Mediation of feelings of competence
In order for a human being to be able to act, to take assignment upon himself, to meet challenges and to cope with situations which are new for him, he must feel that he is competent to control these situations- to overcome the difficulties, to know the new and the unknown and to overcome them.
We must distinguish between the feeling of competence and the competence itself: a person can be competent- capable, without feeling that he is indeed such. Many people function at a low level because they lack a sense of competence, at times- even in contrast to their true ability. Great artists report at times about a sense of "impostor"- of one who represents himself as being more than he really is. This feeling is an expression of lack of a sense of competence. Such artists feel, unjustifiably, that they are deceiving the audience, as if what they are showing is not really in their grasp.
The feeling of competence does not come into existence in the human being on its own, and is not an unavoidable product of the conditions of his existence. The development of a feeling of competence requires the intervention of a human mediator, who interprets the person's behavior as testifying to control and ability, and raises them to the awareness of the person and creates in him not only competence to do things, but also the feeling of competence to perform them.
In order to create in the mediatee the feeling of ability, the mediator assigns to him tasks which are situated at a certain distance from his immediate reach??, and therefore they require him to make an effort. He provides the mediatee with tools which will enable him to cope with the new tasks, and explains his successful functioning (with the help of mediation) as an expression of competence.
This function of the mediator, even though it appears simple, is not so for many mediators.??
Let us observe, for example, the behavior of a mother who competes with her little daughter in a swimming pool:
The mother, a faster swimmer than her daughter, says to her; '"You see, I have finished first!" She repeats this a few times. The girl tries to fight against the injustice of the contest and says: 'But I was tired... but you are much longer than me." Her complaints are rejected by the mother, who again repeats; "But I finished before you.."
The mother tried to get the girl to succeed by pushing to greater achievements than those which she was capable of achieving at her age. However, the girl did not derive a feeling of competence from this experience, and it is doubtful if she can consider herself as a person with ability. Even if she docs get higher achievements in the future. This attitude is also widespread among in schools. According to T, the best way to get the child to achieve is to evaluate only his products and to give him mechanical marks for them. This way has a negative impact on the feeling of ability, even when it increases the immediate achievements. On the other hand, many children turn into under-achievers in the wake of generalized and unjust feedback of this kind, since the marks are not do not reflect either their immediate level of functioning or the level of improvement which they achieved in relation to their initial situation. Subsequently, their readiness to invest effort in order to make progress deteriorates, and in the end they are liable to drop out from school because of an "objective evaluation* of this kind.
In order to create in the child a feeling of ability??competence, the mediator must initiate mediated interactions which are aimed at imparting this feeling to him. To this end one must offer the child interpretation of the successful experience he has undergone, which makes him aware of the significance of his success and the connection between the proof of his ability in one task and his further successes in many other tasks.
The feeling of ability?? competence, is likely to play a crucial role in the individual's adaptation to new situations, since he must feel a general sense of ability in order for him to have the courage necessary to take challenges upon himself, to investigate realities and to perform tasks unfamiliar to him.
The conditions of human survival?? are not necessarily the source of a feeling of competence. Therefore, the feeling of competence is the outcome of the mediation which a person gains from a mediator who interprets his fate as an expression?? of his will and his ability. Te feeling of competence derives therefore, from the readiness of the environment to interpret the persons' actions and his successes as an expression of his abilities.