JENNY R. SUSSER, PH.D.

POWER & PERFORMANCE SPORT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES

Keep It Together, KIT, Keep It Together

Posted by on Apr 26, 2019

“…And all of a sudden, I have a panic attack.” Unimaginable, even if it is not your first. Terrifying, whether in your home or on a plane. Expensive, energetically and especially emotionally. And then you must recover…and dread the wait for the next one. Whether you have experience with anxiety or panic or not, we have all be terrified at some point so everyone can relate in some regard. Anxiety and panic disorders are significant diagnoses that, like depression, have unfortunately become mainstream terms. Too many people throw around these words, depression, anxiety, and panic, without truly understanding the severity some people suffer. That being said, every person alive has had the experience of depression, anxiety, and panic so the use of the terms can make sense. An attack is a bit different experience, though. The speed of the symptoms and the lack of control magnify the terror from the psychological stress, creating a terrible event. Getting help is vital and makes an enormous difference so if you have been wondering if you should get help, that is your cue to do it. This article is NOT a substitute for help but perhaps a different way to think about the all of a sudden part of the problem. Tragically, anxiety is experienced by 19 million American adults, with the data reporting between 31-33% of the population seeking treatment (and this data is over a decade old on the NIMH website). Panic Disorder affects between 3 and 6 million people, mostly women. Quite the range. One out of every three people have anxiety bad enough to seek treatment, making me wonder what that number would be if there were no social stigma around mental health and seeking treatment. But that is not the topic here. I want to talk about the timeline of an attack with the intention of empowering people with anxiety. And by “people with anxiety,” I mean everyone, because everyone experiences anxiety, some worse than others, but everyone can get better at dealing with it. I have done a decade of sport psychology in the equestrian world, working with riders that run the gamut from the Olympic Team to the “backyard barn” rider who has no desire to compete. There are two issues when working with equestrians: performance or fear. The performance stuff is similar to other sports except the necessary accounting for a live animal as...

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Help, I need somebody…

Posted by on Apr 19, 2019

I wish I had the photo credit for this. How do you know when someone is asking for help? Let me re-phrase that. How many ways do you think someone asks for help? Countless, the answer is there are countless ways, but perhaps an even better question is how many can you recognize? Asking, not asking, making eye contact, not making eye contact, trying to look like they need help, trying not to look like they need help, being a jerk, being too nice, being decisive, being confused, appearing confident to the extent of cocky, appearing unconfident, talking incessantly about the issue, refusing to talk about the issue…shall I go on? Asking for help has not been a culturally accepted behavior for who knows how long, too long, for sure. American’s are the “I can do it” people of the world so we have grown up in a way that keeps us looking strong on the outside while perhaps crumbling on the inside. Becoming a Psychologist taught me just how pervasive this dichotomy is. The good news is, the breaking point is creating a gap in which asking for help seems to be the mortar. Over the course of my career, one constant has been the call from the parent on the behalf of the child. This can take several forms, all of which display a different kind of “help” call. There have been too many calls with panicked, aggressive parents begging (more like demanding) me to make their ten-year-old a better competitor. “Why doesn’t my child have a killer instinct and how long will it take you to give them one?” At age ten, I think a killer instinct might not be the best trait in a child, but who knows. I’m not a child psychologist and personally think that if an athlete needs help before high school, the pressure is too much and needs to be reeled in. Most parents don’t want to hear this though. There are not enough spots and too many athletes, and let’s not talk about the stress of getting into college right now. However, the bulk of the calls are from concerned mothers, looking for a way to help their high school or college daughter or son. They see the struggle and don’t know what to do so search the internet for someone who looks like they could help. I welcome calls...

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Keep on, with the force don’t stop…

Posted by on Apr 12, 2019

Photo credit: Mary Gaitskill Can you have two opposing thoughts or feelings at the same time? Really think about it, can you like someone while disliking something about them? The ability to do this gives great freedom, a freedom from the need to be right and for everyone in disagreement to be wrong. In all of my travels, I have not met enough people with this seemingly impossible characteristic. Duality is the word to describe this “condition” although that word does not have a positive connotation for some reason. Okay, so I looked it up and I think the reason is the word duality is too close to “dualism” and specifically “non-dualism” which in religion, holds great meaning. In most religions, the end game is to be one, one with God, the Divine, or consciousness, making any divide within incorrect. So, you can see how being able to have two separate thoughts or feelings at a time creates great conflict. However, I think it is a key to healing, a key to understanding each other, and a necessary key to connection. To be able to feel two different ways about someone is not as foreign to you as you might think. I bet that someone you love does something or feels some way that is opposite to what you like, approve of, or believe in…yet you continue to love them. That is duality. Now, why is it so hard to do that with people we don’t know? My example is difficult so get ready. Difficult to write about, think about, learn about, and figure out. Recently, I watched the documentary Leaving Neverland and haven’t been the same since. But before you read on, I would like you to determine: can you read this piece and think instead of react? More often than not, human beings are in a reaction mode and do NOT think…even though they think they do. The finest line in the world lives between thought and emotion. Our generous capacity to think doesn’t mean we actually do, and especially when things are emotionally charged. I know you have an opinion here and probably a strong one. I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t become incredibly charged at the mention of this issue. Heels dig in, faces cringe, body language tightens, and the mind shuts off any ability to receive anything new. I am not asking you...

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I know, I know

Posted by on Apr 5, 2019

One of the most precious events in a young life is learning something exciting. I remember watching my nephew learn how to do a flip off the diving board when he was young. Guided by his compassionate, patient, and visionary dad, there was lots of splashing and smacking the water with skin streaked red as he repeatedly got out of the pool and tried again. His determination was impressive, much more impressive than his first flip, but paled in comparison to his expression when he succeeded. He figured it out through trial and error, lots of error and plenty of trial. The look of satisfaction, contentment, and pride on his face was a gift to witness. He said nothing upon figuring it out, he simply did it again and then grabbed a towel and headed inside. He was complete, fulfilled, successful, and the look on his face will remain in my memory forever. I had an interesting conversation with two very good friends at dinner the other night about the process of learning. They both teach in a manner of speaking, but that doesn’t really begin to capture who they are. A life-long student would be a better description of them both, but in our culture, that makes it sound like they haven’t learned anything. The way they both lit up as they began to describe their love of learning was powerful. Mette talked about her hunger for knowledge when she was in school and how figuring things out was delicious. As she spoke and talked with her hands about how organic chemistry was like playing with building blocks, I could see an image constructing before my eyes with each new piece standing on the trusty foundation of the one that came before it. Learning for her was like detective work, exciting and playful mentally. Linda’s hunger for learning lived in the sole purpose of being able to teach it to someone else, and not just to pay it forward, but to educate and empower through learning, understanding, and knowledge. Not knowing is a priceless place to this duo and the desire to be there is one of the rarest traits around. One of the biggest barriers to learning is the weak manner in which we evaluate progress. Failure is key to learning, period, and most people just can’t deal with failure. Once someone fails, the kneejerk reaction is...

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