Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 93 of 115 
Next page End Contents 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98  

hopes that you can determine if feeling superior or inferior applies to
your personal interactions with people. 
Ever insurgent let me be,
Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free,
And fill me with a buoyant doubt.
-Louis Untermeyer
Competition vs. cooperation (values)
Humans seem preoccupied with the question, "Who is best?" In
chapter 5, we talked about feeling anxious and inadequate in some
tasks (relative to other people). In chapter 6, we dealt with depression
and feeling inferior (as a person) to others. In chapter 7, the topics
were hostility, discrimination, and feeling superior to others. In
chapter 8, there was an extended discussion of dependency and
women's socially assigned subordinate roles. Over and over it appears
as though we are thinking about "Who is on top?" and "How do I
measure up?" This destructive, competitive, win-lose situation,
discussed fully by Kohn (1986), is connected with personally feeling
superior--chauvinistic--or inferior to others. 
It takes Kohn an entire book to summarize the massive data
indicating that competition in our society is harmful. Yet, our culture
proclaims (without adequate supporting data) just the opposite, that
competition is efficient, healthy, and fun. Actually, hard research data
documents that people achieve more if they work cooperatively with
others (than if they work competitively). We are so brainwashed, we
find that hard to believe. (Think of it this way: trying to do your best is
very different from trying to beat everyone else.) On the other hand,
we can readily accept that a competitive job, school, or social
situation, where someone wins by making others fail, causes dreadful
stress, resentment of the winner, contempt for the losers, low self-
esteem, and major barriers to warm, caring, supportive relationships.
What is the solution? Kohn recommends replacing competition with
cooperation, i.e. working together, assuming responsibility for helping
each other do our best, and uncritically valuing each other's
contributions. We need lots of research to help us to know when and
how to reduce our competitiveness. To change our goals in life from
competition to cooperation, we need new values and a new philosophy
of life (see chapter 3). Competition implies a hierarchy; cooperation
implies equality. 
Kohn is raising fundamental questions about deeply ingrained
American ideas, such as "winning is important," "you should be proud
of beating someone who is good," and "you must feel badly since you
lost." These beliefs in competition remain strong (although all of us
have suffered defeats). Our society is in a slow evolution in which
Previous page Top Next page

« Back