Jap P. Granat, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist, Founder, StayInTheZone.com
Jim was a thirty two, year old investment banker. Some would describe him as a bit of a “Type A” personality. He had been playing golf for fifteen years and had a fourteen handicap when he game to see me. His goal was to get down to a single digit handicap and win more of the tournament and outings he was playing in.
Jim had an excellent swing. He had taken a ton of lessons at some of the finest golf schools around the world. He was a good athlete and had played short stop at an Ivy League school.
Jim reported several problems with the mental parts of his game. First, he never would strike the ball as well on the course as he did on the range. Second, he was intimidated by some players. Third, he reported that he was quite anxious on the first tee. Fourth, he reported a loss of tempo when he was in the heat of a match.
Since many of Jim’s problems were related to anxiety, I taught him some simple breathing, relaxation, visualization and self-hypnotic techniques. These techniques are described in detail in my cd program How To Get In The Zone And Stay In The Zone With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis which is available at StayInTheZone.com.
In a few weeks, Jim was feeling much calmer on the first tee and had learned how to relax more fully while competing. Learning to fully relax helped him to take a couple of strokes off his handicap. I was not surprised because many golfers need to learn that the golf swing is a motion which might be thought of as “relaxed aggression.” Once they get the right blend of relaxation and aggression, they tend to strike the ball quite well. Jim, however, was still unhappy because he was not scoring as well as he wanted to in competitive matches. Jim was not sure what was blocking him from taking his game to the next level.
I explained to Jim that sometimes it was useful to explore dreams and day dreams to help a golfer determine what is preventing him or her from playing to their fullest potential. In addition, I explained, that dreams can often point out solutions to problems which our conscious mind can not discover. I reminded Jim that we have all had the experience of going to sleep with a problem on our mind and discovering the solution to the problem during a dream, when we awaken or while we are in the shower. This is an example of our unconscious mind doing some important work for us.
Jim was a bit skeptical because he reported that he rarely dreamt and rarely recalled his dreams. I explained that the hypnosis that he had already learned could help him to dream more often and to make good use of his dreams. Jim then seemed very curious and open to the idea of exploring his dreams. I placed Jim in a mild hypnotic trance and encouraged him to pay attention to his dreams and day dreams and place a dream journal next to his bed. Sure enough, when I saw Jim a week later, he had several vivid dreams and he also recalled some childhood dreams which were quite interesting. When I do dream work with athletes I am particularly interested in the most memorable dream, the most wonderful dream, the most terrifying dream, recurring dreams, a dream of choking and a dream of being in the zone.
These six dreams indicate a great deal about the person’s personality, their strengths and their weaknesses. These nocturnal thoughts also indicate what kinds of interventions I need to make to help the golfer enter the zone more often and play to his or her fullest potential.
Virtually all of his Jim’s dreams pointed to anxiety over being embarrassed and not living up to other’s expectations. We explored the origins of these feelings and I gave Jim some suggestions on how to let go of these self-defeating thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, Jim was still struggling with these issues for a few more weeks. I then suggested that Jim turn the problem over to his unconscious mind and that he be open to what his dreams might tell him about solving his anxieties on the golf course. I call this the “curative dream” or the “therapeutic dream.” Interestingly, the Greeks used these kinds of dream experiences for healing at dream temples many years ago. Jim was told to write a question down on a piece of paper before he went to sleep. He was then instructed to read the question to himself three times. The question was, “How can I be less concerned about others think about me on the golf course?” A week later, Jim came back with three interesting dreams. The first dream showed him playing golf in what he described as a tunnel or a vacuum. Everything was quiet and still. There were no people or distractions of any kind. The message here is quite logical, useful and turned out to be a helpful concept for Jim to keep in mind during tournaments.
In Jim’s second dream, his golfing opponents were transformed into clowns in circus garb. Jim and I both saw the humor and the value in bringing some levity to his concerns about others. This was another useful idea for Jim. In his third dream, Jim watched himself swinging to the tune of one of his favorite songs. His swing and tempo were perfect. Jim now hums this tune frequently on the course.
Jim utilized the advice from his unconscious mind and got his handicap down to a seven in just four months. He also won two tournaments. I have been counseling golfers and athletes from many sports for almost twenty years. Recently, I have started using dreams and day dreams to help athletes enter the zone more often.
If you are curious about how understanding your dreams can help you to golf in the zone, you can call me at 888 580-ZONE or visit StayInTheZone.com. In the meantime, tonight, before you go to sleep ask your unconscious mind to enjoy your perfect round this evening……
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and founder of StayInTheZone.com and SingleDigitHandicap.com has been featured in Golf Digest, ESPN Magazine and The Golf Channnel.