JENNY R. SUSSER, PH.D.

POWER & PERFORMANCE SPORT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES

Doubt vs. Desire

Posted by on Jan 18, 2019

            How many times each day do you doubt something? Is this number even possible to calculate? Do you always answer a question with a question? For years, I have heard, read, and attempted to find an accurate citation for the claim that the human brain thinks 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. The USC neuroimaging laboratory claims similar numbers based on brain scan, and even Deepak Chopra agrees. IF this range is true, we think approximately a thought each second, whether we know it or not. For every tick of the clock, a thought. Wow, that’s a lot. No wonder Harvard Researchers found adults admit to spending 47% of the time thinking about things other than what they were doing (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/330/6006/932.abstract ). Remember that conversation you had with so-and-so yesterday? Well, for half of it, they weren’t paying attention to you and you weren’t paying attention to them. No wonder so much gets lost in translation…             Our brains are so good at thinking we rarely notice when it happens. Actually, if you had to notice every thought, every second, you would die of exhaustion before lunch. So, we go about our day and think and think and think. How many thoughts have you had outside of this article so far? “When will she get to the point?” “I had no idea we thought so much.” “What does all this have to do with doubt and desire?” “What should I have for dinner?”             If you have ever attempted to meditate, the thought per second data point would certainly seem true. Our thoughts keep going and keep us going. The interesting thing to think about is how much impact a thought, or sequence of thoughts, has on us, especially a negative thought…or doubt. Doubt sucks. It eats away at us. It takes a lovely thought or idea or even a dream, and slowly, like a parasite, weakens it. Sometimes, it weakens it enough to force us to abandon the idea altogether. You are going along in your day and read something that triggers a memory of something that was missing and you found the answer for. Yes, that’s it! What a great idea. And off you go thinking of how to take that idea and make it happen. Then you pause, and out of habit wonder, would that really work? And that is all it takes for doubt...

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The Pressure Paradox

Posted by on Jan 9, 2019

By Jenny R. Susser, Ph.D. Just the word can change how the body feels: Pressure. Now check your pulse. David Bowie and Freddie Mercury ring in my ears and visions of 1980’s punk rock hair with Andy Warhol highlights flash across my memory, eliciting a chuckle because now that song is stuck in my head: “Pressure, pushing down on me…” It is a word originating in physics as a unit of measurement of force, now such common vernacular, we have to adjust our thinking to use it scientifically (properly). Rarely used in the positive, pressure, like the word stress, has been stolen from science in an attempt to save us from emotion. I should love this word because it is the reason I have a job. As a sport psychologist, I help people handle pressure, you know, “the exertion of a force upon a surface,” (Wikipedia). Sometimes I get lost in the idea of pressure, athlete after athlete, manager after manager, executive after executive, parent after parent, all saying the same thing in slightly different terms. Where does it come from? Why does it have such power over me? How do I get better at it? Pressure in sport is made up, a fabrication of force on the surface of the self. If only it felt that way. It feels overwhelming and there is no way around that…or to make sense of it. Thought: Make this shot or your world will fall apart. Feeling: Nausea, heart palpitations, sweaty everywhere, shaking hands and knees, wanting to die. Solution: quit, suffer, or figure out how to handle pressure. So how and where does all this pressure stuff begin? I have spent countless hours wondering how sport became the ultimate pressure cooker. “Did you win?” My nieces and nephew all played sports and I found these three words falling out of my mouth before I could stop them more times than I care to admit when my niece would call after a game. Dammit. Asking if she had fun sounds so lame, though. Fun is a by-product, not just from winning, but from playing hard and rising to the challenge of sport. “Did you rise to the challenge? Play with character? Dig deep when the game was tough? Rely on your training? Correct mistakes? Learn from failure?” What ten-year-old wants to be asked those questions? “Hey Aunt Jenny, we won!” and that...

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2019: This May Or May Not Be My/Your Year…

Posted by on Jan 1, 2019

Download Happy New Year and welcome to the day, the week, the month of “new.” New year, new gym memberships, new resolutions, new promises, and inevitably, new disappointments. New reasons to be hopeful overshadowed by the ever present yet highly ignored backdrop of conveniently forgotten failures of the past. I wake up every January 1st with a duality that makes me want to go back under the covers: hope vs. history. This is the time of year, for whatever reason, we become reflective, maybe even pensive, sometimes regretful, and amazingly hopeful. Thankfully, all of these emotions and disruptions are gone by February and we can get back to our routines and resume trudging through the rest of the year. By October, we say, “how can this year have gone so fast?” and as the next round of holidays approach, we prepare ourselves for the food, the shopping, the gifts, the family, and the new round of new promises. We forget how we did this last year, you know, set out to become the “you you’ve always wanted to be,” and we mount the charge again, and again, and again. “Rinse and repeat,” as my friend, Linda says.             But what about how powerful this time of year feels? It is a perfect storm for reflection and connecting with emotions you can’t seem to escape yet somehow don’t want to. The holiday celebrations, movies, and music stir us and make us nostalgic. Sitting by the tree at night with only the colored, flashing lights on has a magic to it that is indescribable. The feeling of good will that rushes over us for no reason, that upon noticing, we wish would last longer than a few weeks. The change in weather (even for those not in the north) encourages the body to slow down as the days are shorter and the nights opulent and long. We complain the sun sets before leaving the office but only because we have forgotten to heed nature and slow down a bit, encouraging and even allowing our bodies to recover during winter. As we continue on our daily way, there still is that part of us seeking reflection, seeking connection to family and friends, seeking relief from the perils of the year, and needing the hope January 1st always brings. It is a powerful time of year and none of us escapes unmoved.            ...

