Since we are not even close to a definitive explanation of target panic as experienced by archers, I feel it is important to get every possible idea into print, so that future investigators will have a place to start from.
In this case I think a very good source for target panic is in our emotions, or rather in our interpretations
of our emotions.
For example, there is a bit of common wisdom that if one is getting angry, venting that anger can make things better. You don’t want to suppress it and have it build up more and more until you explode. This bit of collective wisdom is unfortunately wrong. Scientific studies show that expressing anger makes one more
angry, not less. This is because we have gotten emotions wrong from the get-go. We have always thought there is a sequence in which a stimulus, say one that evokes anger, triggers an emotion that triggers a physiological response, in this case, the well-known “fight or flight” response of rapid heart beat, sweaty palms, etc. In actuality this is mixed up. The stimulus evokes a physiological response first
then we associate an emotion with that response, and we are not all that good at interpreting those signals.
So, a likely sequence for target panic is that subconsciously we become anxious or fearful and out heart begins to race and our palms sweat (common responses to a fight or flight situation). But when we experience these things, we can associate them with negative performances we have had in the past. In the past, when your game imploded right in front of you, you became self-conscious, embarrassed, confused, etc. so the symptoms are not far apart. You get into what I tend to refer to as the “here we go again” scenario. The sensations evoke those negative memories, by association, which makes us even more anxious, which enhances the physiological responses even more. This positive feedback loop takes you farther and farther away from what you need to do to shoot well: focus on your shot sequence in a calm and consistent manner.
Now psychologists haven’t studied target panic to any great extent, but they have studied panic attacks a fair amount. One approach to people who had frequent panic attacks was to characterize those attacks as the patients misinterpreting the physiological signs (heart racing, palms sweating, etc.) and assuming the worst: they think they are having a heart attack or are going to die and they become even more stressed, which makes their hearts beat even faster and their palms sweat even more. The process feeds upon itself (it is a positive feedback loop, after all) until they enter a state of extreme panic.
The doctor pursuing this line of thinking trained many of his patients to see that the initial response was their body experiencing a small degree of anxiety (for reasons unknown) and if they would just wait a bit or do some relaxation exercises, they would avoid a serious attack. The treatment turned out to be quite successful and even applied to students who were getting exam anxieties, or job interview anxieties. Another approach was to associate those feelings with something good, e.g. ‘I love the feeling of competition pressure, it means I am close to my goal!”
The key thing here, that we have just learned recently, is that emotion doesn’t cause the sensations, the sensation causes the mind to interpret them, often by associating with an emotion, at which task we are not all that good
One of the more successful recent theories regarding emotions is that we learn them! We are taught how to respond to various situations by our parents and guardians. Kids with calm parents usually end up with calm demeanors. Kids with explosive parents often end up with exaggerated demeanors. As a young man, I had an explosive temper which I now believe I learned from my father. I have since trained myself out of that. But that is a whole different topic.
Target Panic Science . . . Finally
If you are interested, here is a good scientific paper on target panic: To what extent can classical conditioning and motor control systems serve as explanations to target panic
You can find it here: https://varden.info/doc.php?id=5
Don’t be afraid, it was written by a college student for a class and is not full of obscure jargon.