Do you wish you weren’t so sensitive to criticism?
Do you tend to back away or leave the room when conflict arises?
Do you think that your partner is either too emotional or not emotional
Have you been told you have a short temper, or are you aware, on your own,
that you get frustrated too easily?
Do you wish you had more self-confidence?
If you answered, “Yes.” to any of those questions, you would probably
benefit from an increase in “mental toughness,” the stuff of sport
In essence, sport psychology focuses on mental strategies designed to
improve performance – any kind of performance. Inoculation against
perceived threat is a fundamental objective, because perceived threat
– imaging that something in the future will be harmful (You’ll lose the
competition.) – sets up a significant fight or flight physiological process
in the brain/body (a stress response) that interferes with smooth, desired
performance. Being able to control one’s stress responses is what
separates “the men from the boys” and women “in big girl panties” from
So, a “Yes.” answer to any of the questions above means you’d benefit from
transforming “perceived threat” into “perceptions of personal
control.” Please understand that “perceived threat” does not mean
being stared down by a real bear. That would instill appropriate
fear. “Perceived threat” is imagining a real bear is staring you
down; feeling like a real bear is staring you down. Examples of perceived
threat are: the expectation of embarrassment or of feeling inadequate or of
being hurt emotionally or, simply, of feeling frustration with oneself or
others – again.
So, what’s the “cure” for the perception of threat? Perception of
personal control – belief in your ability to manage a situation!
Sometimes called mental toughness or grit or just plain self-confidence, it
is belief in oneself. Of course, a high skill level is also required
of competing athletes, if they are to believe in themselves. The same
two factors – self- confidence and special skills are also essential for
partners in a couple. Each needs self- confidence as well as high
levels of skill in relationship maintenance.
There is a difference between sport psychology and couple counseling,
however. In sport psychology, the psychologist works with athletes’
mental skills, whereas coaches work on physical skills. In couple
counseling, the counselor often works with a couple on both mental
(intra-personal, self-confidence) skills as well as interpersonal
(relationship maintenance) skills. However you look at it, mental
state and behavioral skills are the stuff of successful athletes as well as
I am knowledgeable in the theory and techniques used in sport
psychology. When appropriate, I apply them in couple and marriage