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For me, an important part of mastery is taking control. What I'm talking about is not where you simply tell a submissive or slave to go off and tote a barge or lift a bale. It's the actual exercise of the mental skills and abilities where you strategise, plan, analyse problems and come up with ways to achieve a particular goal.
Certainly it's very nice to have a slave bring you glasses of wine and pop grapes in your mouth while you, dressed in a roman toga and wearing a laurel head wreath, recline on a couch, and I would be first to say we masters absolutely deserve to be treated like this. But the big rush I get, the deep feeling of empowerment I get, comes from actually feeling control, using it, directing the flow and achieving change, making important moves towards a big goal or destination.
This goal can be something banal like solving a technical problem which has been bugging me for weeks, or it can be something much more interesting like finding a way to guide a slave or submissive past a mental obstacle or fear and see them blossom. The important thing about it is that I need to work for it. The mental sweat is part of it, knowing that I have worked, that I have pushed myself. It is about knowing that I have learned and grown, that this has made me a better dominant and has helped me acquire greater skills.
Part of it too is that it has helped me explore my own limits so I am more aware of where they are and thus I have a better idea of what I need to do to make me more capable, more skilled, and basically increase the territory over which I am able to roam.
The ability to do this is a skill in itself. Being ready and able to confront problems and find ways through or around them is something we learn and it is also something we can lose or forget.
This skill is vital for us as masters because one of the things our slaves and submissive look for is this same ability. Being able to tie a good knot or to gaze imperiously at a slave and cause them to wither before us are no doubt excellent skills, but once you've learned to do them are they then exercises in mastery, or do they become simply patterns of behaviour which we repeat over and over again?
In many cases it is the latter. Instead of growing, it becomes easier to repeat the things which we've done in the past. If they worked back then, why not use them again now?
What I'm trying to say here is that once you've learned to tie a knot, gaze imperiously or wield a mighty flogger then actually doing these things doesn't involve the mental skills you needed to learn them in the first place. The skills needed to learn and master these activities are the ones which make us good dominants and masters, not the actual knot-tying, imperious-gazing or flogging. I know many slaves and submissives who are extremely skilled with ropes, floggers, chains and you name it, but they're not masters and they'd never claim to be.
You see, the drive to dominate, to conquer, to control is often the thing to which slaves and submissives surrender.
The problem we masters have is that once we've learned to tie all the knots, and once we have learned to gaze imperiously in all compass directions, how do we keep our mental mastery muscles toned up and ready for action? If we don't need them so much because we've conquered most of the things we set out to do, what happens?
We can become mechanical masters following cookbook recipes of dominance simply because it's easy to do so.
To prevent this happening we might need to look outside of BDSM and leather. Those mastery skills we have aren't restricted to our BDSM and leather worlds. We can exercise them elsewhere and often it is simply a matter of confronting the new, the unusual and the strange.
This means not always following the cushy path. Look for other paths to follow, other things to learn and other challenges.
I have a guiding principle which I have been using for many years and it is that if something's new or strange and it is not going to kill me, then I am willing to try it. Rather than go hunting for the things I want to do, I let new activities and people find me and I try not to refuse when they appear on my horizon. You see, I've learned that when I go looking my choices come from what I already know and feel comfortable with. If the inspiration comes from other people or from other sources then it's not like that. I may end up hungry if a restaurant suggestion turns out to be some food which I don't like, or I may end up looking retarded if I try some activity for which I apparently have no aptitude, but by trying these things I also discover new things and have new challenges. This keeps my mental mastery muscles toned and ready for action.
Some days though, I do admit that I will go and see a brain-dead movie with no plot and zero chance of an Oscar (except possibly in special effects or makeup). If nothing else, every now and then a master needs some time off, doesn't he?