A Therapeutic Metaphor for Golf Improvement – not really golf hypnosis


I was working with a client recently who wanted golf improvement without formal hypnosis for a destructive problem he had when playing golf. Let’s call him Alan for the sake of client confidentiality. I’ve changed a few other details as well for the same reason. Alan’s an enthusiast at everything he does – from work to golf to family. The priority sequence changes, but the enthusiasm’s consistent across all three. He’s also as honest and true to his friends as the day is long.

So let’s focus on golf. Well Alan’s a hard-working golfer, practising or playing most days, somehow. He has a good swing, is excellent around the greens and is an instinctively superb putter. He’s good at visualisation as well and practices stepping into the shoes of his golfing heroes. He often practices on his own with two balls – one played in his mind by Tiger Woods and the other by Jack Nicklaus. He also works hard on his physical fitness with long cross-country walks and almost daily workouts in the pool – whatever the weather.

Alan’s problem in golf is that he consistently scores much worse than he should due to unforced errors – accidents you could say. The main causes of these accidents are his desire to overcomplicate the shot he needs to play and the resultant lapses of concentration. Instead of hitting a normal shot, that he can regularly execute consistently well – he suddenly decides to try something more complicated on impulse and doesn’t think the shot through. You won’t be surprised to hear that these shots are normally disastrous and expensive!

Now Alan presented me with a few problems. It would be easy to help him overcome his problem by using golf hypnosis, but he seemed alarmed at the idea of formal hypnosis. Maybe he’d had a bad experience with stage hypnosis, or some “well informed” religious advisor telling him that he shouldn’t have anything to do with hypnosis! But he’d come to me through a friend and I’d agreed to help him without using formal hypnosis.

The solution was to prepare a therapeutic metaphor; a complex story or set of stories. The object is to keep his conscious mind occupied with the complexity of the story the unconscious mind finds the literal meaning hidden in the central story. That allows the unconscious mind to find it’s own way for him to overcome the problem. I knew that if I embedded the story in the middle of several other loosely related stories, I could keep his conscious mind sufficiently occupied while my hidden message could get through to his unconscious.

So what metaphor should I use? I knew that Alan’s an enthusiastic football supporter as well, so I decided to use a football metaphor. Now some of the story’s based on facts I remembered and other parts are just made up, so don’t write to me to tell me that’s not what happened!

I had an initial meeting with Alan and we sat down in a quiet corner of the golf club and at the appropriate moment when he was relaxed in conversation, I brought the conversation round to this story.

“I used to play golf with Dexter Adams, a former Captain of England at football in the 1950’s– even though he was an amateur and played for Hendon FC. Oddly, he had a footballer friend called Billy Wright, who I also used to play golf with, but he wasn’t the famous one who used to play for England and married one of the Beverley Sisters!

Now Dexter told me once about a really talented footballer called Laurie. Laurie played a really good game of football, “much better than I did” Dexter told me. He had all the skills and the knack of being in the right place at the right time. But Laurie was failing to fulfil his promise. If he was faced with an open goal, he would try to hammer the ball into the far top corner rather than just roll it safely in. If he could head a cross easily past the goalkeeper, he would try an overhead scissor kick. Of course he often missed, but when he scored in his own sensational way, he forgot about all the misses. Sadly, Dexter told me, the selectors didn’t. They knew he was a talent worthy of selection, but they couldn’t afford for him to waste what might be Hendon FC’s only opportunity to score in a tight match.

I later found out that Laurie later worked as a toolmaker at a big machine tool company in the Hendon area. I’d been telling the story to my father and he recognised Laurie as a man who worked in the company he ran. He checked out Laurie’s past and it turned out that I’d met Laurie when I worked there before going up to University t Imperial College.

The crowds loved Laurie too, when he was on target, but they began to boo him loudly when he wasn’t. Finally, Dexter told me, Hendon dropped him after he reacted badly to adverse comments from the manager. Fortunately for him, Laurie had a good friend outside the team who helped him to realise that what he loved most was playing for a winning team – much more important to him than scoring the occasional outrageous goal. Without the need to look for sensational opportunity, he found his concentration improved and with it his consistency.

Laurie’s new found success in reserve games quickly persuaded the manager to bring him back into the club team and the national manager started to notice how easy Laurie made the art of goal scoring. The national manager called him up for the England team and he rapidly became the regular winner that he always wanted for club and country.

He continued to try out his more sensational goal scoring techniques, but not in the course of a game. He tried them on the practice ground for his own pleasure and for the amusement of his friends – “you never know when they might come in handy and they keep me sharp”, he would say. But he knew that his real satisfaction came from winning.”

We finished off our quiet conversation talking about this and that and went our separate ways. A few weeks later, I heard from Alan. He told me that he’d started winning more and playing much more consistently. He even told me that he’d got over some of his eccentric play – he’d never described it that way before. He went on to suggest that maybe there was no need for us to meet up for our first golf psychology session as his problem had gone away. Thankfully, he had paid me up front and he’d got a good return on his investment. It seemed a shame to tell him that we’d already done the work, but I had to – to justify my fee.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting an example of another even more powerful kind of therapeutic metaphor: what’s known in NLP circles as a Nested Loop, so keep watching my Golf Hypnotist blog.

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