Association & Dissociation – Mind Play for Cricket
“When I step across the boundary rope, that is the only time I feel I am in total control.”
– Dickie Bird
Here is where you can use your imagination or visualisation skills, as when you remember or mentally rehearse something, you do it through association or dissociation. Association means reliving an event as if it is really happening to you, seeing through your own eyes, hearing sounds through your own ears and feeling all the physical and emotional feelings. Dissociation is noticing the situation as if you are watching yourself, like in a movie or on stage. As you are more detached from the situation, there is less emotional impact, as that is where you want to be if it is a problematic event.
Which of these two exercises feels more natural for you? Think of a time when you had a bad game. How did you feel? As you remember it, are you looking at it through your own eyes or are you watching yourself as if in a movie? How about a great game? How are you seeing that? How are you feeling about it? Recall the bad game. If you are associated – seeing through your own eyes, step away from it so you are watching yourself in a film. Do your emotions feel less? If you happen to feel worse when you dissociate, then associate into it. If you are okay with the dissociation, keep it, there is no need to associate into a bad memory. Now go back to that great game you played. Are you associated or dissociated? If you are associated, notice how dissociating lessens the way you feel. Likewise, if you are dissociated, notice the impact when you associate in.
You can also use association and dissociation for mental rehearsal. Think of an important game coming up, a cup competition perhaps. Imagine watching yourself play. There are some aspects you should be aware of. Besides noticing how their body moves, be aware of any emotions that may be going on inside their body. Spend some time on this exercise and look at ‘you’ from all perspectives, front, sides, back and above. Then repeat the exercise by associating into it. Be there inside your body as if it is really happening. See everything you would see, hear all the sounds around the ground and include any positive words you would say to yourself. Feel everything both physically and emotionally. How was that?
Whenever you’re batting and approaching the nervous nineties, you are attacked by nerves. Your thoughts become distractions, you may back off and take your eye off the ball. Psychologically it’s becoming an issue for you as you keep re-running missed opportunities over in your mind. Here’s a visualisation you can have a go at. Players in other positions can adapt this for themselves. First, remember or visualise yourself sitting in the pavilion (associated) during a game, watching yourself in the middle getting closer to your century (dissociated). What encouragement and advice would you give to that ‘you’ who is batting? Let that mental film run while you watch yourself and stop at the point where you are usually bowled or caught. Being dissociated, this should help you remember the moment without the negative emotional content. Freeze-frame that image. Here’s where you get to have fun. Play with the image. If it is in colour, turn it black and white. If its clear, de-focus. Is it bright? If so, make it dim. Is it in a frame or not? Change any sounds, make them quieter. Change the location of any noises. Change any feelings. Rewind. Start the film again in all its glory; this time associate so you are there and speed everything up until you reach the point just before you are out. Now, play the film at normal speed and adjust everything you like which will turn the ending into a hook or a sweep as you continue to send the ball flying toward the boundary. Celebrate your success, feel how good you will feel scoring your century, feel the pride. Dissociate now and go back to the pavilion so you are associated and applaud yourself. Give positive, useful feedback.
Repeat that visualisation several times a day until it feels like a real memory. Remember, for most people, dissociating from the memory of a bad event reduces any emotion, which gives it less power, while associating into a positive scenario brings in pleasant memories and emotions. It will boost your confidence.