What do displays of dominance mean?
Ever wonder what a peacock would say to his mate if he could speak? A number of ideas and images come to mind.
I was talking to a wife recently whose husband, post divorce, was making dramatic displays of dominance and power. Even though the courts were clearly on her side and the case was settled, she felt small and weak and she cowered. It was the typical pattern of their marriage. When she began to consider that they were equals, to realize that he didn't have any more power than she did, she began to see his threats and outbursts as much like the stomping, dancing, and feather displays of the peacock. It helped her to gain the perspective that he was as much a part of the animal kingdom as she was. This helped her to put into context her own submissive, reactive posture. The dominance and submission pattern is one that can be observed everywhere in nature.
Can you see this pattern in your marriage, or in your divorce? Sometimes the pattern looks more like dominance vs. dominance. What posture do you take? The fact is we are born into families with particular patterns of dominance and submissiveness that are well developed and full of momentum. The majority of the time it's not about evil or bad intentions, it's about being a mammal living in a family of mammals. When people can slow down the thinking and feeling process and begin to see, moment-by-moment, the displays of either dominance or submissiveness, they can begin to settle down and not get so taken by them.
Of course, understanding patterns is only one step in the process. Nothing changes if action isn't taken. Sometimes the highest form of action is inaction. Sometimes it is saying and owning one's "no," one's voice, one's own authority. This thing is bigger than we are — the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And it can be helpful to remember that when we're trying to raze mountains in our relationships.
This article was originally published at Helping Couples Grow. Reprinted with permission from the author.