Dismantling Domination: Weekend Hobbies for a Crafty Shrink


Hello, and welcome to my blog!

My name is Deborah Cox and I’m a family psychologist. I do a lot of therapy during my workweek. But it’s Sunday, and in my quiet kitchen, I set the mortar board of psychology on the stool next to me (it’s never very far away), and put on the blue rhinestone cowboy hat of creative thought.

I want to start a discussion about domination . . . and how we make the world a better place when we see it and question it.

Here’s a little of my background, to introduce a set of interlocking subjects I’d like to explore with you in coming posts.

First, I love art and music. Color and texture and shape get me energized. Good music provides me a portal to strength, peace, and creativity. Symphony and organ and piano and stained glass and recycled paper cut into flowers! The sound of a boys choir! The Dallas Symphony! A good weekend for me must include time to write, play my piano, fiddle with mosaic tiles, or paint with my fingers.

Second, I grew up “Church of Christ.” If you aren’t familiar with that sect, here’s a link to a website that contains descriptions of its doctrine.


You may know the Church of Christ for its famous eschewing of instrumental music in the worship service. Church of Christ eschews: statues, organs, bells, candles, incense, the Hallelujah Chorus, and women reading poetry (or doing about anything else except sitting quietly, listening to men).

My churchy childhood taught me that, as a group, dominators¬† (e.g., people who relish telling others what to do) tend to be very anxious. They appear to have steel nerves – but their inner lives are like spider webbing. Murals make them nervous. Abstract paintings make them frown. Those same power seekers get rewarded – with positions of authority. They climb their way to the top of the pyramid by stepping on the backs of others. Here’s what we call them.

  • preacher
  • elder
  • governor
  • head-of-the-household
  • Sunday School teacher
  • dean
  • therapist
  • professor
  • foster parent

I know some very compassionate ministers now. Not all of them seek to dominate (and I hope not all therapists relish telling people what’s wrong with them) . . .¬† but many do. So many, in fact, that I’ve decided we have a bullying epidemic that can be costumed as many things: civic boards, workplaces, institutions of higher education, democratic election processes.

I’ve been bullied in a variety of contexts: my family-of-origin, my early religious life, and an adult workplace. In my most recent bullying experience, I felt isolated and out of touch with anybody who could understand or help.¬† I got sick, had panic attacks, fell down a lot (literally), lost my voice (literally), gained 20 pounds, and pulled myself into a protective shell that kept me from visiting certain parts of town or writing a public blog or going dancing (which I can do now because I’m no longer Church of Christ).

Later, I’ll write more specifics about what domination looks like, but for now I think it’s fair to say that the Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) concept of Power Over (Jordan, 2009) lies at the heart of the problem. RCT is a theory about how we get distressed, depressed, dissociated, addicted, and disconnected – and it’s about how relationships either help us create (thrive) or contribute to our loneliness.

Ironic? Yes, relationships can make us more lonely.

I assign all my students to read RCT literature because I believe the true mission of the therapist (or the minister) is to dismantle domination, one handshake at a time, one relationship at a time, one multimedia collage at a time.

What do you think?