Jerry Sandusky: Extreme “Dominator”

Penn State’s sexual predator Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison for his crimes. No surprise there. And also no surprise that Sandusky used the sentencing hearing to continue to lash out at others. His lack of accountability may seem shocking to many, but it comes as no surprise to me. His behavior follows the pattern of an extreme “Dominator” type of personality, as I call it in “Pack Leader Psychology.”

Clearly, it takes a tremendous lack of accountability and non-existent moral character to be a sexual predator with numerous victims and dozens of incidents over many years. Anyone with even a minimum of moral understanding and compassion for others recognizes that what he did was wrong.

Yet his criminal behavior is exactly in keeping with what extreme “Dominators” do:  They target a weaker, helpless victim, because they know the egregious behavior is less likely to be challenged or questioned. Crimes like Sandusky’s are not about sexual satisfaction so much as exerting dominance, control, manipulation and even terror over their victims. A weaker victim is not likely to criticize, complain, shame or humiliate. This points to the inner insecurity that these bullies live with. They prefer relationships with those who are much more submissive, so less likely to call them out on their misbehaviors. Avoiding shame and criticism as a way to defend weak self-worth is the Dominator’s key goal.

Sandusky’s speech at the hearing was apparently a lengthy rant about his unjust conviction, his desire to appeal and his claims that he only wanted to help the children involved. He went to great pains to paint himself as a sainted hero, not the manipulative criminal he is. All of this is textbook behavior for an extreme Dominator: Complete refusal to accept accountability for his actions.

With someone this extreme, I’m sure his lack of personal accountability was in evidence in other areas of his life for many years. Too bad nobody called him out on this general personality trait earlier in his life. It might have saved many children from devastating harm. As I write in my book, this is the real role of the pack leader and the pack — to teach pack members how to behave. Courts and jail time should be last resorts. We all need to step up and discipline others and enlighten them about the need for personal accountability in all areas of their life.

James Holmes: Shame Causes Violence

August 1, 2012

After the shooting incident in the Aurora movie theater everyone asks: “Why? How could someone do that? What would make someone go that crazy and hurt and kill so many people?”

The pundits jabber and I heard many say essentially, “We can’t ever know what made James Holmes do it.”

While it is impossible to parse out all the causes, I can point to one very clear cause:  James Holmes felt shamed, rejected and criticized. In my book “Pack Leader Psychology” I explain how the fear of exclusion is so powerful in driving human behavior. We really don’t like to feel as if we are getting kicked out of the “pack.” Evolution has primed us to want to get along, fit in and belong. The need to seek acceptance is a major motivator of human behavior — I contend THE major motivator. (Sorry, Freud, it isn’t sex!)

Note these facts: Quite soon after the shooting it was reported that Holmes had recently quit his doctoral program.  I knew that was key.  I guessed he’d experienced some failure or setback in the program. Sure enough — today I read that he’d purchased an assault weapon hours after failing a key oral exam. Holmes felt rejected, shamed and criticized by his failure on that exam. He had no ability to accept personal accountability for his actions, so he lashed out at others.  An example of an extreme  “Dominator” as I label them in “Pack Leader Psychology.” Because of their low self-worth, these people have difficulty taking responsibility for their actions. Rather than self-blame, their response tends to be to blame others or react with a “fight” response.

I contend that what distinguishes most of these “going postal” incidents is the person experiencing a sense of rejection. The primal urge to get along kept us safe in our caveman days, but today it can be overblown and cause unhealthy emotional responses — even to the point of senseless violence. Of course it makes sense to the perpetrator. The violent reaction felt like the best way to defend against what felt like very hurtful, shameful, embarrassing information — by lashing out at others.  Because Holmes clearly didn’t feel he had the emotional tools to handle the criticism.

I’ll bet a look at other aspects of his life will turn up many incidents where he lacked accountability for his actions.

The Dog That Taught Me About Leadership


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