WINNERS & LOSERS…….Don McMahon
Tony’s excellent 10 point review of the Arsenal and my personal experience in winning and losing, inspired this opus about the “winning mentality”, the journos and aaa go on about. And as a psychologist, I can explain a little about the so-called “winning mentality.”
First off, a few definitions to clarify things;
An attitude is an expression of favour or disfavour toward a person, place, thing, or event (the attitude object).* Some psychologists divide attitudes into 4 sub-categories:
- Utilitarian: provides us with general approach or avoidance tendencies
- Knowledge: helps people organize and interpret new information
- Ego-defensive: attitudes can help people protect their self-esteem
- Value-expressive: used to express central values or beliefs
A mentality is a mindset or pre-conceived perception of what reality presents. This can be both conscious (i.e. elitism, humanitarianism etc.) and unconscious (i.e. racism, inclusiveness etc.) One can also have both extremes and a combination of both present in one’s mind but when they are too discordant; it can lead to neurosis and even psychosis.
The so-called “winning mentality” is in fact a misnomer;
1) It is not a “mentality” at all but rather an attitude. The difference in the sporting world at least, being that a mentality is persistent and usually immutable, an attitude can change depending on the circumstances the individual or team are facing. This distinction is important in psychological terms.
2)” Winning” is entirely the wrong term to use when describing an attitudinal state. It innately implies that one not having it is in a “losing” attitude…but that is not true.
Individuals or groups can lose their feeling of winning but still feel like winners. Take for example against AC Milan and Marseille in the CL over the last few seasons. We lost at home rather convincingly but went into their grounds and won rather convincingly, both clean sheets. That is an example of losing and yet maintaining a winning attitude.
3)The correct psychological definition implies that there is a very strong and lasting psycho-physiological link between a positive attitude and a can-do philosophy that permits an individual and/or a group to persist, endure, knit together and overcome most serious obstacles (in our case the officials, the EPL brutality, the indifference of those who should care,etc.) by taking their game to a higher level despite the opposition’s best attempts to drag the entire game down.
4) A positive attitude allows the team to ignore and even profit from the psychological mind games their adversaries and opponents may try to play. Moanhino is masterful at throwing the cat in among the pigeons so to speak BUT that approach is inherently risky as he often ends up with pie on his face. Wenger’s cool-hand Luke, elegant indifference to such mind-games is the best example of classic savoir vive and professionalism that makes Moanhino appear more the court jester and fool than the savvy mindbender the press love to fantasize about.
5) In psychology 101, the instructor will often start with the fundamental concept of what is called singular perception. This means that one cannot be positive and negative at the same time. It doesn’t mean we cannot have doubts about our attitude but it does mean that even when doubting (a normal human characteristic)we , like a canoe that tipped over, can always be flipped upright eventually. It is also known as homeostasis and means that the psychological and physiological nature of humans seeks to balance or maintain or return to a healthy status quo before all else.
6) The concept of psycho-physiological equilibrium means that when one’s attitude is positive and upbeat (optimistic?) then one’s bodily performances will follow suit and vice-versa. Thus, Wilshire has another medium term injury and so his mental state is probably perturbed and while not pessimistic, certainly preoccupied with his misfortune. The true recuperation will be the balancing of his physical and attitudinal states as he recuperates (a word from the Latin recupere= recover, return to a former state, re-establish normality).
So does the Arsenal have a positive attitude and confidence sufficient unto the task that faces them? Only time will tell, since one match will NEVER indicate the reality.
We have seen them present a dramatically (almost opposite) performance from the first half of last season up to our game in the Charity shield. We saw them win 3 trophies in about four weeks and double up on two of them as well.
Wenger is a MASTER at motivating and supporting his teams, at convincing them that ANYTHING is possible and at preparing them to overcome WHATEVER fate and the PGMOL throw their way….will it be enough, we will only know next June.
* Alpert, definitions of psychology.
Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
Editorial note: If you have an article you would like considered for publication please email it to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org