Andre Agassi, Courage or Fanfare?

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Andre Agassi’s recent revelations regarding his drug use, depression and hatred of playing tennis have attracted much attention. Some have thought his disclosures on national TV and print media were efforts to promote his new book, others have believed that he is purging himself to rid himself of the guilt and shame he has lived with for most of his life. Of course both motives are possible.

I have seen the interviews and fall on the side of believing Andre’s intentions are positive and not self serving. For our purposes his motivation is not really the issue. The most important aspect of his disclosure is that he is yet another highly capable individual living with the “Curse”. He was reportedly driven by an obsessive perfectionist father who lived vicariously through his son and who gave Andre the sense that his value was based on his performance exclusively, rather than the essence of his being. He essentially was conditioned to be performance addicted.

Andre’s story is a very common plight for those plagued with the Curse and his efforts to re-write his story are commendable regardless of whether he sells books or not. He has honestly exposed his vulnerabilities, a behavior which scares most individuals who mask their insecurities through their capabilities. This tendency to mask insecurity through achievement and performance is a very common characteristic of the Curse. To the surprise of many performance addicts his book “Open” is now rated number one on most book charts. Evidently there are many who find his honesty and new found liberation interesting. Of course there are those who simply enjoy seeing a star fall. Another leveraging technique among those envying stardom. Some are wishing for celebrity failure if they cannot be on the podium themselves.

You cannot change your story without self disclosure and the courage to find out who you truly are. The story Andre wrote about himself early in life was based on the mirroring his father provided, which apparently was distorted. The only way to change our early stories is to have the courage to reveal oneself to new people in our lives who have the ability to help us discover our true nature from an objective, rational perspective. We grow with distorted stories in our minds, which influence our behavior dramatically. To un-learn the distortions of the past it is essential to have empathic people in our lives who are more capable of helping us discern the truth than the significant, biased people of the past.

Andre is representative of thousands caught up in our fast paced society which often values performance and achievement over character and relational skills. The degree of sustained intimacy in a person’s life often tells us more about success than any other aspect of their life. The skills necessary to maintain long term intimacy are highly correlated with long term success in all walks of life. Andre’s love for Steffi Graf appears to be a critical factor in his recovery and re-emergence as a human being comfortable in his own skin. Love, empathy and understanding are curative elements toward self healing. No matter how successful we are in the world all human beings long to be successful in their own homes. So many however feel lost in their personal space as intimacy demands more than isolated talents, it calls for a well rounded individual able to give without being pre-occupied with ranking and adoration. Selfless giving is a cornerstone of long term intimacy and is a requirement for a long, healthy, satisfying life.

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Arthur Ciaramicoli PhD

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