“Hey, are you playing solo queue tonight?”
That’s just a simple question from a friend right?
Your problem is that this “simple question” has started you on a roller coaster of anxiety as you think about trying to move up the solo queue ladder.
Bad memories come flooding back as you remember
- people raging at you, and
- games you strove to carry but ended in a loss.
The feelings you have translate into being stuck, not able to think, lacking focus and questioning yourself.
The time these feelings started?
The second you thought about solo queue.
Since you do not like the feeling you get from thinking about solo queue you let your friend know you are planning to play something else instead.
The reason for that choice is you believe avoidance is the best option and not only can you give your friend reasons you also can tell yourself some such as being tired, not having your duo partner available, your fingers being cold or simply that you do not “feel” like it.
What you know inside is that you are dealing with anxiety, and that it is tied to fear.
Understanding the enemy – Ladder anxiety
Fear is what you have linked to the memory of your solo queue experiences so you don’t need anyone else to tell you that you are not going to perform well, because you already believe that yourself.
Your mindset consists of believing that you will lose your solo queue games and if you win you attribute it to being carried.
You have little to no confidence in yourself and that leads to the belief that there is no use trying to move up the ladder.
That avoidance is wasting the potential you have to meet the goals you want.
That is why you need to reduce your anxiety by changing your mindset, and I am going to show you how.
Mr. Amygdala, The Natural Emote ε=ε=(っ*´□`)っ
First you need to understand the reason why you are having anxiety in solo queue.
Think back to the times where you had bad experiences in solo queue. Times when you were raged at, you played poorly, or maybe a teammate threw the game because they felt that you “did not deserve to win” which is a memory that I still have.
When we have memories our amygdala in our brain attaches emotions to those memories, and that is what causes us to have positive or negative reactions to those memories which then bleeds into our current belief about what will happen in the same setting.
You just thought of the bad experiences that you have had in solo queue, now think about positive ones that you have had.
There are more memories of negative experiences when we think of past anxiety, so it is likely hard for you to think of positives.
Attaching emotions to memories is the way our amygdala naturally operates, which is why it is important to recognize that what you are experiencing is not an error in your brain functioning.
Instead it is the result of focusing on negative thought processes and by changing the way that you interpret what you experience you will be able to reduce the amount and intensity of the anxiety that you feel from solo queue.
Before moving on to ways to reduce anxiety it is also important to recognize that anxiety in and of itself is not “bad”.
Rather it is a natural feeling that is designed to initiate change in your life.
So instead of focusing on removing all anxiety from your experience it would be better to focus on how to use your feelings of anxiety in a healthy way.
Fixing your mindset – Resilient Thinking
Before I start walking you through these techniques, I have to warn you it will feel a little strange, or off. Maybe even weird.
This is normal. I see it all the time, when my clients work through a session with me on irrational thoughts and how they are affecting their lives.
The usual body language is “Chris, I will act like I believe you so you don’t give me more homework, but I really think this won’t work.”
Yet a couple weeks later they finally succeed in changing their mindset, and they make huge gains in their lives.
This is normal, so when you experience this do not let it discourage you but instead let it be a compass showing you that you are on the right path, as eventually the surroundings will become more familiar and you will not even need to think about the actions but instead they will replace your previous behavior and become the new normal.
Research has shown that improving how you mentally interpret events will reduce your anxiety.
The way you do this is to first learn what it is that you think when you have one of those bad experiences.
Do you allow a loss to define who you are?
This happens when you tell yourself that you are a failure when you have a bad game and allowing that to be what your identity is rather than allowing yourself to think that you sometimes fail.
Instead of “I am a failure” try “I am a person – who sometimes fails.”
The difference between those two thought formations is that in the one you are defining who you are as a person and in the second you are acknowledging that you will make mistakes at times.
Think about that game you believed you failed at. Did you literally fail at everything you did?
Did you not walk to lane correctly? Did you miss every cs? How about not buying items? Did you do zero damage to enemy champions?
You are probably scoffing at the idea of those even being something that you should measure your success at.
Yet by having the belief that you are a failure those are some of the things that fall within that scope of thinking.
That is why it is so important to reframe your thinking and allow for mistake to be made, and instead of seeing them as how “horrible” you played you can see it as an opportunity for growth.
This is where setting measurable goals for yourself can really assist you in gaining feelings of self efficacy as you have ways to show yourself what you did well and what you can improve on.
This is the first step that I challenge you to begin practicing. To set measurable goals for yourself that you can look back and determine if you accomplished them.
Through this you will be able to see the areas that you succeeded in and those that have room for improvement.
It also sets up a structured way to develop a healthy thought pattern as you will no longer be allowing your gameplay to define who you are and you will have a reduction in anxiety as your self esteem will no longer be tied into the outcome game alone.
If you would like a spreadsheet that can assist you in logging your emotions before and after the game along with goal setting please contact me and I will be able to provide you one free of charge.
The Power Others Have Over Your Mindset
Maybe it’s not that you beat yourself up by yourself but rather the anxiety that you feel is a response to what others in the game say about you.
Gaining understanding of how and why you allow others to dictate your solo queue experience will help you in mastering your own emotions.
Fear is often the driving force when you allow others to be the springboard that you use to dive into your pool of anxiety.
