A New Perspective on Choking:
Part 1

Olivier Lingbeek, Phd

What is choking?

In these two articles we look at choking--the experience of anxious tension that negatively affects performance--from the conceptual framework of what is called Rational Emotive Training (RET). What is RET? It’s based on the idea that people don’t suffer from negative experiences as such. They suffer from their irrational thinking about these negative experiences.

The purpose of these articles is to describe this irrational thinking. Describing irrational thinking is described in detail in part 1. Part 2 focuses more n how to use specific RET techniques to free yourself from irrational thinking and choking on the so-called important points in a tennis match.


RET theory states that negative emotions can be divided in healthy and unhealthy. Unhealthy negative emotions are caused by irrational belief about negative events, not by the events themselves.

Irrational beliefs about adversities like failure, rejection, and ill treatment lead to unhealthy negative emotions, choking, anxiety and dysfunctional behaviors. In contrast rational beliefs about adversities lead to "healthy" negative emotions, like concern and then to positive functional behavior.

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Olivier Lingbeek is a tennis coach at several clubs in the Western part of the Netherlands, focused on helping people with their gameplay, both technical and mental. Upon obtaining his PhD in 1998, he worked as a lawyer for several years. An avid tennis player from a young age, he decided to pursue a career as a tennis coach and freelance writer.

In his practice he explores the potential of Rational Emotive (Behavioral) Therapy - RET or REBT - for improved mental ability of tennis players. He finds that RET, more than other interventions, offers a practical and effective way to strengthen players' minds.

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