March/April 2001
Hedonism vs. Actualization
by FineArt

hedonism: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.

actualization: the process of becoming actual, existing in fact or reality; the realization of potential. In a word, growth.

Those who know me, both in the D/s lifestyle and in other realms, know the emphasis I place on learning and growth. For me, this is the essence of all deep personal relationships, whether with a spouse or s/o, our children, or partners in a deep D/s relationship. One of the foremost responsibilities of a Dominant, one of the things that can make Him a Master in fact, is the ability to foster growth in himself and those who bless him with their gift. Most on-going serious D/s relationships include an element (for me, an emphasis) on growth, but far too often, it is subordinated to the relentless pursuit of pleasure... hedonism.

We often see those who proclaim "Follow your heart" or "If it feels good, do it". From a Dominant's perspective, there is nothing wrong per se with this, so long as responsibilities for the well being of the submissive are given proper importance. But altogether too often, we see those who have "Followed their hearts" blindly into relationships, savoring the moment, seeking and sharing short term pleasures, then, a short time later, their "hearts' lead them down another path, leaving pain and distrust behind. (Frankly, for altogether too many male "dominants", the heart is not the part of the anatomy followed!) This is not a criticism of short term BSDM topping/bottoming arrangements, but it becomes a very serious issue when the goal is a committed, long term D/s relationship.

Growth and Limits

We talk a great deal of a Dominant's responsibility to "push limits". Of course, this is important, but clearly not the only, perhaps not even the major responsibility. We need look first to growth instead of pleasure as the goal of the relationship. Limits tend to define what one will not do. They have their basis in many things. Some bound the capacity to actualize, to grow to full potential. Equally, some protect the individuality of the submissive, allow the submissive to maintain core values, satisfy deep-seated needs. Limits should continually be assessed (for the Dominant as well, or maybe even more so... we just do not think of them in the same way).

But there is another, more expansive view of growth... not related to our common view of limits. It is potential... those things not considered or realized. This is the fertile ground for the Dominant. This is the place where control can be exercised with tremendous returns and minimal risk. That is not to say risk is bad, it certainly is not... pushing the envelope nearly always involves risk. But growth need not involve stripping away the soul of the submissive... personally, I would view that as a tragedy.. a failure on my part as a Dominant with the responsibilities of protecting and caring for my submissive.

Viewed in this way, growth can be as simple as exploration of things not before attempted. Attending the opera, tent camping. Other examples include encouragement to try new things in one's career, returning for an education, altering diet or getting exercise, speaking in front of a group. Often it is directive support. Nothing snazzy here, but all to frequently, this opportunity is simply overlooked. But oh how this approach, given conscious thought and planning, can strengthen an on-going relationship. The possibilities are endless!

I have nothing against pleasures and happiness. Quite the opposite! Both are highly desirable and wonderful in on-going relationships, in fact, they are essential! I revel in my pleasurable time with the one who honors me. But over the long haul, it is growth, becoming more than we were yesterday, striving to be all that we are capable of being that is most important and allows us to enjoy even greater pleasure with the ones we love. As Dominants, we need give this serious thought. How do we contribute to the care and well being of those who honor us? What are our responsibilities? How do we foster ...