Is there a such thing as the emotional cycle of submission?


In the business world, we often talk about the emotional cycle of change. These are the steps:

  • Uninformed optimism: we have no clue, but we love it!
  • Informed pessimism: what the heck did we just sign ourselves up for!
  • Valley of death: if I’d known how bad this would be, I would have never signed up
  • Informed optimism: we might just be able to pull this off
  • Success: OMG, we did it.  Let’s go celebrate

Of course, in business, we all try to skip the valley of death, and the harder we try, the deeper it is…and there is a truth of life in that.  Everything worth doing is hard, takes effort, and that our essentially optimistic nature hides the pain from us so that we have the will to march on.

Is there any equivalent concept in the world of submission?  After all, submission is also a journey.  It is also likely to be one of great change.  I tried googling to get some help.  For once, there was no help.

Yes, there is “submission” as in the submission of a piece of written work to a group of editors/publishers who you are hoping will take it on…and of course there is the emotional cycle of divorce.  I can find some pretty good and amusing parallels between these.  But none that are relevant to submission as I am defining it within the world of D/s.

Some pen pals have talked to me about sub-frenzy and suggested I might be experiencing that.  Maybe.  If so, it’s been fun!  What comes next?  After the sugar high there is the sugar crash…But seriously, how do you go from the infatuation stage to a settling in stage?  What happens in the mind and psyche to make that possible?

I know something is going on, because all of the things and ways I think about D/s have started changing in the last few weeks.  Every time I see Mistress it feels as if important progress is made.  Towards what I don’t know, but progress, deeper joy, greater meaning, greater comfort.  Yes.  But also with that comes a changing dynamic.

We started far from the kink landscape, and we have spent very little time talking about sessions and dynamics and have just let things flow organically—something that is only possible because of the deep skill and confidence of Mistress.  I am very aware of how few Dominants are comfortable at this level of free-form interaction, because perversely it requires a lot more of them than a “scene”.  It’s like the black belt system in karate, Mistress is 10th Dan…but I have a responsibility which is just as profound towards this dynamic, towards an evolving relationship, and suddenly I find I am thinking and feeling things that I really can’t understand.

For example, I’ve been thinking that it would be nice if we didn’t do anything D/s, but just hung out, and she had other people do D/s things to me—in other words, that the spiritual and emotional was still playing between us, but the mechanical aspects were delegated by her to someone else.  I think this comes from fear—my fear.  And that brings me back to the emotional cycle of change—because at least in relation to “me” in this world, I am changing because of D/s.

And what does the emotional cycle of change have to do with D/s?  Well, at core, any relationship requires an ability to change, a willingness to do so, and even a desire to do so.  Life creates changing circumstances…woe the fool who thinks that change is not required.  How many times have any of us heard the saw relating to why a relationship broke down… “she tried to change me, and I just got tired of it”…or “he just couldn’t love me for who I am, and always wanted me to be something different.”  Maybe, and maybe our eyes were open when we got together and at the moment of first commitment we were perfect for each other.  But if neither person changes over time and we think it is an inconvenience to do so, it is no wonder so many relationships end up in the ditch.

Does that make sense?  The partner who refuses to change is the partner that ends up on their own.  Don’t misunderstand please.  I don’t advocate for people trying to change you, to mould you into something different, to make you something more like what they want.  That’s different.  What I am talking about is you.  What is your motivation?  What is your willingness?  Are you willing to change?  For her?  For him?  What about for yourself?  What if both of you are willing to change and adapt, recognising that you are on a journey together…well, then, now we’re getting somewhere!

Submission is change management on steroids.  I love my fellow submissive friends.  I get to have slave-to-slave chats, or submissive heart-to-hearts with them from time to time, and there is real esprit-de-corps in the harem.  Okay, there might be a little primping and preening, healthy competition for attention, but we all want the same thing: to be noticed by a Dominant and taken and made to be theirs.  And being made to be theirs is a very complex and beautiful thing, and one which plays itself out in infinite variety…dictated by the dynamics of both people.  But we also all seem to go through moments of self-doubt—why am I doing this, is there something the matter with me, why do I want to be a slave?  Can I even voice it that way?  Is want or not want even a possibility?  Or is it just “am”.  And what does “I am a slave” actually mean?

