Archive for the ‘News & Events’ Category

Autopsy of Evil: Making Sense of Vegas Shooting

 

Special Psychological Feature to JohnFMurray.com – October 6, 2017 – Palm Beach, Florida – I am neither a criminologist nor an FBI profiler with expertise on rare and horrific crimes. However, I am a clinical and sports psychologist who, at age 55, has many years of experience delving into the deepest thoughts and feelings of thousands of clients in evaluations, psychotherapy and case studies. While I might not be the optimal professional opinion on what possibly went wrong in the head of this individual, I probably have a more informed perspective than most. I have studied what makes people tick, and what could possibly lead them to tick like a time bomb in such a maladaptive way. I admittedly step slightly out of my area of expertise in this article, but proceed nevertheless because I believe I have something to contribute to the analysis.

Let’s get one thing straight. There is no excuse for what Stephen Paddock did in Las Vegas this week. It was an act of pure evil. If he had not committed the ultimate act of cowardice through suicide, I would fully expect him to face the harshest punishment society can offer. The only exception, in my mind, would be if he were totally unresponsible for his actions and unaware of what he was doing due to extreme psychosis. This does not seem to be the case. He planned his dastardly actions for months as a meticulous and capable thinker. He built a fortune with his mind. He knew darn well what he was doing and he wanted to maim as many people as possible.  With the lack of a better phrase, I will term this “pure evil.”

One thing that repeatedly emerges in the scientific analysis of evil, and this is consistent with my perceptions, is a strong lack of empathy. These psychopaths usually have an almost complete inability to see the world from another’s perspective and are unable to feel or appreciate another person’s pain. It is almost as if they are mentally disabled in an area of the brain that allows them to see the world in another person’s shoes. I believe that to be safe as a society, we will eventually need to screen for this extreme lack of empathy and take proactive steps to prevent these selfish psychopaths from hurting others.  I envision a day in the distant future where people going for their driver’s license exams or trying to achieve employment or college admission will have to pass a complex but reliable empathy test too. Fail this test and you get watched more closely. Even though the last thing I want is for government to intrude more into our lives, this is a serious potential risk factor that needs to be more closely monitored and more closely controlled. We are nowhere near this level of sophistication and scrutiny in screening for this in society, but we need to be because a person with an intent to harm and no empathy is far more dangerous than a gun. I will steer clear of the whole gun control debate, however, and just stick to the analysis of evil in this paper.

Evil is typically a more mundane “I don’t give a s*** about anyone else” rather than a more blatant and overt personality development in which the individual assumes the role of an identified killing machine or societal predator. That is also why I believe people often miss the clues. How many times have we heard, “oh, he was such a nice and quiet guy” in trying to make sense of the most recent mass murder?

Lack of empathy is the linchpin to understanding this! In fact, if a person realized what he or she was really doing and how much it would actually hurt others, the evil act would probably never be committed. In my view, it’s the absence of emotion and the banality of evil that is the crucial element that poses the biggest risk to society. Boring and methodical intellectuals who are unhappy and totally unconcerned with others are more dangerous to society than the easily identified and obnoxious bullies.

The Germans during WW2 coldly gassed millions of innocent people in concentration camps not because German people have some inherent blood lust or collective brain damage. It was much more the result of the German political leaders intellectualizing their problems and using reductionist and inaccurate scapegoating of targeted populations. The horrible end, in their twisted analysis, justified the means. It was also a blind following of these leaders due to extreme fear combined with a strong emphasis on obedience. This all added up to acts and ways of thinking based more on simplistic and false intellectualization instead of more complex and accurate reasoning. Rather than digging into the true causes and consequences of their actions, they fixated on an ideology of racism and genocide that was idiotic and lacked human empathy at its core.

WW2 Germany was not the only example of this. Far from it. Armies throughout history, including the USA army, dehumanize the enemy so that they can kill more effectively.  You’ve heard of Japs and Krauts? However, war presents a much different and hopefully more justifiable challenge. Even if the process of simplistic thinking is inherently insensitive and lacking in empathy, the need to rid the world of Nazis in WW2 was obviously a noble quest. The last thing allied soldiers needed to be doing at the Battle of the Bulge was processing the emotions of their enemies before firing their weapons. War is extreme hell and most life situations do not call for such extremes.

