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Other Undesirable Instincts

We are all provided by nature with some instincts which, while they may
serve a good purpose in our development, need to be suppressed or at
least modified when they have done their work.

SELFISHNESS.--All children, and perhaps all adults, are selfish. The
little child will appropriate all the candy, and give none to his
playmate. He will grow angry and fight rather than allow brother or
sister to use a favorite plaything. He will demand the mother's
attention and care even when told that she is tired or ill, and not
able to minister to him. But all of this is true to nature and, though
it needs to be changed to generosity and unselfishness, is, after all, a
vital factor in our natures. For it is better in the long run that each
one should look out for himself, rather than to be so careless of his
own interests and needs as to require help from others. The problem in
education is so to balance selfishness and greed with unselfishness and
generosity that each serves as a check and a balance to the other. Not
elimination but equilibrium is to be our watchword.

PUGNACITY, OR THE FIGHTING IMPULSE.--Almost every normal child is a
natural fighter, just as every adult should possess the spirit of
conquest. The long history of conflict through which our race has come
has left its mark in our love of combat. The pugnacity of children,
especially of boys, is not so much to be deprecated and suppressed as
guided into right lines and rendered subject to right ideals. The boy
who picks a quarrel has been done a kindness when given a drubbing that
will check this tendency. On the other hand, one who risks battle in
defense of a weaker comrade does no ignoble thing. Children need very
early to be taught the baseness of fighting for the sake of conflict,
and the glory of going down to defeat fighting in a righteous cause. The
world could well stand more of this spirit among adults!

* * * * *

Let us then hear the conclusion of the whole matter. The undesirable
instincts do not need encouragement. It is better to let them fade away
from disuse, or in some cases even by attaching punishment to their
expression. They are echoes from a distant past, and not serviceable in
this better present. The desirable instincts we are to seize upon and
utilize as starting points for the development of useful interests,
good habits, and the higher emotional life. We should take them as they
come, for their appearance is a sure sign that the organism is ready for
and needs the activity they foreshadow; and, furthermore, if they are
not used when they present themselves, they disappear, never to return.

Next: Problems In Observation And Introspection

Previous: Fear

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