An unseen entity is adversely affecting my world. Unlike the brash blackberry that infests my yard, this cowardly cad cannot be seen by the naked eye, or hacked with a garden hoe.
It is streptococcus, and this bacterial brat has sickened my daughter Tigger four, count ‘em, four times in the last few months.
Now, Tigger is not nearly as distressed by this serial sickness as I am. That’s because when she’s ill she spends the day ensconced in my bed, watching cartoons via Comcast “On Demand,” and being served juice by her devoted mother. A bout of bacteria is even better because it means antibiotics, which implies a twice-daily dose of ice cream with a little pill hidden inside.
Bacteria are not the only invisible instigators. As any woman over the age of 12 knows, hormones rule your life. Between the monthly rollercoaster ride known as the Estrogen Express and the unavoidable interactions with men riding the Testosterone Tornado, we all careen through life with a perpetual case of vertigo.
I don’t like it.
By training and inclination, I’m a Behaviorist of the B.F. Skinner variety. The theory is simple… for every action there is a consequence. If the consequence is enjoyable (reinforcing), it increases the probability the action will be performed again. If the consequence is unpleasant (punishing), it decreases the likelihood you’ll do the same thing next time.
When I’m feeling charitable towards the human race, I’m a Cognitive Behaviorist, but mostly I think the principle operates on the primitive, reptilian part of our brains.
It’s a clean, understandable, and best of all, observable phenomenon. It explains the inexplicable behavior of our children and other members of the species, including ourselves. It explains why Tigger likes to be sick. Cartoons + juice = heavy reinforcement.
A wise man once told me, “We are all products of our reinforcement histories.”
And so we are. Plus our hormones and our bacterial buddies.