The Downside of Dominance | Barbara Alexander

How much is enough and how much is too much? Learning to stand in our power teaches us a delicate balance at the most advanced levels.

As a standard of practice we are never taught the skills of simultaneous awareness or learned the ability to understand non-verbal communication. Many of us have dominate tendencies, we can be goal focused, on a mission, intense… and then there are those of us who follow in the wake. Maybe you are somewhere in-between, what do you think?

Joanne and her husband Mark came to work with me months ago. They were Brittany’s parents and Brittany was one of the children that came for experiential learning during a school program. Brittany had learned so much about herself during her sessions with me and because of some problems she had experienced at home she desperately wanted her parents to experience and learn the same things, hoping that they would find a healthier way to communicate.

When they first arrived, we spent time getting to know the horses, but something very interesting happened.

Brittany had been working with me for several weeks and had learned about non-verbal communication. We talked about the dynamics between humans and horses and how they help teach us about human-to-human relationships. She learned how to observe rather than react so she could get the information necessary to move forward.

When they arrived as a family, Joanne didn’t know much about horses or the teachings they had to share, but because of her daughter’s enthusiasm, she was eager to learn. Mark remained quiet, partially listening and partially questioning what this whole thing was all about anyway.

As they learned about mutual communication and being open to feeling the non-verbal dance of connection, Joanne felt empowered and wanted to brush Cierba. She was a bit timid around 1200 lb. horses so I stood near her and had Cierba on a long lead.

Joanne had the brush and she reached out to touch Cierba and Cierba stepped away. Joanne approached her again with the brush in hand reaching up to brush her shoulder. Brittany watched as Cierba quickly snapped her head in Joanne’s direction, putting her ears back in warning. Joanne said, “You know, I don’t think she wants to be brushed today.”

Before I could respond, Dad reached over and grabbed Cierba’s halter on that face band, took the brush out of Mom’s hand and proceeded to brush Cierba’s neck sternly saying “here’s how you do it Joanne!” Cierba’s eyes were wide open as she rolled them to the side looking down at him in shock.

Mom stepped back and their daughter still stood there quietly watching. The dynamics of this family had come flying out in a matter of moments but nothing needed to be said. There was no projected shame, only the truth of the moment.

Brittany clearly and gently shared that this was much like how it was at home in so many other circumstances. She said that she was enjoying watching her mom and saw that she was aware of Cierba’a boundaries and that it felt to her like Cierba did not want to be brushed at that moment when her dad stepped in. No blame, no shame, just observation.

Brittany knew, from her past experience with me in her classes, that mutual respect builds healthy relationships. She had learned that connection comes from tuning into our own intuition combined with the simultaneous awareness in connection with others. Through relating in this way we can respond with mutual respect and learn how to create a healthy connection in relationship to humans or animals.

Brittany had learned this same lesson in much the same way. The students had grown in their own intuitive awareness over the past weeks and it was so powerful to see this 12-year-old girl calmly evaluating and sharing in a nonjudgmental and positive manner what she had witnessed with her mom and dad.

We took a short break to allow things to settle and integrate. I call it licking and chewing, because that is what the horses do. If you are patient enough to watch horses as they are learning, it seems they need time to think about what they learned and when it is settled in their mind, they start to lick and chew. That is how you know when they are ready for more. Those who are conscious trainers always wait for those critical moments.

Brittany’s dad later shared that he didn’t realize how aggressive he had become until the experience he had with Joanne and the brush with Cierba. It was obvious that he wanted more for himself and his family.

We all get caught up in habits that we have created over time. Being able to learn about others and ourselves in this very special way opens our awareness to creating deeper and healthier relationships as we move forward towards a richer and deeper joy in life.