One of the hardest things to negotiate in any relationship is competitive anger and the rising insult and we must work hard to extricate ourselves from the tricksy snare of its red tooth and claw.

Competitive Anger

Competitive anger and the rising insult begins with an innocuous look leading to an escalating glare and a high-alert furrowed brow. Then words are spoken in anger and a subtle hate begins to boil. Actions follow.

An erect middle finger stabs the air in rising insult. A palm becomes a fist. Shoulders tense in flight. Lines are tempted and crossed and one can never return emotional zero because the competitive urge must be filled with devastation and the rising insult only declines in explosion.

The most dangerous sort of competitive anger and the rising insult is contempt. Contempt lives a quiet and insidious life — but more than blackened eye or bleeding throat — contempt invisibly rots you out from the inside.

Contempt destroys families and careers and dreams. Contempt is unspoken, but never quiet. Contempt is ruthless, but always shy. Contempt is deadly when wielded in the name of those you claim to adore. Contempt is the most vicious killer of the precious and the beloved.


  1. Katha!
    Thank you for the excellent expansion of today’s argument!
    There are certainly people — even spouses and friends — who do dally who got what and who did what. They are never satisfied being behind their own private tally and they can barely tolerate being even. They must always be “one up” on everyone.
    Why do you think they are that way? What within them requires scorekeeping?

  2. Hello Chris!
    I think it’s all about “respect.” If people perceive they are being disrespected, then they become angry and defensive and will risk your life and theirs in order to avenge the “diss.”
    When it comes to personal relationships — especially between men and women — once things get escalating it is really hard to back off and let things roll back to neutral.
    So many people prefer to keep raising the stakes with threats and efforts at discombobulation and I’m not sure why.

  3. That’s a great personal example, Katha! Did you feel put down by his “upping” of you?
    How do you deal with people who keep score but that you cannot avoid? Do you keep score as well to keep them in a happy zone? Or do you just go your own way and if they feel behind or slighted you don’t worry about it?

  4. Hi fred!
    Everything you say makes great sense but I wonder why people are so sensitive to these perceived slights and then raise and re-raise the stakes? It doesn’t help one evolutionarily to always been picking fights with others because the risk to life and limb increases exponentially with each exposure to rising danger.

  5. In what way is your diplomacy pathetic, Katha?
    I agree you’re smart to lead your own life — it does get hard, though, when others keep score and then ask an “outside” referee to rule against you on a future endeavor because of all the chits you’ve earned through hard work and not favors or scorekeeping.

  6. David- There seems to be miriad reasons for over sensativity to these perceived slights, aside from the ones mentioned. Competitive sports are such a large part of society. This carries over. The whole basic program to avoid physical work leaves excess energy in many peoples bodies that looks for an outlet. It wasn’t until fairly recently that people started to realize this and started to exercise. It seems that momentum has a lot to do with escalating one upmanship in arguments.
    The root of the whole fight competition seems to be the basic concept that we are separate individuals. We could just as easily tell people they are integrated with, and not separated from their environment, and they can only hurt themselves; but this would necessitate a whole new basis for society that would go against the grain of much of the program now incorporated in people’s genes and history for the past at least 8,000 years.
    Highly strange how we tell children not to fight and base society and commerce on war. We teach murder of an individual is one of the worst crimes, and then at times draft people to murder them by the millions, all sanctioned by the state. When there is no draft, we pay those who often can find no better job.
    It’s really amazing how peaceful most people are compared to society in general. Then again many of the violently hostile people are imprisoned, but when they get out they will most likely be more violent.

  7. Fred!
    Great analysis!
    I’d have to say if we could truly, as a government, provide for the public welfare where everyone had a nice home, good food, and few health worries, we would be a better place. There is great value in the idea of communal living where everyone is everything and every action can either directly benefit or help the commune.
    Instead of living together we separate, put up fences, gate communities, make public property private land and yell at each other to stay away.
    We are in a bit of a fix as we begin to close in on each other’s perceived right to free space and personal property.

