You Know Who I Am?

                                “WHO ARE YOU, KEVIN?”

Intro

“You know who I am, I’m Kevin Durant!” What was truly meant by this (at the moment) stern and for effect statement made by the NBA All-Star after dismantling the L.A Clippers and I the process his perpetual nemesis L.A. Clippers guard Patrick Beverly in this year’s (2019) 1st round playoff series who erroneously claimed he could “neutralize” arguably the best player in the game. Seriously?

Back to the statement. First, before I dive into my long synopses, I would like you the reader to take a moment and ask yourself this same question. What did Durant mean by this statement and what if any real message was behind it? While you ponder your thoughts, I will give you my take while attempting to show how this statement is deeper and more highly complex that it might on the surface appear.

Listen Carefully

The statement in my professional opinion goes not only into the core of who Kevin Durant actually is but also what he is in ultimately pursuit of and contrary to public belief it’s not another NBA title. Yes, an additional championship would be a nice “hood ornament” on an already stellar professional career, yet this would be simply a by-product of his main desire. To begin to know someone you have to go back to their beginning. This compilation of facts will give you a clearer picture on what and how someone with Durant’s experiences in life to this point think, feel and thus say. With this as a foundation I will now breakdown in my best “forensic psychoanalysis” approach as to crack open the code in understanding the true context and ultimate meaning of this very deep, complex and highly fascinating statement by one of the all-time NBA greats in his search for the inner peace that has eluded him throughout life.

Currently Durant is in a lifelong mission to fill a huge void in his life that is causing a daily and never-ending anxiety. Below is what I believe are the sources of this inner chaos, how these sources are defined, how they directly and indirectly effect Durant and the resulting events in his life that continue in fueling this discourse and how he continues to search in vain for the solution.

Profile

Durant’s Psychological Needs

  1. Legitimacy Legitimacy is important for all humans. Legitimacy sustains personal stability as it establishes the reason of a life, or in essence, provides a/the reason for the individual to exist.

A. Ideological Legitimacy

Durant’s has a set of ideals and purposes which help him to interpret the past, explain the present and offer a vision of the future. It is always guided by an ideology which describes and justifies the aims and objectives of his life. These sets of ideals may be deceptive myths about his professional life, or they may be realistic appraisals and sincere aspirations about life which have the potential to capture popular imagination.

Ideas capable of rousing and inspiring men to action are thought to be related to their success. However, all kinds of ideologies do not contribute to the growth or maintenance of legitimacy. For example, Durant’s professional ideology (NBA supremacy) only serves to mobilize support for alternative contenders to combat his goal (other teams/players/organizations) which if not seen in advance could “wound” his highly vulnerable psyche.

B. Structural Legitimacy

The principles which motivate the members of a team is to accept their authority-holders as legitimate (Durant) can also contribute to the justification of structures and norms of regime. Every system has rules or norms through which authority is wielded and there are always some rules which govern the exercise of organizational power. The fact of occupying these roles (Durant’s quest to be the “alpha” of the Warriors/Thunder) and of abiding by the rules applying to them normally places the seal of moral approval upon the team. Durant has never felt this legitimacy with the Thunder or Warriors.

C. Personal Legitimacy

Where the behavior and personalities of the occupants of authority roles are of dominating importance and if the members see the authorities as personally trustworthy, concerned, and able to lead, the legitimacy of the authority is not denied. It is called personal legitimacy. As a source of support, it flows from the estimate of personal qualities and worth of the authority-holders rather than only from the validity of their position.

When the source of legitimacy is the personal qualities of the authority holders it is called personal legitimacy. The legitimacy that the popular leaders are in a position to win it is then their personal policies and programs will be unconditionally followed which gives the leader systematic personal legitimacy.

It is legitimacy based on public esteem and support for the personal qualities of the authority-holder. In professional sports the qualities and charisma of the leader of a championship level team always acts as a determinant of the success of a team in key games (playoffs). Once again Durant has never felt this personal legitimacy with the Thunder or Warriors.

2. Insecurity Based on Recent Failure or Rejection

Recent events in our lives can greatly affect both our mood and the way we feel about ourselves. Research on happiness suggests that up to 40% of our “happiness quotient” is based on recent life events. Since “unhappiness” also influences your self-esteem, failure and rejection can deliver a double whammy to your confidence. This same research has indicated that “rejection inevitably leads us to see both ourselves and other people more negatively, at least for a time.” And those who have lower self-esteem to begin with it is these individuals whom are more reactive to failure. For Durant it’s as if an experience like losing an NBA title instills an irrational belief about his self-worth and triggers his sub-conscience insecurities which have been developed over time.

