Blame Your Ego: It's Not Responsible for Your Racing Performance
John O'Connor, Ph. D.
Schuder, M. S.
I have heard many
athletes blame their ego for a bad performance. As a psychologist, it always
makes me smile. Most people don't really know what an ego is, and they
certainly don't realize that an ego is not responsible for their performance
Commonly, an ego
is thought to be someone's idea of himself. “He has a really big ego” is often
used to describe someone who is overly confident, has a big head, or is cocky.
When athletes say, “My ego got in the way of my performance today”, it usually
means that the athlete felt overconfident, too self-assured, or too cocky.
Because of my
years of experience in psychoanalysis, ego has a completely different meaning
for me. Step into my office for a bit, and I'll tell you what ego really means,
why it's not responsible for your performance, and what is truly responsible
for a less than stellar race performance.
What is an Ego?
One of the first
people to peg down a working definition of what an ego is was Sigmund Freud,
who was responsible for bringing psychoanalysis to the world. In order to
understand the role the ego plays in our system of mental existence, we have to
look at the role it plays in relation to the other parts of our consciousness
and our subconscious.
Our ids are our
primal urges, and it has only a rudimentary system of logic. It contains our
drive for survival and wishes, and it will do anything it can ensure that our
needs and wishes are fulfilled.
Our ego develops
out of our ids. As we grow, we are molded by the social forces around us. We
learn that we must negotiate with the world around us in order to get our needs
and desires fulfilled. The ego has a higher reasoning than the id, and is
charge of negotiating this process. The ego is seen as a partially conscious
entity and partially preconscious process, the area in between consciousness
The superego grows
from the ego, which contains our ethics. In the superego, we have an ideal of
ourselves that we think we should live up to, how we feel people should act. It
is our sense of what we think is right and wrong.
When the inner
voice of the superego dictates that what is going on or what one is doing is wrong,
it creates inner conflict. The superego's ideals may not match the reality of
what is going on in our subconscious. It is the ego's job to act as a
peacemaker of sorts. The ego has the ability to assess the situation within the
realms of reality. Sometimes, the ego decides that the information from the
subconscious is too damaging to the conscious psyche, so it will employ certain
protective tools to help protect us from the information that would completely
destroy our emotional and mental state.
Therefore, the ego
is a protector and a negotiator. It has a firm grasp on reality and keeps the
inner peace. It's what helps you survive on a day-to-day basis. It does not
somehow get overinflated, it is not responsible for how cocky a person is, it
does not get in the way, and it's not responsible for making you red light at
What Is Responsible for Racing Performance?
If ego is not
responsible for athletic performance, what is, my clients often ask me. Since I
am a Freudian, my answer is always the subconscious, of course!
is the part of us that knows exactly what is going on at all times. Even when
our consciousness does not remember, our subconscious keeps a running tally of
what has happened to us over our lifetime. Not only that, it has its own way of
processing and organizing information.
remember, has only rudimentary processing capabilities. Also, just because the
ego filters out some painful information, it doesn't mean that the id isn't
expressing itself. Sometimes, you hear thoughts from your id as it tries to
make its needs known, and sometimes it comes out in other, not as obvious ways.
For example, one
of my racing clients got into a pretty horrific crash. The recovery was fairly
painful and long. Not surprisingly, his following season's racing performance
was not stellar. Mysteriously, his car did not seem to work right all season.
We found out that he was overstepping or
over-clutching the car on the burnout, which in turn blew some cylinders and
the car would not get very far off the starting line. Even though he wanted to
win his races, his unconscious was reliving the crash as soon as he got to the
starting line. After our discussion, he went on to win the next season.
This is a good
illustration on how our actions are not fully dictated by our conscious mind.
Our subconscious has a say in what we do, and if it has a fear based upon a bad
experience, it will often step up and impede what we consciously want to do in
order to protect our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
This is the crux
of what I do with clients. I help my clients negotiate between the conscious
and subconscious, and resolve the war that goes on inside of most of us. A mind
in conflict is what causes poor athletic performance, not the ego. The ego is
only trying to do its best to keep your head above
water, keep you floating so you can
The Real Reasons Behind Poor Racing Performance
Often, the ego
gets used as a scapegoat. Instead of blaming your ego, let's discuss what the
real issue could be if you are not satisfied with your racing performance.
There are many issues that could be going on with a driver that could detract
from racing performance, and range from personal life to physical health.
Lack of focus is
behind many problems drivers experience, and often the cause of a lack of focus
is a racing mind. Lack of focus can create inconsistency at the light and bad
decisions during the race. Lack of focus can occur right before staging, during
the burnout, and at the light. If your mind is racing with other thoughts, you
are not focusing when you need to during those crucial moments. When I work
with clients, this is the most common cause, and not one's ego.
hats, such as being the tuner and the driver, creates more distractions at
staging and the light. With the added stress of having multiple
responsibilities, it's difficult for my clients who run the entire show to
focus because of the added stress.
and relationship issues can also distract drivers at the wrong time. For
instance, some racers are on the road when their wife is having a baby. Not
only do they have the normal pressures of racing and every day life, but also
the added guilt that they cannot be there for the birth of their child.
is another reason why racers don't perform to their fullest potential. Poor
anger management or just being in a bad mood will interfere with performance
the whole day because too many people don't know how to let go of anger.
can interfere with racers' focus. Exhaustion, lack of fluids, health, poor
diet, and electrolytes out of balance
can create unfavorable physical conditions that will affect racers throughout
their entire race day.
All these little
pieces are chipping away at your performance. These distractions are part of
being human. Racers have daily stresses just like the rest of us. However, the
best performers are able to manage their stress at least to the point where
when do their burnout and approach the light, they are able to focus during
that one moment that counts the most.
performers don't blame their egos. They are able to look at all these little
pieces and actively work on them to improve their performance so they can be their
best on race day. So let's give the ego bashing a break, and take a look at the
real issues interfering with your race performance.
Dr. John W. O’Connor, Sr., Ph. D., Sports Psychologist
Your Mental Game Expert, IDPA Shooter, NRA Instructor
President – The American Emotional Wellness Organization
Kirsten G. O’Connor, M. S.
Mental Health Counselor
Author – Inside Dweller
Vice President – The
American Emotional Wellness Organization
Phone: 276 346 3625, Eastern Time zone
new article in http://rpm-mag.com June issue 5 seconds worth reading.
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