The notion that some men are “alpha males” comes from faulty studies on wolves that got wrongly applied to dogs which led to faulty “dominance training” for dogs and by extension wrong-headed “dominance strategies” for wannabe alpha males. Or at least that is one explanation.
That the falsity of the alpha story is still lost on many men (and women) illustrates well what terribly “good” story-tellers we humans are.
The alpha story became a meme and thus simplified still animates many subcultures within the USA. The more people believe it, the more they act on it, and the more they act on it, the more it appears to be true.
Stories like that can be understood as massive oversimplifications that operates at or near the core of what motivates us or how we think about ourselves. There are many stories of this type, and nearly any explanation of anything can be transformed into a similarly absurd reduction of truth that leads people into ridiculous behaviors.
Years ago, legions of men believed that “whoever speaks first loses.” This phrase, or slogan, came from a sales strategy, but it morphed into a cultural meme that sometimes forced groups of men to stand together in complete silence. Those men were the spiritual fathers of the alpha male wannabes of more recent years.
Simple stories make up most of what most people take to be news. They constitute almost everything seen on TV. They are what most people think of when they think of the “history” of their own ethnic group or the history of their historical ethnic “enemies.”
Our addiction to simple stories is what makes propaganda and advertising work. It is why “false flag” military operations start most wars.
I do not believe any of us is entirely immune to entertaining and acting on stories that are so simple they cannot be true, but we should be able to identify many of them if we try.
FIML practice was designed, in part, to halt the formation of false stories about the people we care about most. FIML queries are designed to place reason and fact in front of our very strong tendency to accept simple assumptions as real when they are not.
An article on dominance training in dogs can be found here: Why Won’t Dominance Die?
Isn’t it amazing that some humans can come to wrong conclusions about wolves and then use that false model to understand themselves? If you look across the globe and through time, you will see nothing but an abundance of examples of one culture after another forming and acting on beliefs based on nothing more than almost random stories.
I think the main reason we do this is the ways we normally use language and semiotics are too crude for our brains when engaged in interpersonal relations. In other words, our brains are capable of much better and more accurate interpersonal detail than we are normally able to obtain through language.
And that causes us to use simple stories and explanations in place of good data and actual facts. The stories fill in the gaps where our brains want more detail but are unable to get it through normal interpersonal communication.
FIML practice upgrades interpersonal communication by helping partners replace crude generalities and simple stories about themselves with real data they both agree on.
EDIT: Here is a link to a site that promotes alpha male tactics. In larger and smaller ways, I believe most people practice tactics or subscribe to stories about themselves and others that are harmful to all concerned. The alpha male thing is a glaring example of a story/analysis based on poor research, but there are many other techniques for controlling, guiding, or manipulating people to get what we want from them. I believe people act this way because they do not know any other way to deal with the inevitable ambiguities of interpersonal communication. Having no other options, people adopt cartoon-like roles for themselves and impute something similar to others. This is tolerable (barely) in the office or in professional settings, but it a disaster in close relationships.
One thought on “Alpha wolves, dogs, and the stories people tell about themselves”
Regarding the site linked at the end of this essay…
As I looked through the pages it occurred to me that the alpha, as they conceive of it, is the male version of a skank.
Like skanks defending their studied tactics for attracting whoever will have them, they employ a “because that’s how it’s done” type of reasoning and cite primitive, evolutionary factors.
I suppose it could be argued, in a coherent-sounding way, that much/most/all human behavior boils down to some kind of skanky essence. Such arguments have been attempted before. (See: Freudianism)
There is some validity in this kind of explanation, in the sense that skanks probably do quite well evolutionarily. You can find plenty of people who will fall for skanky wiles or are willing to play skanky games, at least for a time.
If it is true, as the site assures us, that we are automatons acting out an ancient evolutionary script and there’s nothing we can do about it, one wonders…whence the need to explain in such detail how it works and what to do about it?