I wanted to share an experience that I had with you.
Some of you who come to see me know that one of my hobbies is bagpiping. Yes, if you see me for therapy, you’ll be the first kid on your block to have a therapist who wears a skirt. In public. On parade. With a very loud musical instrument gathering attention. Whatever.
Anyway, playing bagpipes is very difficult. The blowing part comes along easily, it is just a matter of about a month’s practice to get functioning, then regular practice to maintain the stamina. The playing on the chanter (the part held with the fingers) is what is difficult. In competition, it is a very perfectionistic instrument to play.
Self-hypnosis can be very helpful in dealing with performance anxiety.
So, I’m standing there, warming up for our pipe band‘s competition this weekend on a beautiful sunny day in Maryland out on a horse race track that has been taken over to become a Scottish Highland Game site. My thoughts were anxiety ridden, and I was thinking about how to calm myself down, because my practicing was not going well.
I decided to do some self-hypnosis, calming myself down, then remembering that inside of me is a real desire to play the pipes well, and a part of me that is a champion ready to come out. I imagined what it would be like if I was already a piping champion, and not only thought about it, but let myself feel what it would be like to inhabit the body of a champion piper, physically, cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually. I noticed my body instantly relaxing, becoming more straight, and as I played on the competition field, the tune essentially flowed effortlessly out of my instrument.
Perhaps there is something that you think you can’t do, or are afraid of doing because you think others will judge you. Try this meditation on for size and see what kind of positive improvement you notice. I’m no actor, but I assume that actors and actresses use a similar process when they prepare to succeed in their roles. Of course, don’t do this when you are driving or operating machinery, or if you are not comfortable with this kind of work.
Getting in touch with your Inner Champion
First, decide that you want to take an inner journey.
Sit down or stand, with both feet on the floor. Notice your breath, its coming and going, how deep it can go, what it is like to hold it momentarily and then let it go slowly until there is no further breath. Then breathe normally. Relax and let your tensions go with each successive breath, becoming more and more relaxed with each number as you count from 1 to 10 slowly. At 10, notice how much calmer you are, and allow your body to relax even further, feeling your feet more and more rooted in the earth until there is a solid connection, like roots going deep into the earth.
Let yourself imagine yourself as you are now in dealing with your issue. Let yourself think about it, feel it, be in it. When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
Let’s assume that you have had some success in the past with this issue. Let yourself remember times that you succeeded in the past or in the present with the issue you are dealing with? How did you do it? What did you think about when you were doing it? How did you feel when you were doing it? Let yourself be in that spot again when you felt more confident and had a sense of flow in dealing with it. Be there. When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
If you have had no recognizable success with this in the past, that is OK, and is perfectly manageable. Think of someone you know or have heard about or that you can imagine who is able to deal with this issue successfully, and with grace. Notice the qualities you have, even if small, which are similar. Imagine becoming that champion inside of you who is able to apply these qualities in a positive way. What do you notice is similar in terms of the way you think as you imagine and let yourself take on this role? What do you notice is similar in terms of the way you feel as you become this new person? How is your spirit when you realize that you are this person, even if in part? When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
Notice what it is like to be this champion, based on what you have known and felt from past successes or internal strengths. Feel the pride that comes with being able to picture yourself succeeding. Notice the ways that you experience your body as you get in touch with this new reality. When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
Put a descriptive name on this feeling or experience that sums up all of it. Be with it for a while and enjoy it. When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
Know that you can call upon this feeling, this set of thoughts, this body sensation any time that you need to be in touch with the internal champion that is you and that has not been recognized until now. Be with that. When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
Bring yourself back to present day awareness, and do something related to the issue, but not from the perspective that you had before, but from the perspective of being the internal champion, who, after all, is YOU. Let the internal champion do the work while the nervous person relaxes and watches.
If you make a mistake, if you make several, remember that champions make mistakes as well, but they learn from it with a spirit of grace and earned courage. You can do the same. When you are feeling this pretty well, move on to the next step.
After addressing that issue, or starting to address that issue, notice how it is succeeding, even in little bits, and put the negative thoughts on hold while you focus on being that internal champion for a time.
Let that internal champion out. It’s overdue to have its turn.