While each individual’s story has significant differences, what unites us is even more important. We all share a common behaviour that occurs in many relationships to one degree or another. Through extensive research in the field of psychology, the behaviour known as subjugation has been identified as one of the major schemas or patterns of thinking that can damage and destroy a life. If it is present in a chronic pattern, it can bring about unbearable, excruciating pain, humiliation, victimization, loss of self, and even death. This is due to the fact that habitual subjugation causes a person to violate their honesty and principles; what is true for them. They will bend what they believe, want, prefer, need and desire to be accepted and approved. These wrong motives demand a high price. I call this destructive condition chronic subjugation.
Chronic subjugation is far more common than most people realize. The condition is no respecter of status, physical appearance, education, financial balance sheet, religion, ethnic group, political affiliation, or résumé. It can appear in anyone’s life, often disguised as an attractive or virtuous quality, although it is neither. Individuals who chronically subjugate are no longer in touch with what they are interested in, what they want or think, or even who they are. They have been so focused on pleasing others so completely that they have few or no preferences or opinions. They have lost themselves in the dysfunction.
Chronic subjugation wrecks lives.
But it doesn’t have to.
The dysfunction can be eliminated.
If you find yourself resonating with the above description of chronic subjugation, recognizing that this condition is yours or that of someone you love, I want you to know that there is hope. Neither you nor your loved one is condemned to a life of suffering from this destructive pattern. There are solutions. They require consistent work, and with this pattern of behaviour, the work can be tough at times. Yet I have repeatedly witnessed success in my clinical practice, as well as my own life. Chronic subjugation can be conquered, and the first requirement is to understand the difference between chronic subjugation and self-denial.
This chronic condition occurs through voluntary compliance; it is imposed not from without but from within. The heart cry of each of us is to be liked, accepted—yes, loved. Individuals may acquiesce to chronic subjugation because they fear abandonment, rejection, retaliation, feel guilty, or simply have a hunger to please. Whatever the reason (and there are many), these individuals persistently place the opinions, preferences, values, desires, and needs of others before their own. This occurs so habitually that chronic subjugation slowly smothers those who practice it. Their “I” and “me” become absorbed and eventually lost in the lives of others. Their voluntary servitude leads to their own ruin. The compulsion to say yes becomes a destructive form of self-denial—a denial that can end in self-annihilation.
Is there a place for self-denial? Of course, there is. Subjugation is not to be confused with healthy self-denial, which leads to contentment. The sacrifice of one’s own desires or interests for another person is a noble and admirable quality. However, this sacrifice must be freely given and should never lead to losing one’s identity to another or others. Self-denial is a healthy expression of other-centred love and not a denigration or subjugation of self. When the giver, on the other hand, experiences an irresistible impulse to comply, the giver should beware. This type of knee-jerk giving results in a pattern of chronic subjugation with the loss of healthy motives. Truth is not behind these motives; only the self-centred desire to be accepted and approved of, regardless of how ingenuine the yes may be. A false self is being presented. This leads to resentment, anger, and bitterness toward self and others and a downward spiral in terms of emotional, mental, and physical health. In its healthy form, self-denial is considerate and generous. But chronic subjugation is unhealthy and destructive. Chronic subjugation is not properly self-denial but self-abuse. It ruins relationships, masquerading as a virtue while promoting self-loathing and eventually anger toward others when they lose their respect of the one chronically subjugating. It seems a way to achieve happiness and peace, but it delivers neither.
Genuine self-denial and chronic subjugation are worlds apart. One of those worlds—the way of life that at first appears good and attractive but in time reveals itself as hurtful, deceptive, and soul-destroying is to be avoided. Generally speaking, which of these worlds do you live in? Begin observing yourself and choose the healthier life.