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The Competition from the Survival point of view

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Developing my competitive self  2º Part

In previous blog we talked about the different "selfs" that we face in a competition. We explained the ideal self, the training self and the competitive self.

The development as a person and player will depend on how we relate and integrate these 3 identities through our integrative self that includes all our versions, the observer, the one that identifies the other I's. We will analyze the role of the integrative self later.

We said that, if we want to develop our game, the most important "self" is the Competitive self, since it reflects what we are capable of doing in the present moment, and I insist that this condition can change, raising or lowering the level very quickly if we are able to listen or not listen to the signals that the Competitive self sends us.

If we are and compete in the Vertical mode (survival mode), it means that the competitive self is subordinated to the Ideal Self, we react to a situation of stress exactly like any other animal. Although during a tennis match there is no real risk to our lives, our Instinctive / Emotional brain identifies the situation as stressful and understands that it is a survival situation. 

There are 3 instinctive / emotional reactions (from the survival): Freezing / submission, Flight and Fight.

1- Freezing, Submission

  • Freezing: It is a strategy used by many animals, stress paralyzes them, they stay still, they seem to be dead. In this way the predator does not eat it for fear that it is contaminated. I have seen many times a player during a tennis match, sometimes being totally paralyzed, without reaction, tense body, movements without coordination, this response from the athlete is related to the freezing strategy.

  • Submission: Means surrender, stop fighting against the strongest, it has 2 variants:

            a- Submission to the Opponent: They recognize them as better because of their ranking or their previous match results and surrender before they play.

             b- Submission to Coach / Parent: Tennis and sport in general is full of cases where athletes compete and even have very high performance when they are in this mode: Parents / Coaches, in this case are clear representatives of the Ideal Self, who punish and humiliate to the player. The brain understands that if it does not compete or train to the maximum there will be punishment, the defense strategy is to compete to satisfy the punisher, trainers and parents become "circus tamers" and the players are the "Animals" that act not to be punished. Although from the point of view of results we cannot say that it is inefficient, from the human development point of view the player is degrading. The players who have developed under this mode will most likely have psychological problems, the list of these athletes would be endless.

2- Flight

    In this case, the player looks for excuses and justifications as to why they will lose before playing or while they are playing: injuries, illnesses, the court, the wind, the racket, the tournament, the place, the opponent, the coach. All these variants of flight are given if the ideal self (where the ego resides) feels threatened. The player literally "throws" the match. The strategy of the ideal Self is very simple: if I give 100% and lose, it will be a fact that I am worse than my rival, so it is better to invent an excuse to lose or not to compete.

 Examples, I can give many:

     a- Players who have problems with younger opponents

     b- Players who have problems playing against lower ranking opponents. 

     c- Players who do not compete at the local tournaments so nobody can recognize them if they lose.

     d- Players who become sick / injured before a committed tournament/match.

     e- Players who only look for tournaments that they can win.

     f- Players who avoid tournaments where certain players go.

     g- Players who do not compete as much as possible with training partners.

    h- Players looking for higher level tournaments and if possible far away from other peers observations, so they dont to give an explanation as to why they lost. 

     i- Players who do not fight so there’s an excuse as to why they lost.

     j- Etc, etc, etc. 

    If you are reading this and you are a coach, you will understand very well what I am talking about. If you are a player, look honestly in yourself, can you identify any of these strategies? If yes, ask yourself if you really want to play Tennis.

   The strategy of flight was good when we lived in the jungle 200,000 years ago, when we had to flee from predators, but to play and develop as competitors, this is the one that gives us the least chance.

3- Fight: 

    Within the options focused on Survival, this is the most suitable to compete. This type of player does not give up, no matter who is in front of them, these players, do not fear to fear or be under pressure, they may even enjoy that feeling.

  • Are respected players

  • They are players who are characterized by running down each ball,

  • Are delivered to the maximum

  • They work hard

  • They seek to improve to win

  • They look for solutions

  • They tend to have good results

  • They can become stressed

   Although it seems the ideal profile, the negative point of this mode is that the focus is placed on the opponent, that is, that they work and improve with the focus in being better than the opponent. This often brings up frustration when after much effort, the opponent is still better perhaps because of variables that we cannot handle.

   However, I insist that there is an even better possibility. My proposal is to develop a Competitive self,  focused on transcendence. Where the focus is on self-improvement and the result is understood because of performance and not as a goal. In short, not to compete from the survival, but from the transcendence. With this I do not want to neutralize the energy that comes naturally from our survival instinct, but to use it to focus on improvement and performance instead of defeating the opponent. Use the vital energy of survival in the pursuit of transcendence. In the next post I will explain the Transcendent Self.

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