Stephen Paddock appears to have been caught up in his own twisted way of thinking and it did not allow room for others. While I have no idea what his motive was to inflict such pain on random people at a concert, you can be sure that empathy had no place in his mind. He must have reasoned that this was necessary. Like Charles Manson or Ted Kazinski, he probably convinced himself that he was answering to some higher calling and needed to exact revenge on the country music fans below him. There was probably some strange duty, agenda or justification going on in his head. He was too smart to have not contemplated this many times over and over yet this in no way indicates that his thinking was rational. Far from it. A twisted higher mission is still twisted. It is analogous to the Nazi final solution. It is sick and it is evil and it lacks empathy.

Here is my formula for this evil: (1) Lack of empathy + (2) twisted logic + (3) dehumanization of the victim = potential mass murder. In my view, that is the code for danger in a nutshell.

While the killer is solely responsible for his evil act, I also believe that the media in our society has a duty to steer much less clear of politics and return to ethical journalism in our day yet that will probably never happen. Fox says one thing while CNN says the opposite. It becomes polarized. All the while killing gets more advertising time. There are many benefits of capitalism, but many risks too. Where money is king, truth and corruption often reign and with more money you get more of that still.  Capitalism has many benefits so don’t think I support communism at all. But there are flaws in any system and we just need to be aware and promote more fair journalism that is less polarized if that is ever possible. While I do not blame the media directly for what happens with these mass killings, we are in some ways paying the price for capitalism gone mad. It is an escalation of news coverage of the horrible which leads to more eyes on the show, greater money from endorsements and advertisers, and that social learning principle of imitation clicks in. The Stephen Paddocks of the world see it and get ideas. I don’t remember it this bad growing up in the 60s and 70s when these media empires were not as large.

Stephen Paddock’s father was apparently a nightmare who was criminal, gun toting, violent, brilliant and abusive. His brother also apparently beat him up, according to early reports. As a result, Paddock probably built a life based on revenge and solitary genius. In other words, he despised most people and instead just focused on himself. He learned that empathy was meaningless. A guy that doesn’t care about most people is dangerous. He despised people and learned to succeed financially without them. His enormous pent up rage was finally released on what he perceived to be the biggest problem in the world – people. In killing, he might have felt like he was in some way gaining back some of what he lost in life for all the pain he went through in life.  Misery loves company. Those whom he considered to be abusive to him (perhaps his father) in some strange way inspired this need for revenge. It’s the ultimate payback.

You might ask why he was so insensitive in killing innocents whom he did not even know. It was his nature. He built his fortune on being a cold, insensitive, calculating numbers genius, not by caring for others. Killing innocents did not bother him because his playful innocent self as a child was probably killed off by his father and/or brother or someone else. He probably also had no belief structure or religion that might have helped him see the wrong of what he was doing. By doing this evil act he gained a level of twisted psychological equilibrium. The thinking might go like this, “hey … I was innocent and they screwed me over … so why should I care?”

This entire discussion fits into my theory that people who are most psychologically damaged are most dangerous to society. In the future we need to sniff out the unhappy people and monitor them closely for homicidal tendencies. What we don’t know about people can indeed hurt us.  It also fits in nicely with the New York cognitive-behavioral schools of psychology. Essentially, these theories posit that psychological illness is related to distorted thinking. In other words, irrational cognition, or self-talk, is the root of distress. Often in my work, the trick to helping someone is to adopt a cognitive behavioral perspective and work at changing a person’s fixed beliefs or underlying irrational or maladaptive thoughts. I guarantee you that Stephen Paddock had a plethora of irrational and dangerous beliefs in his head. And since he did not live in a social world (his world was abstract mathematics and beating the odds) he never encountered or allowed healthy challenges to his underlying assumptions. His arrogance as a self-made millionaire only bolstered that thinking further. Paddock didn’t need people for his success and even saw people as the cause of his deep hell. There might have also been a trigger event in months leading up to the killings, like a huge financial or love loss, but that is still uncertain. He actually needed solid psychotherapy more than ever in his life, but felt he was above it all and would not turn to people or therapy.

In sum, we have learned many times that the insecure can be very dangerous to society. It is close to a solid maxim in my mind. The key to more health and happiness and less mass killings is to sniff out this insecurity, help people feel more secure, challenge faulty and dangerous assumptions in thinking, and listen well. Many need to access psychotherapy or talk to anyone rather than acting out on crazy inner impulses that can be so dangerous. I’ve always liked to hang out with successful and happy people because they tend to be most secure and the least invested in creating havoc. They enjoy life and value life.

