Rivalry

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As you may see, I’ve been thinking a bit about rivalry lately, particularly sibling rivalry. Many of the ideas in my last two posts are inspired by my life and some psychological principles. I can see good things coming from rivalry, but I also remember painful moments brought on by personality conflicts. We can’t always understand our differences; can’t understand why some people are the way they are,  their intuitions opposite to our own.

Since I seem so stuck on the subject of sibling conflict, I figured I should read a book and enlighten myself further. The book, Siblings Without Rivalry: How You Can Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too begins by refuting the too common anecdotes dispensed for parents: “Sibling rivalry is good and normal. All kids are going to fight. Live with it.” While the authors acknowledge that some sibling rivalry is good, they also establish that some isn’t; we shouldn’t just overlook or label rivalry as normal, when it’s such a complex issue. The book also says that the root of much rivalry is competition for parental love and attention. I have seen this competitive element before, but I can’t recall too much competing for mom and dad in my childhood. Of course, my memory isn’t the best for the earlier years. Of course, we never want to let our parents down (at least, unless we truly despise them and love ourselves).  But I think that parental approval is the last thing in our mind as we argue about the (in-)edibility of sushi, or fight for a racer’s remote. Does competition for parents seem seem like a sufficient cause to you?

I haven’t yet touched upon, but I do want to discuss the darkest side of antagonism–cruel and intentional antagonism–where someone methodically tears down a target. Among the enemies of individual happiness, having someone abusive in our lives, or in the background of life (memories), can be the hardest to overcome. I will get to this later, but I will first attend to another thought. As I had mentioned in my post last week, shyness.

I used to blame my scarcity of opinions on my lack of interactions in youth, being sheltered and home-schooled. I can definitely see how isolation, and having a mother who’s strongly opinionated, drove my own thoughts underground, where they didn’t grow into expression for ages… But isn’t it the case that some people develop strong opinions within a small social bubble? Someone with a similar upbringing to me just might ground themselves and let their opinions shoot up like weeds.

Is there something philosophical, something perhaps common amongst philosophers, about initial silence? Was Rousseau at all right in his Emile when he asserted that it’s best to leave minds in a unpressed and playful state when young, and request academic fortitude later? Perhaps I wish to justify myself a little, but isn’t there something inherently good about shyness and questioning, pausing and uncertainty?–at least, when it comes to bigger questions in life?

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