When I refer to chronic subjugation, I am speaking about a psychological condition that manifests itself in an ongoing pattern of destructive and servant-like deference. This 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 give in 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 often that chronic subjugation slowly smothers those who practice it. Their “I” and “me” become unspoken and eventually lost in the lives of others. Their voluntary servitude leads to their own downfall. The habitual compliance 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 self-absorption into another. Self-denial or self-sacrifice is a healthy expression of other-centered 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. It 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 virtuous 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 healthy characteristic while promoting vice against oneself and eventually against others. It seems a way to achieve happiness and peace, but it delivers neither.