More on Pressure
Carey Mumford, 2004

Once more, we might prefer to leave this to take its own conclusion, but we would be remiss if we did not bring as much clarity as possible to issues that affect the game directly.

"Pressure" is a general, existential, term that most of us use to cover many forms of what happens when anxiety is present. "Pressure" is a physiological experience that comes from the presence of anxiety. Anxiety is a universal psychological "early warning" function of the human system. We have no choices there whatsoever, since it will come whether we want it or not, when nature says, not according to some command we make, and anxiety is equally aroused by "good" things and by "bad" things since it is totally non-discriminatory. The "good," the "bad" and the "ugly" are no more than our own personal perception of things.

We do not "create " pressure. It is a non-discriminatory response whenever anxiety triggers the immune system, and it does so under any threat, no matter shape or size. The Immune System is nature's first line of defense against ANY invader - good, bad or sideways (the system does not know or care about that difference). When a person does not experience pressure, it means that s/he has felt no threat, so has not experienced anxiety. The way pressure is experienced can be influenced by many and varied learning experiences throughout life - another of those items that are rarely alike for any two people - but the anxiety that sparks the pressure experience is constantly present and "on ready."

"Pressure" is experienced in such things as general tension, tightness in muscles, short breathing, fast heart beat, perspiration, shaky hands, weak knees, headaches, back aches, increased speed, slowing down, to name only a few.

Repeat: The problem we face from all this, in general, is that people would prefer that everything be conscious, while, in actuality, all of the foregoing symptoms stem from non conscious thinking. "Mental" does not mean anything is "wrong." It points to a human mechanism that is not going anywhere ever. It will stay with each of us for the duration of our lives. The deal is to learn to manage it and we only have 3% of a conscious resource with which to do that.

So this game is not a matter of either mental or mechanical activity. It is both. What gets the most mileage is learning how to build the necessary skills (good mechanics) and transfer that learning into the habit level (which requires a sound mental game). One can, however, play forever with nothing but skills, as most have done and continue to do. It will just continue to drive players "nuts" on occasion, but that will have to be OK too, since personal preference is not going away either.

We find most players, until they understand their mental games, cannot tell whether a mistake in shot execution came from their heads or their hands. The most frequently heard outburst is "Where the h... did that come from!!??" And that is not the sound of recognition, but of serious question since they do not know for sure.

If you know how to play the game on self-managed automatic, then you have means to distinguish. If your head game is sound, it is a safe conclusion that you will know instantly whether "it" was in your head or your hands. You cannot achieve that benefit from mechanics alone, and if you don't have the mechanics, you won't need the mental game.