Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

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Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Anders Linnard » 17 Dec 2013 11:44

Published this article on Hroarr last week. Why is creativity important in martial arts, and why does it break down when we get stressed?

http://www.hroarr.com/creativity-stress ... upper-lip/
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Dave Long » 17 Dec 2013 17:31

In discussing a national champion, my maître d'armes (no stranger to competition himself) pointed out that often, when people do something novel on the piste, it isn't very good, and when they do something good, it isn't very novel, but this fencer got where she was because she is able to be simultaneously novel and good.

I've always admired (Dumas' character) Aramis for his ability to find that intersection of novelty and quality on a wide range of timescales, varying from hundreds of milliseconds (in his fencing) to over a million times greater (in this thesis).
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Dec 2013 18:32

Anders,
Thank you for the great article.

A couple of days ago I wanted to post a link to your piece on Hroarr, with the title Competition stress and a smiling upper lip.

On the one hand a really interesting topic (especially for those forumites who attend different competitions) and on the other hand only small amount of useful information how to deal with it. BTW what is the source of your advice to control anxiety in a stressful environment (slow breathing, relaxing facial muscles, smiling etc)? Your own observations? A book?
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Dec 2013 18:43

Dave Long wrote:... on the piste ... able to be simultaneously novel and good ...
... Aramis ... varying from hundreds of milliseconds (in his fencing)...

Was Aramis some kind of a robot (Terminator) with a reaction time 1/100 of 0.001 sec? :wink:

On a more serious note.
On a piste it is probably enough that you are technically good and polished, and also able to perform something surprising for your actual opponent. Being novel in fencing would probably require to be a fencing genius.
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Anders Linnard » 17 Dec 2013 18:51

I don't have one, but several. I had a look at a medical article about something entirely different and it mentioned stress reactions in depressions, saying that they were similar to those when we experience that we are hunted, for example racing heart, panting and clenched jaw. I then noticed this in myself, so I googled it and read various examples and they all basically said the same thing. I can check my browser history for them if you want (im on a phone now).
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Dec 2013 19:38

Anders Linnard wrote:...I can check my browser history for them if you want ...

Thank you, but it isn't necessary.

Competition stress could lead to an interesting phenomenon. You feel more or less OK, you are not too nervous (no sweating palms, no fidgeting, no nervous talk or drumming etc), breathing is also approx. OK, but your resting pulse is above 100, and this could lead to high blood pressure measurements: 170/130 (compared with own normal values of ~120/80).

Previously I asked kendokas how to deal with this kind of stress, their answer: train more. A local fencing coach said: "Just relax, listen to music..." Therefore your ideas are really good!
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Re:

Postby Phil C » 17 Dec 2013 20:17

Ulrich von L...n wrote: BTW what is the source of your advice to control anxiety in a stressful environment (slow breathing, relaxing facial muscles, smiling etc)? Your own observations? A book?

If you want a HEMA reference then Penchard recommends and details just such a deep breathing exercise in the face of anxiety, based upon Japanese kuatsu.
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Anders Linnard » 17 Dec 2013 23:42

Oh, sorry, I misread your post and thought you asked about the signs of stress.

The exercise comes from a tape I listened to as a kid when I had trouble sleeping, mixed with my own experiences.

I have tried different methods to overcome my own stress reactions, and music is one approach and visualisation another. My reflections on them is that music lets you escape some emotions, but that is not only positive because at some point you will have to face them. I also use visualisation, but that is primarily to overcome the inner image of myself as a weak kid (which is an image a lot of us have today because we have lost our rituals of passage into adulthood). We also have positive images that visualisation can help us tap into. I visualise myself as a predator, and everyone else is game. But that also doesn't work all the way, because fear has a way of making you doubt yourself.

So, the exercise in the article is there to actually accept fear, embrace and observe it. And when you do that it also teaches you handle it and lessen the impact.

/Anders
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Dave Long » 18 Dec 2013 00:40

Anders Linnard wrote:the exercise in the article is there to actually accept fear, embrace and observe it. And when you do that it also teaches you handle it and lessen the impact.
I've often wondered if the haka variants in pacific islander cultures served exactly this purpose: they embrace and exaggerate the adrenaline dump and turn it into a threat display.

It's also interesting that Rory Miller's advice to force professionals matches what we tell people (most often young girls) learning to ride:
Miller wrote:If YOU are a force professional (LEO, soldier, bouncer) your job will be to accost people. From their point of view, you are the threat. You will use the same techniques bad guys use to control your own adrenaline (and, hopefully, more consciously, trained and taught and more effectively.) But the people you confront will not have that option. They will get an adrenaline dump.

If they go pale, things are on the edge of going bad.
If, however, the subject goes pale and relaxes and his eyes unfocus, you may be in for a very bad day. Most people tense and shrink up when the adrenaline hits hard. If you see the relax and the thousand yard stare you have stumbled on someone with extensive experience with adrenaline. He knows how to use every last drop of it. If you see this you may well be in for the fight of your life.
If someone is stressed because they're feeling a little out of control with their head a little further off the ground and moving a little faster than comfortable, given all their experience in the previous several years of their life, the first thing we tell them is to BREATHE. Then we tell them to RELAX and LOOK FAR IN THE DISTANCE.
Now, the instructor gets a lot of help with this process because the riders who tense and shrink up usually wind up meeting the ground rather quickly, while if the rider relaxes and puts on the thousand yard stare, the horse usually calms down rather quickly. Repeat this clear lesson a few times, and you have riders whose limbic system has been trained so when they get an adrenaline dump in the saddle, their automatic first response is to relax and unfocus -- even before their conscious mind has a chance to try to figure out what's happening.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 18 Dec 2013 07:57

Anders Linnard wrote:... actually accept fear, embrace and observe it. And when you do that it also teaches you handle it and lessen the impact...

