Why have I lost my confidence?
When working with riders I hear these anguished comments all the time ...“....But I’ve ridden challenging horses all my life...I’ve had so many falls and it’s never affected me like this before...I used to really enjoy a good gallop across country but can’t do open spaces any more.....I just freeze when I think about jumping ....”
So WHY do we lose our confidence?
I think it helps to imagine loss of confidence as the brain’s way of keeping us stuck – or a BRAIN CAGE – a place where we do the “What if’s” to be on the look-out for trouble - a place where we don’t voluntarily want to move out of.
Now why would the brain want to do that to us ?
Simply put – to keep us from harm.
At some point we had an experience that frightened, confused us or threatened us in some way, and our Physical Emergency Response (PER) aka “Fight or Flight” response kicks in. But there are two other aspects to the PER that riders might also relate to, those of “Faint and Freeze”. I’ve had clients that regularly faint before exams and freeze in competitions.
The trouble is that the PER also steals from other systems. Like Clever thinking - we go into Reflex thinking and can so easily forget that test or course causing us more anxiety. It also steals from good Digestion and effects the sphincter muscles - think tummy upsets and numerous trips to the loo!
The Brain works by using patterns of behaviour rather like our computer uses software programs. When we encounter something new, the brain will do a quick check and asks “What normally happens here?” and we access the software to deal with it.
If what normally happens is nice we get a lovely shot of “feel good” chemicals and a pleasant anticipation. If what has happened in the past was not so pleasant or is linked to a memory of a past injury or accident - we then get a shot of chemicals to boost our awareness and to prepare us for something nasty and to help us get energy to our limbs to run or fight.
However, nothing acts in isolation. Sometimes the seeding memory that has affected our confidence so badly is linked to a time in our lives where we were dealing with other stresses - such as relationship or work challenges, or family illness or bereavement, then it is given an even more heightened emotional charge and level of anxiety, literally effecting our core identity and sense of purpose and knocking us off our feet !
BSc Clinical Hypnosis, NLP Master Sports Psychology, BHS AI & ISM