  8. That is a smart way to interact, Katha.
    I know it’s hard not to worry about others when you know they’re cutting you down from every conceivable angle.

  9. Well, I can’t change others, I can only change myself…why bother? 😀
    Some people are always ‘spiked’ like a cornered porcupine, always smelling/anticipating trouble without any feasible reason – it’s hard to deal with them.

  10. David- Yes- We are forced to not be “communistic,” divided and conquered by the few, who make themselves head of what is still a large commune, only it is called a democracy. It is fairly easy to pull the wool over the sheeps own eyes; eliminate true democracy on this hemisphere and call it fighting communism. All one needs to do is control the energy supply, monetary supply and throw in the pharmaceuticals and a little rhetoric here and there.

  11. David- It seems to have grown “organically,” (not to give organics a bad name). People have always enslaved and been enslaved. Our “founding fathers,” condoned slavery. Slavery was here for two hundred years before them. It seems the only chance we have to transcend this dualistic paradigm is to get a monistic paradigm to be accepted more widely in it’s place. Our models of our society being Greek democracy, and Roman law both condoned slavery and it seems we have to get to a new level to truly change.

  12. David- We fought the civil war like all war, for the benefit of the few who profited from it, and in the case of the civil war, to replace the form of slavery that had had it’s day, with a new form wherein people could be enslaved without overt chains and slavemasters. This is the type of slavery J.J.Rousseau was talking about when he referred to men being “everywhere in chains.”

  13. David- You’re right. It is hard to believe but true. We went to war in 1861 to thin the herd, control the populace thru fear, and reinstitute a more viable form of slavery. The old form of slavery was becomming too unpopular and had to be changed. It’s always like a shell game and musical chairs. How come Hitler and Stalin had a pact together. Next thing we fought with the Russians against the Germans. Soon after the war we built up Germany and not France and started fighting against the Russians. It’s always hard to believe but always true. We never fight for the reasons given.

  14. Which one is more important and effective, being passionate and endearing or being politically correct, shrewd and stable in the long run?

  15. David- It seems the UK and US are ” up” on the slavemaster food chain, while Ireland and India have been more towards the opposit end. It seems as if the caste system was greatly exacerbated in India after the “Aryan” invasion three or four thousand years ago, and Ireland was enslaved by the Vikings and later on by the Brittish on a different level.

  16. David- Thanks for the compliment. i just heard about an interesting view of history written from the more uncommon “loosers” perspective by Howard Zinn “A Peoples History of the United States.” It’s usually the “winners” who write and then re-write history, but Mr. Zinn has some unique perspectives that i can surely empathise with. If i ever do write anything it is more likely to be pareidolia and philosophically based. At least i have some far out illustrations.

  17. David- More than welcome for the pointer. Once you’ve read that, i’m sure you’ll enjoy the following
    1. A power governments cannot suppress
    2. Original Zinn : conversations on history and politics
    3. Voices of a people’s history of the United States
    4. Artists in times of war
    5. Three strikes : miners, musicians, salesgirls, and the fighting spirit of labor’s last century
    6. The Zinn reader : writings on disobedience and democracy
    7. You can’t be neutral on a moving train : a personal history of our times
    8. Failure to quit : reflections of an optimistic historian
    9. Vietnam, the logic of withdrawal
    10. Columbus, the Indians, & human progress, 1492-1992
    11.Power, history & warfare
    12.Declarations of independence : cross-examining American ideology
    13.SNCC, the new abolitionists
    That this humble, brilliant man who grew up in poverty, born of parents with grade school education has been so prolific and unknown by so many; his major works so un-reviewed by major journals, is an education in itself as to what is going on in the world.
    The above thirteen selections (all by Howard Zinn)are all available here at the Alachua County Florida Public Libraray. If anyone wants to know why the Gainesville area is considered by many to be an “enlightened community,” this is one of the reasons.

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