Domination-Submission and Personal Growth

January 7th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

I want to share some thoughts on an interesting dynamic I’ve been observing as I continue to explore domination and submission (D/s) with my consensual slave partner.

A key aspect of personal growth is that in order to grow, we must stretch beyond our comfort zones and experience something new. If we stay within our comfort zones and stick to the familiar, we deny ourselves the opportunity for expansion. Yet we don’t know for certain how new possibilities will impact us until we dive in and experience them.

Many years ago I thought about being an entrepreneur. Since I’d never done it before, I couldn’t be sure if I’d like it or if I’d be good at it. It was outside my comfort zone. When I tried it, it turned out that I liked it and got good at it, so of course I stuck with it. But what if I never tried it because I was too worried it wouldn’t work out? Many people are in a similar situation right now, hesitant to make a move into the exploration of the unknown.

What if there were an easier way to try out some bold new experiences but with a lower risk of failure?

For example, what if you had a free-working slave at your disposal to help you start a new business, someone who will gladly do anything you ask for no pay? Would that make it easier to succeed at getting the new business up and running? Of course it would, assuming that your slave is reasonably competent. You could focus on making good decisions and command your slave do most of the implementation work. You could be a lot more productive than if you tried to do everything yourself. A free slave would take much of the burden off your shoulders.

On the other hand, what if instead of a slave, you recruited a free manager for your new business, someone competent, focused, and disciplined? Your manager makes all the high-level decisions and tells you exactly what to do step by step. You don’t have to think about strategy. You can simply trust your manager and focus on taking daily action. Your manager observes the effectiveness of your actions and continually adjusts course and coaches you to improve. Might that business also be more likely to succeed?

So would you agree that all else being equal, you’d be more likely to succeed as an entrepreneur if you could start your business with either a free slave or a free manager, assuming they’re competent? And if you can see in advance that you’re likely to succeed, wouldn’t you be more willing to dive in and try it? Wouldn’t you also be willing to stretch and take more risks in your business?

Now consider this. Would these businesses also be good experiences for the slave and the manager? Could you fathom that they might also benefit tremendously from it? For example, what if the slave is, in real life, someone just starting out on their career path, and even though they work for free, they gain tremendously valuable experience. This “slave” is essentially an intern. Similarly, the manager could be thought of as a mentor or board member.

Many variations are also possible, whereby the slave and manager could easily share in the rewards of the business.

Hopefully you get the idea. The point is that a partnership with an unequal power structure can have some serious advantages, and it could very well turn out much better than a partnership with two equal partners who share responsibility for all decisions and actions in a more balanced way.

Well, this is essentially how a D/s relationship works behind the scenes, except that instead of trying to build a business, the partners come together to help each other grow as human beings.

Although it looks asymmetrical on the surface, D/s actually has a very balanced way of fostering new growth experiences for both partners. One simple reason this happens is that it reduces the risk of failure. It also creates a dynamic whereby if a failure experience does happen, it’s no big deal.

Dominant Perspective

For the dominant person, you have the opportunity to wield total control over another person. This means you can create all sorts of new experiences “by your command.” Your free slave gives you more power and more creative options.

Now initially, you may use that power to create all the experiences you know you want to try but never had the chance to do yet. And maybe you’ll also try many familiar things that you know for certain you like. You may want to explore whatever feels good to you.

But after you’ve done that, if you keep repeating those same experiences in the same way, it will probably become less and less interesting. So you keep adding new things to try. Eventually as you keep going, you hit the edge of your comfort zone. Now you have the opportunity to progress beyond it. Will you use your power to create an experience with your slave that you aren’t sure you’ll like? Will you use your power to explore a whole new world of possibilities? Your extra power gives you the opportunity to do that with much less risk.

With a free slave at your disposal, you can take more risks and try new things that you couldn’t justify trying without the free slave.

Also, it makes sense to help your slave become a more capable and competent servant. By helping your slave grow, you increase your slave’s power, thereby allowing you both to experience even more together. A highly competent slave is more useful than a novice slave.

Submissive Perspective

On the submissive side, you get the experience of being commanded. Initially you may be commanded to do many things that are still within your comfort zone. However, your Master can also command you to do things that lie outside your comfort zone, thereby creating new growth experiences, should you choose to accept them. Remember that since this is a consensual arrangement, you’re always free to decline something that feels wrong for you.

While you don’t have the power to decide how your Master manages you, you do have the ability to influence your Master in many ways. You can encourage him/her to push you in the ways you most desire to explore. But more importantly, you are still in charge of your overall experience because you’re choosing to enter into this type of relationship.

