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Achieve Peak Performance through Dynamic Dissociation

by Staff | February 3, 2020

Self-Help Motivation Psychology Self-Management

What do Navy SEALs, marathon runners, and women during childbirth all have in common?

No, it’s not a masochistic addiction to enduring pain. It is, however, the method by which they cope with pain, and the techniques they employ to push, if you will, through the pain to achieve more with their bodies than they thought possible.

Built for Survival

Human beings routinely underestimate what their bodies are capable of accomplishing. We forget that our bodies are built for survival.

There’s a reason they make movies about people who have survived being stranded on Mount Everest or lost at sea. There’s a reason why we respect elite military forces who are trained to ignore pain and circumstances to do their job.

Essentially, we are fascinated by what the human body can do.

We also come away wondering if we could survive, if we have what it takes? Are our own bodies capable of passing the tests of endurance we see in these stories?

The answer is “yes,” our bodies are capable of this and more.

The determining factor is not only in the physical strength of our bodies but rather and more importantly, in the mental strength of our minds.

Train for Trial

The body is built for survival, but you must train your mind to survive as well.

Survival is good – but it’s simply not enough if you are competing. Whatever you are asking of your body, your mind must set the bar for completion and be up to the task of finishing well, not just finishing.

Finishing by the skin of your teeth, ain’t gonna cut it. You don’t want to simply survive; you want to finish first; you want to finish brilliantly; you want to knock it out of the park; you want peak performance.

Separate Mind and Body

Let’s address the body first because frankly, it’s a lot easier to train a body than a mind.

If you are competing in physical events, or tackling physically challenging tasks, let’s assume you have trained your body to be much more than a couch potato.

The most important piece of training your body whether for a race, sporting event, or even childbirth is to prepare it to respond when the stressors present themselves in the heat of the battle.

Train hard and push your limits at every turn. It’s often said in military training:

“The more you bleed in training, the less you bleed in war.”

Regardless of how hard you have trained your body, everyone reaches their limit. They key to success in competition is pushing past the limits when we hit them.

This is best accomplished through separating mind and body.

  • Western cultures tend to view the person as a whole. We are encouraged to always, work toward synchronizing the person with mind-body integration. Being in sync with oneself is perfect for day-to-day functioning. But we aren’t talking about “feeling good” in the everyday wide world, we are talking about competition, pushing hard past your physical limits. This requires something entirely different.
  • In Eastern cultures and philosophies, they are much more open to addressing mind and body separately. Consider Buddhist practices of meditation and chanting which accomplishes a physical action while at the same time practices a mental exercise. This is the key. It’s called dissociation.

Dissociation Applications

Dissociation is the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected.

This secret to endurance and the key to pushing past your personal best to achieve even greater results, is dissociation.

Navy SEALs are often asked how they manage to survive training and missions. They have to ignore physical conditions to the point of performing through injury, pain, hunger, cold, heat, as well as physical exhaustion. They have to perform their duties in the midst of the most extreme circumstances of battle.

  • One Navy SEAL, Roger Guerra – BUD/S Class 48 was quoted in an article at saying he and his teammates chanted Can’t Quit, Not Dead! over and over to push through. Almost without exception, their answers to the “How do you do it?” question reflects the methods of dissociation.
  • When asked about how she pushes through fatigue during competition, marathon runner and winner of the New York City Marathon, Paula Radcliffe, said, “When I count to 100 three times, it’s a mile. It helps me focus on the moment and not think about how many miles I have to go. I concentrate on breathing and striding, and I go within myself.”

Next, is also a dissociation application.

  • Mothers laboring in childbirth use a number of dissociation techniques to complete their delivery without pain medication. The Lamaze technique focuses on breathing patterns and meditation. Another popular method used by mothers is hypnobirthing, practicing self-hypnosis through words, imagery, and breathing. This state of self-hypnosis allows the woman to be fully present and responsive while also being in a dissociated state from her pain.

Master Dynamic Dissociation to Maximize Peak Performance

Dissociation is much more than just thinking happy thoughts or going to your “happy place.” Dissociating allows you to enter a kind of altered state. Your mind becomes singularly focused on something that is separate but parallel to the physical experience of your body.

It’s a process of compartmentalizing or fragmenting the mind and the body.

Many people find this process happening naturally but may not recognize it. It’s like when you daydream at your desk and forget what you should be doing, or when you are driving and you seem to go on “auto-pilot.”

Your mind becomes consumed with your thoughts, while your body continues to function perfectly but separately.

Mastering dissociation is like being bitten by a radioactive spider. It’s a crazy-cool superpower that will increase your endurance, improve your productivity, and help you push through ANY physical test of strength you might face. It’s useful for everyone, in every area of life to one degree or another.

Consider your challenges and how dynamic dissociation could help you achieve peak performance.

Dissociation Technique 1: Music

Many folks exercise while listening to music, and you can use that as a dissociation technique; however, it needs to be used differently.

Be very specific with your playlist. Try listening to many different songs when you are NOT exercising and gauge the physiological effect. Music has the ability to prompt the release of endorphins and hormones in the brain, having a powerful effect on mood and energy.

Do you respond better to beats and rhythms or lyrics that produce imagery?

Build a playlist that makes you feel alive and spurs vitality. What musical styles get your blood pumping? Don’t be afraid to step out of what you normally enjoy. You may not like hard driving rock music, or pumping rap music while you drive to work, but it may be exactly what you need to engage your mind.

Next, order your playlist carefully. The songs that have the most powerful effect on you should be in the playlist to give you the mental concentration and boost that you need when you begin to tire out.

