April 23rd 2010 Yorkshire Evening Post
Knees knocking on the oche? Getting the yips on the green? Leeds boxer-turned-hypnotherapist Daniel McDermid may be able to help. Grant Woodward reports.
NORMALLY boxers send you into a trance with a nifty right hook, but Daniel McDermid is aiming to do it through hypnotherapy instead.
Having ducked and weaved his way past the stereotype that anyone who steps into a ring is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, the professional super bantamweight boasts a degree in psychology, a Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy from the London College of Clinical Hypnosis and is a member of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
And he’s now putting his skills to good use at the Leeds Hypnotherapy Clinic, offering help with everything from phobias, anxiety and depression to life management, relationships and sexual matters.
“I realise some people might think it’s a bit strange for a professional boxer to be doing something like this but my boxing actually helped me pay for my course,” says Daniel at his offices in York Place in Leeds City Centre.
“I studied psychology at Trinity and All Saints and found it really interesting, but it wasn’t working one on one with people, and that’s what I really wanted to do.
“With hypnotherapy I enjoy the fact that I’m helping someone and hopefully making a difference in their life, rather than just analysing the theory behind it all.”
One of the areas where Daniel’s boxing background pays off is in the growing field of sports psychology.
He can help when it comes to struggling snooker players, batsmen who can’t score a run for love nor money and even weekend golfers like me who find themselves three-putting on far too many greens.
“Obviously you’ve got to be realistic with people and not set goals that they don’t have the skill or ability to achieve,” he says. “But a lot of the time what holds people back is performance anxiety.
“And I think the fact I’m a professional sportsman helps because I know where they are coming from.
“The same principles apply to pretty much every sport. You can have two tennis players who both lose their matches, but it’s the way each of them reacts to that defeat that is the difference between them.
“The way they cope with the loss comes down to their cognitions, or belief systems. Sometimes it can mean that the next time they go on to the court they are frozen and can’t compete.
“In boxing, a good example of that would be Prince Naseem Hamed who was unbeatable until he lost to Marco Antonio Barrera and then seemed to lose his self-belief and ultimately retired from the sport.”
Daniel says it’s important to start by deconstructing a client’s behaviour, emotions and thoughts – the consequences of their beliefs – which can be broadly divided between the healthy and the unhealthy.
The activating event – or trigger – for these beliefs and actions can be an event in the past, present or future.
“Often people will feel angry when they perform badly, which is an unhealthy emotion, and stems from the fact that they place too much pressure on themselves to succeed.
“When I hypnotise a patient I dispute their beliefs and give them direct suggestions that will promote a new and more effective outlook that will help them to achieve their goals.
“A better attitude is to feel annoyed by a bad performance because that’s a far more healthy emotion. It’s not a case of being happy if you lose a game, but to feel that you can deal with that and learn from it.
“Similarly, instead of feeing that you must perform well, it’s better to have an attitude where you say that you would prefer to do well. That tends to reduce the pressure and lead to a better performance.
“They may seem subtle differences but they can have a big impact on how we perform when we’re doing something like playing sport.”
With a World Cup just over a month away, what would Daniel be telling England’s footballers to get them in the right frame of mind for dealing with yet another penalty shoot-out, the source of so much heartache at previous tournaments?
“As with many things, something you find easy to do at other times suddenly becomes very difficult when you’re subjected to a lot of pressure.
“For instance, we can all walk in a straight line when we’re strolling along a pavement but if we found ourselves on a narrow walkway a few hundred feet up we would suddenly start wobbling around all over the place.
“Similarly, scoring a penalty might be easy in a training session but when you know you’ve got to score to keep your team in a World Cup you’re under an incredible amount of pressure and some players can find that overwhelming.
“But if you approach it with the belief that while you would prefer to score you would still be able to cope if you don’t, that will relax you and give you a much better chance of scoring.”
So does the same apply to me and those pesky three-putts at golf?
“Absolutely,” says Daniel. “Darts players can always make the shot they need when they’re practising but when there’s £100,000 riding on it that goes out of the window.
“Rather than feeling anxious because you must make the putt, tell yourself you would prefer to make it and you’ll find you make far fewer three-putts.”
Well, anything is worth a try.