I rarely write in this blog about sporting events (actually this is the first time) given that the theme is psychotherapy and human psychology. However, an image from last night’s NBA Finals encourages me to write about it and what it represents about human emotion and psychotherapy. Yesterday, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder played in what became the decisive NBA championship game. Among the joyous celebration of Heat players, coaches and fans, an image born out of defeat impacted me dearly. The Thunder’s star player, the massively talented Kevin Durant, exited the court and was being filmed as he walked towards the dressing room. That’s when the image appeared. As he was walking, the obviously distraught Durant found what appeared to be his parents and fell into their comforting arms. As they embraced, that image moved me to tears.
Mr. Durant is a professional and no doubt a highly paid one at that. However, no amount of money could lessen the impact of having lost in the finals. His disappointment was great. It is amazing to me when people of some notoriety in our society show unbridled emotion. I recall a reaction similar in its authenticity, but for the very opposite reason, that Michael Jordan had some years ago after winning another of his many championships. This title occurred after the death of his father, and clearly his joy and grief were revealed as he sprawled on the locker room floor. Seeing Durant in the arms of his parents became for me, like the image of Jordan, an affirmation of the human spirit and emotions. There is perhaps nothing that makes us human as our feelings. No amount of money or the fact that he was performing his work could dilute the raw and authentic feelings that Durant felt.
There is much that can be said about sports in our society. I am thinking of the incredible jubilation and celebration that the city of San Francisco experienced two years ago when the Giants won the World Series. And I am thinking of the sorrow and disappointment that occurs when the other side loses. Those expressions and experiences of human emotion have the capacity to touch us all.
As I saw Kevin Durant fall into his parents’ arms, I was reminded of the role of psychotherapy when people are experiencing disappointment and loss. Psychotherapy, at least the way I understand it, does not involve actual physical touch. However, I believe that my clients feel held by me when they are experiencing such powerful feelings. That sense comes about through our interaction – through the words that we use and also the silences. In the parlance of psychotherapy, we often talk about “sitting with clients.” And indeed that is what we are doing, particularly when someone is feeling their feelings. We are sitting together. And it often feels as if there are many comforting and supportive arms in the room.