Almost the Bene Gesserit's litany against fear in Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
"
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 18 Dec 2013 08:07

Dave wrote:Then we tell them to RELAX...

Could you be more specific?
What do you tell them to do in order to relax?
Do we know the actual physiological or psychological mechanism behind the benefit of an unfocused gaze, "the thousand yard stare"?
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Re:

Postby Anders Linnard » 18 Dec 2013 09:46

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
Anders Linnard wrote:... actually accept fear, embrace and observe it. And when you do that it also teaches you handle it and lessen the impact...

Almost the Bene Gesserit's litany against fear in Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
"


Hah, that is exactly what Meg said when she proofread the article. I have no real knowledge of Dune, so it's purely incidental.
/A
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Re:

Postby Dave Long » 18 Dec 2013 09:48

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
Dave wrote:Then we tell them to RELAX...

Could you be more specific?
What do you tell them to do in order to relax?
Generally, not much, as there isn't time; these sorts of situations tend to resolve themselves one way or the other rather quickly, and so we rely on being able to quickly remind the rider to do something they already know (which is why "BREATHE" is so important, if they aren't currently doing so). My wife often tells people to be a "jellyfish": their muscles should be neither tense, nor floppy, but in relaxed readiness, like being on guard.

That said, many authors have written checklists. Off the top of my head: heels down (weight in your heels, not on the balls of the feet), chin up (head back, gaze unfocused in the distance), shoulders back, chest forward, sit on your pockets (the opposite of a fetal crouch) ... and smile (but by the time you get to this one, they're generally doing it anyway).
Ulrich von L...n wrote:Do we know the actual physiological or psychological mechanism behind the benefit of an unfocused gaze, "the thousand yard stare"?
Unfortunately riding is long on pragmatism and short on theory. There's an obvious biomechanical benefit in this specific situation: putting the gaze in the distance brings the head back over the center of balance, countering the fetal crouch which is the naive reaction. My wild guess as to the psychological benefit is that with hyperfocused tunnel vision, everything seems to be occurring too quickly, because there's not much time between when something enters the tunnel and it happens, but by unfocusing the gaze, one notices things earlier, anticipates better, realizes the situation is controllable, if not yet under control, and relaxes.
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Re: Re:

Postby Reinier » 19 Dec 2013 08:52

Anders Linnard wrote:Hah, that is exactly what Meg said when she proofread the article. I have no real knowledge of Dune, so it's purely incidental.
/A


Or it means that Frank Herbert also did his research :)
…en A alſoo liggende kan aen B, ſonder eenigh beletſel, met de zijde van ſijn hooft, op het aengeſicht van B, ſoo veel ſtoten als hy begeert. – Nicolaes Petter, 1674.

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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Dave Long » 25 Mar 2014 17:19

Here's a checklist (Riding the spook) which Jennifer Landels wrote for a WMA context.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 26 Mar 2014 08:39

Not all horses spook the same way. Some bolt straight ahead; others will do a 180 spin; some do a tap-dance and then freeze, legs spread; and others jump sideways or canter at a half-pass across the arena. A very few will buck or rear, but usually if your horse is actively trying to get you out of the saddle you are dealing with a behaviour issue, not a simple spook.

Quite honestly, I'm really glad that riding isn't my hobby. :wink:
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 26 Mar 2014 08:49

Anders,
Thanks again for this great & useful & inspirational article.

I have just finished a Hungarian book on sports psychology, published in 2012. The first two-three chapters deal with very same issues as mentioned in your article. Later I will try to summarize the most useful tips from the book. Now just a short remark: the authors made very clear that a distinction should be made between fear, anxiety (anguish) and arousal.
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Anders Linnard » 26 Mar 2014 09:28

That's very interesting. Looking forward to that summary!
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Dave B » 26 Mar 2014 11:10

I talk in my head to an imaginary friend.
Actually he's not imaginary. He's a bloke called Rob I used to go climbing with for a while over 20 years ago and haven't seen since. Once I was pretty much rooted to the spot with anxiety about something, and Rob, who wasn't very observant, came up and started talking to me about something trivial. I started off slightly annoyed, but then forgot about being anxious. It stuck in my mind.

Even now I'll sometimes have little conversations with Rob in my head "Right then Rob, better get on with this Eh?, Not that I'm bothered, but I suppose I aught to give it my best shot".

Anyone care to psycho analyse that?
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Re: Creativity, stress, and a stiff upper lip

Postby Phil C » 26 Mar 2014 11:44

Dave B wrote:Anyone care to psycho analyse that?

Your Adult using a Parental Introject to resolve a Child Decontamination

(That'll be £50, I have your address for sending the bill ;-))
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