What do you think of when you hear the word "control"? "Control" is used in many contexts these days: people try to "control cholesterol," there is "parental control" of TV channels, "controlled burning" of forests is debated, and there are the ever-popular birth, pest, and remote "control" options -– not to mention "control groups"! To a submissive like me, even though I use the word in many of these ways, "control" signifies the exercise of a restraining or directing influence over ("to regulate") or to have power over ("to rule"). But, at times in my submission, "control" has meant "to check, test, or verify by evidence or experiments." The main thing about control for a submissive is the giving over of it to a Dominant, which at times has been an intractable problem for me.
There are jokes about people being "out of control," a phrase that can be used very seriously or not seriously at all. Someone in the throes of psychosis or paranoia may be "out of control;" someone intoxicated with alcohol or high on drugs may be described as being "out of control" as well. I have used the phrase, usually without a great deal of thought about its levels of meaning, but I find that submission has given me a new respect and consideration for the concept of being "out of control."
As a submissive, when I completely and fully relinquish control of my physical body, my emotional attitude, my psychological concepts, and my daily activities to a Dominant, I feel "out of control." Past experiences of feeling "out of control" always were extremely negative, which accounts somewhat for my difficulty in achieving full and complete submission. Rigorous control of my personal behavior and any expression of my feelings has been part of my life for decades, helping me fit in with my family and with others in my profession. The select group of friends who knew the more emotional and less controlled person I really was provided an insufficient outlet, so my rebellion against my self imposed restrictions (and the lack of a Dominant to serve) resulted in a lifestyle that was damaging to me physically, medically, and emotionally, and that cut me off from most of society.
The control that characterized my professional life, gaining me recognition and respect, was threatened when I allowed myself free rein to eat anything (and nearly everything) whilst performing only the barest minimum of physical activity. The more I achieved professionally, the more I ate, and the more weight I gained; ultimately, when my weight had reached over 350 pounds, even my professional standing was threatened. I simply became too fat to work at the level I demanded of myself and had led my supervisors to expect from me. I dragged myself through 10-12 hour work days, only to come home and collapse in front of the television, eating pizza or other fatty foods in quantities far beyond what my sedentary, though busy, days could use for energy.
When I realized that the area in which I had allowed myself to be "out of control" was threatening an area of my life upon which I relied for the modicum of self-esteem I permitted myself, I underwent bariatric surgery and lost 100 pounds over the course of a year. However, once the weight had been reduced to the point at which I could function at a high level professionally again, the scale stopped dropping. I stayed at or around the still excessive weight of 250 pounds for more than 10 years following my bariatric surgery.
It was only when I began my submissive service and experienced the dual benefit of at last having an outlet for my submissive nature and having the guidance and encouragement of the Dominant I served that I began focusing my attention on healthy nutrition and hydration, as well as physical exercise and conditioning. My new focus ensured that my excess weight could be lost; over the course of my first year of submission, I lost 130 pounds, reaching the lowest weight of my adult life. Even more importantly, the weight loss has not been ephemeral; it has been maintained, and even increased, as I have moved into my second year of submissive service.
Despite the obvious connection of submissive service (with its requirement of relinquishing control in many areas of my life) and my weight loss success, letting go of the control I upon which I have relied for years takes more than conscious choice. Working toward that goal requires daily (if not hourly) monitoring and encouragement. Changing the pattern of decades requires rooting out the neural pathways pounded into my brain through years of repeated thinking and behaviors about myself, and my relationship to other people. Because I understand this, because I know first-hand just how difficult and multi-layered a task my submission requires, I am proud of the progress I have made, although I have fallen short of my goals and the achievements the Dominant I serve hoped I would reach.
After more than a year of submissive service, I finally have learned that, when I am "out of control" as that condition existed in my life before my submissive service, I am most in control. I am in control because the Dominant is exerting control more extensively and objectively than I could. The Dominant not only has the benefit of perspective and understanding that is difficult to achieve about oneself, but the Dominant has the benefit of being Dominant -- being in control whilst directing, instructing, and guiding a submissive is who and what the Dominant is, just as relinquishing control, following direction, taking instruction, and allowing myself to be guided is who and what I, as a submissive, am.
