A Round of Golf with My Father

The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace with Your Present

William Damon

For most of his life, William Damon believed that his father had been killed during World War II. He grew up knowing hardly anything else about the man, aside from a few tidbits gleaned from his mother. It was decades later, after Damon became a distinguished psychologist and raised a family of his own, that he was compelled to dig deeper.

The impetus was a phone call from his daughter, who made a startling discovery: Damon's father not only survived the war but went on to serve as a diplomat for the Foreign Services, marry a French ballerina, and befriend the king and queen of Bangkok. He also built a reputation as a fine golfer—a bittersweet revelation for Damon, who also adores the game. What's more, with its lessons in etiquette, self-control, and gentlemanly ambition, golf imparts the kind of fatherly wisdom Damon craved in his formative years.

As Damon recounts these discoveries, he simultaneously introduces us to what is known in psychological circles as a life review. A life review is the structured process of looking clearly and honestly at our past in order to see our present with contentment and gratitude, and our future with direction and optimism. A life review addresses our acute need to feel okay with who we are, with what we have done, and with what has happened to us along the way. Acclaimed for his research in human development and moral formation, Damon is uniquely qualified to guide us along this path of self-understanding.

Damon's search for his father's identity formed the basis of his own life review. The choices he made, the roads he took and didn't, his aptitudes and interests, the twists and turns of his journey, all cohered into a life-affirming picture after Damon learned about the man he never met. In A Round of Golf with My Father, he explains how the same feelings of wholeness, closure, and peace of mind are available to all of us when we learn how to conduct a life review for ourselves.