9 Hypnosis techniques for the yips

Selection of sports balls including a golf, rugby, football, cricket, tennis and basket ball.

Steph McGee

I’m a Trauma Informed Clinical Hypnotherapist on a mission to help. Hypnosis feels like a magic wand. But in truth? The real magic is you.

If you weren’t born with it, you learnt it. And what you can learn, you can learn to do differently.

The yips are painfully common and have a terrible reputation of being incurable so if you’ve got them?

I feel for you honey!

And while you’ve probably tried every trick in the book, changed your grip, focused really hard, squashed your thoughts down, seen your doc, physio, coach and mentor… and spent years in the process?

A little voice in your head has just screamed…

HYPNOSIS!

And whilst hypnosis is rarely the first thing people think of, when issues become persistent or stubborn it suddenly is.

And the astonishing news is that you’re already using it!

Because I’ve never worked with a yips sufferer who doesn’t negatively forecast, visualise or feel the problem before it happens.

And I’ve never had a client with a great drive shot, serve, bowl or lay up who doesn’t feel their success before it happens.

In fact, whilst it’s a term we don’t use half as often as we should…

We’re all using self hypnosis all the time!

Because hypnosis for the yips is a highly focused state of absorption and abstraction – into the moment and away from distractions, and Clinical Hypnotherapy is the easiest way to learn!

Following today’s session I went out on the course and played a few holes. I was practicing what we’d talked about and established a sequencing routine for my putting.  The combination of everything just ‘clicked’.  The best score I’ve had in 20 years even without playing that great – literally every semi make-able putt went in.  Great fun.

Edinburgh

So I’m not sharing these hypnosis techniques for you to muddle yourself through.

 

And you don’t NEED to know how this WORKS to work with me.

 

But just like knowing your game, a little hypnosis KNOW HOW can help you:

  1. Focus on your goal
  2. Get your practice done
  3. Commit to the process
  4. Quit beating yourself up
  5. Quieten the part of your brain that thinks it’s ‘woo woo’ or worse…’it won’t work for me’.

And these aren’t all the techniques, there are lots more besides, so if you do want to work with me, you’ll find everything is designed specifically for you.

Main Menu

To understand more about hypnosis for golf keep reading this article.

I will cover:

  1. What are the yips?
  2. A physical cause
  3. A psychological cause
  4. Can Hypnosis cure the yips?
  5. Sports that are effected
  6. Hypnosis techniques for the yips

Or go right ahead and book your Initial Consultation session.

 

What are the Yips?

Also known as the twitches, staggers, chocking, jerks and jitters, the term ‘the yips’ was made famous by golfer, Tony Armour who used the word to describe his own inexplicable problems that led to his quitting tournament play way back in1935. And hypnosis has moved on a lot since then!

But it is not just golf that is affected.

Defined as “a sudden and unexplained loss of ability to execute certain skills in experienced athletes”, the yips are a sporting phenomenon in which an otherwise good or great sportsperson suddenly experiences problems with their fine motor skills.

This causes involuntary spasms, shakes, tremors or contractions. And whether caused by a physical problem or something purely psychological?

And so deeply entrenched in performance anxiety, the term is sometimes used for other issues such as public speaking.

Anxiety, worry, embarrassment, shame, negative forecasting and negative introspection can all make the yips worse

Not surprisingly, the compounding fear of hitting the ball, throwing the dart or making a bad shot DOES lead to bad shots, bad putts and bad throws, leading to yet more bad form and more worry.

Like a whirl wind of negative hypnosis!

Only effecting good players and performers, this can lead to discomfort in your stroke, missed baskets, poorly released darts, trouble bowling a cricket ball, dangerous mid-flight ‘twisties’ in gymnastics, and problems playing your oboe!

But the good news is that it doesn’t always happen

Because everyone I have ever worked with only suffers in certain circumstances. When they are performing a solo, in competitive play or only at tournament level.

And certain shots are fine too:

Perhaps your practice is fine, friendly play fine, full orchestral performances fine, informal speeches fine, the putting green is fine or maybe this only effects chipping. And you haven’t always had this!

So that’s were we start!

A Physical Cause

The yips used to be considered a purely mental condition linked to performance anxiety and whilst mindset always forms part of the issue, a report by the Mayo Clinic states that in some people, the yips can be a type of focal dystonia caused by over use of a set of muscles. But not surprisingly, is exacerbated by anxiety as well!

