Beware the shadow?
With another high profile transgression in Sport making the news, we see a fairly predictable arc of narrative. Denial, admission, repentance and in the case of the Australian cricket team incident presumably fairly punitive bans and fines. In today's world, this may well lead to cancelled contracts, sponsorship deals and general "toxicity" around a brand, which could mean a sporting nation and/or individual.
Does this then satiate public outrage and are we satisfied once punishment is meted out?
We should be careful. We all make mistakes; we all try and get away with something we shouldn't. We all have shadowy behaviour, something the analyst Carl Jung considered as much a part of our psyche as our benevolent bits. His argument was that we need to integrate all parts of our psyche, not cast off the bits which don’t fit with our image of ourselves as saintly and benign.
One of the reasons that these high profile sporting cases compel us may be that we can feel and see much of ourselves in them, yet they play out at a safe distance. In the social media age, we can all have our say; we effectively get to pummel people with rotten fruit in the stocks, perhaps to banish our own demons. We get some temporary relief but it does not last long. To compound this we also like the narrative of the fallen hero, it enlivens our day in some way, the excitement and arousal of talking about a significant public figure falling from grace.
Sports people are under huge pressure now to win at almost all cost. Enormous corporate contracts and sponsorship will be contingent on benchmarks of performance. We watch from a distance and expect them to deliver. Yet optimal performance over a long period of time is near on impossible. Mike Brearley the ex-England cricket captain and a Psychoanalyst has a recent book “on form” which attempts to distil what being on form is and how to get there. Its ephemeral, we can’t really name what gets us up to peak performance. It’ just seems to flow for short periods of time, then disappear. Just like our daily lives, good days and not so good days, but we can’t really describe why.
Perhaps then we simply ask too much of our sporting idols, they have individual and sometimes collective shadows, which might be why there is so much outrage at team Australia on the cricket pitch currently. The arc of news is very quick in these times; the story will inevitably settle down, it is unlikely to be a 'watershed' moment. Perhaps in amongst this we can step back and give ourselves time to think. Time to think of our imperfect selves, our shadow, our transgressions and perhaps the impossible expectations we put on others.
Many of the issues and concepts considered here are given space in the therapy room, if you feel you could benefit from a dedicated time to think, therapy could benefit you.
*Ref Brearley J.M (2017) On Form. Little Brown Books.
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About Graham Allen
Graham Allen is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in North London and a Middlesex League Cricketer. A London based Psychotherapist practising in Golders Green and at the British College of Osteopathy and Medicine.