A recent post in the Shoryuken forums brought up an interesting aspect of competition, as well as in life (although I wonder if those reading and responding are aware that what is discussed there has broader applications).
"Dealing with Anger" is a question about how to handle the negative feelings that arise from losing, and asks for ways that one might control our reactions in the process.
I was pretty surprised with the number of earnest answers. In crafting my own answer, I realized that there is a lot of good that can be had from what I have learned/am trying to learn (we are all works in progress, no?) and bears reiteration here.
For a very long time, when I would compete against other people, if I was to lose, my reasoning for the loss was always external to me (i.e. the tactic used was "cheap", for example). I would become very angry, and in my mind I was justified because the universe had committed an egregious error against me.
I would subsequently carry this anger into my interactions with the people closest to me and to my shame, it would lead me to treat those people without the respect that they deserve from me, for reasons that had nothing to do with them. It is shameful behavior, at the least.
For me, quantification is a wonderful thing, and computers enable me to do that to a great deal. I can measure many things, and with all of that data, I can track progress over time. The flip side of that is that I can also track failure as well (this is why I don't play poker online anymore, btw).
That's where the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix comes in. There is a ranked mode, which allows me to see how many matches I have won and lost, as well as my ranking (which uses a calculation that I swear I don't understand completely to this day).
While I was able to see that I would win anywhere from 70 to 75% of my matches, those matches that I did lose would enrage me. Sure, I might go on ten-game win streaks, but then I would turn it around and lose ten. Of course, all of those losses were never my fault.
Unfortuantely, this lead to some poor behavior on my part, and all over a game, no less.
The first thing that had to change was my sense of responsibility (which, outside of competitive situations, is pretty strong). I had to stop shifting the blame to external sources to myself. If I lost at something, it was my fault. I didn't know how to counter my opponent, I didn't know the appropriate responses.
Admittedly, this is the most difficult change to make. It requires humility and an ability to look past the delusions that I allowed myself to get sucked into, namely, that I had reached the pinnacle of my development. And that's really what it is. I was never in the place that I thought I was in, it was just an illusion that allowed me to remain ignorant.
In making that realization, in being honest with myself about my ability, a path (or a number of them) became apparent. There was plenty of room to grow, and in order to grow, I had to be able to learn from my losses, something that my anger didn't allow for. I simply can't learn anything if I was too blinded by my anger.
So, I had to get rid of it.
Ok, so it's not that easy, but in being able to identify the issue, it makes it that much easier to address it, and then move on from there.