Everywhere we look in life there is competition. The urge to compete with others around us is embedded deep, deep – very deep in our psyche. It is a natural human instinct, a drive that is as primal as our DNA. Human competition is front and center in DOLF psychology, which enlightens us to the fact that it engulfs every aspect of our lives, often in ways we hardly suspect. There is competition with peers in business and sports and competition for money and material possessions, competition for top grades in school. Competition spurs sales and advertising. We strive to do our “personal best”, and even surpass it, just to outdo competitors. If not for the challenge from competitors seeking to displace us, who could say what the outcome would be? We might never try to set a record, collect trophies and awards or show them off. What would the purpose be? There would be no impetus, no compelling reason to go forward, no motivation to achieve.
Competition thrives in the animal kingdom. We see animals competing for territory, mates and food. And when there is a dispute and desperate fighting erupts, the conflict takes the form of “a fight to the finish” that only ends in bloodiness, serious injury or death.
And there is always a winner and a loser! The winner is the victor, who reaps the reward of social recognition, while the loser is left to lick the painful physical and emotional wounds.
Like animals, humans have urgent feelings of competition that are instinctual, desperate and overwhelming. But with humans there is a twist. HUMANS STRIVE TO KEEP THEIR COMPETITIVE FEELINGS A SECRET!
Humans, with their higher intellectual capabilities, appear to have nagging feelings of self-reproach associated with their natural instinct to rival with others. The urge to HIDE the intention behind rivalrous desires seems to be intuitive in humans, kicking in automatically, but stealthily working its way into our functioning, hardly permitting us to detect it. In contrast to animals, who don’t seem to suffer from qualms about expressing rivalry openly, humans, unless they are engaged in an open field of competition such as business or sports, are apparently subject to instinctive feelings of SHAME AND GUILT associated with their compulsion toward RIVALRY. As a result, people instinctively feel under pressure to squelch their feelings, play their cards close to the chest, and make their best efforts to hide any intent or actions through which they might be trying to conquer their opponent.
A cornerstone of DOLF theory is that these powerful rivalrous instincts, and the guilt and shame associated with them, ultimately end up coloring, tainting and shaping our personalities. The process begins at birth and entwines itself into our character as we grow. It is especially at play in regard to intimate relationships and interactions, such as with siblings. Sibling rivalry is just the beginning, the first form of social rivalry. It is the most raw form of the ultimate drive to beat out others and conquer ground for oneself. It starts with urgent, instinctual competitive feelings that dominate our psyche, and end up indelibly influencing, bending and even warping behavior and personality right from the very start of each life, until its end.
To explain further, in line with the shame and guilt that humans feel when they try to outdo their competitors, they have a natural inclination to engage whatever intellectual powers they may have at their disposal to achieve their ends. This results in people becoming DEVIOUS. In other words, when success is deemed elusive or unattainable, driven by underlying instinct, people sense little alternative but to conjure up SNEAKY, less “fair play” methods of achieving their goals – methods they hope will not be obvious to the other side, and at the same time less likely to be detected by those in the general public – the people who make up the greater audience of humanity who might be watching or policing their behavior. It is this feeling of a need to resort to deviousness that ends up curbing personality. Emotionally or dynamically speaking, it is either an expression of feelings of (i) Anger, entailing the absolute will to seek supremacy or garner revenge from the competitor, (ii) Anxiety, the fear of being left behind or achieving only second best status, or (iii) Depression, discouragement over the loss of status, fueling the feeling that one is not worthy of success, incapable of winning, losing social status and suffering the shame and social humiliation that comes with being a “laughing stock”, inferior to others.
Children’s motivations, until they are subject to the influence of socialization, are more transparent, their actions more direct. Children will candidly reach out for an object of desire and claim it for themselves, and if the other side protests, they will openly fight for it. Since they feel less shame and guilt, they simply obey their compelling rivalrous instincts and head directly for the holy grail. It seems the critical factor is socialization. Once socialization kicks in and a child becomes aware that a) others are watching and policing, and b) some people might be hurt, they are left with little choice but to resort to more hidden ways of trying to achieve their goal. Yet, the fundamental urge remains just as strong and grows even stronger with frustration while the personality struggles to reconcile the overpowering internalurge for satisfaction with the external social demand to contain it.
