Emotional Control Thread

There’s an interesting thread on eliminating emotion that’s developed in the psychology forum on 2+2. Last week I posted a second round of comments, and will be posting some more later this week.

The thread is interesting to me because it highlights the common wisdom in poker, and frankly in many areas of performance, that believes emotion is the problem. The only reason you’d want to eliminate emotion is because you believe it’s the cause of your problems. Emotion can NEVER be the cause.Emotions don’t work that way. Emotions are reflective like a mirror, and they help you to see problems that you don’t have the perspective normally to see otherwise. Like having a piece of food on your face that you can’t even feel and don’t notice until looking in the mirror.

Of course it make logical sense why it would APPEAR that emotions are the problem – anger makes you play like a jackass. Anxiety makes your mind go blank or avoid making the right decision to avoid the possibility of losing. Having no confidence makes you play poorly. It all makes sense, it just happens to be flawed reasoning. Flawed only because you don’t have the full picture.

In the last paragraph the work ‘makes’ is where the flaw exists. Anger doesn’t make you play like a jackass…anger shuts down the higher thinking brain and reveals the flaws in your game that you’ve mastered. These flaws, when you lose the ability to think and thus lose the ability to think through the flaw normally, are what produce your donkey decisions not emotion. Emotion reveals the problem.

But that’s not what caused the emotion. Being angry came before making the donkey decisions, so something first made you angry.

It could be losing, constant 3-betting, getting stacked by a fish sucking out that you’d been setting up for a hour and then in the next hand another regular busts the fish. Poker does a tremendous job of giving you 1000’s of reasons to get angry. Each and every reason to get angry in poker has an underlying reason why it makes you so. That underlying reason ALWAYS has a flaw in it. It’s that flaw that causes anger – or any other negative emotion. The flaw is the real problem, not emotion. Emotion is just the mirror that reflects a flaw you couldn’t see.

If you have longer questions/comments, post them the Mental Game Forum here.

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