I have noted often that, while training submissives or slaves, a particular challenge to which a responsible Dominant must pay close heed: The fear within the submissive to Ask. This is particularly common to those I term “deep submissives” and slaves. While other types of submissives may also have this problem, such as the pushback challenger or the “brat”, it manifests quite differently.
Where does this fear to Ask come from, how might it play out, and what can a Dominant do about it? I will try to address some of these here. I should note that this is not comprehensive or absolute. While it may capture the truths of many, it does not assume this is where the story stops or is in any way definitive. Rather, I can only hope my own experience and research will give you some needed assistance in your own journey.
Pleasing & Displeasing
In many submissives, there is often an incredibly strong urge to please as much as possible. Pleasing is typically seen as active, a verb. Even when you order their passivity or quiet, it is being actively still and quiet – but never truly passive. This action is bringing their being to paying attention to themselves in the hopes they are Being Pleasing.
Similarly, the polar opposite of Being Displeasing is also seen as completely active. It is not uncommon for the submissive to feel that displeasure was the cause of having been actively problematic or creating some distress. Being Displeasing is therefore seen as a personal failure, a direct reflection of their action, including the action of making the wrong choice in being inactive.
A dominant might very well say, well yes, as is should be the case – a submissive or slave needs to please, and avoid displeasing. But this matter of fact view often discounts the emotional experience and weight of trying to be pleasing, and trying not to be displeasing.
They are two separate actions, not the negation of one. In other words, when considering the emotions of the submissive, its not enough to say that not pleasing is equal to displeasing. One has to say that often the perception is they not only failed to be pleasing, but also was displeasing. Double the guilt.
One can fear the failure to please, and ALSO fear having caused disappointment, distance, rejection, etc.
So in the above, I have tried to show how there are actually two fears. The fear of not Being Pleasing (having failed to meet an expectation), and the fear of Being Displeasing (creating negative impact).
What is the difference in these fears? That can be tricky, because how a person might feel fear is unique to the individual based on their predisposition, upbringing, and personal history. There are nuances, but just because its difficult at times to discern doesn’t mean its not important to make the distinction. The nature of these two fears will give us clues to how to address them.
Let’s take an example and review it. Say you are in a scene, and things are seemingly going well. A new submissive is full on engaged and enjoying themselves – and then the moment comes when they start reaching their limit.
- One thought that will often cross the mind is “(the dominant) is enjoying themselves and I want them to give them that, so maybe I should say nothing”. This is the fear of not being pleasing.
- Another thought is (at the same time) “if I say something, then I will stop the scene, and that might upset or annoy them”. This is the fear of being displeasing.
So what you have now is a dynamic where they pushing themselves for the Wrong reasons (a) Guilt for interrupting something pleasurable, and (b) Fear of causing a negative reaction. These fears will cause hesitation, caught in a Catch 22 and paralysis. This will give rise to suppressing their voice to discuss limits, activate safe words, request for clarification of orders or protocols, etc.
This suppression often comes from a place of learned fear avoidance, mitigating risk of personal attack & criticism, emotional lash-back, confrontation, or rejection and abandonment. We can’t place blame, because pain avoidance is part of human nature (depending of course on how people define the pains they seek to avoid). The only thing we can do is understand how these fears play out, and help them to the best of our ability.
Understanding Common Submissive Types
A submissive that primarily seeks to actively please and avoid displeasure is engaged in the most primary and common form of emotional pain avoidance. More often than not, some experience (usually early in life) conditioned them to ongoing criticism and approval seeking. Often difficult to achieve approval, they are driven to perfectionism, an often “hear” a very critical voice in their mind which constantly picks at details, demands more and better, and holds their self image up to impossible standards.
The Pleaser needs a patient and gentle hand. They will be their own worst enemy, and require understanding and compassion. Most times there are very good reasons for why something was not done properly, but will not speak it because they have no desire to allow themselves excuses. They are already punishing themselves, so the greatest tool a dominant has in guiding a Pleaser is with what will provide or preserve greatest pleasure.
Helping them to learn that the Perfection is the great lie, and to work to excellence, not perfection. Perfection is a distortion in the mind, only an idea, and cannot exist. Excellence is doing the best you can, with what you have, in the time available. There is a critical difference, one can be sought after, the other is only illusion.
Self-Compassion is the other major lesson. That calling a safe word is neither being Not Pleasing, nor Displeasing, but rather being honest and Communicating their experience with honor and respect. If the submissive is your greatest Treasure, then they also have duty to care for your Treasure, to keep themselves in healthy and good working order. This means being honest about their limits and tolerances (which will change over time), their mental and physical state, their commitments of time and resources. Its dealing with the Reality by accepting these things as realistic constraints which we must all contend with while still pursuing Excellence. Perfection, on the other hand, does not recognize or accept these constraints…. And that’s dangerous.
A submissive that likes to push back (whom I call Challengers) have often many of the same voices and fears that the Pleaser possesses. The difference is how these fear manifest in their behavior. While the Pleaser will often suffer in silence until the last possible moment, for fear of not meeting expectations or causing displeasure, the Challenger will push back in order to invoke conflict.