We certainly need to do something different than we are doing. Thanks for listening.  I hope you have enjoyed this expose from the world of psychology.

3 Time National Champion Football Player from Alabama Endorses Sports Psychology

Note from Dr. John F. Murray:

I am thrilled to have recently received the following sports psychology endorsement from a fine individual and key member of the University of Alabama offensive line that won 3 national championships:

“Working with Dr. Murray was not only beneficial in my athletic endeavors but my personal life as well. Through his guidance I was able to overachieve and accomplish my childhood dream of playing football at the University of Alabama. I still use some of the methods he taught me in my everyday life. I am forever grateful to Dr. Murray and his ability to take a blue collar kid and develop him into a national champion!!!

RTR – KELLEN WILLIAMS (2009-2013), Pat Trammel Award Winner and 3 Time BCS National Champion, Alabama

Thanks so much Kellen!

 

I love wearing my YES watch

Special to JohnFMurray.com – February 22, 2017 – The YES watch is so unique that if you have not yet worn one, you simply have to try it out. At the very least go to their website at http://www.yeswatch.com and you will see what I am raving about.

If you travel, you will fall in love with and find the YES brand of watches very useful. It’s rare to have the ability to program any city from a selection of hundreds into this watch and also to see the moon phases change regularly in this city. But one of the coolest things about this watch is the new concept and completely unique way that this brand of watches dipicts a day. It shows the daylight hours remaining graphically in a way that is more logical than any other watch I have worn.

On top of all that, and the great watches already produced, is that the new Equilibrium which is going to be their best watch ever and it is due for release in just over a few months. This link will take you to the complete description of this most complex and exciting watch.

Enjoy what I enjoy … and check out YES today!

 

Dr. John F Murray Launches New Show Jumping Column

Palm Beach, FL – February 16, 2017 – JohnFMurray.com – Clinical and sports performance psychologist John F Murray has launched a brand new column on sports psychology on the world’s premier website for show jumpers at www.WorldOfShowJumping.com. The column is called “Mental Equipment,” similar to some of his past columns and radio shows, and is designed to help show jumpers all over the world to improve mental skills such as focus, confidence, and resilience as they prepare for and enter the show ring.

“Over the years, I’ve noticed a modest but steady flow of show jumpers in my private practice, so it’s about time that we have a regular feature column on the topic,” stated Murray. “It will be fun.” You can find the first column at the following link:  Mental Equipment Column at www.WorldOfShowJumping.com.

 

 

Hot Take: Redskins should use a sports psychologist

USA TODAY – Washington Redskins Wire – By Lake Lewis, Jr. – January 26, 2017 – Over the years, sports psychologists have helped some of the top teams and high profile athletes gain a mental edge over their opponents. And while NFL athletes are some of the most physically gifted individuals, fragile egos can quickly lose confidence if their play and performance are not up to par.

The Washington Redskins, for whatever reason, have a history of epic meltdowns during prime-time games. In fact, some of their worst games were matchups with big consequences.

This past season, the Burgundy and Gold had could have clinched a playoff spot with a win in either of their final two home games, but their performances were lackluster.

Could a sports psychologist have helped determine a different outcome?

Some of the more storied franchises in sports have used sports psychologists, and these teams are known to be mentally tough.

Teams that have won championships, such as the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, have used forms of sports psychology to help them perform better. Other elite pro teams, such as the New York Yankees (MLB) and the San Antonio Spurs (NBA), have employed it as well.

Dr. John F. Murray, a well-known author, speaker, clinical psychologist and sports psychologist has worked with several high-profile athletes and teams over the years.

Murray states that the “athletes known as overachievers constantly outperform those with more raw speed or strength because they make better decisions. They stay focused rather than getting rattled in the heat of battle. They remain confident and resilient no matter what the situation is, and we all recognize that their performance has nothing to do with their limbs and muscles and everything to do with their brain.”

Several current and former players I spoke with revealed they had sports psychologists in college but not with the Redskins. Players can seek out help independently, which many in the league do, if their team doesn’t offer the service.

Washington could use help in the mental approach to the game. Too many times they have underachieved when the lights were the brightest or the stage was unforgiving.

The team could start performing at a higher level winning if they maximized the mental approach to the game, since the talent has improved over the past several seasons.