A. Feeling Excluded Hurts…Literally?

Emerging evidence in neuroscience has suggested that the physical feeling of pain (from, say, stubbing your toe) and the social/emotional feeling of pain (from ostracism) overlap in terms of how your brain processes it. That is to say, the same area of the brain that we know to be involved in processing physically painful feeling (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) is also relatively active when people have just been excluded.

Even in his current stardom Durant has felt excluded/ostracized. In Golden State it was Steph’s team, in OKC it was all about Westbrook, and with his numerous teammates along the way it was if he was nothing more than a vagabond and/or mercenary for hire.

B. The Psychological Effects of Feeling Excluded

If you’ve ever been left out and excluded in a social situation, you’ve been ostracized. It’s a common human experience, happening as often as once a day or more, but it’s not any fun. It doesn’t even have to a close friend or family member to sting—it can hurt even when a stranger excludes us.

Research in social psychology has investigated the impacts of this common unpleasant experience. What does it feel like to be ostracized? What do people do when they feel excluded? Let’s look at just some of what these studies have found.

C. Feeling Excluded Hurts Psychologically

Obviously, being socially rejected and stubbing your toe aren’t exactly the same experience. Lots of research has established that even a brief experience of being rejected by a total stranger can make people feel sad and angry.

Even more than these negative emotions, though, feeling left out can mess with some fundamental psychological needs. For one, people feel a reduced sense of general belonging after experiencing rejection. This is a big deal because psychologists argue that achieving a sense of social belonging is a fundamental psychological need. It would be bad enough if ostracism just reduced feelings of belonging, but being rejected can reduce self-esteem, a sense of control, and a sense of having a meaningful existence.

What’s more, these negative reactions seem to apply regardless of who’s rejecting you. Whether it’s someone in your own group or someone who you don’t relate to, ostracism stings. Whether (referring to Durant) it’s a teammate or a stranger on twitter who rejects you, ostracism stings. Even if you think the person who’s rejecting you is someone you despise (like Clippers PG Beverly and/or media jackals), ostracism still stings!

So regardless of who might reject Durant, that feeling of being excluded produces a range of harmful consequences. So, what does Durant revert to in response to these feelings? Just like with everything in life I need to look at one’s past behavior as to predict their future.

D. People Look to Be Included Again

Durant now is feeling left out so for him the natural thing to do is try to make social connections again. After all, he is just looking to restore what seems missing.

So now Durant, who is currently feeling rejection is now pursuing a greater interest in making friends (Kyrie Irving-Nets). Similarly, in his feeling of social exclusion, he is now more interested in working on a project with a partner rather than on his own, thus his joining Irving in Brooklyn just like he did with Steph Curry in Oakland after OKC fit his personal pattern of behavior and to him makes total sense.

In addition, Durant who has been ostracized will be better tuned to social information, more likely to conform with a group and at the beginning and be highly cooperative with other people all of which will initially help with constructing his new “team.”

3. Inadequacy

Durant deep down knows he has a good life and feels somewhat lucky for all the things he personally and professionally has. He is an NBA champion, perennial all-star with a financial fortune and who is idolized my millions of adoring fans. But for him this is not enough.

Despite all his positive life occurrences, Durant can’t shake the nagging feeling that he hasn’t accomplished enough. “I should be more successful. I should be more respected. I should be seen as the best to ever to play the game I should have more friends.” These are just some of the “spoils” he feels he is deserved due to his athletic talent and accomplishments yet the realization that even with all the accolades he still feels a huge emotional void which is plaguing and “eating” at him on a daily basis.

We are not born feeling inadequate. Life experiences and emotions create that sense within us in a variety of creative ways. For example, when we were little and we felt afraid or anxious, our mind told us something was wrong with us, not with our environment. That’s why children who were abused or neglected grow up to be adults who carry so much shame. A child’s mind, not yet rational, concludes, “There must be something wrong with me if I feel so bad” or “I must be bad if I’m being treated badly.”

As adults, armed with education on emotions and how childhood adversity affects the brain, we can understand that feeling “not enough” is a byproduct of an environment that was insufficient. We are in fact enough! Yet to feel more solid in our personal self, we must work to transform the “not enough” feeling. This is the main emphasis for Durant’s inner turmoil which I will encapsulate within my conclusion.

4. Psychological Validation: What Is Psychological Validation?

When it comes achieving psychological well-being; validation plays an incredibly important role.

