Two Types of Subjugation
- Self-Sacrifice (subjugation out of guilt)
- Submissiveness (subjugation out of fear)
Carlton subjugates himself out of guilt. He wants to gain approval. He wants everyone to like him. Gaining approval is his primary motivation. In addition, Carlton feels the pain of others very deeply. When he feels that another person is suffering, he is moved to take care of that person. He tries to meet other people’s needs. Whenever he believes he has failed, he feels guilty. He finds the experience of guilt very uncomfortable, and his self-sacrifice helps him avoid this guilt.
Mary Ellen, on the other hand subjugates herself out of fear. She submits because she is afraid of being punished. This fear is certainly realistic: Dennis is cruel and domineering. However, one wonders what it is about Mary Ellen that caused her to flee from one subjugated relationship with her father into another one with her husband. In her marriage, Mary Ellen reenacts her chilhood subjugation.
Self-sacrificers feel responsible for the well-being of others. As a child you may have experienced too much responsibility for the physical or emotional welfare of a parent, sister, brother, or of some other close person. For example, you may have had a parent who was chronically ill or depressed. As an adult, you believe it is your responsibility to take care of others. In doing so, you neglect yourself.
Your self-sacrifice is a virtue that has become excessive. Taking care of others has many admirable qualities:
CARLTON: I may be self-sacrificing, but I do a lot of good. All my friends come to me to discusss their problems. When my mother is sick, it’s me she calls. I’m the one who takes her to the doctor, who gets her what she needs. Plus, I volunteer at a men’s homeless shelter. I belong to Greenpeace and Amnesty International. People like me make the world a better place.
You are empathetic; perhaps this is part of your innate temperament. You feel the pain of others and want to ease their pain. You try to fix things, to make everything better.
It is important to note that your subjugation is mostly voluntary. Whoever subjugated you as a child did not force you to do what he or she wanted. Rather, because they were in pain or expecially weak, you felt that their needs took precedence over yours.
Although self-sacrificers are somewhat less angry than other subjugated types, you are bound to have some anger. The give-get ratio is out of balance in your life―you are giving much more than you are getting. Although the people you give to may not be to blame for taking more than they give back, you are almost certain to have some anger, even though you may not acknowledge any resentment.
Your lifetrap gets its strength primarily from the emotion of guilt. You feel guilty whenever you put yourself first. You feel guilty whenever you become angry about having to subjugate yourself. You feel guilty whenever you assert yourself. You feel guilty whenever you fail to alleviate pain. Guilt drives your subjnugation lifetrap.
Whenever you step out of your subjugated role, you feel guilty. Each time you feel guilty, you revert back to self-sacrifice. Largely to relieve guilt, you subjugate yourself with renewed vigor and bury your anger one more time. You are going to have to learn to tolate this guilt in order to change.
Carlton displays this pattern of anger and guilt in his relationship with his wife. He constantly tries to please her, yet, the more he tries, the more she seems to demand. Of course, her demands make him angry. But, whenever Carlton feels angry, he immediately feels guilty and tries to please his wife twice as hard. In this way he alternates between anger at his wife and guilt about his anger.
Submission is the second form of the Subjugation lifetrap. You submit to the subjugation process involuntarily. Whether you actually have a choice or not, you feel as though you have no choice. As a child, you subjugated yourself in order to avoid punishment or abandonment, probably by a parent. Your parent threatened to hurt you or to withdraw love or attention. There was coercion in the subjugation process. You are almost always angry, even if you do not recognize your anger.
Mary Ellen is the submissive type of subjugator. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Mary Ellen’s father was strict.
MARY ELLEN: When I left the house, he had to know where I was going. When I got back, he had to know where I’d been. He didn’t let me date until I was seventeen, much later than everyone else. I was not allowed to wear makeup or tight clothes. I wasn’t allowed out on weeknights, and had to be home early on weekends. It was a drag.
THERAPIST: What happened when you disobeyed?
MARY ELLEN: He grounded me, or yelled. Sometimes he hit me. I hated him.
She felt that her house was a prison. Outwardly, she obeyed her father because she was afraid. Inwardly, she was filled with rage.
If you have this type of subjugfation, you have a false belief: you attribute more power to the people who currently subjugate you than they actually have. Whoever subjugates you now―a husband, or parents―in truth has little power over you. You have the power to end your subjugation. There may be exceptions, such as your boss, but even there you have more control than you think. You may have to be willing to leave the person, but, one way or another, your subjugation can end. You do not have to stay with someone who is dominating or abusing you.
At one time, your subjugation really was involuntary: as a child. In relation to the adults who subjugated you, you were dependent and helpless. A child cannot withstand the threat of punishment or abandonment. Your subjugation was adaptive. But as an adult, you are no longer dependent and helpless. As an adult, you have a choice. This is something you must realize before you can begin to change.