The Out-of-Body Experience
The out-of-body phenomenon is known in psychologist’s jargon as excorporation, in which the athlete has the perception of seeing himself or herself perform from outside his body, or psychological splitting, in which the athlete thinks there are two of him: the passive self who stands watching as the active self responds physically to the situation.
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According to Barbara Harris, a researcher at the University of Connecticut Medical School, the phenomenon is partly the result of endorphins and adrenaline being released by the brain stem. Harris, who had an out-of-body experience herself in 1975 during surgery, believes that science needs to expand and create new tools to find the answers.
Bannister’s feeling of being outside his body is the transcendental state that many runners seek to reach. The activity can produce a positive addiction to one’s own natural drugs, says psychologist William Glasser. It’s a trance-like, transcendental mental state that athletes seek as much as trophies.
There is a link between muscular and emotional states, writes John Jerome in The Sweet Spot in Time. Getting blissed out might explain the depth of commitment that some endurance athletes have for their sports. The man who is considered the father of modern sport psychology, Bruce Ogilvie, calls this calm in the storm an elevated sense, almost an out-of-body experience, a disassociation, a displacement.
It becomes an ideal harmony of mind and body. The athlete is one with the performance world, with the setting he’s in. He has total faith in his performance, a trust in his motor skills. He becomes egoless. There’s no yardstick down his backbone anymore.
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