And I am not talking about the kinky version of D/s where we play a bit in these roles and then leave them aside when we leave the venue (though there is nothing wrong with that).  Instead, I am talking about existential D/s, when submission is a life choice.

Life choice.  Holy cow.  Scary.  Really scary.  So, when I ask about the emotional cycle of submission, it is just as I get to that place on the rollercoaster where you are no longer climbing, anticipating, or even that breathless moment before the descent begins…but now, once committed, and you are hurtling helter-skelter into an emotional landscape that is unknown.  Scared.  Really scared.

I remember from my church school days one of the sermons.  A deceased person is speaking to God in the afterlife, and says “you promised me that you would protect me and walk by my side if I only believed in you and lived a righteous life.”  And God replied, “I did.”  And they both looked back on his life as footprints in the sand, two sets of prints walking side by side.  But there was a period where there was only one set, and it corresponded to a challenging time of his life.  And the man said, “but look, there, only one set of prints…there, in my time of need, you left me to continue on alone.”  And God looked, and said, “ah yes, that was the time that I carried you.”  I need that now, only in this case the person doing the carrying, the hand-holding is Mistress.

Now, I don’t mean to drown you in religion, but there is relevance for me personally, in that little story.  When you begin to explore D/s it starts out with some relation to fantasy or what your mind may have constructed.  And for a little while, it is “familiar” even when it is all new, and that is vaguely reassuring.  But as with any relationship that goes somewhere, that a dance has begun between two people that requires ever deepening bonds of trust, we have reached a point of the unknown.

In my life, this point has always meant one thing.  Run away. Hide.  Protect and preserve.  Indeed, one of my last blog posts was on the 5 Personality Types [book review here], and it was very lucky of me to have read it so recently, so I could understand these crazy feelings I am experiencing.  With my eventual wife, when I reached this point I pushed her away, over and over.  That she didn’t budge, that she stood by me, is a big part of why I developed the confidence to love her with all of me.  

I feel as if I am knocking on a similar door in the world of D/s, when you let go and you have to trust that the person will be there to catch you.

It’s crazy, right?  This is supposed to be play.  Or is it?  For me, no.  It was never play.  I think I knew that but am not totally sure that I had the forethought.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.  It is.  It is giddy-making deliriously delicious fun in ways that I think only fellow kinky people can understand (yes, I really do get butterflies in my stomach every time she comes near me).

One blogger writes about submission as being comprised of several things (Master Marc’s post on this can be seen below). These points summarise:

  • Obedience: following the orders of the dominant
  • Surrender: mental and physical openness to the dominant
  • Service: the submissive works to please the dominant
  • Discipline: the exercise of which asserts control by dominant over submissive
  • Punishment: failure has consequences, serving to reinforce all of the above
  • Demeanor: that the submissive learns to convey respect for the dominant in their bearing and interactions
  • Mind-fucking: the gentle give and take between D/s as they co-create to put both parties into “space” sub-space and domme-space

Developing all those skills and traits boils everything down to bite-size pieces.  Makes it all seem doable.  It is all so logical.  But what’s missing is the sub-text.  The spiritual and emotional underpinning which makes it possible.  If it is just play, it won’t get very far.  If it is for real, there has to come a point where you think, Oh my, what is happening to me?!  

This is not to say that one might be any less committed to the discovery process…but there is an important difference.  All of a sudden, this has gone from an affair of the heart and soul to an affair of the head.  And in my case, that is out of a desire to self-protect.  Rational me, however, knows that I do not wish to self-protect, that I wish to keep going, to discover.  Irrational me doesn’t care.  Irrational me says to love without fear for that is the only way to live.

Bringing this into a very personal place…every time I am about to see Mistress my mind is in one place, but then the second I see her my mind goes someplace else…she holds my hand…and I am open to her, which is what makes it all possible.  Only this time, I am going to reach for her hand and ask her to not let go, because now it starts to feel different. 

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