The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl with a roster that is not the most talented. They were also hit hard by injuries and still didn’t miss a beat. Their mental approach to the game from coach Bill Belichick to quarterback Tom Brady is better than it ever has been. (Tom Brady, it should also be noted, recently stated after the 2017 championship win over the Steelers that the mental toughness was the most important factor in team success)

This is the difference between teams with talent and teams with a mental capacity that can’t be broken.

Hope you have enjoyed this feature from the world of sports psychology.

Sports psychologist on Odell Beckham: Time to learn ’emotional control’

Metro New York – January 25, 2017 – By Kristian Dyer – After a season with plenty of antics and ravings from Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants fans might need some therapy if they are going to endure another emotional year with their star wide receiver. The tantrums that have become associated with Beckham are concerning, but the nation’s most prominent sports psychologist advises that it simply means the diva wide receiver needs to develop not just his physical side but his mental one as well.

From picking a fight with the kicking net one week, to last year’s fight on the field with Josh Norman, there is no denying that Beckham is a lightning rod for criticism. While his production on the field remains strong – he did lead the Giants in receptions and receiving yards this year – his actions continue to be a distraction and they show a penchant for self-destruction. It seemed at times this past season that he simply checked out of games and/or was baited into emotional responses – as a certain piece of drywall at Lambeau Field can attest to.

While a diagnosis is impossible from a distance, Dr. John F. Murray thinks that Beckham might benefit not just from running routes and lifting weights this offseason, but also from some mental training.

“A diagnosis is never appropriate from afar and if I were working with him clinically I would certainly keep it confidential,” Dr. Murray told Metro. “There are many popular and usually erroneous notions about erratic behavior in sports in which that behavior is connected to bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder or some other mental instability. While those things are possible, it is more likely that this athlete with enormous talent is simply underdeveloped in one of the key mental training areas that I would call ‘emotional control’ or ‘energy control.'”

Dr. Murray, author of The Mental Performance Index as well as the highly-acclaimed Smart Tennis, is one of the nation’s foremost sports psychologists. He is often called “the most quoted psychologist in America.”

He cautions not to read too much into some of Beckham’s behavior over the past couple of seasons and that he wouldn’t want to change the player or the personality.

“Temperament is like hair color,” Murray said. “It comes in all different forms. Top athletes can often appear manic or even depressed after games but this does not necessarily mean they are going off the deep end. The key is smart performance on the field that allows an athlete to play consistently at his highest level.”

Hope you have enjoyed this feature article from the world of sports psychology.

Jamar Taylor Helps in Cleveland Browns First Win & Endorses Dr. John F Murray’s Sports Psychology

Sports Psychology Feature – December 27, 2016 – Former Miami Dolphins and current Cleveland Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor is back in a very big way. The Miami Dolphins probably should not have let him get away. His terrific play last Sunday helped the Browns to their first victory of the season, and he was rewarded for his play with a new 3-year, 15 million dollar contract extension. Prior to the season he was released by the Miami Dolphins, and his status as a newly signed Cleveland Browns player was uncertain at best. He wasn’t even on the top of the depth chart. But he wanted more and he wanted to have a great season mentally and to make it in the NFL.  Taylor called sports psychologist John F Murray and they began working together in the spring of 2016. The rest is history as he had a superb season. After the big win against the Chargers in week 15, Taylor wrote the following about the benefits of mental coaching and sports psychology:

“Dr. John F Murray’s mental coaching and sports psychology services helped me get ready for the 2016 season with great confidence and focus. We focused on what I have done in the past to help me reach what I wanted in the future. With great confidence and focus we were able to get positive results”    Jamar Taylor, Cleveland Browns cornerback, December, 2016

Thank you for the comments Jamar and keep up the great work! Below is an article that just came out after the Browns  stunning victory over the San Diego Chargers:

CLEVELAND — WYKC TV – The Cleveland Browns rewarded veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor with a three-year contract extension (for 15 million dollars) earlier this month, and he repaid that faith with a solid defensive performance against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium Saturday.

Taylor defended three passes, intercepted another and registered five total tackles in helping the Browns to a 20-17 win over the Chargers for their first victory of the season.

“They kept trying me, but I knew I was just going to keep making plays,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know if they thought I was going to be the weak link, but I knew I wasn’t going to be that guy. My teammates depend on me, and our coaches do a great job of preparing us all week. Every time they tried to make a play, I tried to make one too.”

The Chargers scored on each of their first two drives of the game, and the 43-yard field goal from Josh Lambo gave them a 10-7 lead over the Browns with 1:49 to play in the first quarter.

