A dysfunction is a feeling, sometimes a very vague one at that. When we’re around certain people for example, we feel a gripping sensation around our chest. Or, talking with our boss we feel a tightness in our solar plexus. In competitive circumstances we feel a sense of exhilaration that we don’t feel at any other time. Anger, shame, fear, feelings that when they surface out of context are a signal that they are surfacing from past pain, ancient suffering that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.
In other words, the anxiety produced by our boss is a response to what our boss represents, which is authority. If authority meant total control over our life growing up, then our boss comes to define someone who has control over our life, someone to fear, someone to obey.
Our dysfunctional feelings are responses to representations, they are not a response to reality. This is why we suffer. So if we thrive in competitive circumstances it’s because winning means being better, being loved, being worthy. We know that competition is not a healthy source of validation of our worthiness. This is what it means to respond to representations and not reality.
Digging down to the origin of the representation allows us to name that dysfunction. Once we name it, we recognize it for what it is, we have the power to make much healthier connections.