Monday, February 22, 2010

Did We Just Send the American Competitive Spirit into Therapy?

Last week Tiger apologized. The event was so momentous that trading briefly stopped on the New York Stock Exchange as everyone tuned in to Tiger.

One of the greatest individual competitive athletes of our time, a man who was a hero and role model to businesspeople everywhere, had been brought down, at least temporarily, by scandal.

Tiger had cheated... on his wife. He did not cheat at golf. He was not dysfunctional in any real sense of the word. But he had been condemned by the media and by no small percentage of the populace for having gotten down and dirty with a few too many women.

For now I wonder what Tiger's downfall says about America. Tiger Woods was not just a guy who played a lot of great golf. He symbolized the American spirit, better yet, an American competitive spirit that had garnered a series of extraordinary successes.

As I watched and listened to what appeared to be a PR-driven apology, I was shocked to hear Tiger indulging therapy-speak, I could not help asking myself: Did we just send the American competitive spirit into therapy?

At a time when we need to restore our competitive fight, when we need to buckle down to restore the nation to its former greatness, we need role models. We need people who have fought and won, who have exhibited qualities of hard work, focus, and concentration. And who shown how to win. We need people like Tiger Woods.

And now, thanks to the therapy culture, we don't have him ... for a while.

We all do well to recall that many people in this country believe that our nation's success, its competitive spirit, its can-do attitude, its lust for victory covers a dark secret. Such people believe that America's success is tainted, that we could not have won fair and square, but that we exploit the less fortunate and oppress anyone we can.

Those who think such thoughts prescribe penance as the proper solution to the problem. They think that we need to be punished, the better to pay for our sins. In that way we will redeem our souls and get used to coming in second or third.

As I said I was surprised to hear Tiger invoke therapy. Personally, I hope he was just paying lip service to our culture's values. As Ann Althouse noted, therapy has become, if not an adjunct to, a substitute for, religion. Link here.

Surely, this is all somewhat confusing. In principle, Tiger Woods is doing sex addict rehab. I have already expressed my doubts about that. Link here. Since I want to keep some hope alive, I even accepted the reports that Tiger has been a less than willing participants in the 12 step-inspired meetings.

But many people mistake 12 step programs for psychotherapy, so it is worth the trouble to distinguish them. First, 12 step programs guide people to change their behavior. They do not concern themselves with examining root causes or true issues that lead to addiction. Second, 12 step programs, when they exist outside of a medical facility, are not led by health care professionals. Nor are addicts' sponsors required to be health care professionals. Most often they are not. Third, 12 step programs aim at a spiritual re-birth. Therapy presumably seeks something akin to medical treatment or cure.

So let's hope for Tiger's sake that he has not succumbed to the siren song of therapy. About the American competitive spirit I am not so optimistic.

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