Lambo’s field goal capped off a seven-play, 50-yard drive that took 3:23 off the first-quarter clock.

The Chargers started the drive at their own 25-yard line, but a 15-yard pass from quarterback Philip Rivers to wide receiver Travis Benjamin moved the ball up to the San Diego 40-yard line.

On the next play, Rivers found wide receiver Tyrell Williams for a 27-yard gain that became a 42-yard play when Taylor was flagged for unnecessary roughness after exchanging shoves and words with Williams out of bounds.

However, Taylor broke up a potential touchdown pass and his interception led to a Browns field goal.

“He made some plays,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He is a guy I am glad our organization signed back here. I think he is another one of the young building blocks on our football team as we move forward.

“He has made some plays all year, and the guy has been playing injured, so I am really appreciative of his effort and what he has tried to do by staying out there. We have a lot of guys that are banged up, but they were not going to give up the chance to win a game together, and that is what they were able to do.”

After playing a critical role in the outcome, Taylor embraced the fact that the Browns’ win over the Chargers broke a 17-game losing streak.

“It was a great team win,” Taylor said. “The offense started on fire. They held it down when we were messing up. The defense, we capitalized. They were driving and we got off the field, and that’s what it’s about. Getting off the field, give the offense a chance and give them a short field. We just played our tails off.

“It’s real special for Cleveland and for Head Coach Hue. It hasn’t been the best year, but we know if we just stick together and find a way, no excuses, just find a way. It’s big for Cleveland, but more importantly, this team and Coach Hue.”

I hope you have enjoyed this feature article from the world of sports psychology.

You Have to See this Amazing New Watch: The Smartest Watch on the Planet

Special Feature by Dr. John F. Murray, Palm Beach based Sports Psychology – November 26, 2016 – It gives me great pleasure to review the Indiegogo campaign and new Equilibrium watch produced by the YES watch company. YES has sponsored me in the past when I was traveling a lot on the ATP Tour, going to Olympic games, doing workshops in London and worldwide, coaching fighters at UFC championships, and much more, and they are sponsoring me again now. I have the fortune of continuing my work with the best and brightest and helping them develop smart skills to be even better, so this smart watch product and campaign makes sense.

I am proud to wear and promote the extremely unique and high quality watches produced by YES. I wear my Cozmo and Kondalini watch proudly and people are always interested in looking at because it is so different and rare. Read below about some of the features of YES watches and you will understand what I mean. Also be sure to read about the new Equilibrium and look at the photos and features described in detail on this website. This watch will retail at around $1400 next June when it is produced, but you can get one now at a ridiculous and incredible savings if you order it now.

In this article, I would like to explore with you what I believe are special about YES watches for athletes like tennis pros, and I am sure that I will miss much but hopefully this will give you a taste. Be sure to check out the website at YESwatch.com for all the exciting watches.

I have coached players at all 4 major ATP Tour and WTA Tour tennis tournaments (Australian Open, US Open, Wimbledon, and French Open) as both a coach and sports psychologist, and helped reverse the biggest losing streak in tennis history with American tennis pro Vince Spadea when he was playing. I also wrote a best-selling book “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game, cover endorsed by the world’s number one ranked tennis player, Lindsay Davenport. I have been fortunate in my career to be around great athletes in all sports, and have a little idea about what it takes to be smart and successful in sports. This year, I was also fortunate to have articles were written about me in both USA Today and Psychology Today, calling me the best in the business. Whether that is true or not, I am not going to argue against it (Laughing). My purpose is never to brag, but just to inspire others about mental training and to share now that I feel that YES watches and the exciting new Equilibrium represent extreme quality and high performance, just like a pro athlete’s performance or high level sports psychology counseling.

Here are my main reasons for getting behind the YES brand and particularly the new Equilibrium campaign:

1. I know what it takes to win in tennis and other sports, and I am confident that YES watches are a great asset to any tennis player or world traveling athlete.

2. The YES mantra of being the “most intelligent watch on the planet” fits perfectly with what I have taught and promoted in my almost 20-year career as a sports performance psychologist. Smart and successful athletes and business executives need a smart watch on their wrist and this one meets the bill without taking all the bills out of your wallet!

