So-called truths are often not so. I recently heard a podcast debunking the concept of ‘alpha-males’ in wolf packs.* The Firesign Theatre strikes again: “Everything you know is wrong!” When I pull back the curtain on something to reveal the great and powerful Oz is a humbug I often feel a sense of being had. The alpha-male wolf nonsense evoked relief. The clap-trap behind this concept has done a lot of damage and it can be thrown out for the rubbish it is.

I grew up always at the other end of the hierarchy of alpha-males. Only at home did I have some clout. As the oldest of a bunch of brothers (fine fellows all, well over four feet) I am still  called upon to take the role of time-keeper whistle-blower referee. On the other hand they are all taller than I which sort of lowers (pun intended) my role as ‘big brother alpha-male’.

My nerdy wimpy self now has a board-certified double specialty connected to it. I forget I am the ersatz alpha-male. Being the ‘M.D.” at work puts me in the alpha-role more than I realize. I am not one of those bossy a-hole doctors barking orders at the minions. Despite my jovial nature and polite manners (think Lily Tomlin in “Big Business”) everyone at work addresses me as ‘doctor’ even though I’ve tried to make it OK to call me by my first name. The thralls all seem to do my bidding without question. I’ve noticed when I cut people off they shut up and let me go on not call me on it. It’s good to be King but it needs careful consideration when to pull out such archetypal energy.

In the bad old days when doctors = god patients did things without question. Nowadays the doctor/patient relationship is dialogue and consensual process (good!). All the same there is a part of patients that wants/needs me to be the alpha;  too much laid-back interactions makes them uncomfortable.  It is hard for me to conjure me-big-doctor alpha-male dressed in loud brightly colored aloha-style shirts. It’s like seeing your pilot wearing T-shirts and cut offs in the cockpit. You know he/she can fly the plane but you want to see a uniform.

It is hard to be The Great and Powerful Oz when you are more like Judy Garland.



*Turns out the actions of the ‘alpha-male’ wolf is more of less doing the ‘dad role’ to his family. That’s it. Even the author of the seminal treatise on the topic can’t seem to shut it down.