Note that, whether it is a toy or the love of an adult that is in question, socialization and the discipline and policing we impose on one hand, and the consequence of hurting others on the other, are NOT deterrents to the DESIRE to acquire the goods in question. This is because, unless somehow addressed SO THAT THE EMOTIONS ARE PROPERLY INTEGRATED WITH THE INTELLECTUAL RESOURCES, preferably at an early stage in one’s life, as explained in the blog on emotions and intelligence, those nagging, unreasonable instincts are still at play in the background. In fact, strict policing and disapproval of the behaviors only redirects the emotions that determine the developing personality, driving the urges and their resulting behaviors deeper underground and preventing the child’s awareness of her/his own true motivations. From there, the SPECIFIC STYLE of opposition we might face from a child, whether colored more by Anxiety, Depression or Angry behavior, is a factor that will be determined by the child’s interactions within her/his own particular familial environment, and will exercise its effects on the unique personality and behavioral expression for every child.
Given the Anxiety, Depression and Anger that are aroused in a child by her/his instinct when they face the danger of losing the battle with their sibling and failing to attract the LOVE of their Prime Love Giving parent, there is pressure to find some sort of recourse. The “choices” are few. There is little recourse but either (a) display pure Anxiety, such as through hyperactivity or repetitive, obsessive traits, (b) attempt to destroy the opponent using mainly Anger, engaging the intellectual powers to confront, dupe or circumvent the opponent, (b) display As a socialized society, we are quick to label these alternate behaviors, which we find mixed with Anxiety, Depression and Anger (in particular) deviance / delinquency or mental instability/ illness. Think about it. When we deal with a child in whom the instinctual urge to compete overwhelms their little minds, if they find it impossible to pass a hurdle by going straight through it using fair or compassionate tactics, they are simply squeezed into finding a way of getting around it using whatever tools they have at their disposal.
Policing therefore becomes futile. It is trumped by a child’s extreme drive to win. Because their instinctual urge, like building a nest or swimming upstream, reigns supreme, they MUST follow it. They simply have NO CHOICE! In this context, policing and disciplining become moot. The more watchful we are, trying to guard against their deviant methods by seeking to curb and punish difficult, rebellious, confrontational behavior, the more deviant they feel compelled to become and the harder they work at hiding their feelings from us! So to speak, we catch them between a rock and a hard place from which there is no escape – accept our policing tactics or defy your most basic instincts. Maturity has not kicked in yet!
DOLF theory holds that all psychology, and hence personality and behavior begins with the conflict, or lack of conflict, between children’s powerful urges and adult initiated strictness and policing. This scenario creates the potential for:
- Anger, the ultimate expression seen as criminality, lack of empathy and harm to others
- Anxiety plus Depression, observed in most mental illnesses and substance abuse, or
- Depression, the ultimate expression of which is self harm or at its extreme, suicide.
Don’t expect children to tell you how jealous they feel of their sibling. Either they don’t know because their intellectual faculties have not kicked in yet, or because they are too ashamed to say “Love ME more!”
So the key question becomes: How are parents to deal with this apparent roadblock to their wishes and the apparent impermeability of their Disfavored child who is misbehaving or behaving in undesirable ways? The answer is to eliminate the factor that is the greatest drawback to emotional maturity. Parents must realize that their Disfavored child is reacting to her/his own feeling that s/he is inadequate as compared with the sibling. As such, the PLG in particular must make an effort to moderate, smooth out and equalize, by whatever means possible, their feelings of Favoritism toward the favored child, giving a greater amount of LOVE than before to their Disfavored child. In other words, the PLG in particular should make a point of LOVING THE LESS LOVED child, using whatever means are at this parent’s disposal.