Songs with hard driving rhythms and a heavy downbeat are good choices for people who respond best to the rhythmic pattern.

One example would be to focus all your thoughts on the downbeat. Try pacing the downbeat to a single word or a small physical action like punching with a closed fist or bobbing your head.

When you want to quit, use a TRIGGER.

  • A TRIGGER is something to snap you into a deeper dissociative state, pushing you past your current state to a new level.

When using music, a good TRIGGER is a song that has the strongest impact on you. Turn up the volume and block out all other sounds. Connect the beat to a different physical response. It can be as simple as a sound you make like a grunt or clenching and releasing your fist.

These connections will aid in the dissociation.

Dissociation Technique 2: Imagery

Your thoughts have the power to prompt physical responses. Remember Pavlov’s dog?

Let’s try an imagery experiment.

1. Think about a lemon.

2. Imagine smelling it. What does it smell like?

3. Imagine holding a small knife and slicing it down the middle. The juice trickles out and gets on your hand.

4. Slice it again and you can begin to pick up the hints of citrus in the air.

5. Now pick up a slice of the lemon and taste it.

If you have a good imagination, you should have experienced a tingling release of saliva in your mouth as you smell and taste the lemon.

Using imagery requires a strong imagination. As you are completing a physical task, you are simultaneously creating something else in your mind.

Building an alternate reality is a powerful technique. They are able to lose themselves or dissociate, by taking their mind to a different space.

For some, this might be thinking through a project or hobby they are passionate about, building a house, working on a model car, painting a room, or decorating a cake. For others, it might be imagining being in a place on a boat, surfing, or hiking a favorite trail.

The image is not important, but rather the degree of detail and specificity you are able to conjure in your mind’s eye. Concentrate so intently that you envision each turn of a wrench or the curve of each wave.

This method requires a bit of practice to master but it produces some of the best results. Laboring mothers have shared that they became so immersed in their mental creation, they were barely even aware of their labor pains.

When using imagery, the TRIGGER – for pushing through what you feel is your breaking point – is increasing the speed of the action occurring in your imagination. Sometimes it helps to make an object in the scene move more quickly, even visualize it spinning.

Again, pairing this with a small physical movement, sound or breathing increases the efficiency of the dissociation.

Dissociation Technique 3: Positive Self-Talk

This technique is remarkable when used alone or in conjunction with other methods, particularly during the TRIGGER phase.

Your thoughts have the ability to spur physiological reactions, i.e., in the lemon experiment, so you can learn to use them to dissociate.

During intense physical exertion, our bodies experience a biochemical process known as acidosis. It’s commonly understood to be a primary reason for muscle fatigue.

Our bodies have the ability to produce hormones and endorphins to combat this process, like adrenaline and cortisol. You can actually “think” your way into letting your body release these buffers to combat muscle fatigue.

Likewise, negative talk also has a powerful effect on your body. Negative thoughts set off chain reactions in your body. Never allow a negative thought to linger in your mind.

Useful and commanding self-talk requires much more than “You can do it man!” Consider yourself your own drill instructor but with POSITIVE self-talk. Use phrases that are meaningful to you. Repeating encouraging and inspiring words will push you farther.

Language is key.

Use commanding word choices to remind yourself you are resilient, powerful, formidable, fierce, intimidating, and tough. No one can hear what’s in your head so call yourself a masterful beast, striking fear into the hearts of weaker creatures! Be creative.

If this works for you – don’t be afraid to give it a try.

Dissociation Technique 4: Breathing

The power of your breathing cannot be overstated in dissociation. Your breathing provides the oxygen your brain requires to function. Less oxygen, lower functioning; more oxygen, higher functioning. It’s a “no-brainer,” right?

In whatever task you are facing and whatever technique you are using, you must always be conscious of your breathing patterns. Even changing your rhythm for a few breaths to draw in longer ones and send more oxygen to your brain can reset the bar.

The Lamaze technique for childbirth employs a number of different breathing patterns to address different stages of labor. Some stages use long slow breaths while others use patterns of short breaths followed by long breaths.

Breathing is a tool to attain deeper meditation and assist in dissociation. Like positive self-talk, it can be used alone or combined with other methods.

When it’s time to TRIGGER with this technique, try inhaling through your nose as you count to 4 and then exhaling through your mouth counting to 4 again. Then reverse it. Inhale through your mouth on the same count and exhale through your nose.

This simple shift in focus requires your brain to concentrate on the action and distracts from the pain and fatigue.

Dissociation Technique 5: Counting

Counting is another excellent tool to use on its own or in combination with other techniques. Whether it’s counting steps, or cracks in the pavement, or bottles of beer on the wall. Counting engages your brain and allows it to dissociate from the physical action.

Some people are naturally drawn to numbers. They see number patterns everywhere; they have favorite numbers. They add up license plate numbers as they drive.

One way to utilize a counting technique is to pick a number, say 1000 and count up to it by 2’s, then 5’s, and if you love math count to it by 7’s! (If you don’t love math, counting to 1000 by 7’s might be considered torture.)

Counting is an excellent TRIGGER. When you think you have peaked, set a specific goal. Count steps, beats, or objects until you reach your number goal.

Getting even a few minutes of additional distraction can make all the difference. Then you can set a new counting goal and push to the next one.

Push to the Limit

These five dynamic dissociation techniques will provide you with all you need to maximize your peak performance and push yourself to achieve greater results.

Our bodies are capable of much more than we imagine. Most of the limits we experience are limits we impose with our thoughts.

Experiment with each technique of dissociation until you find the ones that work best for you. Then practice them and refine them.

Begin to train your MIND as hard as you train your BODY.

by Staff

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