I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all my articles in KinkWeekly!
In my past articles and books, particularly when discussing CERAF (Communication, Expectations, Recognition, Assessment, and Feedback), I’ve highlighted the importance of “Recognition” within power dynamics. The “greatest fear” that submissives have repeatedly expressed to me, is that they are in their dynamics alone; that the power dynamic is in their heads; that their partners are somewhat indifferent to the power dynamic; and that they are fabricating the connection themselves.
When experiencing this fear, many submissives will test the resolve of their dominant partner. They will act up, become irreverent, or outright challenge their dominant partner. They seek attention – but not just any attention – they seek to force the dominant to demonstrate that they understand their position and will “use it” to bring about compliance.
This type of behavior is problematic on many fronts, all of which serve to dilute the dominant’s position of authority: It forces the dominant to respond (when they don’t want to) – a form of manipulation, it openly challenges the dominant’s authority – a direct denial of the dynamic, and it often results in “topping from the bottom”. It is clearly NOT DESIREABLE.
I was in a discussion a couple of days ago, where the topic of “Praise” of a submissive came up. Although the participants weren’t directly identifying it as such, the key points of the discussion were primarily revolving around the submissive’s “fear of abandonment”. They brought up the sullen nature some submissives will take when they are not “appreciated”. They even brought up the bratty behavior of some submissives, when they feel the dominant is not as involved as they wanted. The idea was that praise was important to give a submissive, when the submissive did something for you, to acknowledge their efforts and to make them feel good about their service. To encourage them to continue to serve.
Praise is fine; when it’s appropriate and deserved. However, I took the stance, that praise wasn’t the important factor in demonstrating the acknowledgement they were seeking, but rather that RECOGNITION was the key. I claim that it isn’t critical to praise a sub, but rather to let the sub know you recognize their efforts – recognize them from a position of dominance – and recognize the submissive intent the sub had when performing the action. This sends a clear and consistent message: That you are involved in the dynamic, expect benefit from it, and have interest in making their submission the best it can possibly be for you.
For those linguistic sticklers, I point out that there is a huge difference between praise and recognition. Recognition may not always be praising and can even be constructive…and yet, still be very confirming. Demonstrating to a submissive, that you recognize their efforts to serve you, helps to reassure them that they are not alone in their efforts…that the power dynamic is shared and important to both of you.
Recognition can come without assessment. “I see you trying” is different than “I like what I see”. Recognition is always positive to receive, even if the ultimate assessment isn’t. For example, if I correct a submissive as they attempt to do something to serve me, I am demonstrating that I see their efforts and are receiving them from a position of dominance with the submission he intended – however, I am correcting him – so the actual message is that there is something he could be doing better and I expect him to understand the correction and adapt to it.
There is a reason “Recognition” is at the center of CERAF and that it is independent from Assessment and Feedback. It could be argued that Assessment and Feedback are already forms of recognition…and that would be true, IF you could provide IMMEDIATE Assessment and Feedback. However, there are several reasons why it’s not reasonable to give immediate Assessment and Feedback: Life gets in the way; It may not be convenient at the time; It may be tiring at the time; It may take a more prolonged performance to provide a complete assessment; etc. Even in such cases, it’s important to demonstrate recognition of the sub’s effort.
It doesn’t have to be a large, or even spoken, recognition…it needs to be one that is understood by the submissive to mean “I see you trying”. Those of you who have read my writing before, may remember “Simple Gifts” – Things you can do, that take no effort, that make no commitment – but communicate recognition. It can be a knowing glance or smile, a quick “Good boy”, a “You serve me so well” …or even a “we’ll talk about this later”.
Submissives who receive immediate recognition of their submission, even if it is independent of the assessment of their efforts, are far more likely to continue to strive to “submit better”. Immediate feedback that their efforts are recognized provides continued incentive. The assessment will come…Submission is not a “one-and-done” event – it’s a lifetime journey of growth, feedback, reassessment, and improvement. But quick and immediate recognition keeps the connection active and present.
Praise is great. Praise, when deserved is something I never hold back. But praise requires assessment – and sometimes, assessment takes time. And sometimes, the assessment is not positive. Dominants, recognize your sub’s efforts immediately; and communicate your assessment whenever it is convenient. You will find that their performance will be far more consistent and rewarding!
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com