So I recommend you speaking to your doctor about the physical side before working with me.

A Psychological Cause

The psychological yips are best described as a player dropping out of unconscious competence into conscious competence, or to word it differently, out of instinctive, automatic play and into a mechanical mindset.

This can often be linked back to compounded stress, performance anxiety or trauma.

And it’s not uncommon to find sufferers carrying pressures far beyond their game:

Demanding work loads, busy businesses, hectic home life or some other pressure can often played its part in scuppering the subconscious mind.

And it’s not uncommon to find sufferers carrying pressures far beyond their game with:

  • Stressful schedules
  • Mammoth goals
  • Heavy work loads & long hours
  • Busy Businesses
  • Hectic home life
  • Rocky relationships

Or seemingly unrelated issues such as:

  • General anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Unwanted bad habits
  • Stress, anger or low mood
  • Recent or historical trauma

So my holistic approach means hypnotherapy can help, even if you don’t tell me everything!

 

 Can Hypnosis Cure the Yips?

Humans are amazing & unique, so it would be crazy to suggest that NO ONE can recover from the yips because nothing is that clear cut.

There are several ways to treat the yips:

  • physical therapy
  • medication
  • surgery
  • hypnosis & hypnotherapy

But it is important to know that as a Hypnotherapist in the UK, working online with clients all over the world, that I am bound by my professional registrations. In the UK, only medical doctors & other medical professionals can promise to cure, treat or give ‘treatment’. So Clinical Hypnotherapists can only use words like HELP.

So hypnosis can help the yips…

And as with all complementary therapies, results vary and everyone is different. So it is possible that some players who try hypnosis will fail to recover while others will find they fly.

And without wishing to sound like your mother…commitment helps.

So whilst Hypnosis isn’t brain washing, sometimes it really is as simple as staying the course (pun intended) instead of giving up your game!

 

Sports that are affected:

Golf

Golf is the classic. It can affect the putting shot, the chipping shot and in a few rare cases, even the drive shot as well.

Darts

Known as Dartitis this condition can effect the throwing technique and/or release of the dart. Players will often try to adjust their grip but like all other sports, performance anxiety and negative anticipation play their part. Famous players who have reported the condition include Erick Bristow, Mark Webster and Berry van Peer.

Tennis

The pressure of the second serve is immense so it’s not surprising that this is where the yips usually occur, and sadly leads to those excruciating double faults.

Cricket

Bowling – think Scott Boswell who we’ll come back to later. Think wide balls, ropey run ups, tunnel vision, fingers feeling like thumbs and inability to release the ball.

Pickle ball

With similarities to tennis & table tennis, it’s not surprising the yips can happen in pickle ball!

Basketball

Basketball yips can cause havoc with your free throws (which would otherwise look like poetry in motion) and in some cases, lay ups or other ‘under pressure’ shots.

Gymnatsics

The most dangerous form of the yips, and more commonly known as the twisties, gymnasts find themselves loosing their technique mid-routine or flight.

 

And this is not an exhaustive list!

I’ve heard the yips used to describe performance anxiety including public speaking, examinations and even driving tests and whilst these are different, the hypnosis techniques are often the same!

 

Hypnosis techniques for the yips

 

1. Colour Anchoring

Work with me and you’ll find your colour, it’s a given! And forget kooky because colour anchors are the perfect antidote to physical or emotional pain. The simplest of techniques (and done in a DEEP state of hypnosis) colour anchoring ties a subconscious colour into you at your best, the best version of you!

All you need to do is practice with your colour to feel that way again!

2. Game Players Planet

Imagine you can switch your attention away from unhelpful thoughts over to the helpful ones. In this well loved piece of hypnosis you can put yourself firmly back in control of which direction your mind goes and feel your confidence grow. This is most effective when used in combination with the other techniques listed.

3. The Dial Technique

Imagine you have a dial and that whenever you choose to turn that dial it can bring back that confident feeling of success you miss.

The Dial Technique uses thumb and forefinger as a hypnosis touch anchor.  The action of touch takes up mental band width which helps to over ride worry and self sabotaging thoughts. All we need to do is establish where you feel the problem starting, what the first signs of the problem are and what you want instead. Like sequencing, the dial technique helps slow the mind down, helping to prevent self sabotage. There are other genius motor activity techniques that I wont share here as they’re not strictly hypnosis.

