If we are being very open and honest, every single person has that intruder on their shoulder telling them what they can’t do, not to make a fool of themselves, not to try something in case they are no good, or talking them out of exercising, even if they know it’s going to make them feel good and give them a natural high.

So how can we overcome our inner demons who have that uncanny knack of always tapping you on the shoulder at the worst possible moment?

The answer doesn’t lie on a phone or app, it lies in realising, and more importantly accepting, that our brains are completely outdated and not designed for the world the vast majority of us inhabit.  We think and believe we are incredibly sophisticated, clever, ingenious and innovative people, which we are, as how else could we have built the modern world of communication, travel, technology medicine and finance.  But deep down, we are simply apes that made good, and whether we choose to accept it, our brains still live in the wild and we must learn to recognise that.

We must realise that our brains were built for safety and survival and, when we are confronted by an imminent danger or threat, we revert back to our very basic fight or flight instincts.  The danger used to be wild animals and adverse conditions, now the danger is perceived failure, a groaning inbox of unanswered emails, maintaining a work life balance, finding time to exercise and stay healthy, paying the mortgage, and making sure our family is safe.  But our brains still live in wild.

We have demons because we are built for safety, not risk, and life is now seen as a series of risks.  We have demons because we are trying to run lightning fast software on outdated hardware (our brain).  We have demons because when faced with danger or a challenge we perceive to be bigger than it really is, our short term survival instinct overpowers the sensible strategic planning part of our brain we use in most normal situations.

The way to manage these demons is to notice and accept what causes you to feel threatened, anxious and worried which sends us back to the wild which is where our brains still live.  Once you have done that, you can seek help in dealing with those challenges, as to ask for help is a sign of real strength, not weakness.  We all have different fears and worries, and the demons attack when you spend time fretting and worrying needlessly about them, which uses up so much of our mental energy.  And the more time you spend doing that, the bigger the fear appears, as it keeps magnifying by the hour and day.

Simple methods are always the most effective and the simplest thing of all is to look at your perceived threats as the latest challenge to overcome.  A threat results in you feeling tense and unable to cope, a challenge results in you drawing on your banks of skills and resources to cope, the difference, if only in perception, is huge.  If you look back on your life, it is merely a series of overcoming challenges and obstacles.  Managing your demons is the latest challenge, but to do so, you have to ask for help.


Written by Michael Caulfield, a leading sports psychologist at The Sporting Edge. Michael has teamed up with Wiggle to help you Get There.