You can take charge of what happens, or you can yield to the apparent wants of others. You can generate a situation in which you are wholly creative, making every choice from what you do to what others do. Or you can simply go along with the demands of the moment.
You can facilitate a growth experience for others. To do so is to take the dominant position in a given situation. On the other hand, you can be pulled forward by others’ choices, desires, and demands, and let your life be filled by what they do and what they make happen. To do this would be to take the submissive position in a given situation.
Neither the dominant nor the submissive approach is superior per se, nor is it possible to take a single approach in every moment of life.
When a man lets his wife choose and prepare meals for the both of them, and he doesn’t intervene, he is being submissive in his approach to his diet. He is simply rolling with the chaos and allowing another entity to call the shots for him.
Submissive doesn’t necessarily mean unconscious, nor does it guarantee that the results will be “bad” for the submissive person. It’s quite possible that (a) the man and his wife had a deliberate conversation about the subject of their diets, and they decided together that she would be in charge of this aspect of their lives; and (b) the man’s wife makes much healthier decisions for the both of them than he would make if left to his own devices.
That’s the key: where someone else could either make more intelligent choices for you than you could for yourself, or where someone else could facilitate a growth experience for you, you ought to take the submissive approach. This is why people take a dominant approach when it comes to taking care of children: adults can typically make more intelligent choices for their children than they would if left to their own devices. Additionally, adults can help children to grow.
In general, a dominant approach entails high-level creativity and initiation: you create situations and choose what will be done. A submissive approach, on the opposite end of things, entails follow-through: when you submit, you go through the motions of the choices that are being made for you.
When I run a race, I am submissive relative to the race director, who is dominant. I yield to his creative choices, such as how long the race is, where the race course goes, whether there are aid stations, and what the rules are (e.g. in a high school or junior high-level race, any physical contact between two runners can result in disqualification). The race director is the high-level creator in this situation, and he is the facilitator of my experience of running his race.
Don’t get too hung up on the terms “domination” and “submission.” This isn’t about overpowering people nor giving power away. When executed consciously, a domination-submission relationship is a form of co-creation, and can be empowering for both parties.
Selecting a Strategy
In all aspects of life, there are decisions of domination and submission to be made. You can choose to exercise by your own free choice, or you can hire a coach or personal trainer who will make up workouts for you and hold you accountable for doing them. You can take a class and receive a formal education, or you can seek information on your own and educate yourself. You can wait for social invitations to come your way, or you can be the one who issues them.
You may find that there are some areas of life where a domination-strategy works best for you, and others where you are better served by a submission-strategy. I know people who are great at facilitating social gatherings (domination) but who wouldn’t pick up a weight or even walk down the block unless someone else told them to (submission).
The strategy you choose will largely depend upon your skills, previous experience, what sort of challenges and growth you seek, and generally what you want.
When I run a race I don’t mind the fact that I’m using a submission-strategy because the general experience I desire is to run a race. Directing a race is an entirely different experience, and that’s not what I’m after.
In education I’ve found that introductory-level college courses are incredibly helpful to learning something that’s totally new to me. But, beyond the first class, each subsequent class on the subject yields diminishing returns, and I feel I’d be better off directing my learning myself. This is the approach I’ve taken with computer programming so far: I started off with a submission-strategy, and I’ve since switched to a domination-strategy.
It’s worth considering whether there is an overall strategy you prefer to take to life, rather than just individual aspects thereof.
I’m finding that I generally prefer to take a domination-strategy. I trust myself to make choices that are congruent with what I most desire to experience—even if it takes me some time to get there. I feel I do a better job of commanding myself than someone else would do of commanding me. This is largely because I have some desires and make some choices that are off-beat, such as running ultramarathons and eating only raw plants. If I was more conventional, I would benefit from using a submission-strategy more often than I do now.
Right now it’s normal for me to use a domination-strategy in regards to my diet, exercise, work, time, daily activities, and education. I’ve experimented with using a domination-strategy in my overall lifestyle, but for now, well, let’s say I have submitted to the default lifestyle situation for an American 20 year old. :P
Where I have made little use of a domination-strategy, on the other hand, is in my social life. I know I would love to try it more often, and I’m quite certain I would be happy to make it the norm for myself. In junior high and high school I liked having parties at my house and inviting a lot of friends over at once. Sometimes I felt nervous about whether the house was acceptable enough or whether people would be bored, but I usually had fun, and I liked hosting the space for other people to have fun, too.
