Jensen Jensen
The Role of Imagery in Mental Preparation


Peter Jensen, Ph.D.

Problem Solving Imagery

Imagery is also effective in working out problems athletes are experiencing in their performance. A golf pro once asked a golfer to get an image of the swing he was having difficulty with. The golfer replied that one of his legs was wooden. This image helped identify the problem the golfer had to work on.

Sandra Stark, a student of psychosynthesis (created by Robert Assagioli), often asks athletes she is counseling to get an image of whatever is blocking them (i.e. fear, plateauing, lack of motivation, etc.). A sixteen year old synchro-swimmer knew she could hold her breath under water for over one minute, having proven it in pool tests, but she felt anxious and worried that she would come to the surface during her main thirty second underwater sequence. When asked to find an image of fear, she recalled seeing a movie at a very young age in which an individual had broken a pact made with the devil. While swimming underwater, the devil covered the pool with glass so that the swimmer was unable to surface. This was a clear instance of an old, unknown image dramatically affecting an athlete's performance.

In another case, a freestyle national calibre swimmer had plateaued and was questioning whether he was good enough to compete at that level. When asked to get an image of what it felt like to not be making progress, he described a formidable wall. He was asked to approach the wall and look for ways around it or over it. He thought it might be climbed and was asked to do so while describing his action. There were few finger or toe holds on the wall, making the climb difficult for the athlete. He slipped back on occasion but finally reached the top. When asked what happened next, he replied, "I fell off on the other side and began running."

Rather than wondering if he was good enough, the question became one of whether the athlete wanted to put forth the great effort needed to climb the wall in his swimming. He knew it would be difficult with setbacks, but if he committed himself 100 percent, in the end it would be as easy as falling off the wall and running.

Imagery truly is the language of the body! There is no doubt that the key to consistent high performance in the 1990's will be the use of imagery in mental preparation, no matter the stage - - playing field to ice rink; board room to sales call.

Go Back or Return to the Beginning

Return to Atlantis Articles
Return to