The Dominant exercises rigorous control over my experiences, carefully monitors and guides my reactions to those experiences, and works calmly and patiently with me to help me appreciate and accept both the experiences and emotions for the lessons they are. At the same time, the Dominant also must control the Dominant's actions, reactions, and needs. The Dominant must protect the Dominant AND the submissive, even when their needs and desires conflict. When the submissive has given up everything to the Dominant, the submissive bears the burden of the choices and instructions of the Dominant. But the Dominant bears the greater burden, for the Dominant must choose for two. If the Dominant deserves the trust and relinquishment of control granted by the submissive, the Dominant makes choices that support and encourage the submissive's growth in service and joy in submission. The responsible Dominant feels the weight of the duty owed to one who has been granted full access to heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit of another. The submissive serves in ways that please the Dominant, even if those ways are not ones the submissive personally would have chosen; still the Dominant must provide the submissive with ways to serve that reward the submissive so that submission will continue being offered freely, fully, and without restraint.
For a long while, I have thought of the balance between Dominance and submission, the dynamic that operates in D/s relationships, as a sort of "which came first, the chicken or the egg" puzzle. Although I understand that a submissive must freely choose to serve, it was more obvious to me that the submissive must surrender the choices born of ego, the desires springing from self-love, and the limitations designed to protect the submissive's idea of herself to the Dominant.
The idea that the Dominant is the less-powerful partner in the couple was difficult for me to grasp. I began submission noting all the actions, thoughts, and feelings given into the Dominant's control. I focused on responding to the Dominant's instructions, preferences, and directions. As a result, I fully believed that, once my initial choice to serve the Dominant was made, each and every other choice belonged to the Dominant.
Perhaps I can be forgiven this way of thinking – I am very new to submission, and the Dominant I serve has very formalized, rigorous (one might even say strict) standards for the performance of a submissive. My service has encompassed everything in my life – from the top of my head (no more short hair) to the soles of my feet (4" stiletto heels as standard footwear). The preference that I ask permission from the Dominant to pause in conversation in order to use the toilet, the need to secure the Dominant's permission to buy a gift for a parent, and the idea that the Dominant knows what I am feeling and thinking – sometimes before I acknowledge either to myself – made it seem to me that the Dominant had all the power, all the choices, and all the options.
What I have come to understand, however, is the price the Dominant pays for those choices. The Dominant often seems to be capricious, to decide off-hand that there is something that should be done or at least attempted by the submissive. Time has taught me that there is very little spontaneity in Dominance, since the wise and caring Dominant must try to decide what tests to set to encourage the submissive to grow, must monitor the submissive's progress so as to encourage or instruct where needed, and must subordinate selfishness in the interests of a submissive whose greatest joy is in serving.
When I help the Dominant undress, when I bring him a glass of wine, when I kiss his feet, or make his dinner, I am happy because I am serving the One I love above all others, and because I am SERVING. Just as a Dominant cannot be a Dominant without a submissive, a submissive cannot be a submissive without a Dominant to direct and receive service. The "Dominant" being served may not be a Dominant in the sense of a full D/s relationship that involves emotions and sexual relations, but a submissive can find some fulfillment of the need to submit and serve in many "vanilla" areas of life. I am certain that my decisions in my life before my D/s service began were made to support the submissive self of which I had no conscious knowledge.
For example, when I participated in local theatre, I chose to work behind the scenes (running lights, locating and staging props, doing makeup) rather than to appear on stage. My interest in the legal profession found expression in the roles of legal secretary and paralegal, rather than attorney, despite being admitted to law school. Friendships were characterized by my constant attention to friends' interests and wishes, and it was usual that I would surprise them with a favorite book, dessert, or other treat because making my friends happy brought me so much joy. In fact, I took this behavior to such an extreme that several people voiced their concern that I was trying to "buy" friends because I did so much for other people. The simple fact was that, being a submissive, service was my natural state of being, providing services for others about whom I cared made me feel complete and happy in a way nothing else in my life did.
However, despite the opportunities to serve others that abounded in my life before my submissive service to the Dominant I now serve, they were not enough, and the lack of the level of submission and service I needed to be most fully and completely myself manifested as 230 pounds of excess weight, hyper-control of my professional and home environments, and a deep longing and lack that I unsuccessfully tried to satisfy with food, and hiding away from the world, spending my free time reading, trying to escape a bleak reality through books.