Issuing social invitations and hosting events aren’t the only components of a domination-strategy to one’s social life, but they are important.
What I’m particularly curious about is the role of domination-submission in conversations. Most of the time when I talk to other people, it feels like they are leading the conversation and I’m going along for the ride. While issuing more social invitations is an easy route to take, doing more talking than listening doesn’t seem as easy: in fact, the very idea feels unnatural. It’s not like I’m going to start talking over people just because there’s something I want to say. Still, I’d do well to actually exert my will during conversations. The point isn’t to fight with the other person for airtime, but rather to actively be human when both talking and listening, instead of just passively agreeing with everything that is said and trying to avoid angering the other person at all costs.
There are more obvious ways that domination-submission comes into play in conversations, too. For example, I could invite someone to tell me whatever they want about a particular topic—and without interruption. Though the other person is doing most of the talking, I would be the dominant one because I am facilitating the experience.
Wherever someone is facilitating or inviting, that person is using a domination-strategy. In a therapist-client relationship the client does most of the talking, but the therapist is the dominant one because she is holding the space for the client to explore his thoughts out loud, and she is facilitating the overall experience of mental-emotional healing for him.
This is true of all businesses: wherever someone is offering a good or service, that person is using a domination-strategy. The experience that a customer has of a good or service could not occur unless someone else invited them to that experience first.
That’s a useful thought to keep in mind: whenever you buy anything, the person you are buying the thing from is dominating you. I take no issue with being dominated by Olivia’s Organics when I buy spinach. Are you okay with being dominated by McDonald’s when you buy chicken nuggets, or does that relationship dynamic bother you? How about when you buy a computer from Apple? Think over some recent purchases you’ve made: for any of those purchases, does it bother you to think that you’ve been dominated by certain people or companies? Are there other business-entities you feel perfectly fine with being dominated by? What’s the reason for the difference? Is it the results the purchase produces in your life, perhaps? Could it be whether you really want to be a spokesperson for that particular business?
Overall, if you use the strategy that isn’t right for you, you will experience struggle. To see which strategy fits you, try out either one in an obvious way. Talk to someone who is known to talk endlessly, and see whether you like being submissive in conversations. Have someone else prepare you a meal one night, and then prepare a meal all on your own the next night: see who produces the healthier, tastier result. Have a party at your house; then, go to someone else’s party. If you have a job, start a business on the side. If you have a business, get a job on the side.
When you consider whether to submit to another person, you’ll want to ask, Is this a person whose will I want to become my own? Do I trust this person to lead me down a desirable path?
Likewise, when you consider whether to dominate another person- including yourself- ask, Is this a person who I want to command? Does this person trust me? Will this person listen to me?
The keys are trust and respect. If you cannot trust a particular person to either help you produce desirable results (via submitting to them) or to desire for themselves what you desire for them (i.e. when you dominate them), you’re better off not engaging with that person—at least not via this particular strategy. Likewise, if you cannot trust that person to respect you, either by preserving your dignity (if you yield to them) or to speak up if they are out of alignment with your decisions (if you command them), then the only ethical choice is to not go ahead with the domination-submission relationship.
Again, you’ll know you’re choosing the wrong strategy if you are experiencing struggle. Let’s say that deep down your preferred strategy is domination, but for whatever reason you (like me) use a submissive approach in social situations. If you’re with another person who is submissive, and who would even like to submit to you, all you’ll get is lots of silence and awkward discomfort. On the other hand, if you’re with another person who is dominant, you’ll experience increasing frustration and powerlessness as time goes on. To resolve these situations you’ll have to share your desires with the submissive person, and disengage with the dominant person—at least in the aspects in which he is trying to dominate you.
Two dominant people can enjoy each other, but in some regards they have to agree to disagree and to simply choose their own paths in order to maintain harmony between them.
