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Are You Being a Domesticant?

Sept 18, 2015

If you are, then it’s time for you to step out “into the cold” and go it alone without the approval and support of the silent majority who remain “within the fold.” Domesticant is a new word coined by me that describes a person who will allow themselves to align with being domesticated into behaviors that sacrifice their personal excellence and growth for the comfort and "safety" of others living in mediocrity with a guaranteed security of being safe from challenge so long as they support a relatively risk free status quo. Let me explain.

The word domesticate (v.) originated in 1640 in relation to animals and in 1741 in relation to people. It’s said "to cause to be attached to home and family;" from Medieval Latin domesticatus, past participle of domesticare which is "to tame" or literally "to dwell in a house." Obviously, if our behavior is inappropriate we would not be permitted to “dwell in the house.” In one step further, a “house” could be considered to be our family heritage and tradition.

In our culture and family life we have many rules designed as unspoken coercions that enforce moving with the “herd” in behaviors that will insure the cloaking of the real or imaginary inadequacy and toxic shame felt by those doing the enforcing. Toxic shame, if you remember from past articles, is when someone sees themselves as “bad” rather than seeing an action as “bad.” Sayings like “If you’re not with me, then you’re against me” or “don’t rock the boat” are prevalent underlying “encouragements” designed to do just that. There are some that say that to feel and think this way is to be paranoid. But I think that the accusation of paranoia is usually fueled by their fear of possible exposure of some “below the radar” personal feelings equivalent to someone’s potential for toxic shame. However, the scenario does not always involve toxic shame. The following example will show why.

My example is a previously used and very common, close to the surface and easily perceived type of personal “alignment.” This is also one of our first trainings into aligning us with the non-verbal expectations that we might receive as a child preparing us for taking notice, perceiving and appropriately behaving according to the emotional comfort, safety and expectations of others. This example describes a scenario which makes the “developmental pattern” easily visible. If you are a child at a family dinner table and your parent puts a serving dish of food on the table and you reach for it an begin spooning out your preference before any one else has had the opportunity to serve themselves, your parent would, most likely, accuse you of being selfish for ignoring the convenience and preference of their guests and/or elders who are also at the table. In the home environment the rule of letting others precede you is often spoken but in a public place it is expected that we have been trained appropriately and that it is no longer necessary for a spoken reminder. For the transgression in the home we would most likely receive verbal admonition with some sort of “punishment” resulting in isolation from or by other family members and/or an “applied” mood from the parent doing the admonition. This occurrence fits what many of us might remember as being termed “being in the doghouse.” This enforced perspective has the intention of making us feel diminished for our “inappropriate” actions. In this interaction the distinction between the specific types of shame that would be applied would become apparent. In healthy shame we would receive an admonition pertaining to our action. In toxic shame we would receive an admonition that assaults and belittles our personal character for poor judgment resulting in our diminished status or integrity within our family or clan.

In public the same “inappropriate” action would, more often than not, receive dirty looks and trigger gossip among those who feel or appear to feel offended. The gossip is intended to attract commiseration and, therefore, validation of the “gossiper’s” perspective from others. This tightens the “clan” feeling. Our “punishment” would most likely be our being ostracized and, perhaps, being openly ridiculed. If we take it personally, we will most likely “come at it” from a position of toxic shame. If we don’t, we simply relegate the experience toward our accumulated awareness of our “normal” cultural limits based on our awareness of healthy shame.

What must be understood here is that, in addition to “inappropriate” behavior, excelling in any area of endeavor also puts us beyond or outside the envelope of what the average person is willing to risk or expect, making them painfully self-conscious about what they believe they could or should be doing. Not investing more effort into excelling themselves, which inevitably must include their being moderately selfish, at least to some extent, makes them eminently more uncomfortable about their own perceived or believed inadequacy making them more aware of their own toxic shame if they are “afflicted” with it. Those who operate within the auspices of healthy shame, often, have little negative reaction to our successes. So we can rest a little easier when someone does try to diminish us or our accomplishments in knowing that their “sour grapes” almost always comes from their own feelings of inadequacy. When I worked in the technical fields one of my coworkers actually said to me, “Don’t work so fast. You make us look bad.” It should be noted here that if you work to your potential you will attract negative feedback from those who may be jealous and fearful of personal exposure. It may be difficult enough to work up to our potential but to be compounded with peer group jealousy only puts our social status more into that of an outlier or someone perceived as being outside what is considered average or normal for everyone in the clan. When we excel in our endeavors the effects of “standing out from the crowd” or the saying “everyone loves a winner” now apply to us in ways we won’t often anticipate or appreciate.

So, not only do some of us receive training that diminishes our Self-Trust and self-confidence but to excel or not submit to being a domesticant also has the effect of drawing jealous criticism, gossip and excommunication from the social groups that protect each other’s perceived shortcomings by emotionally blackmailing us into silence or inaction with the threat of removing our status of belonging or opportunity for their support.

So, are you a Domesticant? Do you allow yourself to be “dumbed down” so others won’t feel threatened or self-conscious about not putting effort into excelling themselves? How far will you go to provide others with a “safe” and unchallenged self-concept even if you know that it is hurtful for them to feel so limited? How much do you commiserate with others about what they can’t, or more precisely, won’t do? Fear of success is not so much about adjusting our behavior to accommodate new and improved circumstances as much as it is the added stress that now we know we will be expected to perform in the new excellent way in all future endeavors. Additionally, we all “know” that it is politically and socially correct that we are expected to exhibit humility at all times…not too much and not too little. But where is it that we cross the line from being humble about our achievements to diminishing them to the extent that others will not feel so threatened or self-conscious about not excelling themselves?

To be sure, being supported by our clan, family and community is important but even in nature there comes point in development where even animals emerge from the nest, if not kicked out, to grow into their full potential. We are also part animal. We are also part of nature. What happened to living, experiencing and accepting the challenge that our physical existence has provided us? Have we allowed our social structure to mute our enthusiasm by "over-protecting" us? Are we now required to be Domesticants so we can feel accepted by others? Have we been tamed out of our true nature?

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