There is a strong current of opinion among some Arsenal supporters that our seven year winless streak is a disgrace.
The argument goes like this: “Arsenal are a big club. Big clubs win things. We haven’t won anything for seven years. Therefore… our manager isn’t good enough; our Board of Directors lack ambition; they’re only interested in money. Let’s change everything.”
But what is not often mentioned is that this type of thinking is recognisable to psychologists and is described as “Childlike Behaviour in Adults”.
The symptoms of childlike behaviour in adults are reflective of emotional immaturity and can be grouped under five headings:
- Uncontrolled Emotion
- Magical Thinking
If you go on some of the more negative Arsenal blogs you will find these symptoms displayed in abundance by both the authors and the commenters. The most important symptom, in the context of Arsenal’s recent history, is gratification, but the others play their part too.
“Emotionally immature individuals are self centred and selfish. They have little regard for others and are preoccupied with their own ideas and feelings. They deeply believe that they are somehow special therefore demand constant attention, respect and sympathy.”
Well, that certainly describes some Arsenal blog authors. People who are so preoccupied with their own “ideas and feelings” that they are unable to take on board the views and feelings of others. And they acquire an unfounded estimation of their own importance (believing they are “somehow special”). There is no doubt that some Arsenal sites, because they have attracted a modest following of like-minded delusionals, believe they speak for the greater Arsenal community. Further, they believe they are fighting a good fight (against the Triple Threat of Wenger, Kroenke and Gazidis) on behalf of that larger Arsenal community. Let me tell you chaps: you don’t speak for the rest of us and the fight you have embarked on is no more than Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
“Immaturity expresses itself in temper tantrums, prolonged pouts and rapidly changing moods. Emotionally immature individuals get frustrated easily and over-react to perceived criticism. They are unwilling to forgive and are prone to jealousy pangs.”
Ring any bells? Over-reacting to perceived criticism? Like banning perfectly reasonable and well-mannered contributors who post comments at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy? As for the temper tantrums and pouts… well, you can visit any Arsenal blog after a bad result and see evidence of them in their droves.
“Children and childish adults often want everything now, and avoid enduring any thing they do not like. Their behaviour is superficial, thoughtless and impulsive.”
This hits straight at the heart of the “no trophies for seven years” issue. People who take that fact as a personal affront (and conveniently ignore the compelling reasons why Arsenal have been unable to win silverware in that period) are behaving like children: “I want twophies now and if I don’t get them I’ll scweam and scweam and scweam.” No matter how many times old stagers pop up to describe periods in our history when we went way more than seven years as Potless Percies, the childlike adults among our fan base just scream louder that they want it, and they want it NOW. If you have had children and remember the toddler phase, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The idea of “deferred gratification” (seeing the big picture and accepting short term pain for long term gain) is anathema to the childlike adult.
“Immature individuals have a hard time with integrity. They avoid and deny money and relationship problems which demand integrity and seek to pass the blame. They avoid reality and attack people when frustrated.”
Attacking people when frustrated – like making up silly names and acronyms for those who have a different viewpoint to your own. Lacking integrity – like never feeling ashamed or embarrassed when your dire predictions and made-up stories turn out to be nonsense. There are Arsenal commentators and bloggers out there who (apparently) joyfully predicted that we would be in a relegation fight in the season that’s just finished. You won’t see them referring to that now. Instead, as childlike adults, they have simply shifted the goal posts and now predict doom and gloom for next season instead.
“The interpreting of two closely occurring events as though one caused the other, without any concern for the causal link. For example, if you believe that crossing your fingers brought you good fortune, you have associated the act of finger-crossing with the subsequent welcome event and imputed a causal link between the two. Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols.”
Among the staunchest opponents of Arsene Wenger, magical thinking, indeed, takes the form of “interpreting two closely occurring events as though one caused the other.” For example, believing that because Arsene looks to achieve the best value when buying players, he must be on a “bonus” to spend less on transfers. There is, of course, not one shred of evidence for this ridiculous notion, but it has not stopped certain authors from repeating it endlessly as fact. Another example of spurious causal connection is the fact that we didn’t sign Xabi Alonso from Liverpool. The childlike adults, with their simple but deeply held world view of all things Arsenal, can only conceive of the idea that Alonso did not come because we were too cheap to pay the asking price. They, and we, have no evidence that that was truly the case.
“Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols,” which, in the case of Arsenal, takes the form of an irrational belief that some flavour-of-the-month player from some other team is the answer to all our problems. Be it Cahill, Samba, Hazard, Mata, M’Vila (even, ludicrously, Joe Cole once upon a time). It doesn’t occur to the childlike adults who champion these causes that it might be the slightest bit inappropriate for them – with their day-jobs as IT workers, local government officials, Post Office sorters, or Sainsburys shelf stackers – to think they know better than a man like Arsene Wenger about which players are needed for Arsenal.
One important caveat: of course I am not suggesting that all criticism of Arsene Wenger and the current running of the club is a manifestation of psychological delusionality.
If you think Arsène should be removed as manager and can present cogent reasons for your opinion – fine, let’s have a debate. We may not change each other’s minds but we can at least respect each other and, through going back and forth, offer each other new perspectives on the issues.
Furthermore we can do so without playground abuse.
If you believe Ivan Gazidis is nothing more than a spin merchant who has overseen repeated failure in our transfer dealings – again, let’s go at it.
It’s not the argument itself that matters, but the way in which it is conducted. This is what separates the emotionally mature adult from the childlike adult and the emotionally mature Arsenal blog site from the childlike sites, of which, sadly, there are several.
That doesn’t mean that the emotionally mature adult is immune from occasional lapses of temper or good manners.
Many regular blog contributors go over the top at times (whether through frustration, a perception that they are being personally attacked or, as in my case, too much Scotch whisky) but if you examine the totality of their contributions you can soon judge their prevailing psychological state.
So what am I saying?
That some Arsenal blog sites and some of the people who contribute to them are psychologically not fully developed? They are, in effect, a bit mad?
And thank goodness for the organisers of this site for keeping its standards high and emotionally mature and allowing wafflers like me to have our thoughts aired in an environment that (most of the time) is 100% sane.