Each strategy has a particular struggle-signature to it. If you are submitting when you should be dominating (or submitting to someone else), you’ll feel stuck and like you’re being stepped on. Your to-do list will be filled with items that don’t matter, and you won’t like the future you foresee for yourself. You’ll feel like a pinball in a pinball machine, constantly being hit this way and then that—against your will. You might also feel like someone has strapped you to a spinny-chair and is spinning you around as fast as possible-- and it appears that there is no stopping this thing.
On the other hand, if you are dominating when you should be submitting, you’ll be overwhelmed and indecisive. You’ll feel like the task ahead of you is way too big to handle without guidance. This is how I felt when I finished high school: I considered not going to college, but I wasn’t ready to suddenly stop going to school after 13 years and live 100% on my own terms. It was much better for me to go to community college, for the time being, and to start this website while I was there.
Once it becomes clear to you which strategy resonates with you, in any area of your life, you can plow ahead with your preferred strategy and adjust along the way as needed. Experimentation that isn’t merely distraction is always welcome.
Wielding D/s Consciously
When you use a submission-strategy, you aren’t necessarily giving your power away to another person: all you’re doing is deciding to let someone else make certain decisions for you. You still had to decide in the first place to let this be the case, so ultimately the power still lies with you. Unless you truly are enslaved, you always retain the power to release your submission-strategy at any time.
On the other hand, when a domination-submission relationship occurs unconsciously, it is indeed a form of enslavement—and it often is a source of misery, too. Think of a junior high school classroom in a school where grades tend to be poor. Most of the kids don’t want to be there, but they are required by law to be there. The disagreeableness of the students frustrates the teacher, who, as a result, yells angrily at the students every now and then. When the students get yelled at they become even less motivated and want to leave the class even more. The cycle continues on, and for both dominator (the teacher) and the submissive (the students) the domination-submission situation is a downright mess.
Indeed, quite a lot of submission does happen unconsciously: people say “yes” to commands because they think they have to, without nary a thought that this may or may not be beneficial to their growth and that they always remain free to say no.
Should you find yourself in such a situation, you would do well to get the heck out of it. If you have said “yes” to your master enough times that you have found yourself fighting another dog, yet you have no good reason to fight this dog, then declare a truce. You and the other dog can then become allies and decide what to do together. Perhaps you can run off and find a doggy heaven to call “home.” Or, if you want revenge, the two of you can surprise your masters by turning on them.
This is where things get interesting. Whether you like it or not, we all yield to the will of humanity itself, which is the collection of all people. We have all collectively created a world together, and the choices available to us are constrained by the world we have created.
The submission of each individual person to the collective doesn’t always seem consciously-chosen. People wake up to find themselves living lives that they don’t want, and they wonder how the heck they got where they are now. It feels like they indeed were spun around on a spinny chair for years, and only now have they managed to slow down just enough to realize that they didn’t want to be in that chair in the first place.
Yielding to the collective is a great way to make compulsive choices. If you yield to the collective in regards to your diet, for instance, you’ll eat a lot of meat and refined grains and sugar. This won’t feel like much of a choice, though—you’re just eating what’s available. You’re only going along with what the collective has made the norm. To do anything else would require willpower.
If you utilize willpower, you will be regarded as unreasonable. A person is labelled as “unreasonable” when he wants something other than what the collective readily supplies. An unreasonable person is, by definition, making use of a domination-strategy: he is taking charge of his own life. Likewise, to be reasonable implies that you are using a submission-strategy: you are letting others decide for you. If you eat what everyone else eats, you are submissive and reasonable. If you decide for yourself what you are to eat, and your choices deviate from the choices of the collective, you are dominant and unreasonable.
Before we label someone a certain way for making unconventional choices, it’s important to remember that the collective could just as well have created anything else that is within the realm of possibility—that is, anything aside from what it is currently creating. We could just as well have created a world where money doesn’t exist, people live in teepees, and there’s no such thing as agriculture. The only reason these things aren’t normal is that they aren’t the choices that the collective made and then consented to. The collective could have chosen these things, but it didn’t. The critical mass of people chose something else instead. That’s all.
The world we’ve created has a way of draining people of their willpower. For instance, if you join the military you will do nothing but submit for 4+ years. It’s the same if you go to prison. Leaving these situations and suddenly being able to make a decision for oneself, and use the domination-strategy at last, must be intimidating.
