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Young Children Kick Pigeons but Adult-Children Kick You

by Argumentative Penguin about a year ago in humanity
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Interactive human psychology based on birds and splashes as explained by a literate penguin

Young Children Kick Pigeons but Adult-Children Kick You
Photo by Rajiv Bajaj on Unsplash

Wherever human beings gather there is ‘drama’. We can’t seem to help it. Everyone knows a person whose entire raison d’etre is creating and manufacturing ‘situations’. If you don’t know a person, it might be you.

Whether it’s in the office, your family or the local sports team these people are chaos fairies, flitting around the world causing mayhem wherever they land. They rarely stay for too long but most of us have had an experience with one or more across our lifetime.

I have come across three people that meet this criterion — a high flying narcissist in the creative industries, a friend who was later diagnosed with BPD and a middle manager in a charity I did some consultancy for.

On each of these occasions, I tapped out quickly. No explanation, no long goodbyes, simply cut and run. Ghosting is the official term, self preservation and a desire for a quiet life is what I’d call it.

These people are often playing the protagonist in a drama only they have the script for. They are the producer, the director, the main star and in charge of all the distribution rights. People like this lurch between psychodramas with the same enthusiastic aplomb of dogs with lamp-posts.

This article is going to help you spot them before you get a role in the next episode of whatever they’re currently scouting to cast.

If you’re ensconced when the metaphorical cameras start to roll you will be required to pick your side. A binary choice, good vs evil. In which they are the good protagonist and everyone else is evil. You’re the Ron or Hermione character — or possibly a Neville.

Once you’re in the latest episode, escape is difficult.

Escaping becomes part of the drama itself, a storyline in its own right. When the episode crashes into a season finale you will be spat out into the Green Room for recovery, before being offered a place in the sequel.

If you turn them down, you’ll be cast as the nebulous villain.

It’ll be a familiar story. ‘Them vs The World. And you’ll be part of their backstory. You’ll be spoken about at parties and become one of the many people who has wronged them — like Cedric Diggory but with no redemption.

If you’re really good you might become a multi-seasonal villain, a warning story from yesteryear. You might be one of the many people they say has ‘gaslit’ them — a popular refrain in the drama-llama demographic.

Leaning to avoid them means going to the local park with a flock of pigeons, a lively toddler and a rock

Take one toddler and some pigeons

This is a very simple lesson about how your brains work and it’s available in many parks up and down the country. Get your lunchbox, find a bench and kick back — your part in this mini-drama is done.

Toddlers and pigeons will often show up at the same time. The universe arranges itself this way. It is also because toddlers and pigeons are psychological nemesises, nemesisi, nemisesesesses *sigh* …. enemies.

The pigeons will peck at the floor hunting for food they love eating, the primary motivation of a sky rat. Once a sizeable flock has built up, children will run at the pigeons. This is because all children are at their core, essentially bastards.

The pigeons will be startled and take off — their desire to eat and their desire to avoid danger locked in total chemical conflict. No clear winner means they half-hop and half-fly about two feet away.

There’s probably a word for this in The Meaning of Liff — which if you haven’t read, is well worth a read. Douglas Adams at his best.

However, two feet is not far enough. The toddler, delighted at getting a response to his or her well-aimed kick will chase them further. As neither has any real comprehension of geometry, toddlers lack balance and favour one leg, the drama plays out in a tight circle.

This will keep going until either the toddler or pigeons are dead. Failing this, a parent or passerby usually gets a pigeon to the face and restores order.

Both participants in this game lack the capacity to understand the implications of what is happening. They remain locked in this pattern from moment to moment. But what about me, you ask? I’m an adult. I don’t kick pigeons.

Good… bird cruelty is not something a decent society should be encouraging.

Splish-Splash I was taking a… dopamine hit

In your park, I want you to imagine there’s a lake or a large pond and you’ve got a stone in your hand. What do you want to do with it? You want to eat it? Put it back on the floor? Throw it at pigeons?

If you’re functioning correctly you’ll probably have a strong desire to throw that rock into the pond or water.

Humans do this all over the world, all the time. Often on beaches where the rocks have spent thousands of years working their way out of the ocean — only to be lobbed back in by some hairless ape in a bathing suit.

Most people don’t feel the need to throw stones into long grass or across car parks. You can go your whole life without lobbing stones around — even though you’re very good at it relative to other species.

Something interesting is happening in your brain. You’ve got yourself a feedback loop and you’re totally in it for the splash.

When the small splash becomes boring, you might choose to vary your behaviour. You might start looking for bigger stones to create a larger splash. You might choose to throw your smaller stones harder into the water.

When your brain finally kicks into gear you might start looking for flat stones. A new game, skimming, something infinitely more complicated and delays gratification whilst maximising skill — but still about the splash.

You filthy splash junkie

Competence Effectance Theories

So what’s happening? Toddlers, adults and you enjoy seeing the effect they have on the world. When you cause a change in objective reality and receive feedback from the universe, you feel good. You exist. You matter.

Your brain enjoys this and gives you a small reward. A little chemical sticker for good behaviour.

Now you know why children’s toys have big colourful buttons and loud farmyard noises. It’s addictive to the brain of your crotchfruit. They demonstrate competence (pressing the button) and they get an effect (noises).

The fact it might drive you to suicide isn’t their fault.

As we get older this behaviour gets more complex. We enjoy more difficult levels of competence, such as playing a musical instrument, singing in harmony with others or playing very difficult online games.

