World Cup silver and gold can be a difficult memory that needs neutralisation for the athlete to move forward in a sports career and restore the passion for work

Silver won or lost is a familiar pair of concepts from sports that refers to whether an athlete or a sports team failed in the final (lost silver) or performed well (won silver). Each athlete reflects the importance they give to the silver medal in relation to their prior expectations of success in the final. He/she probably mirrors it also in relation to how he/she perceives the public pressure to succeed in the finals. In individual sports, you cannot share the pressure with others.

I do EMDR coaching with several athletes. Some of them have experience competing at the top of the world. I recently neutralised a memory associated with winning a silver medal at the World Championships in a certain sport and the associated feelings of shame and disappointment. In such a situation, the athlete's thoughts after the performance are often focused on explaining the loss to themselves and others: "concentration lost", I wasn't good enough", "I couldn't do anything", "I failed" are typical explanations given after a lost silver medal. It is a particularly painful experience for an athlete or a team that has won a gold medal in previous years.

Success in sports or art at the top of the world creates enormous pressure on a person's future. For example, if an author receives a top review in the newspaper, it can stifle creativity and the ability to write the next book free of pressure. The same phenomenon can be observed in the fields of music and film and theater arts. "In the end, you are completely alone with your profits and losses," a successful operator in his field told me recently. Sometimes, in EMDR coaching, it is necessary to neutralize such an exceptionally positive memory, so that the work can continue. In these situations, the client typically does not say the feelings related to the memory trace as "pride" or "gratitude" but rather as "fear" and "despair", because the mind is already focused on the future.

According to the research, most athletes see success as an opportunity to prove themselves in future competitions, which is often perceived as a natural consequence in relation to the resources that have been used to prepare for the competition. Success then acts as a motivational factor to achieve better performance in the future. If the memory trace related to the lost silver can be neutralized in EMDR coaching, it will probably enable the athlete and the team to return to everyday life and training more quickly. The same applies to the memory trace associated with winning a gold medal when it has frozen the athlete's performance in the pressure after success. In both cases, neutralizing the memory trace serves, above all, the kind of athlete who is so-called ego oriented, , i.e. who experiences strong pleasure from recognition and pain from lack of it. The situation is different for those athletes who are motivated by competing against themselves to find the level of performance they are best capable of. What they do is driven by curiosity and joy and achieving a silver or gold medal is not usually associated with negative feelings or disturbing images in the same way.

Professional sports can be seen as work in the same way as any other work, and the work of a professional athlete can be viewed through the concept of work engagement which is part of the well-being at work conceptualization known from work psychology . Research professor at the Institute of Occupational Health, Jari Hakanen, refers to Wilmar Schaufel and Arnold Bakker's definition that work engagement means a genuinely positive emotional and motivational state at work, which involves that a person is happy to go to work, finds it meaningful, and enjoys it , is proud of it and perseveres in it even in moments of adversity. According to professor Hakanen, work absorption is described by three dimensions of well-being: vigor, dedication, and immersion. All these dimensions of well-being are familiar to professional athletes as well, and the work burnout found in their sports career is negatively connected to the three dimensions of work absorption.

The experience of being engaged in work has been studied in working life in a positive connection with, among other things, productivity and happiness. I would imagine that it is also the case with professional athletes. There is no research on the subject yet, and the measure of work engagement is only being adapted to the sports context. EMDR coaching for professional athletes and artists can be linked to the measurement and experience of work engagement and can be expected to promote and preserve work-related positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm and pride as part of the resources.


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