READ / On Display: A Submissive’s Journey

By: Headmistress Shahrazad

“Intimacy is a totally different dimension. It is allowing the other to come into you, to see you as you see yourself – to allow the other to see you from your inside, to invite somebody to that deepest core of your being.” – OSHO

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou


Think for a moment about what you might typically put on display. Is it something you take pride in? Something that you assign value to? Something that you feel is worth being seen or shown off? Curio cabinets and museums the world over spotlight that which we personally and collectively find valuable and worth looking at, while objects perceived to be ugly, worthless or embarrassing are left relegated to attics and dusty storerooms.

When it comes to aspects of our personalities, we have learned to conduct a similar internal triage by displaying openly only those parts of our character that we feel have worth and value to others. We display to people that which we are proud of, that which we know will garner their approval and acknowledgement, while simultaneously shoving our darker aspects behind our backs, hoping that no one will notice our sleight of hand.

But who wrote the standards by which we decide what is worth showing off and what would best be kept a skeleton in the closet? Whose rules govern the “should’s” and “shouldn’ts” that we invest tremendous psychic energy to comply with? What parts of ourselves do we yearn to express, to have another see and validate and witness, that we hold back out of shame because someone, somewhere once told us that they were sinful, dirty, or bad?

The truth is that by the time we are adults, we are old hat at this type of self-censoring. The self-regulatory (or one could argue, self-repressive) process starts as early on as 3 to 5 months old, and continues through our childhood and adolescence. As babies, we learn quickly to reference and interpret an adult’s face and body language for information, and 70% of that information is non-verbal. By the time we start grade school we’ve formulated some pretty accurate observations about which behaviours make our caretakers happy or pleased with us, and which make them angry or indifferent. Even the most rebellious of teenagers usually care deeply about what others think of them and will cut off parts of themselves to fit into their peer group of choice.

Having to do this is traumatic to the human psyche. If parts of ourselves are neglected, ignored or actively shunned we can spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone who can witness us with unconditional acceptance…while being equally terrified that someone might. When such a person does eventually appear in our lives, it is usually when we have consciously or unconsciously reached a point of readiness to begin the work of learning to validate, affirm and love ourselves. If we can view this person as a teacher or midwife, and be brave enough to allow them to expose, touch, and nurture our wounded places, we will begin to heal and move towards a place of integrated internal wholeness. Humans are a bit like plants in that way - given optimal conditions for growth they tend to flourish.

For submissives who are privileged enough to have an opportunity to explore real-time D/s dynamics, it is often a Dominant who eventually takes on this teacher or midwife role. Their ruthless nurturing, rules and protocols form the parameters of the magical container within which an alchemical transformation of self can occur. Consensually submitting to being seen, exposed and put “on display” in ways we could not have mustered the courage for on our own helps us learn to accept ourselves as someone who has intrinsic value not “in spite of” but “because of” our vulnerabilities and perceived imperfections. In this way, the grist of our shame and self-repression transmutes over time into a healthy sense of confidence and self-worth. Our weaknesses become our strengths, eventually making us stronger and more integrated human beings.

Just as childbirth is an individual journey that happens in its own timing, so too is the process of ripening into wholeness. Trust your Dominant. Trust yourself. And trust the process of transformation and change. I invite you to contemplate where you hold back your darkness out of a fear of what would happen if you actually shone.