The Psychology of Tiger Woods
Lessons in emotional control and relationships
Posted Mar 26, 2013
Emotional control is as important in romantic relationships as it is in life in general.
Tiger Woods is an interesting example of that because he has operated at the outer extreme. Woods has gone full circle now with his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational which means after his spectacular career stalled he is again ranked number one in the world.
A person’s need for a sense of control varies from job to job and from relationship to relationship. But at the highest level of professional golf competition, it is not about nuance, it is about emotional control on the golf course. Professional golf may represent the penultimate test of emotional mastery in sport.
For a long time, Tiger Woods seemed to have that part down better than most. In the wake of the scandal that followed the revelation that he was cheating on his wife on an epic level, everything in his personal and professional life came apart.
Woods didn’t seem to want or need actual emotional intimacy with his various mistresses, there were too many for that. And too, emotional intimacy and true romance with any of these women would have meant giving up a measure of control. Woods was not a romantic hopelessly in love with another woman. He was a collector, a collector of girlfriends and this allowed him control.
How was it that he could not see that he was building a house of cards that inevitably would become public with painful consequences? For whatever reason, he chose not to deal with that prospect. Those types of concerns would just be distractions on the golf course.
His divorce and the publicity that made him the brunt of jokes tested his famous ability to shut out distractions and concentrate on his game.
Recently he announced that he has a new committed romantic relationship. Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn have been dating.
His golf game, apparently a barometer of his inner tranquility, has bounced back.
Woods made big mistakes, but to his credit he seems to have found a way to put balance in his private life. And that has made it possible for him to work his way back to first place in the fiercely competitive world of professional golf.
Most people will not see their private and professional mistakes broadcast around the world. Nevertheless, many work hard in stressful jobs where they have to make dispassionate decisions about other people.
Some can’t leave this work behind when they come home. That inability makes it hard for them to develop and maintain emotional intimacy with their spouses and children.
But many others, including professional golfers, are sufficiently self-aware so that they are able to glide almost seamlessly from one set of responsibilities to another. It is skill that can be learned and developed.
In terms of romantic intimacy, the ability to change emotional gears to fit changing circumstances is vital. After all, emotional intimacy demands accommodation, giving up a measure of control and entrusting your own feelings to another.
That takes a measure of courage.
Jill Weber, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships. Follow Jill on Twitter @DrJillWeber and learn more about her at www.drjillweber.com.