This validation process primarily consists of two aspects: On one side this means that one’s thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviors will be acknowledged and accepted by other human beings; and on the other side that one’s identity is accepted by others.

However, what is absolutely clear here, is that it is not possible for one’s feelings thoughts, emotions and behaviors to be accepted and acknowledged by every human being and neither is it possible for every human being to accept one’s identity. Durant is struggling with this and he doesn’t understand how to address it and/or why this is the case.

FORMULA

A. History

The question I will get is “how did you come you come up with this assessment when you never even met the man?” Totally valid point but I am a profiler by nature and have worked within many situations by proxy with only a video, transcript and/or a case file. In this aspect yes, I would like to sit down with Durant but in the absence of this I can only make my determination by what I see and/or read from various media accounts.

Below I will now describe what I feel has led to Durant’s psychological turmoil and how his inner feelings have metastasized over time to the point that if this “experiment” doesn’t work out in Brooklyn I am afraid to say that left unaddressed Durant will always be in a perpetually personal discourse.

B. Years of Fuel

How did Durant get to this point that he is continually searching for the “sea of personal enrichment?” Just like most, it is never just one thing that leads one to this psychological position in life. But what is evident is that those afflicted with this mentally that it was planted early in their life. It is the foundation on how one’s life is built and will in some extent be part of their psyche now and forevermore.  It is the highly cognizant and emotionally mature that can see the signals within themselves and have made a plan how to face and address it as to not keep them locked in this cycle of destruction.

As for Durant personally, let me outline the trials and tribulations that have contributed to his emotional conflict.

  1. Born to a single mother-Durant felt abandoned (father).
  2. College-(Texas)Fans, coaches and media blamed him for early exit from NCAA tournament. Durant felt disrespected, abandoned, isolated and
  3. Drafted #2 behind Greg Oden-Durant felt disrespected.
  4. Supersonics leave Seattle after his 1st year-Team he led abandon city and he felt the wrath of the fans and media. Durant felt disrespected, isolated and ostracized.
  5. Blamed for “choking” in playoffs for OKC whereas teammate Russell Westbrook was lauded. Durant felt disrespected, abandoned, isolated and ostracized.
  6. OKC embraced Westbrook conversely, they called Durant a “cupcake-” Durant felt disrespected, abandoned, isolated and ostracized.
  7. Called “carpetbagger” by Warriors Draymond Green and “we don’t need you”-Durant felt disrespected, abandoned, isolated and ostracized.
  8. Fans/media/team/ownership claimed Warriors were and would always be “Steph Curry’s team”-Durant felt disrespected, abandoned, isolated, excluded and ostracized.
  9. Chastised by fans/media for not playing in 2019 playoffs due to injury- Durant felt abandoned, disrespected and isolated.
  10. Warrior GM Bob Meyers claimed at a public setting (championship parade) that Durant “didn’t deserve the “max” contract since he “wasn’t here from the beginning”- Durant felt embarrassed, excluded, abandoned, disrespected and ostracized.

In fact, although a not normally jealous, Durant became so as it pertains to Curry. Why? Intrinsically Durant feels his basketball talent is highly superior to that of Curry, yet he has never been universally embraced by the Warrior faithful/players/organization the way Curry has. Durant doesn’t personally have any ill will towards Curry yet the need for validation is so great within him that he is negatively affected at even the sound of his name (Curry). Knowing he will never overcome and overtake Curry’s standing with the Warrior fans and organization which ironically, he quests for himself, Durant chooses to leave the situation instead of addressing it. This is where ironically Durant’s supreme basketball talent is a negative since it allows him to escape any uncomfortable situation in his life as there is always someone or something that will provide him with a “soft landing” which will once again allow him to reset and give him the false sense of security that everything is “ok.” The sad truth is when his basketball talent no longer available, Durant without proper council will personally struggle to ever overcome this destructive force (emotional void) within his life.

C. Durant v Curry

For a comparison of emotional stability, one needs to look no further that his now ex-teammate Steph Curry. While Durant is visibly agitated as he quarrels with the media, teammates, officials and random social media trolls; Curry on the other hand is calm, engaging, cooperative, complementary and focused on his responsibilities as a father, husband, teammate and face of the organization (Warriors). Curry’s inner peace is constant even in the atmosphere of daily turmoil that has followed the Warriors in their recent dominance. Every move the Warriors collectively make, or word spoken is under the microscope from those looking for any sliver to expose their flaws. Even when confronted by negative words about his game, shoes or leadership, Curry simply shrugs all of it off and just keeps moving ahead. How does he do it?