When you have this experience consider if you are being affected by your subconscious’ use of defense mechanisms that Sigmund Freud identified in his theory of psychoanalysis.
While I do not see all of the content that Freud created in his theory as being relevant in todays society I do believe that some of his defense mechanisms can shed some light on how and why you respond during your anxiety provoking solo queue experience.
Why Freud Says You Are Defensive
Denial, Identification with the aggressor, Rationalization, and Regression
The first unhealthy defense mechanism that I will present is a dual threat since it is one that can be done both as a result of your own thoughts and beliefs or as a response to what someone else says and that is denial.
Denial is when you deny how poorly you have been playing the game despite evidence that shows you have not been doing well.
Consider how many times you have chosen denial to avoid becoming the focus for the loss of a game in an effort to not experience anxiety.
In that situation there is little to nothing another person can do to help you change your way of thinking until you decide that there needs to be a new way to view your situation before, during and after your games.
The way this is done is to gather evidence either for or against what you are considering to be the truth.
A key to this is to be non-judgmental when you gather that evidence and one way you can help create that atmosphere is to detach yourself from the scenario and ask yourself in a vacuum if it was a good or poor choice.
This reduces the chance that you continue the denial and you have the opportunity to gain insight into what is actually happening.
So when you watch your favorite streamer that is ranked diamond or above write down the decisions they make when they play.
Then use that information as your guide to compare and contrast the choices you make in your games to help you see the areas you can improve on.
#2 Identification with the Aggressor
The next harmful defense mechanism is one that I believe can be tied to how others assist in creating anxiety in your experience of solo queue is identification with the aggressor.
This happens when you have a fear of someone or their negative traits and in order to deal with that fear you become more like them.
The way this is applied to solo queue is when you jump in on the blame game by piling on the criticism that has been started by a teammate.
Since you fear becoming the focus of blame you decide that it is better to keep the focus on someone other than yourself so that you can overcome your fear and limit the potential that anxiety will occur.
This shows a lack of self confidence as you are allowing the fear of what someone else says to dictate your actions.
Simply being aware of your actions and paying attention to your emotions can be the ticket to changing this behavior and using it as a defense mechanism.
The easiest way to stop this from happening in solo queue is to mute everyone in the game as it will not allow you to have this defense mechanism as a choice.
The defense mechanism rationalization is one that can be considered a step forward from denial but is difficult to identify as its use is not as blatant.
Rationalizing happens when you take aspects of the game that are based in reality and then shift them away from you to deny any wrongdoing and to instead fit what you interpret the reason for the loss or poor play.
It could be something as simple as you blaming your fingers being too cold which impacted your mechanics in a loss, but when you won the previous game under the same circumstances your freezing digits were not even considered.
When using rationalization others are often the target such as when you blame the jungler who ganked and you followed up only to lead to a double kill for the enemy.
In that scenario you rationalized that the play of your teammate was the reason for the loss of your lane and disregard your own choice to follow up that gank even though you are the only person who could have made that choice.
The reason for this is that you do not want to experience the unpleasant feeling of anxiety as the result of being a part of why things did not go well so you instead believe your own twist of reality as that is a far less painful experience.
The technique to change this unhealthy way of coping is the same as denial but with the addition of radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance is not trying to find a way to change the outcome of what happened but instead focusing on what you do have control over.
You do not have control over the that failed gank any longer.
You do however have the option to accept it as an unwanted outcome and decide to play more passive until you gain some footing.
By adding radical acceptance you allow yourself an opportunity to move forward rather than staying stuck in the past.
The last unhealthy defense mechanism that can be used to reduce anxiety in solo queue is regression.
Think about making it to the promotional series you have been working on attaining for the last three months to move up into the tier.
If that scenario produces stress and anxiety in you that’s when regression can set in if you begin to play like you had when you were lower on the ladder rather than up to the standards you had shown you are capable of.
Think of it as regressing in your maturation as a human if a stressful situation required you to lean on someone else for complete support similar to how you relied on your caregiver when you were an infant.
Instead your solo queue scenario is you are missing cs that normally you would get in your sleep.
To counteract this defense mechanism I will suggest two options that can help.
- The first is to practice normal games while having the mindset that you are actually in your promotional series while focusing on relaxation strategies and recognizing the thoughts and behaviors that lead to anxiety.
- After you have practiced allowing your brain to believe that you are in a ranked game when it is actually a normal one I want you to do the opposite when you play in solo queue and replace the anxiety and stress that you had with focus and a sense of calm you have practiced during those normal games.
Put your shields up – don a defence mode
Anxiety is not unbeatable and by learning more about your thoughts and behaviors you can drastically change your emotional outcomes.
By recognizing that there are unhealthy ways that you try and cope with solo queue and even life you are making a great first step towards changing your behavior.
Make sure you follow it up with learning and applying new coping skills to replace the unhealthy ones that have been using.
This will create change in your anxiety levels as the emotional information that your amygdala is gathering to apply to the memory attached to solo queue will not be riddled with anxious feelings but instead of maturity and growth.
So return to solo queue with confidence that you have the power to change yourself and do not be frozen by fear and anxiety any longer.
Reference: McLeod, S. A. (2009). Defense Mechanisms. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/defense-mechanisms.html