Namka, Ed. D. ©
My best-selling book, The Doormat Syndrome, is back in
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learning to speak your truth, humor and spirituality at the
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Doormat Syndrome: Learning About the Correct Use of Power
Ed. D. © 1989
to love your without clutching. Appreciate you without judging.
Join you without demanding. Love your without guilt. Criticize
you without blaming. And help you without insulting. If I can
have the same from you, then we can truly meet each other.'
it that some people get the worst of every interaction, consistently
confuse his or her own best interests with the inters of others?
Counselor and therapists in the co-dependency field can certainly
recognize the pattern in their clients, (if not in themselves)
--the one in which a seemingly well-intentioned person is walked
on, dumped on, ripped off--Doormat stuff!
Doormat is never easy. But it can be especially disillusioning
to have a working knowledge of co-dependent and addictive relationships,
to have read the books and attended the workshops, and still
wake up with mud on you face.
the Gestalt psychology folks have a point. They say that often
it's not enough just to know something. We human beings have
to feel something and experience it on a deep, deep level before
we are shook up enough to really get the message of change.
It is said the longest journey in the world is the twelve-inch
journey between your head and your heart!
is a fresh outlook on Doormat behavior. The old, Brand X definition
of co-dependency was based on the medical model, the disease
model and the pathology model. Not so here. My approach is based
on the wholeness model developed from the theories of Virginia
Satir and Carl Jung. This approach is the mature version for
the discriminating viewers who want to feel good about themselves
while learning to feel good about themselves.
Doormat behavior really signifies a misplaced trust in power
in all of its forms--power over the self and others, power of
others to help us in some way. There is an ancient South American
legend that tells of the time when the gods created the earth.
They looked for a place to hide power because they realized
it was a possibly dangerous force that might be found and used
in a destructive fashion. The gods considered the top of the
mountain and the bottom of the sea, but ruled these out because
power was too dangerous to hide in one place. So the gods decided
to divide the power up and place it in the hearts of men, women
beings have a drive for power, it is the essence of survival.
Power drives start in infancy and continue though out life.
Derived from the Latin, potre--which means to be able--power
is morally neutral. Power can be used for good or ill purposes.
in two basic forms: Coercion, or verbal or physical threat,
or Persuasion, which requires acceptance of the person going
along with some authority. This acceptance is based on the previous
social conditioning of the person being approached with a power
demand or request.
of control are adaptive in that they strengthen self worth.
Having an internal sense of control results in individuals taking
responsibility for the choices they make and what happens to
them. According to the latest research, the more control a child
is given over everyday life choices, the better. Both career
and personal outlooks brighten in later life when the child
learns to make decisions, learn from them and correct mistakes.
But when childhood power drives are filtered through anxiety
and fear, the result is social control and manipulation. This
type of control robs people of self esteem.
negative law of power as known by dysfunctional people and governments
all over the world is Them that has it, tries to keep it. Remember
the childhood game of King or Queen of the Hill? The object
was to remain in charge through brute force. We were taught
as youngsters that power was dualistic: 'If I have the power,
then you don't,' or 'If you have the power, then I won't have
any.' Power could not be shared. Putting the power in one person
or in one camp creates a type of mind set that fosters anger,
tension and competition.
it is hard to think of a greater waster of human potential for
all parties concerned than the domination/submission model.
This model has fostered destructive behavior, aggression and
violence on the part of those in control. It has encouraged
resentment, passive aggressive behavior and rebelliousness on
the part of the submissive person who had to learn manipulation
in order to survive. This old model has stifled the growth of
both victim and victimizer as it precludes trust, affection
and true intimacy.
have generally learned to give their power away or use it in
a passive aggressive fashion. It is something they have learned
growing up in a 'closed' family system. A closed system is one
where energy is spent in trying to keep things from changing.
In this kind of home environment, one or more members bent on
maintaining the status quo, help keep the power structure off
balance. Since communication often promotes change and change
and threatens the status quo, closed family systems do things
by unspoken agreement. Them that has the power keeps it. This
arrangement allows dependence on alcohol, drugs, abuse or out
of control sexual needs to flourish.
systems prevent problem solving, personal growth and moving
forward. The family motto becomes 'Don't rock the boat.' Individuals
who grow up in closed systems do not get their early emotional
and psychological needs met and often develop compulsive, dysfunctional
behaviors as a result.
the most debilitating attitudes emerging from such an environment
is a kind of moral masochism, described by psychoanalyst Ester
Meneker. Moral masochism is an insufficient separation from
the parent due to fear or loss and abandonment. Described this
way, moral masochism should be distinguished from sexual masochism
which is an unconscious need for punishment. Moral masochism
is an adaptive defense mechanism to over come the child's fear
of abandonment. Modern day feminists writers describe moral
masochism as a dependency issue. It is inevitable in human beings
because of the long emotional and physical dependence of the
child on the family. Dependency becomes increasing worse in
children who have harsh, domineering parents.
