So I posted a review of Power Circuits yesterday, in-which I talked a lot about a subject that should have been included in the book but was, almost but not quite entirely, left out. Basically, I think there needs to be a discussion of dominance (and dominants) in poly situations, and I think that discussion needs to focus, not on how to manage the insecurities of one’s submissives, but on how to manage one’s own insecurities as a dominant.
There’s this prevalent image – thank you, porn; and thank you culturally-indoctrinated assumptions about gender and power and place – of the Imposing, Invulnerable Dominant. Whether that’s the aloof Lady who’s as efficient and demanding as any drill sergeant, or the strong-and-silent Sir who never stumbles, either way the cultural mythos says that it’s the submissive who has to (or gets to) be fearful, be small, be vulnerable.
So maybe it’s not surprising that a book dealing with the fears and vulnerabilities that come with polyamoury, within the context of power-exchange, would focus on the fears and vulnerabilities of the parties who are expected to have them, rather than on those of the parties who are expected to be perpetually confident, sure-of-themselves, and fearless.
I will walk you into the dark again and again, and I’ll hold your hand, every time, all the way… Do you really think it’s never because I need to know that you’re still there beside me?
For anyone who’s been in a 24/7 power-exchange, this is stating the obvious, but: Dominants get scared too. One of the hardest parts of 24/7 is that there are no breaks. Just as someone on the sub end of things doesn’t get any time “away” to process the latest round of rules or controls, the dominant doesn’t get any time “away” to process them either. It all gets done on the job. And doing it on the job makes it all that much harder and that much heavier.
My Ghost and I hosted a New Year’s Day brunch earlier this week (like you do), and we got into a conversation with some of our guests – mostly because I brought up Power Circuits, which some of them had been looking at as a relevant read – about dominance and polyamoury; about balancing schedules and prioritizing activities (and needs, which is where things can get really sticky); about how to give someone enough leash-length that they can have attachment-bonded relationships with other people, without giving them so much leash length that you can’t feel each other along the length of it and they – or you, or both of you – wind up feeling dropped.
So. Dominants get scared, too: For my part, I worry about all sorts of things – I am an insecure person at the best of times – from the highly unlikely[1] to the very possible[2] to the happening right now[3]. I worry about making the same mistakes twice, and I second guess myself about whether or not that Horrible Feeling I Have (whatever aspect of jealousy it happens to be at the time) is (a) justified because my needs aren’t being met, (b) just my fear talking and things are going to be fine, (c) my spidy-senses tingling because something actually is wrong, (d) some mix of the above.
Sometimes it’s a mix of the above, and sometimes it really is just my fear talking and everything’s going to be fine[5]. It’s rarely only (A), because when (A) is happening, (B) kicks off and starts telling me that things are going to be even worse. And it’s rarely only (C) because when (C) is happening, it usually means that things have domino’d and (A) is happening, too.
Regardless, (B) is always in there somewhere and there are things I can do in order to deal with (B) – at least in part – on my own.
For example, when I catch myself spiraling, I can keep Brene Brown’s words in mind, take a deep breath, and push myself emotionally towards compassion and empathy (this is not always easy) and, thus, away from the withdrawl and self-isolation that (a) I’m prone to, but that (b) tend to make those fears of abandonment all that much worse. This helps. I can take a deep, quaking breath, and tell my servant where things are at for me, rather than hiding my hurt and my fear out of shame. I can tell her that what I need from her right now is a really big hug[6], or to curl up with her, or to otherwise have some gentle, attentive physical contact that I can just soak up.
They work.
And there are things that my submissive can do – as my servant and as my wife, by turns – that can help, too. When she comes to me and curls up at my feet of her own accord, lays her head on my knee, this tells me that she needs to be in the Place I provide for her. She can tell me I’m her anchor. She can tell me that feeling threatened by X or Y, or being unsure of how to deal with Q or V, isn’t actually weird or broken or not-poly-enough or un-dommely of me. She can keep coming back to my hand.
What are your thoughts on navigating insecurity as a dominant in an open 24/7 relationship?
Ms Syren.
[1] Will she like holding power in Kitty’s life so much that she doesn’t want to submit to anyone – me – anymore?
[2] How will I handle it when Ghost’s time, energy and attention are being redirected because one of her other partners is in crisis? What about when one of her other partners is not in crisis but for whatever reason needs ongoing extra help? How will I handle it and still be able to hold her well? What does “hold her well” look like when she doesn’t have a lot of time or energy, let alone attention, to devote to me?
[3] What does “hold her well” look like when a lot of the basic household chores that, for me, were a bit of a touch-stone of our dynamic, are now being taken on by her submissive[4]?
[4] NOTE: I don’t actually have a problem with Kitty doing the household chores. I’m just glad they’re getting done. But it does leave me wondering how to direct someone’s energies when the “obvious servant stuff” is being delegated.
[5] … Provided I can drag myself out of my own personal (well-worn) spiral of withdrawl, resentment, and shame. Knowing how to recognize when I start following this spiral? That went a long way towards getting me to stop listening to my own fears. Sadly, that doesn’t mean I’ve completely stopped listening to them. But at least I can stop myself before I get too far down that spiral.
[6] I’m a really tactile person, so the warmth and physical contact of a hug actually does do me wonders in terms of whether or not I’m feeling safe and wanted, loved and attended-to. YMMV on this one.