This is similar to the choice an intern makes. Interns don’t control every detail of their growth experience in terms of what specific tasks will be assigned, but they do choose the overall experience by deciding where to intern. And they may be better off doing that anyway. When entering a new field, someone else may be better qualified to manage the intern’s professional growth for a while, like an experienced manager or mentor.

It’s a Lot Like Life

It’s interesting that regardless of whether you choose to be on the dominant side or the submissive one, the potential to accelerate your personal growth is there.

I’m not saying it’s a bad choice to have an equal partner. An equal partner can have certain advantages too. I’m simply pointing out that there are some very interesting growth opportunities that arises from relationships with an asymmetrical power exchange.

We could also discuss what can go wrong with such an arrangement, but that isn’t unique to D/s relationships. An equal partnership entails at least as much risk as a D/s relationship… and perhaps even more risk if the shared responsibilities become murky and unclear.

Going back to our business start-up example, if you were going to watch two equally competent people start a new business, and you have to make a bet on who would enjoy the greatest success, which of the two would you bet on?

  1. A new business with two equal partners with shared responsibility for making decisions and taking action
  2. A business whereby one partner works as the manager and makes all the key decisions, and the other partner works as the slave and implements all of the manager’s decisions.

That’s an interesting bet, isn’t it?

The most accurate answer is probably, “It depends.” But surely you can imagine scenarios in which the second business model would outperform the first. I certainly can, especially since the manager and the slave have the potential to specialize their skill sets instead of each of them trying to become good at everything.

And naturally we can come up with hybrid models that are somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.

We end up with similar possibilities when we ask these same questions about human relationships in general.

Forget All About Equality

D/s creates some interesting opportunities for helping each other learn and grow in ways that are less likely to be experienced in a power-balanced partnership.

As I get to know my partner better, I see things in her that I can tell she’d like to explore and express, and by commanding her, I give her “permission” to explore those things. She doesn’t have to feel responsible for going there because I’m assuming responsibility on her behalf. If it doesn’t feel good to her, she’s always free to say no. But if she isn’t sure if she’ll like it or not, the command nudges her to go for it and see how it feels to her. I can push her in ways she’d probably never push herself. I can see potential within her that she doesn’t realize is there.

Similarly, she can push me in new directions by giving me feedback that draws out new behaviors from me, such as by playfully teasing me or by how she responds to my commands. And I’m willing to try new things with her because after all, I have total control of her anyway, so I can do whatever I want with her. I don’t have to worry about scaring her off because I know she’ll stop me if I do something that’s a problem for her.

Consequently, she and I are both gracefully sliding into the space of doing things with each other that we’ve never done before. Through this power exchange dynamic, we’re helping each other to let go and play freely together. We’re exploring new possibilities. We’re trying out new behaviors. How does it feel to us to do things that are more playful? More sensual? More emotional? More erotic? More naughty? Because she and I are both committed to conscious growth, we can use the D/s power exchange to achieve personal breakthroughs that might otherwise never happen in a more vanilla relationship.

I think one of the reasons D/s works so well is that it’s based on total and complete acceptance of each other. The submissive accepts the dominant’s authority fully, so there’s no resistance or lack of acceptance there. And similarly the dominant accepts complete responsibility for and ownership of the submissive, so again there’s no resistance. With unconditional acceptance on both sides, each partner gains the freedom to relax and let loose, knowing they don’t have to worry about rejection or judgment. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to explore such things whilst knowing that your partner is completely loyal to you and fully accepting of you no matter what?

Let’s Play… ;)

Sharing comfort-zone-busting growth experiences is fun and exciting, and that excitement can easily spread to others. My slave, for example, has been posting in our discussion forums with an anonymous account for the past several days, playfully calling me Master, interacting with other members, and playfully teasing people who try to guess her real life identity. This gives everyone a chance to see how we interact with each other and gain a better understanding of D/s. I think it’s obvious to people that she and I are having fun together and that we’re happy with a D/s-style dynamic for now, and based on how other forum members have been reacting to her presence, it’s clearly contagious. :)

Perhaps an even more important point is to be careful not to dismiss a potential new growth experience out of hand. Be cautious about judging what you’ve never experienced or what you’ve experienced only in a limited way. If you’ve never experienced a particular dynamic firsthand, it’s safe to say you don’t have a clue what it’s really like. If you cast judgment from the outside looking in, all you’re doing is limiting yourself. I think it’s better to keep an open mind about that which you’ve never tried. Don’t buy into the social conditioning that encourages you to pre-condemn with prejudice. Our society cannot progress much until we drop such limiting thoughts.



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