For Curry It’s simply a case of a person who is secure in his own skin and enjoying his lot in life, whereas a insecure Durant is racked with anxiety as his search for a life’s purpose is unrelenting and exhausting. There are many reasons for Durant’s “negative” personal condition but the main one is “security.” Not the financial security most feel I am talking about since both he and Curry are financially secure for the rest of their lives. No, this is security based on their different childhood experiences and the foundation which each was built on. In Curry’s case his foundation was built in solid concrete whereas Durant’s was “fortified” in sand.

D. Science Says

The results to the numerous studies have indicated that whom was responsible for raising the child is a great indicator on how this child is formed and what will most likely happen to them in the future. We know that Curry came from a nuclear family (mother/father) and Durant from a single-family household (mother). Curry in his early formative years was able to have the security that he could go out in the world and attempt to be what he was created to be (basketball player-father-husband) and if he failed, he could come home and regroup with a foundation as to start again. When one comes from a split household (Durant) the child perpetually feels insecure. This mental state clouds their outlook to the extent that when they go out in the world on their own to “stake their claim” it is a highly volatile “ride” and if it doesn’t work out, going home to “regroup” is not an option for future success. This psychological toll builds a defensive approach to life since one wrong move could be the persons last. One that leaves this single parent environment and instead of focusing on “developing their craft” and enriching their life and the lives of those around them the person is always looking for the ‘family” setting they never had. When not finding  this “love” (especially a father figure) it builds within the person a “me against the world” mentality where it is all about self-preservation instead of self-development. The person who suffers from this lack of security which is in this state of mind will lash out the slightest threat while always looking to exalt themselves in the limelight (psychological defense mechanism) as to gain a superficial love which is a temporary “fix” for the livelong familial love thy have never known. This illusion builds a false sense of security. Since real personal security is so highly foreign to them this ever present “faux love” is the only thing they know. Real security is felt by people from birth by the foundation built by the parents who have fully invested in them from the beginning and continues to do so throughout their lifetime.

Durant should be extremely happy since his immense athletic talent has allowed him a detour from the great calamity of what most children experience  when coming from a single parent household. Stats don’t lie as it has been found through a myriad of research that those who come from a single parent foundation are more likely not have the same economic or human resources available as those growing up in two-parent families. Compared with children in married-couple families, children raised in single-parent households are more likely to drop out of school, to have or cause a teen pregnancy, experience a divorce in adulthood, commit crimes, be incarcerated, become homeless, insolvent and die earlier than their nuclear family counterparts. The positive for Durant is that due to his athletic talent he won’t ever experience most if not all these negative factors. The drawback is that since his immense basketball skill has amassed him a huge financial windfall it has masked the main emotional issues in his life and thus also has allowed him escape the fact he hasn’t developed emotionally due to his ability in leaving a situation instead of facing the issues head on and thus learning and also maturing from it.

5. Conclusion

Now Durant is off to Brooklyn without even formally meeting with them. This behavior is evident of a deeper problem of shame that is creeping into Durant’s psyche. In his quest for someone/anyone to embrace and validate him and thus fill his emotional needs he is conversely doing everything in his power to push all others away. It’s to the point that the Nets organization will remain “faceless” while Durant subconsciously detaches himself emotionally. He behaves in this manner as a defense mechanism since it is highly evident that in his past that Durant has bought into the group philosophy sold to him by others. He bought their collective sales pitches and when he opened himself emotionally, he felt used, abused, taken advantage of and taken for granted while his needs were “run over and left for dead.”

In the end to Durant it’s not the Nets he is playing for. In his mind it is just he and Irving while where and whom they play for is almost irrelevant. For Durant it’s not the idyllic fairy tale of a harmonious team coming together as a ‘family’ in pursuit of a goal (championship). That philosophy is long gone as today it’s all about business, legacy, and his ill-fated search for peace. Durant (along with Irving) mistakenly believing he can find this “hidden emotional gem” by achieving it though an NBA title in Brooklyn. This sadly for Durant will end up, even if accomplished, becoming the biggest illusion of them all.

Is should be fascinating on how this chapter plays out since it could be one of the final ones in the fantastic athletic career of Kevin Durant that we currently are all so privileged to receive and see. It is my hope is that in Brooklyn, Durant will find the peace and tranquility in his life that he desperately is in search of. Without it the final score won’t matter as Durant professionally and more importantly personally will have lost.

Dr. G

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Gbradford@mentalmystics.com
775-247-3424

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