when the child grows up, there are more than enough domineering,
intimidating types to play 'parent.' In The Fire From Within,
Carlos Castaneda calls people who use adversive control Petty
tyrants. Adversive control includes power trips such as yelling,
glaring, sighing, blaming and pouting to keep family members
under control. A petty tyrant is someone who bullies, torments
or otherwise tries to oppress you.
some great examples in literature and in the movies of strong
people standing up to petty tyrants. Jesus Christ before Pilate,
Sir Thomas Moore before King Henry VIII, Joan of Arch before
the king of France, and Mr. Roberts before the ship's captain
in the movie, Mr. Roberts. In each case, the hero stood firm,
calm and collected in the face of persecution. Castaneda says
it is lucky to stumble onto a petty tyrant because you can learn
about control, self discipline and self respect in your dealings
with him. There is a challenge in dealing with a seemingly impossible
person in a position of power. He even recommends that you go
out and look for one so that you can practice facing them with
discipline and inner strength.
Satir described the 'Benevolent Dictator' who practices a friendlier,
but equally tyrannical form of control. Domineering parents
are examples of this type of oppressor. Benevolent dictators
want to the be the Dear Abby of the Universe and offer solutions
to everyone's problems but their own. They may even be correct
in the assessment of how things are and how to correct them.
dictators become so caught up in other people's problems that
they unconsciously use others to avoid the personal responsibility
of looking at their own actions. They can play the role of the
expert who gives advice as a coping mechanism to avoid looking
at their own unresolved needs for power. They smile and act
nice to you, but the bottom line is-- 'You had better do as
I say.' They treat others as problems to be solved and people
to be controlled. They send a message that you are not grownup
enough to figure out your problem on your own and take the consequences.
Their bottom line is 'I KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND YOU HAD
BETTER DO IT!'
of a benevolent dictator creates helplessness in people who
agree to play their hidden power games. This fits neatly into
the Doormat's perceived need to live in perpetual atonement
for past, present and future sins. Doormats turn their own personal
power over to others. They communicate statements like, 'Whatever
you want is okay. It's all right with me. You decide for me.
I'll go along with whatever you want.' They ask permission for
things that other people just take for granted and go ahead
and do. 'Could I have a hamburger?' when ordering food from
a waitress is an example of co-dependent talk. Say what you
want straight out instead of asking permission when it is appropriate.
often have an excess of apologizing for small discomforts. Those
who are around Doormats often recognize their submissiveness
and begin to take control of the situation. It's as if Doormats
wear a T-shirt saying 'Available for demeaning!'
in to others is consistent with closed family systems which
teach manipulation and submissiveness rather than straight communication.
Letting other walk over you is learned in households where adults
have used becoming hurt as a technique of discipline and control:
'If you don't do what I say, I'll be hurt and disappointed in
you.' Children from such systems learn to keep quiet and be
the good kid.' They learn the basic rules of dysfunctional families:
'Don't talk, don't trust and don't feel.' When they transgress
these family rules and speak out, they feel guilty. They go
through life ruled by the guilt that they have internalized.
In an open
system, energy is spent in promoting change, and there is a
balance of power. There are checks in place to keep the power
from going out of balance. Keeping everything fixed and stable
is not as important as the growth and development of all individuals.
The open system provides increased energy that transforms itself
into something new. Individuals are treated with love, respect
and concern. Family members are encouraged to be productive
new is that one can always cash in one's Doormat status in exchange
for self-respect. But this requires letting go. If the attachment
is to an addicted partner, letting go may mean allowing the
other person to hit bottom and seek professional help. Negative
energy from abusive relationships must be released in order
to allow the power of the other person and to unfold.
of all religious traditions tell us that we are to be of a loving
and open heart. We are our brothers' keepers, but we can learn
to do that in ways that do not cripple them. A keeper in the
old sense of the word meant a jailer, custodian or warden. We
can truly become our brothers' keeper by keeping their spirit
intact. We can give other people the tools they need to help
themselves. Of course, it also means releasing one's own over
zealous need to heal. And putting the Benevolent Tyrant to rest
learn to be primarily accountable to yourself, the stage is
set for other people to have more choices. They may choose to
accept responsibility and take care of themselves, or they may
find someone else to take care of them. Relationships will certainly
change and there are no formulas to predict which way they will
go. But you can be mindful of your own control issues.
ex-Doormat moves from a model of enabling to a model of empowering,
great gifts begin to reveal themselves. The greatest gift we
can give ourself and others is our own well being. Another gift
is to allow the person to be him or herself even with all their
shortcomings. A third gift is getting a balance of power in
the relationship and learning and using the healthy skills of
open systems. When we get a clear understanding of the misuse
of power in relationships, we can work to clean up our system.
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