What is Subjugation Schema?
If you have developed the subjugation schema, you may find yourself experiencing an excessive sense of having to obey or surrender to the demands of others to avoid perceived negative consequences. You may end up suppressing your own needs, desires, feelings, opinions or decisions. Such behaviours are closely linked with a sense of helplessness, feeling trapped, or inability to speak out and be assertive.
Schemas are mental shortcuts we use to interpret information. When faced with a situation in which you believe there might be negative consequences, the subjugation schema is activated, triggering compliance, fear-driven behaviours or, to the other extreme, angry, passive-aggressive or self-soothing behaviours. However, schemas can be changed and to one that can make us feel safe, empowered and confident.
Reactions from the Subjugation Schema
There are three ways in which you often react when your Subjugation schema is activated.
- Surrender: Other people make decisions for you and are in control of almost everything that you do.
- Avoidance: You avoid any disagreements that are about to happen to avoid feelings of anxiousness.
- Overcompensation: You tend to act in a very rebellious way toward authorities including your bosses or friends who are asking you to do something.
Effects of the Subjugation Schema
We might fail to return calls, ignore people, turn up late, or half-heartedly complete tasks we’ve been asked to do. Instead, we spend time pleasing people and doing what others want, so people never get to see the “real us”. Overtime, we might lose our sense of empowerment, self-esteem and confidence as we are aware we are not true to ourselves. We may also end up in toxic relationships or have pent-up anger and may suddenly lash out at others.
Risk factors for Subjugation Schema
- Being raised in a strict household (e.g. dangerous to express your feelings or speak up)
- Trauma from physical, emotional or sexual abuse
These experiences may reinforce associations between speaking up with fear, retaliation or humiliation.
Managing Subjugation Schema
In comparison with standard cognitive therapy, schema therapy probes more deeply into early life experiences. In addition, it utilises experimental, cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal (object relations) techniques, which promotes higher levels of emotions in sessions and which effects are lasting. The therapist will work with you to identify the reason for your schema and modify mindsets driven by the schema.
- Rehearsal of adaptive behavior in imagery or role-play
- Behavioral homework (e.g. practicing to state your own opinion to a friend)
- Involvement of friends and family to reward adaptive behavior
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