Sunday, March 10, 2013

Alpha Dogs: Nature versus Nurture

I was making a cup of coffee this morning in what I consider a very "New 'Awlins" way, albeit, the bachelor version. I don't have Tete's (the nickname I called the cajun lady, Emily Dinett, that I grew up around which she said meant "little Aunt" in cajun French) old ceramic white percolator so I use two heaping teaspoons of Folger's Instant to get that dark rich flavor I recall.

I also use evaporated milk which gives it an almost "cooked" flavor and plenty of sugar like Mr. Peter (Tete's husband). Of course, since I am diabetic, that means 10 packs of aspartame instead of heaping teaspoons of sugar that Mr. Peter would scoop out at the end of drinking his coffee like a sugar coffee candy!

That's where my mind would lead me in my thinking to my father, the alpha dog. In all things, he tried desperately to control or at least influence most things around him. This included constantly teasing Mr. Peter about the amount of sugar he put in his cup and the sickly sweet syrup left behind that he would then scoop out and eat.

I don't recall if Mr. Peter even bothered to argue with my dad on this issue. He probably did say something but he knew it was a waste of breath. The difference was that Mr. Peter didn't alter his behavior to suit my dad's protestations and I liked that. Perhaps that's why I am the way I am, having both these men as influences in my life.

That's when the topic of Nature versus Nurture arose as it often does. It seems to me that there is something in my genetics that makes me desire to control things but since even my lineage is in question, I'm not sure on this point. I do know that I have a lot of my father's traits and this one is a particularly strong one that I struggle with constantly.

With my sister being 16 years older than me, I pretty much grew up as an only child. Even my sister gave me my way and my parents said from Kindergarten (when I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up) that I would make a perfect lawyer, because I liked to argue and always had to be right.

Eventually, it is a behavior that spirals out of control. People that have known me for a while give me both respect and resentment at the same time though most don't even realize it. Even though I have tried to tone down my dominating nature, it's not easy and the results are often that everything becomes a competition. When I become less antagonistic or even complimentary, it is pounced on as a victory instead of appreciated as a compliment.

In that case, I can either react by re-asserting my dominance or struggling against my nature and swallowing the need for chest-beating and the desire to inflate my self-pride. It isn't easy but after a certain point, you realize you really don't have to prove anything. You can share what you know whether it is acknowledged or appreciated, knowing you have helped and that is really all that is necessary. Simply being the change you want to see in the world.

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