Emotional trauma is born through extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety. However, any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic. It’s not the objective facts that decide whether an event is traumatic, but rather your subjective emotional experience of said event. The more frightened and helpless you feel from the experience, the more likely you are to be traumatized.
Long after the physical wounds of trauma have healed, the fear stays with us. In the world of boxing we can observe this phenomenon clearly. Have you ever watched a fighter compete, after losing big in a previous match? When a boxer loses due to judges’ decision, circumstance and technicalities can be points of argument as to whether or not the “real” winner was declared. But when a boxer gets Knocked Out, there is no room at all for this type of debate. Slow motion playback and commentary will make it clear to everyone that the boxer lost the match due to their own mistakes in strategy and execution. Even if the fighter does not suffer lasting physical trauma from the KO, their performance will exhibit a clear and visible timidity in their fights following a loss.
Professional fighters call this, the “Fear of Losing.”
“The fear of losing, I’ve seen it paralyze fighters before,” said Pat Miletich who’s experienced defeat as a UFC champion. “With most guys… they’re not worried about getting hurt; they’re worried about losing.”
“The fear of losing, in all the research, is about the worst thing you can deal with,” explains Dr. Ted Butryn, an associate professor of Sports Psychology at San Jose State University. “Fear of failure is a powerful, powerful thing. It’s the worst place for you to be in. It creates more stress, and the stress makes it less likely that you’ll be able to cope the way you need to cope in a fight.”
Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. In essence, your nervous system gets “stuck.” The key to moving beyond trauma is focusing on the process instead of the outcome. Contrary to what many of us may have come to believe about athletic competition, focusing on the end result isn’t particularly helpful. This is also true in the arena of business, social competition and nearly every aspect of our everyday lives.
If you have been coming to Cappy’s Boxing Gym for awhile you already understand, at a very deep level, how focusing on the process instead of the outcome can help us in moving past the surging rise and fall of those emotional waves of success and failure. Next time you experience the icy grip of the “Fear of Losing” in any of life’s arenas, remember your training. Take your stance and feel what shape your body is taking. Are you poised to experience fear, or confidence? Relax, stand tall, and make the adjustments you need to be your strongest self.