3. Precision and rhythm are everything in sports. They are also everything the YES watch brand epitomizes, and especially the new Equilibrium. While the watch is indeed cool and trendy, and much more interesting and functional than the Apple brand of I-watches, I think the better argument is that having this monster on your wrist alone provides a confidence and focus boost due to its incredibly complex and precise nature. This watch is more exciting functionally than the more expensive and complex movements that cost over $100,000 and it’s the ideal gift or conversation piece.

4. Tennis pros, other athletes and business executives travel the planet multiple times in short order due to the fact that tournaments, business meetings and conferences are worldwide on a regular basis. Jetlag and travel fatigue are common, so having a complex computer on the wrist to help orient the tour player, coach, or executive is fantastic. What is amazing is that the YES watch brand goes far beyond black and white time of day. Knowing when the sun rises, moon phases, times in hundreds of different cities, and having a nice alarm, and in multiple languages is simply too amazing and powerful to ignore!

5. The stopwatch function is critical in training in sports and the watches take a real beating with their high-quality construction. The YES watch can be worn frequently in the gym and on the court or field in multiple training activities with both sports and fitness activities.

6. As a sports performance psychologist, I know the incredible value that learning alone can provide in terms of sharpening awareness and professionalism. This watch is so informative as it teaches the wearer about the earth and planet, and gives them a feeling of immense joy from the pure learning it creates.

7. Getting familiar with the times in the next city and cities you will be visiting during your travels helps alleviate the tiring and often confusing effects of travel. Tennis players, for example, who lose in the first or second round quickly move on to other cities, and I have often heard tennis players complain that travel is one of the most difficult aspects of being a tennis pro. Players who win tournaments also have to more quickly get to the next tournament, so it works regardless of results. This watch helps makes the grueling travel all more fun and bearable.

8. The Swiss construction and materials represents the highest level of quality. For a long time, the Rolex brand has been associated with tennis as the tennis timekeeper and we all know the impact that Swiss watches have had over the years and how influential Roger Federer has been. This YES watch/Swiss connection just adds credibility and quality awareness. Imagine a day when the YES watch provides the score-keeping functions at the Olympics or Wimbledon. Why not? The smartest watch deserves a place in the spotlight too. Whether it makes it to Wimbledon or not, you will like it on your wrist.

9. The YES watch brand is a winner, and the YES Equilibrium will be the most exciting watch in a long line of successful products that tennis pro and talent agent from Beverly Hills, Vince Spadea, and I wear and enjoy. There is a final angle that might be even more valuable. It simply looks great on the arm and it attracts lots of eyeballs and conversations. It is a masterfully smart tool that is immensely fun!

In sum, I am thrilled to again promote the YES watch line of products, and especially recommend this upcoming Equilibrium watch at pre-production prices that will never be available again. I got behind this brand because the YES watch promotes what I emphasize daily in my work – namely, intelligent performance. Vince Spadea is showing his YES watches now to his clients in his amazing talent agency in Beverly Hills and on the tennis court with people like Donald Trump and Bill Gates, and now you can have this amazing watch too.

I hope you have found the above information useful. It is indeed shameless promotion for a great product. For the most current and informative website for this new Equilibrium, go to the following site YES WATCH EQUILIBRIUM

Poem about being a US citizen by a 12 year old

My 12 year old daughter, Caroline, loves to write poetry. Here is her most recent poem about being a US citizen that took her no more than 5 minutes to write. Colin Kaepernick should read this ASAP.

Together we stand,
And together we fall,
Together we unite,
With love, hate, and all,

The people in the snow,
The people in the trees,
The people in the oceans,
And as far as you can see,

Walk as one,
And some may flee,
But pledge as one,
To our Country, so free,

And it may be so vague,
And to some not mean much,
But under all the blindness in the world,
Is love that remains untouched,

The good,
The bad,
The hopeful,
The sad,

All have something in common,
And we should all be glad,

Though our history will never change,
And we’ve been through hard times,
Just remember Rosa Parks’s courage,
And we’ll be free to climb high,

So we stand two by two,
And our bond shall never undo,
Because I am a citizen,
And so are you.

Psychology Today Features Dr. John F. Murray

 

Sports Psychology Interview with Dr. John F Murray – Psychology Today – By Marty Nemko – April 30, 2016 – After conducting today’s The Eminents interview with sports psychologist John F. Murray, I’ve come away feeling that his advice applies not just to athletes but to most people who want to improve their mental performance.

