Alpha askew theory: how bullies are made and how to unmake them

November 16, 2014
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This is by far one of the best talks out there with immense insight into human nature. Gordon Neufeld reveals his "alpha askew theory", which is responsible for creating the bully instinct (an attachment based syndrome).

Before getting into the heart of the matter, Dr. Neufeld discusses attachment within marriage. He explains how spouses want to be with each other, and want to give their hearts to each other, but NOT as equals. Marriage vows are all about taking care of each other, and so this calls for a need for dependence. To care for someone means that there must be a willingness to accept being cared for, and to depend upon that caring. Unfortunately, in today's western culture, we have completely educated ourselves out of our own instincts, and we have become obsessed with equality and independence. Marriages are now strained because of this.

Neufeld explains that good marriages require a healthy and fluid interchange of the alpha instinct between spouses. This means that spouses also have to accept the concept of dependence. Both spouses can't be leading at the same time! We have to alternate and accept the desire to want to be taken care of. If the alpha response is not fluid, and it gets stuck, then individuals will begin to feel that they always have to be in charge and in control. In other words, if a person is "stuck in alpha", then they'll develop an unhealthy alpha complex, which could lead to trouble.

Interestingly, while people with a strong alpha complex feel the need to help, it is NOT out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather due to their alpha nature of wanting to dominate. Neufeld mentions that this phenomenon is often found in first born siblings: they become "stuck in alpha". Neufeld himself shares how he had an alpha complex growing up, and how he always had to be in control, and on front and centre stage.

Wounded alphas

But the problem with alphas is that they are human too, and are easily wounded. Defences are erected, and if these defences get stuck, then impulses associated to caring and responsibility become divorced from the instinct to dominate. This is the beginning of a bully. There is a need to dominate, but there is no longer a need to take care of and assume responsibility for the other. These individuals then become tearless and fearless, and are no longer moved to care or be responsible. The bully instinct is now born. Exploitation of vulnerability then occurs to assert dominance. Interestingly, the alpha instinct was meant to take care of the other, but in the bully, the alpha instinct becomes perverted.
Never let a bully know that you are hurt. They will just exploit the vulnerability. Bullies assert their dominance this way.
Neufeld explains that applying consequences to bullies doesn't work. It only hardens their hearts. Sensitivity training also doesn't work because it only equips them to exploit the vulnerable. One should never reveal weakness to a bully. This is the reason why anti-bullying programs in schools are failing.

Bully rehab

The unmaking of a bully has to go to the root of the problem, and not just dealing with the symptoms. One has to foster right relationships (hierarchical) with bullies, and attempt to soften their hearts, thereby moving them to take responsibility rather than to dominate.

In the last 3 minutes of the video, Neufeld provides a great personal example of how he was able to counsel a gang leader, which ultimately lead to a successful reversal of his instinct to prey on the vulnerable.


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We provide commentary on the cultural decline of the Western world, from a conservative perspective.