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Home > Columns > Lynn Seiser > February, 2005 - Mental Training: Mental Rehearsal
by Lynn Seiser

Mental Training: Mental Rehearsal by Lynn Seiser


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I do not always believe that simply by training my body to move in a certain way my mind will eventually change too. In counseling and psychotherapy, I see too many people who go through the motions temporarily to appease someone, even themselves, but eventually go back to old patterns of behavior, especially when under stress, because they have not changed the way they think about things.

While mental training will never replace physical training to learn a physical behavior skill, there are ways to assist the physical training with mental training. This is very common in the work of sports and performance psychology, hypnosis, and neuro-linguistic programming. I am fond of saying that, "wherever the head goes the body tends to follow." This applies to learning any new skill in the context of martial or spiritual arts, psychotherapy or counseling. One of the easiest, and most used, aids or techniques of mental training is mental rehearsal.

Mental rehearsal is more than simply going over something in your head. Mental rehearsal is a specific procedure of how you go over it in your head to decrease the likelihood of making mistakes again and increasing the likelihood that you will perform differently and better next time.

Take a deep breathe, let it out, and relax.

Think of a technique you are trying to learn. It is often easy to remember that last time you did it wrong. Unfortunately, going over it mentally pointing out mistakes, only makes it easier to make those mistakes again. You want to learn from your mistakes, not repeat them. Step outside yourself and watch the performance from a spectator or coaching position. When noting mistakes, note what the correct movement is. The body cannot execute a negative request about what you do not want. The body can only respond to the information it is given. Garbage in and garbage out.

Once you have seen enough, rewind the performance to the very beginning. Stop the tape. Make it a small black and white still and in your mind move it over to your left (this is the usual position of the past on your mental time-line).

Begin the performance again, this time practicing the behavior you do want. From that spectator/coaching position, notice any needed corrections. When you have made the correction, step inside your body and feel the performance as if you are actually doing the technique. Keep running the tape of the performance through your mind until you can actually feel your body naturally slightly move with the thoughts. The body will respond to vivid visualization with subtle neuro and energetic responses that help habituate pathways. Continue to practice it mentally, from the inside, as if it is the hundredth or thousandth time.

Think of the next time you will have the opportunity to physically execute this technique. See what stimulus triggers the responding technique. Let the stimulus and response naturally connect and associate. Find another time in the future and mentally rehearse the natural and spontaneous response. In addition, find another, and another. Mentally rehearse until the association between stimulus and response becomes automated and natural.

Take a deep breath, let it out, and relax.

This was just your first training session. If you are like me, we will have to physically practice and mentally rehearse many times before you will get it right. We then continue to make more subtle corrections and keep polishing the mental and physical mirror that reflects our lives.

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!


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