Murray has helped NFL quarterbacks overcome slumps, coached tennis at Wimbledon, trained athletes at the Summer Olympics and even at the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Tennis Week called him, “The Roger Federer of Sports Psychologists,” The Washington Post called him “The Freud of Football, and USA Today called him “one of the best in the business.”

MN: The classic sports psychology book, The Inner Game of Tennis, argued that key to success is not concentration but relaxation: Quiet the mind and let it happen. Do you agree?

JM: Yes but the science of mental performance has since developed many other good practices. For example, rather than just passively allowing performance to happen by the athletes getting out of their own way,” sports psychologists develop training protocols.

MN: Okay, let talk about those. How do you help athletes improve their concentration?

JM: It often helps if the athlete creates or refines a pre-shot or pre-performance routine. In fact, the time between points in tennis, shots in golf, or plays in football, may be as important to master as the playing time. The pre-action ritual replaces distracted thinking with something constructive.

MN: What’s your advice for an athlete in a slump or who cracks under pressure?

JM: Such athletes often are trying too hard or focusing too much on the outcome. S/he must focus on what’s controllable: Winning is not, mental skills are: confidence, focus, emotional control. For example, in working with a slumping NFL quarterback, we created imagery scripts loaded with pressure-packed moments, often more extreme even than what they’ll face in the game. Eventually his self-talk improved. he stopped worrying about uncontrollables, began loving even adverse situations, and pulled out of the slump.

MN: Some athletes are too competitive, for example, the football player who deliberately tackles a player by yanking his face mask. Any advice?

JM: Let’s not confuse competitive with stupid. A high level of competitiveness without cheating is usually a clear plus while deliberately fouling is stupid. I like to have my clients imagine all the possible scenarios that can lead to a severe penalty. Then I train them to picture themselves behaving constructively, for example, walking away from a fight.

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MN: Conversely, some athletes are too laid back.

JM: The biggest challenge is when an athlete lacks drive. That’s very hard to change—The best chance is with traditional counseling to try to get at the root of the problem. Occasionally though, the problem can be addressed symptomatically. For example, a soccer player who needs more intensity might benefit from listening to fast dance music before a game, watching video of their favorite player scoring goals, or even jumping rope.

MN: Many athletic coaches wish they could motivate players better. Any not-obvious tips?

JM: First, as I just implied, the athlete is best motivated from within. Motivation is not like an outboard motor attached to the player’s outside. The motor must reside deep within.

Having said that, good coach behavior can help.:

Be relatively tough but not overtrain athletes.
Make the effort to relate humanly to players, include pre-season bonding sessions far from the training center.
Keep practice interesting, for example, by varying routines.
Let players have input into practices’ structure and even in decision-making during a game. But the coach must have final say. Anarchy rarely leads to success.
MN: There are psychological issues in recovering from an injury. What can help?

JM: Injured athletes in team sports are often ignored and isolated from the team. That isolation on top of the physical pain can make the injured athlete feel sad, anxious, and even abuse substances. The athlete and team members and, if available, a sports psychologist, should stay close and listen well to what the injured athlete is feeling. Relaxation with imagery can also help with pain and attitude. Short-term goals often keep things moving along smoothly.

MN: Especially as they get older, many athletes (and of course non-athletes) gain weight. How do you try to address that?

JM: I use athletes’ own psychology by turning weight control into a sport with a daily challenge.

MN: Many college and pro athletes must do media interviews. Any tips?

JM: Without scripting, they should play-out their answers to likely questions and think about the kind of impression they want to make. It’s always safe to think team-first and to give earned praise to coaches and teammates. Try to be natural and have a little sense of humor—but just a little.

MN: You yourself have done many print and TV interviews. Tips?

JM: Rather than thinking that a million people are in the audience, I just focus on the interviewer and the question. Another thing: Don’t over-prepare. Sure, if you need to bone up on content, fine. But overall, it’s better to pretend you just met the interviewer in a coffee shop and roll with the interview.

MN: You developed a system for rating mental performance in football. What are its key items?

JM: There are about a dozen factors but key is how they perform at critical moments, like 3rd or 4th downs, how they respond after a bad play, and how rarely they make mental errors such as a careless penalty.

MN: What’s next for John Murray?

JM: Continuing to refine that Mental Performance Index for use in predicting a game’s winner. I’d also love to help an NFL team or two win a Super Bowl. That would be the icing on a cake I’m already grateful for.

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia. His new book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko. I hope you have enjoyed this special feature from Psychology Today and the world of sports psychology.