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Dreams vs. Goals

Posted by on Jan 17, 2015

DREAMS vs. GOALS Jenny R. Susser, Ph.D. “Welcome to Hollywood, what’s your dream?” Who can name that movie? Pretty Woman, in case your brain was still rattling around. The movie starts with a dream of a prince and a white horse and ends with it coming true…which happens all the time in real life, right? Think about the power that line had in the movie; a whole movie based on a dream…that was more like a fairytale. Powerful. Dreams and goals: big words, big thoughts, scary thoughts, success, failure, fun, devastation, elation, short-term, long-term, powerful, meaningful, shared, secret, motivating…I could go on for hours with the stream of consciousness on dreams and goals. I love dreams and I love goals, but have you ever stopped to think about if there is a difference between the two? I also love language and find that we don’t put enough thought into the way we say things these days—and the result is a loss of power. We use words like “awesome” when we find a good parking spot…what word will we use then for things that truly inspire “awe”? I travel all over the country and find the same thing, no matter where, people afraid to use the word goal so instead use the word dream. Dreams have this magical element, like, if it’s a dream, then it has to come true. Goals seem to be reserved for the “successful,” a distant idea reserved for someone else, something you have to accomplish or else. My goal is to change that. So how do you become part of the successful then? Maybe set some goals… Let’s start using our language more powerfully by distinguishing dreams from goals. What is a dream? Funny you should ask because when I look it up two things come up: a dive into Freudian theory about dreams that occur when sleeping, or quotes to help you follow your dream. Humph. It seems that when we say, “following our dreams,” it is really daydreams we are talking about. Daydreaming is a very good thing. It is said to foster creativity by brain scientists. For the non-scientist, we like it because it makes us feel good. It is a great escape from things, a good way to elicit some of those good chemicals in our bodies, and reminds us of younger days when daydreaming was a much larger part of...

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Happy Holiday Energy!

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014

Happy Holiday Energy! Happy Holidays! Whatever type of holiday you celebrate, I wish your celebration to be wonderful. Tired of hearing and saying this and not knowing what the heck it means? I have to admit I’m a bit of a bah-humbugger (not sure of the spelling here). I’m not in love with the holiday part of this time of year. I do enjoy this time of year, especially living in the Northeast. I like the weather changes, the cold, crisp air and how it makes me feel alive. I like the time to reflect and how the end of one year and the start of another seems to inspire us all in some magical way. The part I don’t like is the mindlessness that we have fallen prey to in our overly commercialized culture, but let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on what’s important here: relationship. I had a great conversation with a friend who was asking me why I was a bah-humbugger. I said I don’t need a holiday to be kind to others, to be grateful for the blessings in my life, to be reflective or thoughtful, to buy someone I care about a gift, to give back, or to eat great food! She pointed out the one thing I was missing…the time with family and loved ones. Yes, the holidays create this great excuse for us to congregate, and for some, it is the one time each year we get to see each other. She was right, that was the important part that I was overlooking. Some of those relationships are tough, though. Some are not as wonderful as they used to be or as they ought to be. Some people don’t do or say what you wanted them to. Some said bad things about you to others, and so on, and so on. This is where the holidays have the potential to take a bad turn. In the corporate work that I do, we ask people where they put most of their energy. Work, duh. And that makes sense, especially in terms of contact hours. We spend more time at work than we do at home and that is just the nature of the beast these days. While changing that is an entirely different story, the one thing we can change is the kind of energy we spend at home. When asked honestly,...

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Decisions, Decisions

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014

I think that the quality of our lives comes from the decisions we make. Bold statement, I know. Perhaps some luck is involved, but I’m not entirely sure how much. What is luck anyway? I hear so many definitions, it’s hard to really say what is true about luck. Then there is fate. Again, what is fate? Well, we could go on for hours here but what I want to write about are decisions and the interesting experience I had today. I like to pay it forward when I can. Sometimes in the grocery store, I help out some folks who like they could use a hand and buy them “dinner” (pay for their groceries). I got that from a friend who is a geriatric physician and she taught me what to look for. You know, an elderly person, usually alone, the food on the belt is mostly staples…some meat or canned beans, a family pack of generic chips, no milk because it’s too expensive, and rarely fruits or vegetables. It makes them cry with gratitude and perhaps a bit of shame. It makes me happy and sad at the same time, but the happy outweighs the sad, so it’s well worth it. I don’t look for these moments, what happens is someone catches my eye and I have that thought race past my mind saying I should help them. See, I really believe we are all in this together and that if I ignore someone else, I’m really ignoring everyone…including myself. I know I can’t help everyone, but there are times when it’s really awesome to help one person…or even another living being. I saved three frogs the other day when I was dragging my riding ring on the tractor. Little frogs, the size of the face on my watch and they hop around like crazy. I have to pick them up (yuck) because they can’t get to the edges and out of the ring in time and I can’t bare the thought of running them over—it’s far worse than picking them up! It’s funny how powerful it is for me to press through my discomfort of picking them up to save them. I felt proud and good and connected to it “all” when I did that. It still makes me smile. Today I was behind a man at a gas station (no pay at the pump so...

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