A life dynamic seemingly created to fulfill personally selfish agendas, the ‘lackey’ syndrome consists of constant requirements or demands made by one or more people on others, an endless list of expectations which will consume the time and energy of another person -- often presented as mutually beneficial action, or as duty or obligation. These needs will come to be inexhaustible . . . the supporter/lackey is expected to drop everything and attend to the wishes or directives given to them.
Often, some people become little ‘dictators’ in the sense that they really come to believe that others are their property – it is their own personal responsibility to direct and order the lackey around . . . if they meet with opposition, they are completely surprised or display hurt feelings, even sometimes becoming belligerent. These‘controller’ types consider this their ‘due’ – that they are being unreasonable or out of line will not occur to them until their chosen lackey decides to refuse the requirements.
Where and how do those who do this acquire this behavior? For starters, someone else has allowed them to assume this mantle of king/queenship. This condition of life takes two or more. In most families, there is at least one set of these types. The more the lackey scurries around trying to cover all the bases set up by the controller, the less time and energy there is for the poor lackey’s own life – and the self-appointed dictator sees or acknowledges this not at all. Absorbing the lackey’s entire life into the controller’s web of never-ending scenarios seems natural.
Sometimes these controllers will take their need to run everything around them to great lengths, even to illness, or some type of inability to function completely themselves. Then things get really deep . . . there is now a real disability – and the lackey is now required to dance to an even more rapid drumbeat of need. The controller will happily usurp every facet of the lackey’s life and consider it his/her right to do so.
It is actually a type of servitude . . . appearing to be help, caregiving, assisting, supplying others with life essentials. To the extent that both people understand and accept this situation, it may work – if there is a clear understanding of the fact that the needy one AND the lackey have lives and the right to live them. However, resentment can creep in, for both parties. It really seems that some people simply do not have any intention of being independently capable and functional in their lives; they want and will have someone else around to do their bidding, to perform the role they expect that person to play. And they do gladly write the scripts – handing these to the lackey with precise instructions. Players may be husband and wife, parent/child, siblings, even friends or community members. Deviation from assigned lines will elicit from the self-appointed director any response necessary to put down the rebellion and get things back in line so that the production can go on as written. All these dynamics can happen at a very subtle level . . . appearances may be deceiving.
The intriguing part of this is that no one in the situation seems to clearly see what is going on . . . that is, it is a mindless, robot-like existence for the unfortunate lackey, and a tightly wound, desperately gripped position for the controller. It’s lifeblood, the essence of what is needed for life. Refusal from the lackey will usually result in hurt feelings, manipulations of all types, anger, and even spiteful action from the controller, who may become indignant and wounded, perceiving that the lackey has betrayed some perceived ‘trust’ or violated their personal safety or integrity.
For the good of each person’s own mental/physical health, it seems beneficial to learn to recognize this uneven exchange of life energy early on, the better to avoid entering a semi-life of misconstrued slavery.