Sex, Booze & Belly Putters: The Power of Paradoxical Intention

The Belly Putter Trend - Photo via PGA.com
Paradoxical Intent is wonderful technique that you've probably used before... whether you know it or not.

It's a form of mind control that seems counterintuitive at first glance because it relies on ... well... a kind of reverse psychology that you impose on yourself.

P.I. can be applied effectively in myriad situations where negative thoughts or persistent fears repeatedly surface... and result in lack of confidence and poor performance.  Does that sound like golf to you?  It does to me and, I sususpect, to many golfers... both amateur and professional... particularly where it really counts: on the putting green.

Negative thoughts, lack of confidence... both seem to play a part in the current belly putter boom on the PGA and European Tours.

When Adam Scott began transitioning to a belly putter it was about building confidence at a time when his his career seemed stymied by self-fulfilling putting insecurities.  Sergio Garcia, famous for periodic putting struggles, once called his Monza Spider a "safety net"and carried it in his bag along with his more conventional Rossa Monaco.

If the aforementioned golfers had used paradoxical intent, they may have been able to conquer their performance anxieties without reaching for the "long stick".

In a recent article on IrishTimes.com, psychologist and author, Padraig O'Morain described P.I. as a technique where you "pretend to want the thing you fear": 
"So if you have a fear of blushing you actually tell yourself before going to a party that you have every intention of blushing, so much so that you are actually going to light up the room on your own. When you do this, the fear is no longer crippling. It seems to me that this technique is based on not suppressing thoughts but allowing them and, instead, having a laugh at them."
Mr. O'Morain talks about the how technique might be applied to problematic behaviors in that can arise in various areas of our lives, including sex, substance abuse... and golf.

"I'm not going to miss!" Photo: Golf Girl Media
Research has shown that a conscious effort to avoid certain thoughts will almost inevitably lead to increased thinking about those thoughts and if the thought is about a behaviour,  increased likelihood of engaging in that behaviour.

I've always found it strange that my putting... and my game in general... almost always seems to be substantially better when I'm sure it's going to be really bad.   When I feel like I haven't been practicing enough, when I'm playing at a difficult course or simply when I'm feeling a little off... I almost always play well.

In retrospect that's not so strange because, in fact, I'm using paradoxical Intent.  Having resigned myself to playing badly, I'm not obsessing about it... an early mistake doesn't devastate me, an OK shot thrills me and I'm just having fun with it.  In a totally counterintuitive way my "cavalier attitude" quickly leads to increased confidence.  That's the power of Paradoxical Intent and i's definitely something to think about... or not.

Denying your Desires Makes Them Stronger