So, I was just reading an advice column which was talking about how to be more dominant. Except that it was scene-based S/M-centered dominance, rather than the 24/7 Owner/property dominance that I’m currently trying to figure out.
Seriously, I feel like I’m trying to find my way by feel through a pitch-dark room that I’ve never been in before and, while I’m trying to do that, I’m also trying to lead someone else by the hand – someone who, whether or not they could find their way through here blind-folded, is counting on me to do the leading right now.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d write down some Things I Need – things I need to do AND things I need to hear/receive – in order to develop my own comfort with, and proficiency at, Holding Power. It’s a short and, I have no doubt what-so-ever, incomplete list. Bear with me, and do feel free to make suggestions.
I need confirmation/reassurance from my submissive that, yes, when I’m doing it right, they feel capable and powerful and strong, too: I’m not a switch. If I were, I think I’d have an easier time understanding that “Power Exchange” does not equal a Zero-Sum Game. When it works, everyone involved feels empowered, stands taller, and moves through life with a sense of personal pride and fulfillment. (Which, I realize, isn’t giving anyone any idea of how to Do It Right. Bear with me on this one). I have a lot of trouble hanging onto this fact, in large part because my own experience of (unhappily) giving up power and taking on someone else’s needs and wants in place of my own has been entirely negative, disempowering, erasing, and painful. When my submissive lets me know that this is, in no uncertain terms, good for her sense of self and her well-being, it reminds me that what I’m doing with her is not at all the same thing as what, say, my ex-husband did to me.
I need to know that it’s okay for me to be demanding about superficial things: Meaning both that I need to know it’s okay for me to say “I want you to rub my feet again,” for the umpteenth time in a given day AND that it’s okay for me to say “You do the dishes while I read my new novel”. Essentially I need to know, through consistent affirmative behavior (getting on that right now, ma’am), that my being served, my being allowed to continue to hold power for my Person, is NOT reliant on a traditional (dare I say Patriarchal?) notion of morality-based merit. I am allowed to have seconds before she has her firsts. I do not need to be “using my time wisely” or “working towards a Higher Purpose” in order to be allowed to have someone else do my drudge-work for me. (I didn’t feel that way when I started out – still don’t, the vast majority of the time. This thing where I’m supposed to be enjoying the fuck out of myself while guiding my submissive in ways that will help her to become her own best self… That’s still a bit of a mind-fuck for me. But at least now I can manage to noodle about on the internet while my Ghost does the dishes. When we first started out, I had to assign myself a Task of some kind or another, just to be able to justify having someone else cleaning up after me).
I need to fake it ‘til I make it: This may (or may not) seem kind of counter-intuitive. You have to act like you already have the confidence, good judgment, and know-how to make the decisions in another person’s life, even when you aren’t actually sure that you do. I don’t mean this in the blustering Domly Dom(me) sense of the idea where you make a bad decision and pretend it never happened. I mean it in the sense of Trust Yourself even when you’re trying something you haven’t done before. (This is SO much easier to say than to do, believe me). I wrote, earlier about my experience of Domme Space as a feeling of being bigger on the inside than my skin can contain; a feeling of vastness and capability and, yes, empowerment. I am, in fact, far, far, FAR more experience with its opposite. That feeling of shrinking and shriveling inside your own skin. (My Ghost knows when this is happening to me. She’s described it as seeing my soul go and hide in a corner). That shriveling feeling is all about shame and fear. Nothing else to it. And it’s SO easy for me to slip into that head-space because the path to it has just been worn into a deep groove in my psyche over the years. Related side note: Starhawk, whose work I read frequently because I’m a big old eco-feminist pagan, says that you have to practice and cultivate ecstasy (and fake it if you can’t quite get all the way there yet) so that, eventually, you’re able to step into the ecstatic magico-religious headspace required to do Witchcraft. I think that cultivating dominance requires the same kind of practice. I need to fake it ‘til I make it because, by practicing, by acting like I already am imbued with a sense of pride, confidence and certainty, I will start forging the path to actually feeling those things, with the eventual goal of being able to step into that space with the practiced ease of long familiarity.
I need to act like a Manager: This is a hard one, and it won’t necessarily work right off the bat, because it takes practice. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read this, but when you’re in a managerial position (in an office, was the context in which I read this, but it definitely applies in this situation), you not only have to get your own work done, you have to get it done with enough time left over to help your employees get their work done. Essentially, you have to be mindful (all the time – this is 24/7we’re talking about here) of the fact that Your Needs now include the well-being of two (or more) people. That means things like when (if) you write up a nightly list of chores for your Person, YOU (as the Boss) have to remember that, in addition to doing the laundry, mending your boots, and feeding you a delicious, gourmet meal (just as a for-instance), you also need to schedule in time for them to work on That Project you assigned them as a personal-growth exercise and do the Yoga that you wanted them to start doing, AND time for them to pay their cell phone bill, take their kid to saxophone practice, or be a listening ear to the friend/sister/whatever who is having a rough go of it right now. When you’re managing someone else’s life, you have to keep track of all the bits that are needed to make it up, otherwise you’re not really holding up your end of the bargain.
And, at the other end of that spectrum, I need to think like a Princess: This goes back to the Enjoying Myself thing. If all I’m doing is running around, trying to keep my Person organized and on the track to self-fulfillment, at the expense of my own pleasure and joy… Then I’m not being a domme. I’m being a personal assistant to someone to who does my dishes. My Ghost tells me that the thing she finds fulfilling about service isn’t the actual tasks. It’s the fact that what she’s doing is making The Person She’s Doing Them For happy. If the end-result of the direction I give her – whether that’s “Go clean the kitchen,” or “Suck my toes,” or “Write down that story you told me, last night, and bring it to the open mic next week,” – doesn’t include my being happy (or insert other positive, well-being-full, emotion here), then I’m not directing her with an eye to both of us. Your Needs now include two (or more) people. One of those people is YOU. Don’t forget that.
That’s what I’ve come up with, so far.
 My power dynamic began as a domestic service arrangement. Thus, when I talk about interacting with one’s submissive, I’m going by my own experiences. I do nightly lists. Your power dynamic may be something very, very different – like taking someone out to chase a ball in the back yard and then putting them to bed next to their water dish. YMMV. In that particular case, maybe you need to be mindful of the fact that your Puppy requires X number of walkies per day plus a balanced diet, suitable tasks that make her feel like a contributing member of the pack, toys that stimulate her instincts and intelligence, and an Alpha who will put her back in her place if she’s challenged, in order to be a healthy, well-rounded dog.