Timmie Pollock, Ph. D , C.C. – AASP
Equestrian Athlete Sport Psychologist
Your Horse Is Your Mirror Series
Self -Erected Roadblocks Part 2
The belief that “I don’t deserve anything good” is surprisingly commonplace. Let me give you another example of the ways that this crippling mindset can affect one’s riding. When my client John was sixteen and a new driver, he was hit by another car. The other driver’s two-year-old child died in the crash. John tried unsuccessfully to rescue the child and, even though he was not at fault, still had guilt and vivid memories of the crash ten years later.
John came to me because he had been riding at the same level for several years and wanted to improve. He felt “stuck” and could not find a good explanation for his lack of progress. As with Molly, standard sports-psychology mental-skills training was not proving effective.
As I got to know John, the story of the accident came out. He still felt considerable remorse and became emotional when he recounted the event. It became apparent that he believed that, because he had “caused” the child’s death, he did not deserve success in his own life. Through our work, he began to accept the death as the accident it was. He started to understand that it was not necessary or helpful to give up happiness in his own life in order to atone for something that he had not caused. From that point, we went back to our standard mental-skills work. Johns riding immediately improved.
Our self-concept and beliefs about what to expect in life are based on two kinds of early information. The first is what others – especially parents and other adults – tell and show us. The second is the (usually immature) conclusions children draw based on their interpretation of experiences and of the way they are treated by others.
This information causes us to conclude that life is either generally positive or negative. If you believe that life will treat you well as a whole, then any negative beliefs tend to have minimal impact. But if you learn at an early age that life holds much unpleasantness, then you may unwittingly behave in ways that attract more negative outcomes, even though you may say and believe that you are trying to avoid such incidents. Eventually, you may become unhappy and frustrated and even may resign yourself to these limitations. The saying “What you think is what you get,” for better or worse, is quiet true.
Dr. Pollock is a Clinical and Sport Psychologist based in La Jolla, California. She has worked exclusively with equestrian athletes from all disciplines of riding for over 20 years. In her practice she uses a variety of techniques including biofeedback, hypnosis, EMDR and TFT in addition to the basics of mental skills training.
Dr. Pollock is a lifelong horse owner, breeder, and rider and has competed for over twenty-five years, primarily in dressage. She has also competed in Hunter/Jumper and Eventing divisions as well. She can be found on her new equestrian athlete Sport Psychology at EQUExcellence.com