An open letter to Oscar Pistorious

Subject: An open letter to Oscar Pistorious
From: Prof. Michael A. Simpson
Date: 24 Jul 2015

Dear Oscar

Now that you've been sentenced, you may well be angry and sad, and unwilling to seek or take advice, but if you are to make the most of your future, which could still be positive and useful, now is the time to pause, take stock, and chart new directions.

You've become very accustomed to paying a lot of money for advice, whether or not it was good for you, or mainly good for the folks charging you. This is free!

Emotions: there's been much too much talk about these, and rather a lot of emotional incontinence. Express them in private. I think it was unfair when your emotional displays in court were dismissed as entirely mere playacting. I think they were exaggerated, though, probably with some unfortunate encouragement by those who should know better.

And once one gets into that frame of mind, it's hard to regain of one's control and dignity. Emotions are not as all-important as some may have suggested. It's being able to intellectually understand emotions and learn from them that's much more valuable than just repeatedly expressing them. Your outbursts gained you very little sympathy and often had exactly the opposite effect.

Invest in a trained and experienced therapist, someone recognised by major academic centres, with wide knowledge of trauma, grief, and the recognised processes of psychotherapy – someone with proper clinical qualifications and experience working with other clinical psychologists.

You need someone who will be far less indulgent and will fruitfully challenge you, rather than holding your hand, someone who will help you to grow into a more competent adult, rather than coddling you back into immature behaviour. Someone who will help you to learn how to take genuine personal responsibility for your choices and actions rather than blaming other people, chance or fate.

You need someone who won't just make convenient diagnoses, but who will recognise your real problems, who won't make unsupportable and impossible diagnoses of your mental state when less than a year old, but will concentrate both on helping you deal with current challenges, and perhaps more importantly, help you to improve your skills at identifying and dealing with problems that may arise in the future. Someone who will recognise your impressive strengths and capacity for coping, and not get stuck on your vulnerability.

Plan wisely while in prison, so that you may be able to change your lifestyle when you rejoin society. Reconsider your friends; you don't need people around you who might encourage you to slide back into bad habits. Part of your problems may have arisen from poor impulse-control, so be cautious about using alcohol, which makes it harder to remain in control, or to control one's temper or fear.

Stay away from nightclubs – they're of no benefit to anyone, other than perhaps the owner. Gradually make new friends, people who aren't looking to benefit from your celebrity status, but who actually like you, and will want to share in wholesome activities, making it easier for you to stay out of trouble.

You can't demand that other people always be fair towards you; none of us can do that. So anticipate that some people will be unfriendly or unpleasant. Don't react and don't let it affect you. There will always be people who will try to provoke you and tempt you to further damage the reputation you want to rebuild, or to get you back in trouble again. Don't allow them to do that. If you're released early on probation/supervision, it'll be especially tempting for some to try to lure you back into jail. Don't allow that to happen.

Within your religious faith, find wise counsel who can assist you to learn more about such vital qualities as humility, responsibility, compassion and, yes, real remorse, which may turn out to be different from what you were feeling this last year, and more constructive for you.

Don't be angry about the fact that people weren't that impressed with your earlier charity events. They understood how this was required by sponsors and benefitted your career. If you want to do real charitable work, do so humbly, as a worker, and not as a celebrity.

Don't focus too much on who you once were, and look instead at who you can still become, an improved version, a new Oscar, without all the fanfare and applause. Now that the trial is over, try to return to your previous attitude towards your handicap, seeing it as a challenge you were previously able to rise above, without claiming special favours or exemptions. Become a normal person.

Yours sincerely

Prof. Michael A. Simpson