Through coincidence I’ve been watching two different things that show the way that animals behave in a pack. The first, Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack is about rehabilitating dogs and features Cesar’s pack as a large part of that rehabilitation. The second, Bully is a movie about the bullying problem in American public schools and features packs of adolescents tormenting individuals.

Each shows a different kind of pack, I’d describe the pack of dogs as highly functional and the pack of kids as highly dysfunctional. But are they the same thing?

At one point, Cesar introduces a dog to the pack that the entire pack shuns. The other dogs simply ignore her. Cesar attributes this behavior to the pack not liking that dog’s energy.

Is that the same thing that happens in bullying? Does the pack of kids not like that individual’s energy at some subconscious level? Is the bullying meant to bring that individual into line with the pack?

I don’t think so, but really I don’t know.

I was bullied growing up so I feel attached to this question. I still feel like an outsider to most groups despite being open-minded about many things. Am I too weak, strong, or different? Or have I always put myself in this role of outsider without realizing it?

A podcast I’ve listened to recently brought up something I think is related to this discussion. The guest on the podcast, Jonathan Haidt, was talking about how political debates in American politics are not about trying to convince the other person, or people belonging to the other party, but rather to reinforce the bonds with people within your own party. They are a way of showing how good of a member of the pack that you are.

And maybe that’s what this pack behavior in kids is all about – maybe it is just the way that bullies get other bullies to like them more. Obviously if this is true it does not make the behavior any more justified, but knowing why someone behaves a way is powerful on its own.