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Sometimes we associate our anxiety with inanimate objects. Like the tee box on a golf course. That was the case with a college golfer I worked with. Her anxiety, doubt, and insecurity were off the charts—so much so that she automatically started looking for a trashcan near the first tee because of her constant feeling of nausea before teeing off.

She tried several popular coping mechanisms ranging from visualizing a great tee shot to breathing exercises to extended hours of practice. All of her hard work failed to “cure” her of the anxiety.

There are several reasons why:

  1. She does not need to be cured of anything; she is not flawed or deficient of mental strength or toughness. She is human and experiencing normal human emotion.
  2. External circumstances do not cause internal feeling states.
  3. By innocently believing the event caused her angst, she revved up her thinking. Adding thought does not help to achieve peak performance.
  4. Confidence is a by-product of a clear mind and not the result of pounding golf balls or remembering past successes.
  5. Human beings were not created to be victims of circumstance. Each one of us has inherent dignity, glory and personal power, which we intuitively know when our heads are clear.

My clients sometimes say I sound like a broken record because I consistently point to the thought-feeling connection as the foundation of the human experience. All feeling states (confidence, insecurity, joy, gratitude, anger, sadness, hope, despair, doubt, happiness) are an effect of your thinking in the moment.

My client’s anxiety is a result of her thought storm.

  • Today better not be the day I actually vomit on the tee box; I would be so embarrassed.
  • What if I don’t play well?
  • Am I good enough to play collegiate golf?
  • Did I work hard enough?
  • What if I am the reason my team loses?
  • What if I duff my tee shot?

My client’s battle against the content of her thinking and her desire for relief from uncomfortable feelings clouded her head, lowered her mind-set and narrowed her perspective. Tragically, many remain in a low state of mind seeking answers by looking outside of themselves for a list of action steps.

But there are no action steps.

For her to experience mental freedom, she must deepen her understanding of the following:

  1. Her pre-shot thoughts are normal and not a problem.
  2. She need not be afraid of uncomfortable feelings.
  3. She cannot control the content or timing of her thoughts.
  4. Her thinking in the moment is the cause of her angst, not the situation.
  5. She does not have to pay attention to the content of her thinking. Ever.
  6. Connecting her feeling state to her thinking stops her from habitually associating her angst with the tee box.
  7. By looking within, she gives room for her psychological immune system to take over and for stagnant thoughts (what if I don’t play well?) to naturally and effortlessly move through. Then new ones can easily arrive—thus, changing her feeling state.

Your world will change when you see the truth of the thought-feeling connection. Like I said last week (How to Win Against Injury), I wish this understanding instantly alleviated mental distress. It doesn’t, but it does eliminate prolonging mental suffering by adding thought while allowing space for your natural healing mechanism to restore you back to clarity.

Yes, I am a broken record. Psychological freedom is found by seeing that all feeling states are the by-product of your thinking in the moment. Always.

Peace and love,
Bruce