The Inner Game of Golf: Getting Rid of Negative Mantras
Creating a Positive Focused State of Mind
By Audrey Sussman PhD, Director Anxiety Control Center
The purpose of this article to reveal what you can do to stop negative thoughts that get in the way of your game. Would you like to create a positive, focused state of mind? At the end of this article there will be a link so you can get your own copy of 2 Mind Calming exercises used at the Anxiety Control Center. Although written for golfers the ideas are really for anyone who finds their mind racing with disconcerting thoughts.
Golf is like life, that’s what makes it such a complex sport. One day you are in perfect rhythm with things moving smoothly, and the next you just can’t seem to get into the flow.
The golf course can be a wonderful place to hone your skills or take a break from the pressures of work. But, at times you may notice that an uninvited guest tags along, turning what would normally be to an enjoyable experience into an exasperating one. No, I’m not talking about an annoying acquaintance tagging along, I’m talking about the unsettling “voice” that plays in the “back of the mind.” I call that negative voice a negative mantra. It’s like having an internal narrator or a play-by-play commentator.
When your inner voice is positive and supportive it enhances your skills, and you can fall into a natural rhythm, focused, alert, and “in the zone”. But when the voice turns negative, it can have devastating effects on your game that have nothing to do with your capability. When a negative mantra “plays” on the unconscious level it can lead in an undesired direction, creating stress, anxiety, anger or doubt in your own abilities.
Like any meditation, negative mantras gain power with repetition as they play subconsciously, again and again, in your head. Sometimes these negative mantras are obvious, like when you are beating yourself up for a slice on an earlier hole. You know what’s distracting you, but just don’t know how to stop “the voice”.
At other times you may not even be aware of your own negative mantras. You don’t know why you’re “off.” You just know that you are. And this feeling of being “off” can soon become an even stronger negative mantra of its own.
What goes on at the golf course can also reflect what is happening in other areas of your life. A negative feeling from home or work, or even something that happened last time you were golfing can travel with you during your play, subtly affecting your concentration, your rhythm, and your enjoyment of your day on the course.
The good news is that negative mantras do not have to control your life. The first step of being in control of your own mantras is to become aware of them. Start the process today with a simple action. Next time you get annoyed, frustrated or stressed, stop and “listen” for the thoughts playing in your mind. At first it may take awhile to become aware of the specific negative mantras that are affecting you, but as you fix your attention on what’s going on in your head, you’ll notice that repeating themes start to emerge.
Because negative mantras gain power through unconscious repetition, this simple act of “going inside” and listening actually changes your state, and sometimes can be enough to stop a negative mantra in its tracks.
Other times, you may find that a negative mantra is so powerful that simply becoming aware of it is not enough to stop it. In this case, you need to take the next step to convert these negative mantras into positive ones, like the ones you carry around when golfing at your best. There are many techniques that can be learned to quickly reprogram and change negative thoughts and mantras.