Photo: ThinkstockBy Corrie Pikul
It's the middle of football season, and the head trainer for the New York Jets is pacing around his office. He's tried every drill he can think of, but his players just can't seem to focus. The phone rings. It's a woman--a hypnotherapist, she says. She thinks she can help the players get their heads back in the game. The trainer is familiar with strangers telling him how to improve his team--this is New York, after all--and he tactfully puts her off. That trainer had no idea what he was up against.
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A couple of months later, Donna Dannenfelser, Ed.D., a Long Island housewife-turned-therapist, is counseling pro football players in her home while her kids watch TV. The team starts turning things around. Fast forward a decade, and Dr. Donna, as the players call her, is advising high-profile patients and working as a supervising producer on a show based on her career (Necessary Roughness, Wednesdays on USA).
We thought the woman who made that call to the Jets would have some smart advice about the tough situations we sometimes find ourselves dealing with.
Situation 1: The blow off
We've got an awesome idea but the people in charge won't listen--not unlike that Jets trainer. How do you get past a no answer?DD: When I called the Jets, it wasn't like they said, "Hey, come on in." They told me my ideas sounded good and to call back in two weeks. Well, those two weeks went on for four months. After many calls, I finally asked the trainer if he drank coffee. He laughed and said, "Of course." I said, "What time do you drink it? Because I'm going to bring you a cup." Maybe he thought that was charming or different or something, but he said, "Okay. Be here at one o'clock."
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Situation 2: The dreaded gym hour
You used hypnosis to help professional athletes prepare for the big game. How would you help us prepare for a session at the gym tonight, when it's the last possible thing we want to be doing?
DD: Try saying to yourself, "This is going to be a great workout, my body is going to feel wonderful, I'm going to feel great." Visualize yourself enjoying your workout. Think about the end game: how proud and accomplished you'll feel when you leave, how your body will feel when you're finished.
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Situation 3: The explosive coworker (or uncle)
There's always one in an office (or family). How can you deal with someone twice your size, above you on the org chart, or across the table who's completely lost control?
DD: That's happened to me! A player who I was treating in my home got extremely angry and started trashing the room. I knew that if I backed down, I would lose him. I thought to myself, "Ok, if he tears down the wall, the League is going to replace it, and it will probably look even better." So I said to him, "Make sure you rip down this wall because this is the one that needs to be replaced." That made him realize what he was doing, and he stopped. Even if someone is really angry at you, that's still no excuse for throwing things around. At that point, it's about them, it's not about you, so sit down and wait for them to finish their tantrum. Don't try to stop them or get in the line of fire, because you could get hurt.
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