The Dominant must choose a submissive carefully so as to find one with whom the mental and emotional rapport allows for personal and relationship growth for both parties. A submissive must be careful in the Dominant chosen to be served, avoiding those who use dominance as a disguise for bullying and abuse, and hopefully finding the Dominant whose personality and style will guide the submissive to the zenith of submissive expression, true service, and joy.
Even people who are not participating in D/s relationships may have no trouble recognizing services a Dominant may receive from a submissive. Their ignorance of the balance of duties, responsibilities, and benefits a true D/s relationship requires may result in envy of a Dominant whose shoes are shined, whose laundry is done, food prepared, house maintained, and sexual whims indulged. But these people cannot as easily discern the joy and fulfillment a submissive receives only by having her practical, emotional, and sexual service accepted. Even more difficult to appreciate is the need a submissive may have for pain (physical, psychological, or both) inflicted by the Dominant to fully experience sexual and/or emotional release. Pain as a part of sexual excitement and fulfillment may be incomprehensible to some, and a blessing of true submission is that there is no need to justify, explain, or gain acceptance for any service as long as that service is in accord with the needs of the Dominant and the submissive involved.
People who are neither Dominant nor submissive may not understand that a submissive's appreciation of being "out of control" in the hands of a Dominant offers a welcome respite from the surfeit of choice elsewhere in her life. One who does not feel the urgings of submission or the imperatives of Dominance, or who has not allowed those emotions to surface, may be confused or threatened by a submissive's belief that she lives most fully when stripped of everything but the pride of service performed well, with love, and the joy of bringing a smile to the face of the One that is loved and served. Such a person never may be able to understand a submissive whose submission and service result in confidence erasing years of insecurity, self-hatred, and loneliness; self-esteem and self-respect nurtured through acts some perceive as demeaning, humiliating, or perverted. A submissive's deepening servicing to the One to whom all is known, the One who respects and tests the submissive, and the One who urges the submissive continually to improve and grow enhances the submissive's pride, and strength of self, despite the requirement of submission that the submissive's self be subordinated to the Dominant.
I am hard-wired to be submissive, but I never was a submissive until I was fortunate enough to have my service and submission accepted, trained, and developed by the Dominant I serve. Although I know this, I have finally come to know that, should the Dominant I serve dismiss me tomorrow, the active submission He engendered and encouraged would find other outlets. It would be a difficult transition – rather on the order of compressing the Mississippi River into a mountain stream – but it would be a transition, rather than a cutting off or death. On the other hand, without a submissive in service, a Dominant has no outlet for the aspect of His personality that requires Him to lead, to decide, to choose – and to pay the price for all of that.
As a submissive, it of course never occurred to me that I could be a Dominant; as a submissive, it often seemed to me that being the Dominant was easier – receiving instead of giving, reprimanding instead of crediting, or withholding instead of reciprocating. What I have come to understand, and strive to comprehend more fully as my service continues, is that receiving requires just as much intention as giving; that reprimanding without crushing the spirit of the person being disciplined is more challenging than giving out empty compliments; and that withholding to encourage responsibility and acceptance of the need to freely give can demand more strength of will than any service I am called upon to offer in submission.
I still struggle to give up all control, not to second guess, not to question why, not to wonder and analyze everything, but my continuing service is helping me win that struggle. Admitting that the life of a Dominant is a closed book to me, no matter how much I have learned about the Dominant I serve, no matter how carefully I study the expressions and habits of the Dominant I serve, no matter how often I attempt to anticipate that Dominant's preferences, I still have learned to appreciate the dedication, commitment, concentration, and sheer effort that the Dominant brings to bear on the Dominant's role in our relationship. I will never watch or learn as much from the Dominant as the Dominant is able to watch and learn from me. I never will understand the Dominant's thoughts and feelings in the ways in which the Dominant understands mine. I continually strive to learn that giving what the Dominant prefers is more important than giving everything I can think of, and to rely on the fact that the Dominant will never let me give more than the Dominant is willing to acknowledge and respect.
I will serve, submit, subordinate, and survive. I will be proud and happy that my submissive nature finally has found expression, even when that expression may be unusual, difficult, painful, or even humiliating to me. I AM a submissive – and I am proud of both my submission and the Dominant I serve.