Doesn’t sound like you? Maybe on this platform you repeatedly check the stats to see the effect of your writing.

This positive feedback loop forms an integral part of our motivational system. It’s necessary for learning but like all things psychological, its a bit of a double-edged sword.

Once you understand the psychology underlying human interaction you are far better placed to spot potential fecal storms before they hit your kinesthetic air circulator.

For some people, getting feedback from the universe has replaced the happy feelings many of us get from being around those we love.

We have two systems in our brain and the other one rewards us for quieter more comfortable behvaviours. Without this second system, you become reliant on the first. The drama has become addictive.

That’s why I’m always very wary of ‘influencers’ and YouTube stars. Social media seems to have been built with these people in mind. If all positive feelings are built around the operant conditioning of relative strangers — what sort of life have you really got?

If someone tells me that they’re a social media influencer, I’m going to instantly be on my guard. At the other end of the internet are people who don’t have the money, looks or verbal skills to play in the same park. They still want to see their competence have an effect— so they’re outrageously nasty.

Many influencers and lots of trolls need an intervention and help — chances are you’re not the best-placed person to offer it

You’re the average of the five people you spend time with

This maxim by Jim Rohn is worth considering. If you surround yourself with happy fulfilled people who are psychologically well balanced, then you’re likely to reflect that too.

Psychologically balanced people do not need to kick the universe to see what happens. Not often at least. They have created a circle of people who care about them and this supersedes any desire to make drama.

If your social circle is constantly lurching from drama to drama then someone in the circle has some issues going on. Check the other five, if they’re fine consider that it might be you.

If it is you. Consider getting some help.

Your brain is still metaphorically kicking pigeons. You enjoy the feedback loop of seeing others react to your actions. This may mean that something is going wrong with different systems in your brain. You’re using the drama as a distraction technique and its a flawed methodology for long term success.

It has nothing to do with being nice. You can be a religious churchwarden who loves running bake sales for the local church. You can be an LGBTQ+ social justice warrior running a charity. Your brain doesn’t care — it’s trying to maximise results.

I’ve seen people doing this in offices, charities, families, in political groups and in almost every amateur dramatics company anywhere in the world.

If you know you’re doing it and you like doing it. Carry on. You’re probably a sociopath and there’s nothing I can tell you that will change this.

Sociopaths aside, often it’s because the people involved are fundamentally unhappy with their life choices and lack any sense of agency. They might be married to the wrong people, bored with their job, — or they might be malignant narcissists coming off the back of their own chaotic childhood.

Their deep-rooted unhappiness will only manifest itself in manipulation and chaos. They will play people off against each other and marinate in the unhappiness of others. Part of the reason I chose to work with children is that most aren’t very adept at doing this.

Given the choice between working with kids learning manipulation or adults at the water fountain perfecting it.

I’m all in for games of wink murder.

What to look for

Having told you about the pigeon kicking and the stone-throwing, it’s time for some useful advice. How to spot these people. They’re often very charming and fun and usually skilled at making friends.

It’s not always self-evident who they might be.

Whenever someone new appears in my life and looks like they’re going to be kicking around for a while, I run a small checklist in my head. Do they have any long term friendships? Why are they interested in me? And how prolific are they on social media?

If someone’s friendship group is constantly shifting and they don’t have many friends that have lasted more than a few years… you need to be asking why.

Many of us have at least one friend from school, someone who knew us from a very young age and has stuck with us. Provided this friendship isn’t horrendously co-dependent, it acts as a decent reference for the CV of their life thus far.

No friend from way back isn’t enough evidence on its own. People move, lives can be complicated, there are plenty of reasons why they may have lost touch with people. You have to factor in more evidence.

Relationships with pigeon kickers are often intense and overwhelming. They ‘lovebomb’ you. If someone makes you the centre of their universe for no good reason, consider running. The flattery is nice, enticing even — but there’s a strong chance it will end badly.

It’s not that you’re not an interesting person, I’m sure you are — but if someone shows a lot of interest in me. I want to know why. Is this a miscalibration of social intent — or is this a pattern of behaviour I should worry about?

And then I find out about their social media.

If someone has social media and they’re constantly on it, consider this another warning sign. Social media allows them to kick multiple pigeons multiple times a day. If you’re constantly being tagged for no good reason, and you notice other people are too — consider an exit strategy.

Social media is a written record of their life, go back and look at it. Is what they’re presenting to you in real life concordant with what they’re like in reality? If not, why not?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with having a slightly different online personality — but this observation should factor into a larger case you’re building in self defence. In many instances, these people are unaware they are the common denominator in all their life drama. It’s never occurred to them.

If they stopped to think about it, and really think what it implies about them, their reality might come crashing down and they might need to do something about it. Instead, they continue to run in circles, kicking at anyone who will flutter away but not leave.

What begins as toddlers kicking pigeons can very quickly become a toxic uphill battle with the universe in which everyone must participate. A constant slew of new pigeons when the old ones become exhausted or, in the case of this penguin, toddled off pretty sharpish.

Who in your life is still metaphorically kicking pigeons? Who gets their positive kicks from watching others react? Who is the psychological child in the adult skin suit?

And more importantly, what are you going to do about it?


About the author

Argumentative Penguin

Playwright. Screenwriter. Penguin. Big fan of rational argument and polite discourse. You can find me causing all sorts of written mischief wherever I may be.

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