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Tom Blasco's Expert Bowling Tips

-The How's And Whys Of Your Inner Workings-The Brain (part 3)

01/22/2007 - By Tom Blasco

      Visualization, it's been around ever since athletes were tested on their physical skills. It is mentally rehearsing the moves and timing necessary to achieve a superior level of performance. The training of visualization stresses three steps: setting a goal, learning to relax and visualizing a successful outcome. Controversy of players exists. Some learn by watching a film or video, others feel they learn more by feel (doing), than an image.

      Since the brain can be fooled easily - to think it's performing a function when it is actually not, under visualization, specific movement performance techniques or personal endeavors create neural patterns in the brain. The more you see it mentally, the more ingrained these neural patterns become. Since it's the brain that tells the muscles what to do when and how to move, the stranger the neural pattern, and the more perfect the movement.

      Anyone can use visualization to achieve modest goals, improve performances and heighten their enjoyment of their particular sport.

      Learning anything involves a change in the brain - thinking, mental challenges, hard work and it takes huge amounts of energy. Thinking is accompanied by dramatic short term changes; bursts of electrical energy surge through the brain and muscles when active and cause alterations that are more or less permanent. New connections are created between brain cells and pressed into action. Stimulus (pictures, sound or other thing to the senses) to the brain creates electrical activity. There is a noticeable change in the voltage between the electrodes on the scalp when being tested.

      Committed to memory is a valid definition. Knowing is the end of a chain that begins with perceiving (by the senses), continues through thinking (by the brain converting external events into images and symbols such as words) and ends in remembering (which stores information in memory for later retrieval).

      Knowing is also knowing the "how to" thought process itself (inquiring and analysis). This is used to cover every mental activity that is commonly regarded as thinking or knowing; perceiving, recognizing, learning, conceptualizing, imaging, problem solving, reminding, reasoning and judging.

      Focused, Being in the Grove, The Zone, Dead Locked, Got the Stroke, Locked in, all terms relating to the athlete (player) almost flawless and seemingly perfect performance. Some psychologists believe that find the hot streak is the payoff of endless hours of practice and timing. No athlete maintains the hot streak forever. Why? Because the conscious mind gets involved in the performance process. It becomes the villain. It always want to help you, and usually messes you up. The answer lies somewhere in the more primitive areas of the brain, below the level of consciousness, where training of required skills is recorded in the motor memory. The hot streak, done by instructions from these areas may directly control visual and motor coordination, without passing through the conscious mind.

      The 10th frame one shot for the title and the money and through the nose - 4-6 split. Instantly, you hear, choked or can't perform in the clutch. Why a sub-standard performance for an instant or an extended periods - STRESS. The tournament, your practice session; thought patterns, athletic competition, all contribute to STRESS. Your ability to control this stress through concentration is part of the challenge you've accepted and of the sport. Stress affects the pendulum swing of the bowler, the movement of the players legs and even the release. It is difficult to master and monitor. When stress gives way to panic or even mild anxiety, you can lose concentration and perform poorly.

      Relaxation, meditation, breathing, Yoga, Zen, Self-talk are techniques being taught and used by today's athletes to help prevent the stress of first time situations, the sport and competition. Self-hypnosis, psycho cybernetics, muscle memory, biofeedback, autogenic training are also being taught and used. Regardless of what technique you use, the whole idea is to use a system that diverts the conscious mind to a natural relaxing response to the stress. Get yourself focused to the here and now-the present.

      An exercise such as closing the eyes and breathing deeply, affects the hypothalamus and decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, one of the body's main activators. This brings relaxation and enables you to regain control of your emotions. Training can help you learn to trigger this response.

      Anger, frustration, self-pity, all negative emotions have a bad affect on athletic performances. They create tension, drain energy and divert your attention from the task at hand. Many recover quickly from set backs and use distraction of all kinds to shield the mind. Mental strategies are employed in training which are designed to help them keep a positive attitude whether the problem is an irritant by an opponent, lapses of concentration, or the general tension of the event. Occasionally, an athlete uses anger to elevate their playing level. It becomes a positive force, not a negative emotion, but this is a rarity.

      NO!! Fear a reaction to a real threat (specific); Anxiety - feels a lot like fear but can occur without a specific cause, the source is vague.

      Fear may also function as a protective device that we could have learned from our early childhood through our adult years. Therefore, we are careful, alert and try to avoid them if we must face them.

      Anxieties can be beneficial in that they arouse and motivate us to be fully prepared for greater responsibility. Too much anxiety can diminish performance. Anxiety is excessively hard to control because it's normally coming from within for no apparent reason.

      People tend to emotion in their own natural level of anxiety, which may be higher or lower than the next person. Apprehension is a state of anxiety usually caused by a specific circumstance or situation, which sometimes causes us as players to become brain dead.

      Emotions are different from rational thought (cognition), from information known through our senses (perception) and from strong information (memory); yet our emotions interact with all these mental functions. An explanation of emotions has to consider three factors: (1) what triggers or arouses, and emotion; (2) how, having been aroused, body and mind respond or express there reaction; (3) how our physical and mental responses further color the way we experience an emotion. The mystery of emotions involves: arousal, expression and experience.

