December 28, 2009


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
  • “Teach me…”
  • 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 judgment
  • No expectation
  • 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
Source material for this list from Tenets of Companioning

If you are interesting in knowing more about this idea, Google "companioning" or "tenets of companioning".


  1. hey david,

    i think this was a great post. and of course we all know that this fits perfectly with your own ideals about dominance. i'd love to hear more about how you express these companioning ideas in your dominant interactions (because i'm sure you did that before you read about companioning). maybe a follow-up post, hm? :)

    best wishes,

  2. Thoughtful post. I think the key is about mutual respect and trust. And yes, men (more commonly the dominant?) want to "fix" things. And more often than not, women don't want them to. It often leads to conflict that both parties do not understand and feel the other is not hearing us. This approach will ensure the person needing companionship feels heard, and I think leaves the companion with greater intangible rewards by being of true support.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. This is exactly what I have been seeking, especially for the last five years, without even knowing such a term existed. Thank you for helping me clarify my desires and expanding so precisely upon something that is very important to me. I will keep this essay in my mind for a very long time to come.


  4. Wow... this has got me thinking about a lot of thinking. Too much to say in a comment, though... I'll have to blog about it.

    Thank you, Sir!


  5. Beautiful & thought-provoking post.

    A true companion... that's definitely what you were for me, too, back in November, and I didn't even know there was a word for it, other than Mentor (which I now realize was incorrect).

    Latest developments with my Daddy (and my reaction to them) are truly tempting me to seek your shoulder & ear again, during this time of bereavement I seem to be in. But at the same time, I also know you must be bombarded with Companion & Mentor requests, so I'm reluctant to bother you with yet one more.

    I will say this, though: Thank-you for being there. Just knowing someone like you exists somehow makes it all ok.
    Thanks, too, for the lead on additional reading on this topic.

    OH! - and btw, Happy Belated Blogiversary! =)


  6. wonderful post. This is exactly what my Sir has been doing with me this last week. And doing so very well. Not offering solutions, just...listening. He said as much, "i'm a professional listener", and gave me the green light to say what i need to. Helped me clarify how i got to this place, something i'd not faced aloud before. I feel...valued, and cared about, not "oh boy He's going to try to fix this all and make it better"...never that. That's my job.
    You summed it all up in a lovely post, Sir.
    Thank you.

    Happy Blogiversary, and Happy New Year!


  7. There are some very interesting ideas here and I hope to incorporate some of them in relation to the dominance of my girl, Patricia.

  8. A most thought provoking blog. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Yea, this is definitely a well thought out blog and I'll be sure to bookmark the page.