Draining people of their willpower is not remotely the same as people consciously using a submission-strategy. Where two people are in the same situation (e.g. they are both in the army), it’s possible that one can enjoy the heck out of himself consciously using a submission-strategy, while the other is miserable and experiencing an infringement on his individual will. Conscious choice is Heaven; unconscious involvement is Hell.
Even then, beyond a point too much submission can erode the individual will. It’s quite possible to go into a situation intending to submit consciously and to end up getting kicked around far more than you imagined you would. This is what certain aspects of the world we’ve created do to us, and it’s contributing to a collective humanity that not only has difficulty making new decisions for itself, but it struggles to make wise decisions for itself as well.
Domination-submission essentially spells out the central question governments face: Can the people be trusted to make wise decisions for themselves? Or should they be ruled by a select group of intelligent people to make decisions for them?
Even though the collective has its issues, in the long run we can bet on the collective to challenge, educate, and uplift itself. This means that we will improve our world as a whole by supporting and facilitating growth for one another.
While some of our society’s norms aren’t healthy for us, keep in mind that the collective includes everyone. They may not be in the majority, but there are a great many people among us who are willing and able to suggest new choices that serve us and to help people live in alignment with those choices. People have always done this, and people always will.
The consciousness of our world is expanding overall as time goes on, and we can eventually reach a critical mass whereby the majority of people are open to exploring various options and choose healthily and wisely for themselves. When this happens the collective will be able to create the world anew, and people can submit to the collective trusting that the experience will be in their best interest.
Occasionally it may be wise for a small group of people to dominate the collective in the short run and in certain ways—especially if a crisis threatens, such as a comet imminently headed for Earth. The key here is that we must be careful as to how we define crisis. If the term is used too liberally, people could easily go too far with the domination-strategy and control the collective in ways that it doesn’t need to be controlled.
The Common Core is a good example of domination over the collective gone too far. Americans weren’t happy with how their children were doing in school, so various state governments mandated that every school in the state teach precisely the same curriculum. This robbed teachers of the uniqueness and creative intelligence that they could pass on to their students. The overall reception of the Common Core has been negative, and there’s no good reason to believe that it’s in our best interest. Focusing the curriculum on passing state tests doesn’t mean the students are actually learning anything valuable, nor are teachers so lackluster and unintelligent that they need a verbatim script to perform for their students. The Common Core is nothing but another way for the collective to drain the willpower of individuals and turn teachers and kids into submissive automatons. Someone in the government must not be getting as many submissive women in the bedroom as he wants, so he has to compensate by making everyone else more submissive instead.
At this point in the human story, domination over the collective by a small few should be viewed with skepticism and opposition. The collective is lacking in willpower enough as it is, and we aren’t going to fix things by controlling each other even more than we do already. We’re smart enough that we can set up the right domination-submission relationships between the right people, “right” meaning that everyone grows as a result of those relationships. We can match ourselves with people who can teach us, and with others who desire to learn from us. We can take sufficient domination over our own lives to make intelligent choices, and we can then dominate others (as much as they desire this) to help them make similar choices.
After all, the collective is collective intelligence. Left to our own devices, we can collectively make good decisions for ourselves in the long run—we just have to allow ourselves to. Unconsciously-created domination-submission relationships won’t help us to get there: consciously-chosen ones will. The most conscious choices are those that are made at the individual level. Choices made by a gargantuan entity known as a government for millions of people simultaneously can be yielded to only so consciously, since they are legally imposed upon those people.
Make Your Choice
Domination-submission plays a big role in the human story. By selecting whichever strategy is most helpful to you in your own life, you indirectly help humanity to choose the wiser strategy for itself on a collective-level. Whether it be domination or submission, the choice that empowers you ultimately empowers all of us. The choice that is best for you serves to inform humanity which choice is best for it. What you do for yourself, you do for everyone else. It’s not the chosen strategy that counts, but rather the fact that you are choosing your own growth and well-being that enables greater growth and well-being in all of us.
What is your preferred strategy? Do you like to facilitate growth experiences for others, or do you like to have others lead you through an experience? Do you use the same strategy through all areas of life? Have you been choosing your strategy consciously, or have you been going one way or the other simply because it seems you can’t go the opposite way?
Whatever you do, if you try to dominate me I’ll try to dominate you right back, Buster. :)
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