Subjugation Schema

Individuals who experience conflicting relationships may develop one or more of these three schemas: self-sacrifice, subjugation or approval-seeking.


We may all occasionally feel coerced into doing things that we do not want to do. If you have developed the subjugation schema, you may experience an excessive sense of having to obey or surrender to the demands of others to avoid negative consequences. This may require you to suppress your own needs, desires, feelings, opinions or decisions. It is closely linked with a sense of helplessness, feeling trapped, or inability to speak out and assert ourselves.



When activated, this schema may understandably trigger compliant, fear-driven behaviours, or, to the other extreme, angry, passive-aggressive or self-soothing behaviours. Importantly, we are not actually trapped or helpless, it is rather a sense that we have developed that stops us from breaking out of this pattern. The true need behind this schema is to feel safe, empowered and confident.


Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the subjugation schema resonates with you:

Do you struggle to get your needs or rights respected?

Do you struggle to be assertive?

Do you go along with what someone close to you says even if you disagree, for fear of rejection or other negative consequences?

Do you let other people make choices for you?

Do you usually let your partner dominate decision-making?

Do you sometimes feel helpless or trapped by your partner or other people close to you?

Do you give in to other people’s wishes to avoid negative consequences, such as anger or rejection?

Do you keep quiet even when you feel your feelings or opinions are not acknowledged or respected?


If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the subjugation schema. If you think the subjugation schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.


To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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