4. Playing the Good Game – Self Hypnosis

When you think about something the body responds. On a muscular level, neurologically and psychologically. So every time you think about yourself yipping you get better at it! Self-hypnosis is best learnt over 4 sessions and is tailored to you. You will be taught to take yourself into hypnosis, achieve the state of body & mind you want and bring back that wonderful state automatically and easily with an embedded hypnosis anchor of your choosing.

Self hypnosis has the benefit of you being able to use specific hypnosis techniques on yourself and because the techniques available to you are merely limited by your imagination, with practice, you might like to positively make subconscious changes in the future as well.

5. The Inner World

Parts Therapy is a form of inner world work thats related to shadowing and some would argue it’s the daddy. Not for everyone, with this slightly woo woo form of hypnosis I guide you into a light trance state and help you tap into your unconscious mind, communicating with it in metaphor and negotiating with it to make the changes you need.

If you find yourself saying things like “there’s a part of me that can’t do this” or “there’s part of me just getting in the way” or “see the problem” or a part of it on a loop then this curiously light trance state of Parts Therapy might be the key to resolving the unresolvable.

6. Pattern Interruption

Widely used in hypnosis, pattern interruption and disruption techniques include swish and other less easy to explain techniques that I won’t start to delve into here.

The swish technique is a Neuro-linguistic programming technique (NLP) in which you are taught to switch your anticipated moment of anxiety, fear, failure, panic or mortifying embarrassment for what you want instead!

If that awful moment is emblazoned on your mind, swish helps you loosen your grip on it to replace it with a firm 3d imagine (all the feels!) of what you actively DO WANT. Best of all, once learnt, you can use this technique for any upcoming event that needs a positive shift.

I have successfully helped news readers, public speakers, authors and sports people with this technique!

 

7. Sequencing

One of the most essential parts of Hypnotherapy, even if you don’t have the yips you will get sequencing. Sequencing is a gloriously simple way of focusing the mind, stopping the critical mind in it’s tracks and slowing the mind down so that you can re-engage with your normal, positive, state of flow – when you play a game and you just play. How your sequncing will work is unique to you

8. Rewind Therapy

The yips usually creep in gradually, but for cricketer Scott Boswell and they landed in a single traumatic match.

In a rare interview with the Guardian, Boswell described it as a trauma that shaped 10 years of his life. With bowl after bowl wide, the batsman looking like a dot in the distance , Boswell’s legs were heavy, fingers immobile, the ground titling sharply beneath his feet and the noise of the crowd building to a crescendo. The moment seemed endless with Boswell desperate for it to be over he was forced to bowl time and time again.

When a persons sense of safety is so shaken,  a trauma response is understandable. This can lead to intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, hyper vigilance, low mood, anxiety and more.

Rewind Therapy is a fast and effective exposure therapy, similar to EMDR, which research (and my own experience with clients) has shown helps to lift the symptoms of PTSD and trauma in relatively few sessions, and unlike EMDR, is less likely to re-traumatise because there is no requirement to repeatedly talk about the traumatising event…If only Scott had know about me!

How exposure therapies like Rewind work is not truly known, but it is theorised that Rewind Therapy enables the mind to view the traumatic event as a ‘normal’ or ‘non-emotional’ event, and like EMDR, utilising left brain, right brain communications helps the event get passed into the long term memory where you have control over it.

 9. The Arrow Technique

Imagine it. You arrive in session saying the words “Steph, I’m done – this is my last session and I just wanted to say thanks”. This is when we use The Arrow Technique.

Useful at the end of any long term, nigglesome issues the Arrow Technique involves piling every last remaining niggle or doubt into the bullseye of an archery target. In hypnosis you become the arrow, fly through the air, smash through that bullseye (comfortably of course!) and rise majestically the other side. Rising up to look down on all the last remaining clutter and being completely & utterly free of it forever.

And this is not an exhaustive list! Recently I’ve heard the yips used to describe performance anxiety such as public speaking, examinations and even driving and whilst not strictly accurate, the hypnosis used is largely the same!

 

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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. I disclaim all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.

 

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