The Closed-Minded Dominant Syndrome
(Original article from http://kinktoychest.com/index.php/castle-realm-archives/85)
I would like to offer some thoughts on a phenomenon most of us, I dare say, have encountered: the closed-minded dominant. First I will define it from my perspective and highlight the negative impact on relationships and the community as a whole. Then I will list some warning signs on how to identify this approach, and finish up with suggestions on how to handle interactions with such people.
The topic, I am sure, has prompted you to think of people you've met in the past whom you perceived as being closed-minded. You know the ones. I can almost see the slight grin on your face as you recall names and situations. "There was this one dom who…."In general terms, the closed-minded dominant is one who, for whatever reason, has stopped learning (or never started, for that matter). They tend to fall into two main types:
Super Dom - The one with vast experience who, by virtue of their years of practical experience, has fallen into the belief that they are the sole repository of information on the lifestyle.
Instant Master - A novice whose experience is almost nil, yet, by word or deed, demonstrates that they are not open to the idea that their way isn't the only way or worse, that their approach is destructive or counter-productive.
You may have never given much thought about the negative impact these people have on the community as a whole or on the people who make up our community. It's easy to dismiss them out of hand. Perhaps you've known someone who’s fallen victim to such a person. What was the result? How did it make you feel? Discounted? That your views were insignificant or naive? Did it cause defensive barriers to spring up or lead to heated, pointless arguments? What is the end result of these encounters? Probably not stronger ties (if you'll forgive the pun) between members of what could be, by all right should be, a close-knit group of mutual support and learning. When the arguing finally does end, rarely graciously, one side is left shaking their head, grumbling about how blind the other is, that if they would only open their eyes, they could see the divine truth she or he had just revealed. "Casting pearls before swine."The other side is likely to bring to mind quite descriptive adjectives. "Arrogant," "pompous," and a few others that are, shall we say, much more colorful. Learning has not occurred. All of the potentially good advice from both sides bounces off the defensive barriers we throw up as we try in vain to convince the other that their opinion is somehow inferior. We end up tearing each other down, rather than building each other up.
It's easy to spot one of these people, isn't it? Spend any time in most BDSM chat channels or a public play party and you can't swing a short-tailed flogger without smacking a few, right? Probably so. But pointing fingers outward does nothing to solve the problem. Instead, turn your hand around and point the finger at yourself and ask the question, "Am I?" It's certainly easier to nudge your friend sitting next to you and whisper to them, "What an [expletive delete]!" Change begins with the individual—with you. Ask yourself these questions, if you dare, and try to honestly answer them. Examining your own short-comings isn't a particularly enjoyable experience, but if you've the courage consider the following:
-- How much time have you spent reading non-fiction literature on the subject from leading authors such as Jay Wiseman, Miller & Devon, John Warren, and Gloria Brame? If these names aren't familiar to you, I would suggest they should be. We aren't born with the knowledge of how to be dominant. We may be born with dominant characteristics, but knowledge isn't innate; it is learned from those who have gone before, our peers, and even those just starting out. Don't be duped into thinking that works by submissives about submissives are of no value. They are just as important as works by dominants.-- How much time do you spend listening instead of talking? Yes, there are times to teach, but more importantly, in every exchange of ideas, both sides have something to learn. The best teachers understand that "out of the mouths of babes…."
-- When you do offer your opinion, what is your motivation? Is it genuine concern for your audience or an effort to "disseminate your opinion," as I recently heard one dominant profess. Are you looking to knock the other dom/me(s) down a peg or two by expounding your gems of wisdom, or do you speak with the attitude that "this has been my experience, but certainly there may be other, perhaps even better, approaches?"
-- Do you readily dismiss ideas offered by submissives? This one is particularly rampant. After all, what could a dominant learn from a submissive? They don't know what it's like to be a dominant. Maybe so. But then, you probably don't truly know what it's like to be a submissive, either. A dominant with a healthy desire to learn to be the best he or she can be will actively seek out the perspective of the submissive for insight into their motivations.
-- Do most of your "discussions" deteriorate into shouting matches? Do tempers flare? Do you end up employing emotionally charged words or take "pot shots" at the participants? This is a key warning that your approach, your attitude, is selfishly motivated. I'll leave it up to you to evaluate your responses.
How to Handle
So here you are, faced with the pontificating DomlyDom or Goddess-o-Pain. What do you do? Well, you have several options. One would be to strike back. It is the natural emotional response for many, particularly dominants. We counter attack and things escalate into a verbal brawl. But we already know what the end result of that is. No one wins. "No one wins." Now there's an interesting phrase that points to the essence of the problem. It isn’t supposed to be a competition. There isn't supposed to be a victor and a victim. Learning does not take place when you are focused on defeating a foe or striving for some egotistical, insignificant victory. Ask yourself, "Will this really matter tomorrow if he or she accepts my point of view?" Weighed against the negative consequences, such exchanges rarely balance out
.-- Maintain your composure and dignity. Respond politely.
-- Acknowledge the difference of opinion and embrace the opportunity to learn from it. Even if you don't agree with it, understanding differing sides of the story can be beneficial.
-- First try to understand them, then to be understood. How many times have we argued until we are crimson, only to discover that you have actually been saying the same thing, merely using different terminology?
-- Politely agree to disagree and bring the discussion to a close, thanking them for their opinions.
-- Move quickly to a non-controversial topic. If someone can not let go, politely remind them that the subject has been closed.
-- As a last resort and depending on the circumstances, you may need to remove yourself from the situation or remove them, having provided adequate warning of the impending consequences. Remember that it takes two people to argue. Simply ignoring their bait will often extinguish the behavior. On the other hand, if they are determined, it could escalate it. This type of behavior is common in children, the domly version of a temper tantrum as they throw around their perceived self-importance. At first, try redirecting the conversation into something productive. If that fails, ignore it. If they continue, invoke consequences
In a perfect world, none of this would be needed, of course. But we do not live in such a place. So how do we change it? One person at a time. And that one person is you. The single most valuable teaching method you can use is to model the behaviors and attitudes you hope to pass on to others. Think back on when you first started your journey. How did you learn? I will wager that you did so, at least to some degree, by following the examples you witnessed. Novices, both submissive and dominant, look to their peers for understanding acceptable behaviors. Intolerance breeds intolerance. But just as true is that acceptance and tolerance can engender those traits in others