JENNY R. SUSSER, PH.D.

POWER & PERFORMANCE SPORT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES

Discovering Mom

Posted by on Jul 27, 2019

Mom’s tree, a pink flowering Dogwood “Jenny Rebecca four days old, how do you like the world so far? Jenny Rebecca four days old, what a lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky girl you are…” The first two lines from the song, Jenny Rebecca, on Barbra Streisand’s 1966 album, “My Name is Barbra,” and my namesake. My mom was a singer, an opera singer, and a wickedly talented one. At 16, and too young to brave New York City, she was accepted to Julliard during her audition but didn’t go. She loved Barbra and so when she was pregnant with me and this album came out, she said to my dad, “I sure hope it’s a girl because Jenny Rebecca will be a ridiculous name for a boy!” I have always felt as though the lyrics gave me my life…with trees to be climbing on, ponies for riding on, and pillows for crying on when you’re in love. I have never been able to listen to the song without crying in some fashion. It made me feel so special when my mom would sing it to me, her love for me would pour out of her and saturate me in bliss. One thing I never, ever doubted was my mom’s love for me. I never really knew her until she died. Maybe that is not entirely true, but the things I learned and discovered about her after she died have been amazing, astounding, disappointing, and wonderful. Kyp, born Karen Ann Parker, was a force of nature. Whatever power deep within her that gave her that voice also gave her a giant personality. She was tough though, tough to get along with and sometimes her love came with a price. As I have grown and matured, I have learned that everyone is difficult to get along with, and yes, that includes me. Mette thanks me for tolerating her, her self-deprecating way of acknowledging sticky points. I laugh and tell her she’s welcome and that I know I’m perfect and so easy to live with…and then we both laugh. Monday was the one-year anniversary of mom’s death. A year, an entire year has gone by already, having the feel of long yet short. Making it to one year has been a focus for me and so the build-up and arrival were emotional. We are Jewish and in tradition, at one year, we do...

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Confidence: The Emotion

Posted by on Jul 20, 2019

Confident? Confidence is a big deal in sport. And in relationships. And in business. And in life. So, what’s the deal with confidence? What is it? How do I get some or more? What impacts my confidence? I have been studying confidence since graduate school and it was even a factor in my dissertation. If I had to guess, I have been obsessed with confidence because I never felt like I had any when I was swimming. It’s ridiculous to think about; I was a four year All-American at UCLA when the program was top 10, I made the National Team, won Pac-10’s, and qualified for Olympic Trials in 1988. And I can’t remember ever stepping up onto the blocks and feeling confident. Cue all those articles and interviews with super successful people experiencing “imposter syndrome.” Crazy. In the beginning, all I could find was how to measure confidence. Use this inventory, take that quiz, see how lacking you really are. Self-report measures are tough, tough to design, tough to take, and tough to trust. Think back to your last pressure event: how confident were you going in? How confident were you coming out? How the heck can you rely on that memory! If you did well, I bet your report of confidence will be high, no matter how you really felt that day because I guarantee you can’t remember it accurately. If you tanked it, confidence was already at a low, you recall, and that must have contributed to your poor performance. I searched and searched for ways to nail down confidence. It had to be track-able, didn’t it? Then, I went to the annual sport psychology conference and experienced the Groundhog’s Day it typically was for me (after a decade of appearances). “Confidence is situation specific!” declared a well-known consultant whose name escapes me now. Okay, I like that, I can use that. You build confidence around things you are working on because you get better at them and that doesn’t necessarily transfer to other areas. For example, I have horses. After years of handling horses, I am confident in my ability to handle my horses, even if they are upset or scared. I have worked hard to sharpen my in-hand skills and although I might get scared, I am confident I can handle many (not all) of the situations I encounter. Handling skills, check. I think...

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A few of my favorite things

Posted by on Jul 13, 2019

My niece, Hayley, sent me this while thinking about Coriall. He came to me in a dream. I was taking lessons on my Andalusian, Roble, and having a blast. But Roble had back problems and so riding wasn’t so fun for him. Mette, knowing that my forward progress was going to hit a wall soon, said, “Why don’t you get a school master?” It had never occurred to me to have another horse (I know, horse people are shaking their heads in disbelief). So, I told my trainer I was looking for a school master and would she keep her eye out for me. It was Friday. On Sunday night, I dreamt of a big, red horse with a big white blaze down his face. Monday morning, I opened my computer and there was an email from Diane Rodich, my trainer, with links to two horses for sale. I smiled and was impressed with her speed. I clicked on the first link and it was him, Coriall, a big red horse with a big white blaze down his face. The dream came flashing back and filled my body with happiness. There was my horse. I didn’t even look at the second link. We went to try him and as we drove to Rhode Island, I felt like a kid going on vacation, “Are we there yet?” I wanted to ask out loud every five minutes but with a navigation system showing minute by minute our anticipated arrival time, it would have been silly. I did anyway and Mette giggled. Coriall was standing in the cross ties, a hind leg cocked, as relaxed as a professional could be. I knew the trainer where he was living so it was easy and comfortable talking with her and getting some deeper information. I didn’t need any of it, honestly. I wanted to take the trailer that day, not the car, but Mette was being more level-headed. He was seventeen after all. It was spring in the Northeast, so the mud was staking its claim everywhere and the ring was a bit mushy. I remember being that nervous excited combination that makes you a little blind and definitely juvenile. Mette rode him first and was skeptical. But he was easy. Do this and he did that. I got on and felt at home. I did my first flying change that day. Mette told...

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This is going to be a tough month.

Posted by on Jul 6, 2019

Coriall & me, his first day “home” This is going to be a tough month, I can feel it already. July 2018 was full of loss and pain and now, as the year anniversary of too many memories arrives, the dread I was anticipating is coming true. Fatigue has been an unnatural plague these past few days and as the calendar flips to this precarious month, perhaps an answer comes clear. As I put on my running shoes to force myself to exercise out of this funk, I find a lovely long hair wound up in my socks. It is Mette’s. I find them everywhere. A grief-stricken thought flashes across my grief-laden mind: what would that find be like if I lost her? Tears well for no reason other than a trigger-happy psyche on red-alert for pain. I feel my shoulders tense and taste the bitterness that accompanies the tumbling stomach, spilling acid upwards. I look for salvation but find only the usual mental loop. She is fine, I have more time with her, she will always be with me no matter what, I will survive it no matter what, thank god I found her, I still feel mom so I will still feel her, breathe, breathe, breathe. I almost lost her once already, so the hypervigilance is more than justified. I had a friend in graduate school who lost her father as a child and so her area of study was grief. She examined sudden vs. expected death for her dissertation and found no difference. NO difference in the experience of grief between knowing and “not” knowing when you will lose someone. Her finding was surprising and not surprising at the same time. Death is grief, period. It makes me wonder if anyone you love creates a subconscious effect of expected death, making “sudden” a farce. I first learned about grief in graduate school in a required course called, “Grief and Loss.” The professor, Dr. Lise Spiegel, was (and still is) a wise, spiritual, vulnerable, kind, and knowing woman who first taught me to be able to confront and then sit with grief. Her ability to tolerate grief was what took me at first, I had not seen that in my nearly thirty years. We read Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, of course, and a slew of others documenting and directing the winding path someone’s grief might take. The ability to...

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