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In a ‘zero-sum game’, each participant’s gain or loss is balanced by the losses or gains of the other participants. This is a rather competitive view and for me to gain, I have to take something for you. For example if I want a bigger slice of cake, that means that logically you have to have a smaller slice. Personally I’m a huge fan of the economic model that suggests the other option is to make the whole cake bigger so everyone gains. But sometimes not everyone is on board with this.

A few years ago I was active on a website forum area, where one specific individual was known for being “…rather challenging”. He lashed out at anyone that had a different opinion to himself, using poorly constructed arguments and a complete disregard for politeness and empathy. It was a shame because he was obviously articulate and really passionate about the things that are important to him.

When I commented to someone else about his behaviour, I was told “don’t worry about him, he’s like that with everyone” and “just ignore him.” What surprised me was that that this was all in private; no-one wanted to address his issues to his face and risk his wrath. Thankfully I was ‘old enough and ugly enough’ not to be worried about such things.

It made me wonder what was going on in the individual’s head. Why he felt he had to cause drama? Why he felt his safest option was to lash out and try to hurt others so that he was keeping people on the back foot and ensuring they were not focussing on him as a victim. To avoid being bullied, he was bullying others. I tried to talk to him but he wasn’t interested; in fact he was openly hostile and used it as another reason to lash out. I eventually realised that it just wasn’t his time, and that all I could do was to try to support those around him so that his behaviour was better understood, and to try to reduce the impact on those he was hurting with his attacks.

We can’t always help and support everyone (and I’m speaking as a human being here not with my therapist hat on) but we need to accept that sometimes all we can do is the best we can do. And, as Spock said, sometimes “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

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