Hypnosis has a long history of therapeutic use. Since German doctor Franz Mesmer began treating patients with hypnosis in the 18th century, the practice has gained medical and scientific support for treating various conditions.
You’ve likely heard of people using hypnosis to lose weight or stop smoking, but it can also help archers, says Joe Crisanti of Pure Space Hypnosis.
He should know. Archery drove him to become a hypnotist. As a USA Archery Level 3 coach, Crisanti felt frustrated by traditional techniques for helping students overcome target panic and other shooting issues.
“The industry standard to fix target panic is to shoot more, and basically make a neuropathway around the anxiety,” Crisanti said. “You ingrain a certain behavior. But it may take you six months to a year-and-a-half to get over target panic.”
Crisanti thinks target panic is caused by an archer’s subconscious mind. “The perfect archery shot is a subconscious shot,” he said.
As his students perfected their form and reached that subconscious level, “all the junk within their subconscious floated up and got in their way.” Rather than spend months working on the problem, Crisanti decided it would be easier to just eliminate the junk. That’s when he became a hypnotist.
“[Target panic] is just an anxiety,” he said. “We find out what the anxiety is, and we neutralize it so you don’t have it anymore. Once you neutralize the anxiety, it has no reason to exist in your shot. You can come to me, sit down for about two hours, and get rid of your target panic, or you can spend a year-and-a-half working on a bale.”
Sound too good to be true? Crisanti agrees it can be hard to believe a problem that plagues some archers for months, even years, can be solved in just hours.
“You have to experience it,” he said. “Hypnosis is a powerful tool. It’s basically cleaning out the mental obstacles you have. Once they’re not there, it’s a lot easier to perform.”
Other problems he helps athletes work through include competition anxiety, fear of losing, and—believe it or not—fear of winning. Those issues usually stem from a past incident you might not consciously remember. That incident causes your brain to write a story about how to handle similar situations in the future.
“Your subconscious mind protects you,” Crisanti said. “If you’re afraid to win, or you’re afraid of being seen, it won’t let you. If you’re a competitive archer and you can’t get on that podium even though you want to, but you’re afraid to be seen or be the center of attention, you’re not going to get there.”
You might think you know what a hypnosis session is like, but it’s probably not accurate. Crisanti doesn’t put people to sleep during their sessions. The process is more like a therapy session.
“Hypnosis isn’t mind control,” Crisanti said. “It’s not a scary thing. You’re very much aware of what’s going on. You get into a hypnotic state and we have a conversation. We slide your conscious mind out of the way, and we work on your subconscious to find out where the problems are.”
The process can even be done through Facetime. Crisanti said he works with people all over the world. And although his passion is archery, he works with athletes in many sports, and helps them tackle other issues, too.
Hypnosis might not be the first solution archers try when encountering a problem with their shot, but Crisanti hopes more of them will consider it.
“The mental game is one of the biggest obstacles,” he said. “This is like tuning your mind. You tune your bow. You tune your form. Who tunes their mind? When it comes to the mental game, I know this is new, but hopefully it will catch on. I think it will change the sport.”
Hear more from Joe Crisanti on the CAM podcast. Looking for an archery coach? Start here.