“So how does one learn something new?” This was the question posed at the RDHMW by hypnosis therapist Laura King. So that we could understand she asked a bleacher full of young dressage riders to think about sitting in the saddle. The majority of communication with your horse is through your body, not your hands. As you go up the levels the communication becomes more subtle and more intense with each small piece of communication. She said we came to the clinic to fine tune our abilities by learning from the best trainers. We are watching and listening. The information we take in goes to the only 12 % of the brain is what we think and reason. The majority is like an iceberg ‘below the surface.’ An example of this is when you are told by your trainer how to do something differently and then you get on your horse and do it the same old wrong way you always have. Why is it hard to ‘retrain’ your brain or to break habits? Because the 88% of your brain does what it is trained to do. Your expectations and thought are made into reality by the power of your mind. It takes 21 times of doing something over and over a new way to reprogram or retrain your brain.
So if you want to change something in your life, whether it is a riding issue or something else, she said you have to overwrite an old program. So when you think about the brain there is a hard drive and software. The 88% is the hard drive that has to be reprogrammed. You have to override the hardrive. You want to define what it is your working on and what you want to change. Your 12 % conscious mind has to be aware and focus to create new habits. She uses hypnosis to shortcut the rewriting of the hardware. It bypasses the 12% critical thinking. She said it is like guided imagery or guided visualization which is what Dr. Susser talks to us about. She just aids in that.
You have to have a focal point on what you want to retrain. She uses a focus word. Think of that word whenever you want to remember the new lesson. The word brings up the thought or visualization that you are trying to overwrite with. Too often when we lose focus our mind goes back to the old way of doing things. If you have a new focus word that you tell yourself is associated with the new focus it will help to get you back into that mode. I guess it is kind of like a mantra or a saying that brings you to the new plan. I write these on my mirror all the time. Whenever I feel myself heading down doubt lane, I read one of the sayings and it helps to keep me focused and looking forward and not dwelling on what I did wrong in the past. I think that is really similar to what she is saying.
She also said that many people have a fear of hypnosis because they think they will be made to do something they do not want to do. She said that no one can hypnotize you to do something you don’t want to do. It is impossible. You have to want to do it. It is just a faster way to relax the mind and get around the 12 percent and make it easier to reprogram. It is science. It has been proven that an image in the mind is just as powerful as the reality. She talked about the effectiveness of placebos on people getting better. Your mind is that powerful.
The problem with dressage is often that we are perfectionists and we tend to focus on the error. Because we focus on the error we tend to do it over and over again incorrectly and by doing so we program our mind to do it wrong. She said she had a top jumper come in and show her his video and all he could see was the one error he wanted help with and not the entire rest of the video he did amazingly. That is what our brain does.
She has a great CD called Peak Performance for dressage riders that is great to use right before you go to bed. It helps to put you to sleep! It actually is about visualization and she just aids in it.
She went on to talk about different types of learning. I have heard this before from my mom because she actually does a speech at the university on learning styles. I know I am auditory so this stuff works great for me. I can listen to something and it helps me to learn it. It is also why certain trainers that give verbal directions on how to fix things work great with me. Visual learners have to see the information and kinesthetic learners have to experience it through physical motion. There is a website www.VARKlearn.com that has a free test you can take to find out what you are. Knowing what you are can really help. For example, now when I have a speech to give I read it into my phone app and then listen to it over and over instead of trying to read it. I am not great at speeches yet but that has helped me to get a little better or maybe just have less anxiety about it. She said they can use hypnosis to help you balance out what you are not. For example, I am not visual at all. So they could help me to be more balanced and not completely auditory.
Once we get the 88 percent trained correctly we can just tune out the reason and ride with instinct and memory we would do better.
The last things she said was your subconscious mind doesn’t hear the word don’t. For example, don’t think about a black horse. I bet you just did. So you can’t say to yourself, don’t do ________. You have to say the way you want to do it. The brain will only hear that you want to do it. So write the phrase to yourself. So for example, drop saying “I do not want to miscount my 3’s” and instead say, “I am going to count my 3’s perfectly.” Either way your brain will make it happen you will miscount in the first case and not in the second. When you have a negative or ‘don’t or can’t’ thought hit the cancel button. Do this with your focus word. Then you can get back to what you are working on. She uses a meaningless word like “purple elephant.” That takes you away from the previous thought and then you can’t refocus on the correct way to program yourself.