Therapist in Los Angeles
Darren Haber MFT

Tiger, meet Carl

... in Jung's words: "It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself"

It may be a little tacky to address the overhyped scandal du jour, but I can't help noticing a psycho-spiritual element in regards to the Tiger Woods saga. It brings to mind Carl Jung's comments on the "dark" (or repressed) part of the personality, what he called the Shadow. The Shadow contains those skeletons we prefer to keep in the closet of our (un)conscious mind, the underbelly of the ego as it were, the parts we'd rather not see. Often we project these parts onto others and blame them, to sanitize ourselves.

These shadow-parts conflict with the self-image we prefer. But in truth there is always a yin to our yang: where we are strong, we are sometimes weak; where we are smart, we are sometimes ignorant. These dark "stumbles" bring up powerful feelings that are difficult, sometimes impossible to handle, feelings that may lead us to feel stupid, rejected, a loser. Often we self-medicate to handle them. When a champion like Tiger stumbles, we may feel consoled, as if to say "ah, he's human just like me".

Reconciling these two parts of ourselves, and owning the dark side (rather than shaming or blaming others, i.e. minority groups, family members, etc.) is one of the great tasks of human growth. It is an essential part of what Jung called "individuation" – or, really, growing up. Without accepting both parts, warts and all, we are doomed to repeat the same behaviors over and over again to get rid of shadowy feelings. It might be overeating, or overspending, or too much TV, caffeine, booze, what have you. Those behaviors are the calling card of our Shadow, trying to get our attention. We ignore it our peril.

Some have asked if I think Tiger Woods is a sex addict. Frankly, it's none of my business. Besides, addiction is self-diagnosed. But it is worth noting that, in Jung's words: "It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself". (Jung, 1959) That last part is crucial to treating addiction, and to psychotherapy itself.