Happy Birthday, Reilly

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Happy 11th Birthday, to my muse for “Pack Leader Psychology,” and my instructor on how to become a pack leader. I am so glad I spent nearly 10 years and 7,000 walks with this fabulous dog. She was the best model for a calm, assertive, balanced pack leader who came into my life at a propitious moment. I hope where you are now there are lots of  woodchucks, squirrels, deer, waterfall ponds, and meadows to race in all day long. Hope and I miss you!

Relationships: Stand Your Ground Against Dominators

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dog-bark1I just came back from walking the dogs and witnessed Reilly’s calm, assertive pack leader style in action, with Pack Leader Psychology lessons for human relationships as well.

Another dog was off leash and for no reason came running down the trail very aggressively, charging directly at Reilly. Reilly stopped walking and stood her ground very calmly. She didn’t become anxious or run away or charge back at the other dog. It was so amusing to watch the other dog literally skid to a halt on her back haunches, wood chips flying, inches from Reilly’s face, as he became aware of Reilly’s Pack Leader authority. The bluff charge stopped instantly when Reilly did not back down, cower or countercharge.

Of course, I also stayed calm and watchful, which may have helped dissuade the other dog. I sped up to be right next to Reilly and was ready to take action against this dog, but I did not over-react in anxiety either.

I was also aware that dog trainers say the most dangerous dog is not usually the one who charges. These dogs are actually scared and insecure, and can be frightened off easily. The dog who is growling and standing its ground is the one to be most cautious of. This dog means business.

More people need to behave as Reilly and I did. Sadly, most human Dominators are like this bully dog. They are used to bluffing and threatening their way through life. They argue and scream and tantrum and criticize, or worse, become physically abusive. Then others around them cower (Submissives), argue back, (Dominators) or avoid the situation (Avoiders).

Just yesterday I was working with a patient whose ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son is an extreme Dominator. Like a dog that charges for no reason at all, she constantly is blaming and shaming him and others in her life. This provokes him to anger and he feels the need to argue back to her, which quickly escalates into loud fights and even physical violence.

I tried to help him see that by countercharging the ex-girlfriend’s Dominating behavior with his own Dominating behavior, it is exactly what she wants to provoke. She enjoys these fights and can have more ammunition against him:  “I told you so… you are aggressive and violent with me. It’s all your fault.”

As difficult as it may be, he needs to stand his ground calmly, respectfully and firmly, but not counterattack. She may eventually learn that her threats and attacks do not work.

It is a Dominator’s low self-worth and emotional insecurity that cause these bluff charges. Dominators want to keep everyone else cowering, because they have learned that this often keeps the criticism at bay that they have such difficulty handling emotionally.

Instead, Pack Leaders have strong self-worth and feel no need to intimidate or threaten others. They can handle criticism without feeling emotionally attacked. They can spot the Dominators as they start to rush down the trail and know that these insecure people are no real threat, that this charge is merely a bluff backed up by no real personal substance or character.

As I discuss in “Pack Leader Psychology,” this is why we need more Pack Leader people and stronger Packs:  So we can teach Dominators how to behave correctly and improve the emotional and behavioral health of everyone who is harmed by these bullies. Until all of us band together to stand up to the Dominators, they will not stop their threats and drama. Every time we allow them to get away with intimidation or aggression, it reaffirms that this bullying works and encourages them to repeat it.

Every day in my psychotherapy practice I deal with the results of the havoc these dysfunctional people sow: disrupted families, unhealthy marriages, depression and anxiety, child abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, and crime.

Just as Reilly tried to teach that charging dog a lesson, we must all commit to stopping this epidemic of Dominator behavior in humans to help improve the emotional and physical health of current and future generations.

The Dog That Taught Me About Leadership

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Reilly, the Muse for “Pack Leader Psychology”

As I say in “Pack Leader Psychology,” a growl instantly moved me from pack member to pack leader with my dog, Reilly. But if I hadn’t had a dog that understood how to be a pack member, I might never have learned this lesson. And I might never have made the connection that being a pack leader to people might also be a good thing for my interpersonal relationships as well.

The story begins when I got Reilly as an eight-month-old dog. She had grown up in an outdoor kennel with her birth pack and several adult dogs. Living for so long with this normal dog pack taught Reilly how to recognize and honor the pack leader or leaders — probably her mother and father.

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Welcome to the inaugural Pack Leader Psychology blog post!

I’m very excited to begin this new adventure that has been about six years in the making. I have written a non-fiction self-help book called “Pack Leader Psychology,” and this blog is the first step in introducing the ideas in that book to the public. A full website will follow soon and the book is now available as an e-book on Amazon (Kindle fans!). Print and e-versions on B&N and other sites will be due shortly.

So what is the book about?  Tough to shorten 230 pages down into a few paragraphs, but here goes:

“Pack Leader Psychology” recounts the lessons I learned while becoming a pack leader to my dog, Reilly, that helped transform me from a submissive, abused wife into a calm, confident, independent and assertive human pack leader. Read More