      What triggers emotional responses? Anything! So what happens to us? Massive change. Let's take a look at what happens, when you are bowling a game or match and you're locked, and all of a sudden the lanes change; a disturbance in the crowd, or something out of the norm interrupts the expected course of things.

      What happens at least for a moment or two, is automatic and out of control of the conscious mind. Several gut (visceral) reactions occur, amount to a bodily arousal that, if intense or prolonged is identical to stress. The heart beats faster, the liver is stimulated by hormones to release more energy - giving sugar into the bloodstream, changes in breathing pump more oxygen to the body and muscles, the stomach and intestines tighten (giving "butterflies"), the pupils of the eyes dilate, saliva dries up but sweat flows more freely and skin surface contracts causing a crawly feeling or "goose bumps".

      Very quickly, these bodily events register in the conscious mind. The next step how the mind reacts - depends entirely on the thinking and memory process of the individual.

      Can our minds arouse our emotions? YES! We don't even have to be bowling to create our emotional response to a situation, circumstance or event. Memories of past experiences or great success and how we felt can be effective emotional arousers. How we think and how we remember can intensify the feeling. You mind alone can cause visceral reaction, just like the real thing.

      Emotions are necessary for life and they present themselves on both ends of the spectrum as a villain and a worthy part of life. They often begin with the internal and external events that provoke us. Many of the emotions inspire us to improve our lives and the lives of others. They are necessary to enjoy great art and literature or rooting for your favorite ball team

      How many emotions are there? No one can agree on the number because they shade into one another. There could be dozen's or thousands. A short list of the most common are: acceptance, anger, anticipation, disgust, fear joy, sadness, surprise, greed, lust, love, disappointment, self doubt, shame, hate, bitterness, melancholia, anxiety and arousal.

      Because there are so many emotions, what someone feels depends entirely on the thinking, experience and memory of the individual.

      Can you study emotions? Probably not, because it's hard to keep the investigator's emotions out of the study and the environment you are studying affects your responses. Also, verbal description of the emotion are often misleading. So why the discussion, because we can make you aware of your emotions and possibly help you control them. The mystic of emotions straddles between the brain and body. The brains limbic system where thought seems to be converted to body reactions, and bodily stress to feelings. It is the control center for all signals traveling back and forth on nerve and brain pathways. It is the "mini-brain," automatically controlling our internal environment. It is the source of superior reasoning, and is comprised of many part of the brain. It is associated with cerebral cortex which permits advanced reasoning and planning, and it helps shape the basic motivations and emotions of our lives. It seems to act as a switchboard where emotional power is imparted to ideas, and reason, temper drives and emotions. The limbic system seems to help keep our behavior within certain limits; neither too cold rational nor too hotly emotional.

      Emotions begin as the brain develops and they grow more complex as we grow. Our expectations increase and we react if these expectations are challenged. We feel anger, disappoint and self doubt when you're rejected for a new job. Experiences make us worry and less prone to trust our feelings.

      Expression of emotion - your behavior is a significant clue to your own mental health. Here is where we must do the most work when we are reconstructing our game and ourselves. Culture to culture, our society dictates and we absorb the practices as we develop or associated with persons showing negatives on the lanes.

      Emotions play a great part in our everyday lives. We have positive and negative emotions. Negative emotions and thoughts provide impetus to failure - positive emotions and thoughts, success.

      Our main concern is success; therefore, our only interest is to produce positive emotions and thoughts in ourselves and we the bowlers. A happy bowler is a successful bowler, however, we cannot be happy all the time. But, the image of happiness we project often reflects itself back to ourselves, therefore it's hard to be unhappy.

      Life, is filled with pitfalls, ups and downs. The more emotionally stable individuals among us are without a doubt happier and successful. Why? Because they have learned to control their emotions. To related this to bowling you must realize that any negative thought is self-defeating and is a conscious emotion. Any conscious emotion other than one of well being and satisfaction must be firmly erased from your bowling intellect.

      To be imminently successful, you should be able to leave your emotions off the lanes taking with you only the knowledge that you are going to bowl well. When you see others explode into fits of anger and frustration, you'll do well to look away.

      Bowling with a dead pan expression and never showing your emotions of displeasure when struck with adversity can be used as a tool to maintain your self-discipline; fool an opponent, keeping your positive attitude, and than something with enthusiasm when successful, will help you and your teammates.

      Emotions can stop you from doing anything you want to. Learning to control emotions can stop nervousness when you don't want to be and stop your from dragging problems around with you. They help you feel comfortable around other people and communicate more easily. Learning to control emotions can make you happier and get more out of your life because you use your abilities to achieve your goals.

      Emotions are the wild card of human intelligence. They are the major difference from the most intelligent machines. Emotions result from thoughts as well as sensory perceptions, and can also create thought from sounds and imagination.

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