A few months ago I was in a discussion with a friend about a troubling situation, mostly acting as a sounding board, and offered some small amount of perspective. As we were saying good-bye, she ended the conversation with, "thank you for companioning me on this little journey" and it struck a chord.
It is often said that D/s (separate from BDSM, if they can be separated), is as much or more mental than physical. When thinking about my friends remark, this mental aspect was once again brought to mind. While I was unfamiliar with the term companioning, I immediately got the contextual sense of it - companion - A person who accompanies or associates with another; a comrade. In other words, someone who goes along with another, yes?
Derived from the practice of grief counseling, this notion of companioning focuses the attention of the counselor away from being the person who fixes something, toward being a comrade who is accompanying someone on a journey. A journey of discovery, finding a way from their current state to a condition or place where they understand, and have some mastery over the circumstances of their lives. It is not about thinking for them, putting your wisdom into their head, so they are smarter. It is guiding them, being a companion on their journey of self discovery, or self recognition.
What does that have to do with dominance and submission? Dominants are supposed to be leaders, providing guidance, show the way, give direction, be in control, active, forceful, managing, employing physical and mental control; all true enough. But also, a dominant can and should be quiet, thoughtful, observant, and reflective; more representative of the dominant as a mentor or guide or leader of another kind, a companion. There are times when each approach can be appropriate.
In discussing the application of companioning, she said:
The trick is learning to be dominant enough to accept the position of authority that a therapist must have in a therapeutic relationship in order to help the patient feel safe. Of course, it's not a kind of authority that you take by force-- the patient is always "in charge" in a way, but sometimes firmness is required.
Interesting isn't it? lets substitute a few words:
The trick is learning to be dominant enough to accept the position of authority that a master-mentor must have in a master-mentor relationship in order to help the submissive feel safe. Of course, it's not a kind of authority that you take by force-- the submissive is always "in charge" in a way, but sometimes firmness is required.
I remember a woman wrote about her interactions with a dominant, "I didn't know what to make of his interest. I mistrusted it. No one had ever wanted to know so much about me. But he didn't ask about details that might reveal my identity, not the color of my hair or what I did for work. Instead, he demonstrated a focused interest in precisely defining my feelings. He listened well. He asked clarifying questions - "Did you feel dislike, or discomfort?" He occasionally offered insight, but more often simply encouraged my own answers to emerge. And in every conversation, I found myself discovering more about who I am."
Someone commented, "Quite an experience for you. I fully identified with the experience of being cared for in that way . . . It's that intense interest that is really the key, not the restraints and paddles. He really wants to understand your psychology and make his decisions from that point of view."
pixiepie once said, "Sometimes we just need to be heard… we just need to know that we are valued for our emotions - good and bad…easy and hard…we just need to hear ‘tell me what happened’ or ‘how did that make you feel’ or even just ‘I understand’.
I don’t want or need to hear… ‘what do you need me to do’ or ‘what can I do from here’ or even ‘it will all be brighter in the morning’."
Sometimes what is needed is a comrade, a companion, someone "going into the forest with a lost person and being with them, supporting them, being with them in their fear and confusion, but not showing them the way out, because that is something they have to do for themselves, it is their task of self discovery."
It is very much a ‘guy’ thing to want to fix problems; I know I have heard it so many times: ‘I don’t want solutions, I want you to listen!’ Submissiveness does not need to be fixed, things do not need to be made right.
Quite often what is needed is simply someone who understands, who is willing to come along for the ride, a companion.
Tenets of Companioning
Companioning is more about curiosity; it is less about our expertise.
Those we support are the experts on their experience
Being too attached to our expertise may estrange us from those we wish to serve
Earn the right to offer advice, guidance or direction
Companioning is about walking alongside; Less about leading or being led.
Key is to “invite” others to take a step toward what might be important
No pushing or pulling to some prescribed outcome for the convenience of others
Companioning is about being still; Not always about urgent movement forward.
Finding a place of stillness inside ourselves
Stillness means heightened awareness, not dormancy
Holding the moment in anticipation that something important is developing
Far more important to be in relationship than to make something happen
Companioning is discovering the gifts of sacred silence; not filling up every moment with talk.
Show up without urgency or expectation
Practice silence in dialogue. Delay your responses on purpose.
Chatter may disrupt one from formulating important thoughts
Pay attention and be curious about your own personal discomfort with silence.
Watch others for signs of wanted response.
Companioning is about being present to another’s emotional and spiritual pain; not taking away or fixing it.
Challenge old definitions of “helping”
Emotional and spiritual pain must be allowed to flourish before it can subside
We stop people from grieving at our discomfort level
Spiritual and emotional pain is a necessary part of healing…albeit, in its most distressing guise
Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; not imposing order and logic.
Is life so orderly?
Companions can provide a point of grounding for others to tether themselves to
Know where to turn for help
Understand that some coping and healing has a chaotic look to it
Reality check with your support; restore your own energy
Companioning is about going into the wilderness of the soul with another; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding a way out.
Willingness to walk into regions of mystery with no answers or even clear direction
Willingness to sift through ashes for meaning while possibly not offering your own opinion
Willingness to accept whatever state of reconciliation another is able to find with their loss
(731 days -175,000 hours - over 1 million minutes)
I said this last year and it is twice as true now - I have gotten to know many new and interesting people. Too many have come and gone, but are not forgotten. Some have retired, others have found other direction in their lives. They will be missed, but I am better for having known them, and shared a small slice of life. However, so many more are still here and I look forward each day to hearing what they, what you, have to say, it nurtures and sustains me, thank you all, so very very much.
A catalogue of visitors from quite literally all around the globe, and last year I was amazed by a counter of over 20,000 visits, and that number is now over 55,000 and it boggles my mind.
I have received wonderful and supportive feedback from so many people. I have written less this year than I did the first, considerably more fictionalized encounters, story lines continued beyond First Meeting, to the One Day Visit story line and the whole Consensual Stalker BS series. I had never tried that style of writing before, and frankly I continue to be humbled by the acceptance and response. I have particularly liked these stories because they have given me an opportunity to illustrate through words, rather than discussions of D/s concepts, how I view the connection between a Dominant and his submissive partner. I am also particularly pleased to have written other pieces including A New Master, Prolongation, What's In It For Me and Labels and Dogma.
I was speaking with a friend as I was writing this and she summed it up quite well, "And, what a lot of fun in those two years!"
Ownership is not a dogmatic principle, it has to be pervasive, it is all in the relationship. When she submits to you, totally and completely, then she is owned, she is owned because she gives herself to you. Her ownership is about her frame of mind, not yours, although you are the vessel into which she chooses to place her well-being, that which she gives away. There is no need for contracts or collars or all of the accouterments; there is just her, giving herself up to you, and you accepting that stewardship.
The outside view of these kinds of relationships almost seem upside-down, or inside-out, words nearly fail in their ability to convey the essence. Ownership is not something you take, it is something given, which the dominant accepts and holds. And just as ownership is a manifestation of what she gives, her submission is a manifestation of what you give to her.