Do you wish you weren’t so sensitive to criticism?
Do you tend to back away or leave the room when conflict arises?
Do you think that your partner is either too emotional or not emotional enough?
Have you been told you have a short temper, or are you aware, on your own, that you get frustrated too easily?
Do you wish you had more self-confidence?
If you answered, “Yes.” to any of those questions, you would probably benefit from an increase in “mental toughness,” the stuff of sport psychology.
In essence, sport psychology focuses on mental strategies designed to improve performance – any kind of performance. Inoculation against perceived threat is a fundamental objective, because perceived threat – imaging that something in the future will be harmful (You’ll lose the competition.) – sets up a significant fight or flight physiological process in the brain/body (a stress response) that interferes with smooth, desired performance. Being able to control one’s stress responses is what separates “the men from the boys” and women “in big girl panties” from little girls.
So, a “Yes.” answer to any of the questions above means you’d benefit from transforming “perceived threat” into “perceptions of personal control.” Please understand that “perceived threat” does not mean being stared down by a real bear. That would instill appropriate fear. “Perceived threat” is imagining a real bear is staring you down; feeling like a real bear is staring you down. Examples of perceived threat are: the expectation of embarrassment or of feeling inadequate or of being hurt emotionally or, simply, of feeling frustration with oneself or others – again.
So, what’s the “cure” for the perception of threat? Perception of personal control – belief in your ability to manage a situation! Sometimes called mental toughness or grit or just plain self-confidence, it is belief in oneself. Of course, a high skill level is also required of competing athletes, if they are to believe in themselves. The same two factors – self- confidence and special skills are also essential for partners in a couple. Each needs self- confidence as well as high levels of skill in relationship maintenance.
There is a difference between sport psychology and couple counseling, however. In sport psychology, the psychologist works with athletes’ mental skills, whereas coaches work on physical skills. In couple counseling, the counselor often works with a couple on both mental (intra-personal, self-confidence) skills as well as interpersonal (relationship maintenance) skills. However you look at it, mental state and behavioral skills are the stuff of successful athletes as well as successful couples.
I am knowledgeable in the theory and techniques used in sport psychology. When appropriate, I apply them in couple and marriage counseling.