One of the things that impresses me the most is when a dominant maintains an environment full of dynamics that constantly serve as fuel for their dominance and the sub’s submission. This takes quite a bit of work to create such an environment and a continuous effort to keep it rolling. To the dominants that enjoy this, it doesn’t feel anything like work. It feeds them and they see it as a part of their dominance.
There isn’t a lot of talk about mental spaces or the psychology of submission out there, which leads me to believe that dominants that make this work gravitate towards it naturally or as the result of trial and error. While you can find many “how to” guides, a lot of them may give ideas for rules and dynamics but rarely cover “what it does to the sub” as part of it.
One of the more interesting aspects of common dynamics is that on the surface it runs counter to the ideal aspect of submission. In its ideal form, submission is an outward focus upon the dominant. The sub forgoes their own personal needs and desires in favor of the needs and the desires of the one they submit to. Many common dynamics reach this path indirectly. They work by turning the sub’s awareness inward, trigger a submissive mental space, and from that space they are able to turn their focus outward.
I believe in many cases this serves as the catalyst for fostering submission. Basically, the inward awareness creates a state of cognitive dissonance that allows the sub to discard or deprioritize their personal desires. The resulting outcome is often an outward desire to please.
One dynamic that embodies this is eye contact restrictions. The strictness of this may vary from situation to situation but these may include not being able to make eye contact with a dominant, not being able to look the dominant in the face, or not being able to look at the dominant at all (except for maybe their feet when looking down at the floor).
Denying eye contact affects the sub on a psychological level in several ways. This is something that most people take for granted and they instinctively look at others to read their body language and facial expressions. Taking it away creates a level of self-consciousness where the sub must continuously focus upon breaking their natural habits. They become afraid and paranoid about breaking the rule. Being denied visual contact also takes away something they wish to do: to look at and be visually attracted to the dominant. The less obvious factor in play here is that this isolates the sub and places them on a solitary island in their mind.
So much of what we do and how we feel depends upon visual cues from others. Are they smiling or scowling? Are they looking relaxed and comfortable or are they tense and rigid? This gives us a constant level of feedback about our behavior. We know, with confidence, whether what we are doing is right or wrong and good or bad simply by reading their expressions. This is how we are accustomed to interacting with others.
When that visual feedback is removed, it pushes the sub’s mind into a state of discomfort. In the absence of those visual cues they are forced to interpret and anticipate in other ways. Tone of voice gives an audible cue, but without the visual accompaniment, the sub is forced to guess if they are being serious or joking and it makes them much easier to deceive. Interpretation of words becomes a lot more literal.
I believe the “magic” happens on yet another level. In the absence of feedback, the sub is forced to imagine, envision, and anticipate reactions. The paranoia of isolation brings about a state of outward focus where the sub desires to elicit a positive response. This may push a sub to try harder as the imagined response for going “above and beyond” is far better in their mind than doing the bare minimum. However, if feedback is kept to a minimum, the sub is denied the pleasure and satisfaction of a positive response and they are more likely to be trapped in a state of uncertainty and self-consciousness, ever-wondering if they are serving well and never reaching a comfort zone that will allow them to relax.
I find this to be deliciously devious.
Speech restrictions are another dynamic that can have sweeping ramifications on a sub’s psyche. A couple of the common forms of this may be limiting a sub to speak only when spoken to, in some cases only being permitted to answer with “Yes, Mistress” or “No, Mistress,” or something along those lines. In more extreme cases the sub may not be permitted to speak at all.
Being able to express ourselves is something that we do unconsciously. Our mind races with thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Verbalizing what we wish to express allows us to sort through our thoughts, share our feelings, and receive feedback from others both from their physical reaction and how they respond to our words. Similar to eye contact, this is an instinctual behavior and denying it forces us to turn inwards and constantly monitor our behavior in order to break the natural habits.
When a sub loses the ability to verbally express themselves, it doesn’t stop the constant stream of thoughts from happening. It does remove the outlet for those thoughts and the mind continues to run and the feelings begin to build up with nowhere to go. The natural response for the sub is to communicate in other ways. Body language naturally becomes the primary outlet for excitement, happiness, sadness, and frustration. The secondary (passive-aggressive) outlet is effort.
How a dominant chooses to deal with the existing forms of expression varies from situation to situation. In some cases a dominant may allow for the sub to express themselves in those ways. In other cases, the dominant may further stifle the sub by requiring them to maintain neutral or positive body language and strong levels of effort in their service.
In this latter case, the sub is pushed into another level of self-awareness and self-consciousness as the other forms of expression are removed. The “magic” of this situation is that when the sub’s freedom of expression is fully stifled and they are caught in a state of self-consciousness monitoring their own behavior, there leaves a singular avenue for expression of positive feelings and achieving positive feedback: high-quality submission/service. This is the way that they adore their dominant. This is the way that they express devotion and affection. High-quality submission/service becomes the comfort zone. Basically, the lack of options creates a state of cognitive dissonance with only one way out.
The final example I will talk about are dynamics involving the sub’s physical behavior. In a lot of cases, a dominant may establish some rules and protocols for how the sub positions themselves. There may be rituals that involve kneeling or bowing. There may be an “inspection position” that involves standing with the legs spread and their hands behind their head, on display and fully exposed for the dominant. There may be a kneeling position with the heels together, legs spread, head down, and hands resting on their thighs with their palms up. There sub may be instructed to kneel, bow, or curtsey every time they enter or leave a room. They may have an at rest service position that involves standing on the peripherals with their hands behind their back or clasped in front of them, ready to be of service at a moment’s notice.
All of these postures reinforce a powerful aspect: the sub’s body is not their own. Psychologically speaking it is similar to the other examples, where a sub has to break their ingrained habitual behavior and be constantly aware and monitoring themselves in a way that they are unaccustomed to. It stifles their natural self and limits them to a binary “right and wrong” way of existing.
This situation also breeds a singular type of mindset due to only one path leading to positive feedback: constant obedience. This is another case where the initial inward focus leads to an outward focus upon pleasing the dominant.
Each of these examples by themselves is a powerful tool. Using combinations of them together can foster an environment that affects subs deeply. There are many other types of dynamics, rules, and protocols that work in similar ways but they are far too many to list and the ones I chose as examples are fairly common and do not require specific kink or fetish sets to be of interest. In many cases, the reasons used for applying these types of dynamics to a D/s situation are simply “to reinforce status,” but there is a lot more going on beneath the surface.
I find it even more interesting that many of them seem to follow a familiar pattern.
- Break natural behavioral habits.
- Awaken a state of self-consciousness.
- Limit or deny the means of obtaining positive reinforcement.
- The inward focus manifests itself in positive outward behavior.