Conflict is at issue with both, and where the Pleaser will seek to avoid it, the Challenger invokes it in order to fulfill an expectation. These expectations are typically found in two adaptive behaviors to their early attempts to gain approval and acceptance or manage negative consequences:
(a) they have accepted there will be conflict, and so will seek it out to “get it over with” on their timetable or schedule. Conflict to this model is inevitable, and so to take back some control will try to cause it on their terms.
(b) they will test by challenging, used to being promised patience and understanding, and only to have it backfire or be treated badly anyway. This becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, for the more patience you try to show, the more push back and challenge is given – ultimately escalating to a major event that will create a bad situation.
I have found that firmness, resolve, and clarity are the best path to helping address this.
- Firmness in that one needs to communicate the recognition of the behavior, and sticking to consequences of bad behavior (be it correction, discipline, punishment, etc).
- Resolve in that the dominant cannot afford to waver in their self-control or keeping to the regimen or framework; that’s exactly what the Challenger is trying to test, your consistence and predictability.
- Clarity is needed in terms of expressing the expectations of service and outcomes – both in terms of rewards or discipline.
The worst thing you can do in the face of the Challenger is show cracks under pressure. Showing your stress, or starting to show inconsistency by pulling back on rules, protocols, etc, sends a signal that you will just meet their worst fears and expectations – you will lash back in anger, or pull back and become emotionally distant.
Of course, neither should that be unexpected. Unless the dominant enjoys the fight and challenge of holding themselves under complete self control, it is natural to wish to find ways to defuse the emotional conflict. A perfectly normal response is to create some emotional distance from the aggravation and instigation, or to believe the Challengers responses are a result of being overly stressed and lay off on the demands. Of course, this backfires completely when the pull back to de-stress is perceived as emotional withdrawal from disappointment and seen as a form of punishment.
From my experience, this is a VERY difficult type of personality to manage – but that’s my opinion.
The brat is often a personality that is caught between the seeking of approval through pleasing, and testing your limits. As their name suggests, the dynamic is very much like dealing with the child-like struggles for the need for love and acceptance while, and trying to understand boundaries while testing you for consistency, structure, and acceptance (even in the light of conflict). Nothing is perhaps as frustrating and empathy invoking as the child that say’s “I know I’m behaving badly, but why don’t want to be with me, don’t you love me?” That is usually the same as the brats puzzle.
With the Brat, you need to hone a balance of expectations, outcomes, and patience. You have to manage the difference and be highly aware of language that is criticizing a behavior or decision, versus criticizing the Person. If it sounds like being a parent, you aren’t too far from the truth. Its not uncommon for brats to seek out “Daddy Doms” to help fill early influencing needs for both acceptance and direction and find an under developed sense of balanced love and understanding. Those dominants that are drawn to models of daddy or teacher are often strong lures to these submissives.
All this said, there are a few subtypes of brats; of which the most common are the challenging brats, and the insecure brats. Because brats are in that blend of deep submission and challengers, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is a bias in this middle ground behavioral model. The question is which is right for you, and which type of training do you wish to engage.
Hopefully the above has given you insight in terms of common submission types and how some of the fears can manifest in very different outcomes. As the dominant, you responsible for their training and well being. As the submissive, you are responsible for being honest with how you feel and communicating it respectfully and timely.
Allow me to restate the key points I have tried to address:
For the Dom:
- Foster a strong sense of Safety and Security – this is a foundation to everything else
- Show Consistency in action, words, and message – verbal or non verbal
- Demonstrate Patience and measured self-control – time is needed for change to occur
- Be Persistent balanced with being realistic – keep trying, hold to the program, and if you need to change ensure its well thought out and thoroughly discussed with your submissive
- Strong communication of Expectation & Outcomes – keep everyone on the same page
- If correction is needed ensure you critique the Behavior/Action, not the Person
- Dissuade the submissive from being attached to the illusion of Perfectionism
For the submissive:
- Always ensure permission to Ask or Speak as needed with safety
- Having the means to Communicate; and to do so Responsibly and Respectfully
- Acceptance of impactful events out of your influence (job, kids, health, etc)
- Paying heed to your sense of Vulnerability, Fears, and Anxiety that needs addressing
- Accepting of your own Feelings & Limitations as valid concerns
- Communicate – often, respectfully, and with clear intent
- Listen – let the other speak completely, take notes if needed
- Restate – repeat in your own words your understanding
- Ask – for clarity to understand, for time to gather thoughts, etc
- Extend Trust – that your partner is not your enemy and has no harmful intent.
- Trust is a choice, and so is Love – there are things we do that build or break these things over time
- Accept Consequences – despite best intentions and efforts, we can trigger unexpected or negative consequences in action or emotions within others
- Accept Responsibility – despite a negative trigger, we are still responsible for our actions and responses
- Be Patient – we need to show patience with ourselves as much as for another.
- Individuals need time to process things, time to integrate and adapt
- We all make mistakes, but mistakes aren’t necessarily final if we keep trying
- Do you best to remember the lesson, but put the emotions of the event behind you
- Persistence – nothing is ever achieved half-heartedly, you get out only what you put in.
- Every connection we make must be fed every day through choices to support it
- Reinforce the foundations of Safety and Security, without this all else crumbles
- If something isn’t working, try another approach, but be purposeful in the change
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