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*Psycho/analytic corner* competitiveness- A lacanian view

Discomfort related to competitiveness generally expresses itself symptomatically in anxious forms, with a particular emphasis on a sense of subjective compression and inhibition (poor lucidity, tendency to error and poor performance). Such self-sabotage is unleashed and exacerbated when direct exposure to the gaze of the other, whose judgement or even mockery is felt, comes into play.

The problem in the vast majority of cases stems from a deficiency at the narcissistic level. The ego of the self-limiting person when called upon to perform is for various reasons too dependent on the gaze of the other, i.e. on confirmation from outside.

When the competitiveness rate of an environment is high, such lapses typically occur, precisely because people in such contexts are not inclined to bestow positive reinforcement, put one at ease or to exercise care, the prevailing logic being that of 'mors tua vita mea'.

At first glance, someone who suffers so much from competition may appear as a harmless victim of a ruthless, over-sensitive and delicate system. But this is not always the case. Often the victim in question behaves exactly like the perpetrator. If given the chance, she is contemptuous and vicious towards the weaker, ending up enjoying the downfall and failure of others.

The frail one who diminishes himself and suffers from his own miserable mediocrity is thus the same one who takes pleasure from the other's slip. The two figures of the victim and the executioner overlap, insofar as both are the expressions of a widespread but sick concept of competitiveness.

In fact, they both espouse the idea that in order to 'be', someone has to die (oneself or the other), failing to rise from the elementary level of rivalry (it is either you or me) to the more evolved level of self-cultivation and mutual enrichment provided by the confrontation between fully developed beings.


This is why 'healthy' competition is always and only competition with oneself, because it does not aim to kill anyone, it has no negative force but is conducive to facts, growth, acceptance and the eventual overcoming of personal limits.

On closer inspection, one who really has some talent is unlikely to remain anchored for life in the stupidity of competitive dynamics of a childish nature. At some point, through personal intuition or significant experiences, he wakes up and acquires self-awareness, overcoming insecurities and slowly finding his own way regardless of the expectations of others, but without unnecessary self-celebration.

Usually the person who remains perpetually hooked on 'I'd be so good if only I didn't feel the competition so much' is someone who has got into the bad habit of masking his own ineptitude with the image of the victim, instead of assuming his own limits and developing a lucid vision of himself.

The key to getting out of the tunnel of symptomatic over-competition lies then in the classic 'know thyself', ruthlessly, without protective filters.

Goals change radically once you see yourself, accept and value yourself for who you are.

Talent in a certain field can be completely absent, or remain at a level of mediocrity that will not lead to success without this being experienced as a death sentence or personal annihilation.

A person's intelligence and maturity is seen in the ability not to persevere where the basic aptitude is lacking. Insisting on the ideal only condemns one to unhappiness, bitterness, envy, icy hatred of those who are more capable, and thus to an unfair and unhealthy competitive mode.

On the contrary, competing with oneself is the way forward, not in the sense of mortifying self-flagellation but in the simpler sense of confronting reality without the blinkers of compensatory ideals.

Psychotherapy in this sense can help a great deal, provided that the place of therapy is not seen merely as a dumping ground in which to empty one's sorrows and from which to await the magic solution to personal shortcomings.

Narcissistic problems of this nature are the hardest to die from, precisely because one goes to work on a level of being that is in some ways structuring. Not everyone is able to 'stand up' to the encounter with their own misery, just as not everyone is able to scale down expectations or humbly change course when the facts return frustrating evidence and reproofs. Most prefer to suffer all their lives, to get hurt and hurt themselves in order to keep the grandiose ghost alive.

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