) Sometimes for the better, sometime not. If you are reading this, for the most part everything you do (including reading boring blogs written by crazy laymen about psychological issues) has been practiced in some aspect long before you did it. Then there is “anxiety” caused by trying a different approach. HMMM. More stuff for later.

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