Communication Central

How communication with others--and ourselves--leads to success.

Andre Agassi's "Hot Water Courage"

Why what you say to yourself matters!

agassiAndre Agassi in his book, Open, described a ritual he performed before every tennis match in order to prepare for ‘battle.' He would take a shower and tell himself how great he was, how he could do anything and that he was unbeatable. --- Agassi admitted that he was psyching himself out and that he was filling himself with "hot water courage." He also opined that he would have never been able to achieve the amazing feats that define his career without these talks.

What Agassi was doing is known as intrapersonal communication. The internal conversations we have with ourselves about nearly everything. Only he was doing it in a way to increase his productivity.

It is common sense that if you think negatively then you will feel negatively about yourself or something you have to do. But common sense is one thing and reality is another. It is very easy to get trapped into patterns of thinking that are self-defeating and in some cases debilitating to your ability to carry out your daily activities.

This is where cognitive restructuring may be of help. Cognitive restructuring is the process of identifying irrational and crippling thought processes and replacing them with thoughts that properly reflect the situations a person is dealing with. This method helps a person to manage the emotions they are experiencing and to make decisions that increases their quality of life.

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Albert Ellis, Ph.D. and Derek Harper, Ph.D., who are considered pioneers in the field of Rational Emotive Therapy, claimed there are three ways to affect your emotions. One is through the use of drugs and chemicals to alter your mood. The second way is through physical exercise as it regulates hormones that help the body to manage stress and the brain releases chemicals that give the person exercising a high. The third is monitoring one's thoughts and making sure they are in sync with ideas that will keep you alive and enjoying the life that you are living.

Professionals who use Rational Emotive Therapy do not discount the use of physical exercise and prescribed drugs as an effective mean to manage emotional states, especially for serious mental disorders. But as the pioneers Ellis and Harper claimed, drugs and exercise are not looked upon as permanent solutions to dealing with feelings and emotions that a person may feel overwhelmed by. A comparable parable would be, "Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish and he can eat for a lifetime." In this instance, teaching a man to fish is teaching him how to restructure his thoughts in order to stay sane and see things rationally.

Cognitive Restructuring can also be used even if you do not have ‘serious problems' coping with emotions. Andre Agassi used it to build himself up, reminding himself of all of the times he had overcome odds and had succeeded at higher than average levels. Although we can't all be tennis superstars, in most of our lives we have succeeded at a higher than average level than others in some area. We can use these thoughts and other good moments to build our confidence when needed.

PopPsyAkilBakari Akil II, Ph.D. is the author of Pop Psychology - The Psychology of Pop Culture and Everyday Life! You can also check out his page on Twitter.

Bakari Akil II, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of communication at Florida State College of Jacksonville.

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