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Golf, life, and psychotherapy

by Michael Hessdorf, LCSW

Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about golf. I mean its taking up a significant part of my life. And it really is more than just a silly game of getting a very small ball into a ridiculously small hole. So this short article is how you can view golf as a metaphor for life. Even if you don’t play the game, I think you will be able to relate to this idea.

And the central idea here is to believe in yourself. I’ve been a practicing psychotherapist for over 17 years, and I have been in the field for over 20 years. I’ve been playing golf for much longer than that and I continue to struggle with the game. Presently, I shoot about 100 which means that I’m an average golfer. Of course, I want to improve and I work on getting better (all the time-ask my wife.) There are many times that I want to give up, throw away my clubs and bag, and never hit a ball again. But, of course, this does not happen. Oh, I have flirted with the idea over the years, taking a short hiatus, but I always return to the game.

Now, isn’t that just like life? We get frustrated with certain parts of life, whether it is a particular person, job, political leader, society, or whatever. And we all can get frustrated with ourselves at times. Yes, golf is very much like life. It is the perfect metaphor. Just as in life there are many situations which are unpredictable, unforgiving, unfair, and maddening, so is golf, even more so. If you can deal with these adversities with some degree of equanimity and non-judgment, you will, in the end, be much happier,

Now, where this gets very interesting is in the top of the backswing in golf. There you are, standing over your ball which never moves (so maddening). You check your posture, alignment and you address the ball. You start your backswing and you are very near the top of it and all of sudden the doubts creep in. Where are my hands? Does this feel right? Am I going to hit the ball square? I don’t want to pull it into those woods on the left. I need to hit it over this goddamn ocean. The number of thoughts that can enter your head are probably countless.

So what do you do with all of this doubt? Yes, you can observe it and just make a note of it as it happens. Maybe these doubts will diminish as you become more aware of them. But wouldn’t it be great to be able to eliminate them completely. This is where psychotherapy comes into play. The idea of object constancy is what I am thinking about. If you can develop this concept of object constancy through the working with a psychotherapist, you will come to the feeling of having good self-esteem that you have worth as a person, regardless of your performance. You have intrinsic self-worth. And this is a powerful feeling that can really help someone when they are struggling with performance, whatever the domain.

So here you are again, you’re at the top of the backswing, and you are feeling that you are going to make the best swing that you can make at that moment. There is no doubt, no subtle correction, because you believe in yourself. You just let it rip. And if it is pulled left, so what. You are still you. And if you hit 275 yards right down the middle, you take it and accept that it will not happen every time. But you know that the shot is inside of you, ready to come out when you don’t interfere and allow yourself to be yourself.

So that is my message here. To be able to believe strongly enough in yourself that you will be able to make your swing without any internal interference from your mind. This will allow your body to do what it knows how to do. It certainly isn’t easy, but its worth thinking about and trying.

Tell me your thoughts on this idea-whether you are a golfer or not.

Mike Hessdorf, LCSW is a practicing psychotherapist for over 20 years. His practice consists of working with teen and adults. He sees patients individually and in groups. He also has two teenage children that are wonderful and at times, maddening. Feel free to call him for a consultation @ 973-378-5804 or visit his Therapist Directory Listing

One Response to “Golf, life, and psychotherapy”

  1. Drew Says:

    This article is very interesting and applies to almost every situation I can think of! I’ve used this very same idea with things like job interviews and tests for school. I told myself I had it in me to land the job and was smart enough to do so, and the same with testing. It’s amazing how much it calmed my nerves so that I could think clearly.

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