Sometimes the hardest battle in sport/ horses/ life is the battle with our own minds 🧠, or more specifically our thought distortions. You know- that intrusive, very unhelpful and DEMANDING AF 😡 voice in your head that brings up all your 'failures', your 'flaws' and any other reason why you can't or won't be able to do something. We all have these from time to time and if you try to tell me you don't then frankly I DON'T BELIEVE YOU 😉 So listen up and lets get to the bottom of how we can deal with these and how we can let them be there but also carry on and do the damn thing.
👀 Firstly, lets take a look at the different ypes of thought distortions and identify what ones apply to your trains of thought, aka unhelpful thinking patterns.
👉 All or nothing thinking (black and white): Your thoughts fall into only a couple of categories, for example; "My riding sucks, I am never going to be any good."
👉 Mind reading: You predict what others are thinking or how they are going to react to you saying/ doing whatever, for example; "I really want to try and move up a level but people are going to say I am not ready at me, or laugh at me for trying" (heads up, if they do then you don't need that negativity in your life so bye felicia- it is none of your business what people think of you and if close people are bringing you down then they aren't the people to be sharing your energy and space with)
👉 Unhelpful/ limiting rules: You abide to rules that stifle your progress, for example; "I am ready to move up to level xxx but I must wait until I get xx% at this level/ I win lots of ribbons at this current level."
👉 Justification: Linking two unrelated items to justify a decision, for example; "I don't need to go to my lesson tomorrow because I had a good ride today and I can't be bothered', (yo thats basic)
👉 Delusional thinking: Convincing yourself of something you don't really believe to justify a decision/ action, for example; "It's raining and I haven't ridden for a few days so another day off doesn't matter". (In the scale of the world- no it doesn't matter if any of us ride our horses, or do anything for that matter, but in terms of your training and achieving your goals then yeah this attitude matters because likely this isn't one time thinking and all those single days add to many many days of no progress and training).
👉 My fave- Exaggerated thinking; You turn a situation into something wayyyyyy bigger than it really is, for example; "I HAD A BAD RIDE TODAY I SUUUUUCK (blah blah blah)"
Okay so what now?
🖊 Write all that stuff down! Get it on paper, I want you to see and I mean REALLY see these thought distortions in the flesh.
This is the first step of diffusing/ unhooking from those thoughts. When they are in front of you then you have to confront them and accept that these are thoughts that you are HAVING. Not who you are as a person/ rider/ etc. This exercise will help separate YOU from your THOUGHTS. You don't have to give power to them by adopting them into your identity which is what very often will happen with these tricky thoughts. We start to believe we are them. You will see that you are not your thoughts but by writing them and seeing them there in front of you that you are the observer of your thoughts. Metacognition describes the awareness and understanding that you have of your thoughts and thought processes and this is empowering and super helpful in moving past them.
👏 Good news! You can reframe your thoughts. It might sound fluffy doing this work and it isn't going to happen overnight, but with practise over time (and I don't mean a matter of a couple of weeks or months, I mean really put effort into it over as long as it takes until what you tell yourself in your mind, you believe it in your heart- that is when magic begins to happen and stuff begins to 'fall into place'.
Reframing thought distortions involves shaping them into a thought that is more helpful, realistic and believable (even if you want to still beat yourself up because you are a human and we like to get on our own cases - Yes I see you 😉 ). Taking the step back to allow yourself to hold space for this will help you avoid attention bias and consider the whole picture.
Remember, it is likely your thought distortions are stemming from fear and the only way through is to face up to it. You are so much more than your anxieties (even when they tell you that you aren't anything).
Protect your peace 🙏 , don't let anyone tell you that you can't or you are not worthy and definitely don't be that person who is your own worst enemy 😇
Photo by Han.