about competition, part III

In two randform posts I tried to find arguments, why one should see competition in a more critical light, than this is often done in our societies.
In the first post main ingrediences of a competition, namely the selection process according to some rather rigid criteria/value scale were discussed. A short reference to motivation and psychological factors was also given.
In the second post two major aspects of a competition namely the aspects of “how much is at stake” and “to what extend are participants forced into a competition” were discussed. A selection process with fuzzy, undeterminable or nonexisting selection criteria/value scale was called selection in order to distinguish it from the word competition.
This post is in part an answer to a readers comment and my promise to write more about that.

In this post I would like to discuss a bit more the psychological affects of competition. This will be more based on personal experience than on scientific findings.

I think that people react very different on competition. An example: Recently I met a woman in my age, who was actively taking part in skating competitions. I was asking her why she would do that voluntarily. Her reply was that this kept her going to do skating. So for her a competition was a great driving force for motivation. In the first post I had already mentioned that competition is not always the best driving force for me and thus the readers comment was referring to that:

People want to listen to winners not to loosers!
If you do not want enter competition, you said in this randform post:

about competition

then nobody wants listen to you.

Consequently when listening to that women I found it indeed very strange to find fun in skating by taking part in competitions. That is, what drives me to go skating is to see a beautiful landscape, to indulge in the skating movements, to see the changing surface or to glint into the sparkling light. The above image was taken on such a fabulous skating day – the surface was like a crystal, a musician was playing tangos on one side of the lake and depending on the wind the melodies made everyone like to dance and to whirl into the landscape. – The imagination of going instead into a skating ring, where people are yelling at each other competition commands sounds to me rather like a night mare. But may be her competitions are different.

So yes the ugliness of some competitions is often repelling to me and with that I am not only referring to the outer circumstances. That is what I also don’t like is how a competition often alters people.

One point is that if you take a competition serious, i.e. if you don’t take just formally part then this means that apriori you decided to “win” (the voluntariness of a decision was discussed in the part II). That’s what a competition is about. And paradoxically this can in my point of view often be seen as a kind of a no-win situation.

That is on one hand if a person doesn’t “win”, i.e. if this person looses a competition then this means that that this person had wrongly estimated his/her capabilities. In an evolutionary interpretation such a wrong estimation of one’s own capabilities, one’s own force and power could have meant sure death. Thus loosing can be seen as a threat to the image one has of oneself, a threat to one’s own identity. You might also want to read about neurophysiological aspects of identity and negative experience in this randform post). So loosing a competition can eventually be perceived as painful and threatening. How this is perceived depends of course also on the sort of competition and on the person. On the other hand if you win and someone you like is loosing because you won then compassion may make your victory rather unpleasant. Again this depends of course on the case and the persons ability of perceiving compassion (and this seems also to be linked to neurophysiological facts, see ASPD and e.g.: Neuronal correlates and serotonergic modulation of behavioural inhibition and reward in healthy and antisocial individuals) and how loosing is perceived. So if you are in a competition with people you like then either way -winning or loosing- might be unpleasant. The only way to fully “enjoy winning” in this case would be to dislike your competitor like in the case of hate, revenge or antisympathy. In this case winning means something like experiencing “schadenfreude” – which is a rather unpleasant character treat and the question is if one wants to see this treat in oneself. So in a little exagerated manner one can argue that some competitions may be perceived as no-win situations.

Another aspect of competition is of course the involved stress. That is an individual usually bundles forces and attention in order to win a competition. That has often to happen in disregard of other life aspects which are secondary to the competition. Like olympic contenders sometimes may disregard their health, business competitors may disregard ethical questions etc. A competition is mobilizing extra power and resources. If this has to happen continously then people may be “stressed out” etc. Especially if this goes together with prevalently loosing then this can have very distructive consequences – last but not least expressed in (rising) occupational suicides etc.

So to answer the above comment: not winning in competitions does not automatically imply that one is loosing all competitions. Some people may prefer to listen to “winners” but as pointed out above the question about what a “winner” is, is sometimes not so easy to answer.
Moreover as already said I take part in competitions also if this may be just formally or not and even be eventually unpleasant and stressful, last but not least one is often forced to take part in competitions. I just don’t find competitions being as an “important driving force” for innovation as other people may. There may be cases where a competition is a major driving force. However curiosity or beauty as described above or moral obligations, empathy can be very strong driving forces and competitions with all their psychological implications may often rather impair such drives. People are different.
Moreover I don’t find it so terrible if people don’t want to listen to me. I do have sometimes very strong opinions about certain issues, that is I may be quite convinced about something. However this opinion is usually rooted in conclusions based on facts and not for the sake of being right, thus given the facts I might eventually change my opinion. That is also if I may appear to have a strong opinion, then when I say something I see myself rather as a kind of consultant – its nice if I can convince, but I don’t expect to convince. I like it if people listen to what I say but if they don’t then they don’t. Some people perceive a strong opinion already as a competition. This can be quite counterproductive and sometimes even stressful as explained above. In these cases I actually might think it would have been better if those people wouldn’t have listened to me.

4 Responses to “about competition, part III”

  1. rumbleiber Says:

    wennt dem esl zu jut jeht denn jehta uffs eis.

  2. Ingebürger Says:

    wieso’n esel?

    uff jut dschenglisch heisst dit doch kann-kuh-renn-sieh !!!

  3. Trine Says:

    Ick würd ma ebent nich ma einfach so uffstacheln lassn.

  4. Sunnyboy Says:

    un ick hab watt jejn ackadehmelsäcke!!!

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