Negative Emotional Events in MMA

MMA Picture of emotional athleteMMA is the fastest growing martial arts sport in the world for many reasons; one of the most impactful is certainly the fact that it is very exciting. What makes it so is also the fact that it is very hard to predict the outcome of a fight, anyone can win, there can be an upset around the corner in any fight. Titles change hands faster than they do in any other combat sport and perfect records have become a rare thing to come across. And there are several reasons why MMA is so volatile; we describe some of them in the “The Art of Winning – Always” article. Some losses are easier to take than others and this depends on things like the importance you have given the fight, the emotional involvement that you have with the fight or with your opponent, your fight record, your previous fight’s outcome, your goal in MMA and, often most significant, is the manner in which you came short.

People react differently to different events; a mistake in position during a scramble which gave the opponent that arm triangle which ended up costing the fight may be taken lightly by a stand up fighter but might cause more frustration and disappointment to a BJJ black belt. Some may not be able to react positively to a knock out, there have been many who fell into depression after a KO loss. Other athletes may create negative emotional associations to long hard-fought battles which didn’t end with a victory. George Foreman said in an interview that it took him 12 months to recover mentally from the loss against Mohammed Ali!

Negative Emotional Event (NEE) can be clear to spot; like a sense of anxiety, fear or general uncomfortable feeling when we think about the fight ahead. Or they could be more unconscious, embedded deeply within our unconscious mind. These come in the form of negative feelings that seem to attack us when we think about the task in hand. This type of NEE is very powerful for the simple reason that it might take time before we realise that the negative feelings or thoughts that we “get” when we have to fight or even when we think about fighting, come from a specific event. In fact some never actually realise it and try to suppress the feeling and this of course rarely works. These athletes often end up quitting their MMA career or settling for much less than they could achieve. In this article we wanted to include practical steps to 1. prevent NEE form happening and 2. delete them when/if they do happen.

The mechanic with which NEEs form is the same as the one described in “The Power of Neuro Associations in MMA” but is 1. not intentional, 2. obviously undesired and 3. more dangerous because it could be alimented by fear and anxiety. Basically, an event caused a significant emotional state (fear, shock, extreme frustration, sadness etcetera) and our mind would often tend to associate/link these negative emotions with the surroundings, the circumstances and the situation in general (the event). In short, our mind does this: Negative emotion and feeling started in the cage when fighting so fighting in the cage will bring the same negative emotion I felt when the significant event happened. What happens then is that whenever we think of going back to the same environment or similar situation, our mind would do all it can to make us change our plans.

Solution – Prevent

The best solution is to prevent NEEs from happening in the first place and the way to do this is pretty simple.

  1. Understand them. By reading this article, you have learnt about NEEs, what they are and what feelings they may be responsible for. By doing this you are already minimising the chances of them happening because you take away the element of unconscious surprise.
  2. Goal Setting for each fight. If you complete the goal setting procedure as described in the Goal Setting article, you will force your mind to consider all scenarios and that will make it much harder for the unconscious mind to form NEEs.
  3. Take yourself (and everything else) lightly. I have seen many people become way too intense about a fight, too emotionally drawn into the fight. What happens when we do this is that if things don’t go as planned, we would most probably take it very badly. Take it lightly, be pumped up yes, be excited and ready to explode but with a smile on your face, have fun. This is a good idea also because it would help you be physically less tense.

Solution – Delete/Alleviate

In the event that you feel that a negative emotional event is responsible for any undesired feeling or thought, then the next thing to do is to let go of it. Because NEEs are formed at the unconscious level, there are a few techniques that can be adopted to let go of them; the one that I use very often and which I call FaNEM (fast negative emotion model) is outlined here below. Follow these simple steps and the negative associations should alleviate and eventually go.

  1. Calibration. Think of the event that caused the NEE – the traumatic event after which you started to experience the negative emotion/s. When you think about it, how intense is the negative feeling in a scale of 1-10? Write that down somewhere.
  2. Imagine that you are in a movie theatre, seated down in the centre of the front row.
  3. Imagine now that you float out of your body and get yourself a comfortable seat in the balcony, so you can watch yourself seated in the front row watching the screen – almost like ”you watching another you”.
  4. Put the very beginning of the event (before things got unfavorable) on the screen in colour. Run the movie of the entire event all the way to end (to the point where all was over) but faster like fast-forwarding and mute, as you remain in the balcony watching that “other you” sitting in the front row who is watching yourself on the screen.
  5. At the end of the movie, freeze the frame as if it becomes a still image. Now change the picture to black and white and then imagine floating from the balcony all the way into the body of that you in the movie so that you will see everything in the first person. Run the movie backwards at 4 x speed or faster and in black & white; if you can imagine a funny music playing as you do this (or even have real music in the background) even better. When you get to the beginning freeze again and turn the movie into a still image.
  6. Walk out of the still picture (out of the body of that you in the movie) and sit back down in the centre of the front row of the theatre.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 as at least 5 times or until the emotion associated with the memory (the one which you used during Calibration) is erased. This means that when you think about the event, you no longer experience the negative feelings that you did before.

I know that some of the techniques and exercises may seem “off the wall”, your mind responds well to these kinds of techniques and this is the easiest and fastest way to make lasting changes. If you look at my websites, you will see hundreds of testimonials of people who changed their lives in only one or two sessions and it is because of simple techniques like this one that these changes are made.

Lastly remember that your mind is like a muscle, it needs exercise, training and repetition; if things don’t come out right the first time, do them again and it will become easier and easier, just like any drill at the gym.

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