When the mask devours the face: the scourge of arrogance

Someone I rather respect used this phrase in a speech: “when the mask devours the face.”  She was making an implicit reference to the dangers of arrogance.  She is a dominatrix.  She was describing how tempting it can be to allow for the worship and servitude that comes a Domme’s way to creep into the everyday.  To allow yourself to believe.

Although this expression was a most articulate rendition of the concept, it is one that I have encountered often in the pro-Domme world around which I am blessed with visiting.  On both sides of the argument.  Some dommes speak of how beautiful it has been to heal from their work, and that the confidence that comes from being worshiped has provided a life dose of confidence and well-being.

Others have lamented finding themselves unable to relate to people in vanilla settings at times, behaving in a dommy way towards people in their everyday lives. That their work is crowding in on their ability to relate to people in a “normal” way. People react to this in one of two ways…

And who knows, what of the Domme who is arrogant to begin with?  Would it be frustrating or annoying for her to interact with mere humans in vanilla settings?  Arrogance after all is built on foundations of insecurity…

If the position truly heals you, there is no need for the face to be devoured, but the temptations are rife.

Applicability to vanilla life

I heard these thoughts in the context of D/s.  But its applicability to all walks of life is powerful.  How many of us have encountered arrogance in someone of position?

I remember standing at a hotel reception as a man berated an employee, and used this phrase, “do you know who I am?  Do you have any idea who I am?”  He was spluttering with rage and some perceived lack of respect, some poor instance of service.  I knew who he was.  He was a nobody.  Just like all of us.

Okay, he was a senior partner in my firm.  He was the holder of regional leadership responsibility.  He was also plummeting in my estimation of him as a colleague.  What kind of role model is that?

I worked with a CEO for eighteen months trying to help him drive better performance.  He was an incredibly charismatic man.  He walked into a room and brought megawatts of electrifying energy into it.  He had this extraordinary power of magnetism.  I’ve only met a few people that had this energy.  Ronald Reagan (oh gosh, there I am dating myself).  I’ve been told Bill Clinton does this.  So far so good.

But over a decade in power as CEO, this particular man had taken a healthy company and made it into autarchy.  An echo box of his own ideas and personality.  He had surrounded himself with ass-kissers and psychophants.  The company was suffering as a result. And it was sad. And it proved impossible to get him to change. His ego had fused with the chair he sat in.

The first time I became a CEO, it was of a listed company.  Naturally, I was really excited for such a big break, and also at a young age.  One of the first things that struck me in my new position, was how deferential people were to me all of a sudden.  It felt weird.  Even people I had known for a long time were all of a sudden flattering, complimentary.  It made me vigilant. The change was so sudden I could tell. And it felt insidious. Disingenuous.

Mercifully I got fired before arrogance set in, before I was seduced into thinking that I deserved the flattery. And to hit it home? These same smarmy people who buttered up to me wouldn’t take my calls once I had hid the streets. Ah, humanity!

But it helped me to realise a fundamental truth in power. None of this has anything to do with us. With us personally.  It has to do with the chair we sit in.  They flatter the position, not the person.  And since we only ever occupy a chair for a little while, and then are forced to go back to our vanilla lives, with many of the same people still there, it is the wise and well-grounded one who was not changed by having occupied the seat for a little while.

A little career advice from someone who has gotten to the top chair a few times (and been fired each time)…this is a bit like “do as I say, not as I do…or, “you learn most from your mistakes, and boy did I make ’em.” If you want that top job, behave like the chair requires. Not as you are, but as they chair needs you to be. That way, and unlike me, you might just get to keep sitting there. Don’t rock the chair.

I learned this lesson the hard way.  I got fired from that first job.  Sadly, getting fired is something that I have had to get used to.  It is no comfort at all to know that you can get fired even when doing a good job, even a great job, simply because you want to do things differently than your boss wants you to do them.  Forget what they say, performance isn’t everything. And bosses don’t go away, no matter how senior you are.

In the end, the CEO referred to above was fired.  He cried like a baby.  And I say that with tenderness.  I felt for him.  He was paid well, the company wrote beautiful goodbye press releases and made it possible for him to leave with his head held high, but none of it mattered.  And there is only one reason for that.  He had been an arrogant occupant of the chair, and he was no longer able to face the people in his industry—people that were his “friends”, because he had let the mask devour the face.  And it was the humiliation of losing the position that cost him.

And there you have it.  If we are humiliated because we lose the chair, then we were inelegant occupants of it.

And yet, this affliction is desperately common.  How many public servants, those in political office, end up forgetting that they are public servants and instead think of the glory of being a Minister of Parliament or a Congressman a Governor, whatever.

In the world of D/s, we deliberately play in this space.  And as with so many things in D/s, life is under a micro-scope.  Everything is magnified, enhanced.  The games we play of worship and deference are at once so beautiful, but also very dangerous for all.  Why do so many men crave humiliation? Why do so many men go beyond and crave pain along with it? Why do so many men seek out a dominatrix to find this in the extreme? Is it that they want to tear off the mask themselves. To just be naked and vulnerable, and this is the only way?

I struggle all the time with submission, and the fact of feeling slave. I am not even vaguely submissive. That might seem an outrageous thought coming from someone who has written about nothing but for the past two years…but it is the truth. I am not submissive. I do, however, submit. What’s the difference? To one person. It is taking everything that I am capable of, everything that I make, everything that I am, and stripping myself down to nothingness and laying myself and all of this at her feet. Why?  

The beauty of D/s as it emerges to me is a safe place to explore devotion.  Love for me is felt through submission, felt through devotion.  That might seem odd coming from someone in the throes of divorce. And you are right to question me. But I didn’t ask for my divorce. I would have never. I would have been incapable of it. Even were she an abuser (which she was not). I believe the vows too deeply.

Why a pro-Domme then? The emotional risk of feeling this way, of living this way, of expressing this within the confines of a “normal” loving relationship, are very high stakes. Submission is very dangerous.  When something goes wrong, boy, it all goes wrong.  Being able to separate a loving vanilla relationship from these feelings is a way to maintain a healthy balance in that loving relationship.  They are compliments, not replacements.

I am experiencing the first flirtations with someone new.  And I have spoken to her about the existence of dominant women in my life.  And she has expressed a feeling of being in competition with them.  If this is the case, it is my fault, for I must express and act and behave in ways that reassure and correctly balance.  A perusal of some of my older posts will show how much I regard a pro-Domme as a potential healer.  I certainly have learned a lot from the ones I have met.

These observations fuel a fundamental quest for me in life.  Finding the strength and solidity of self to be able to check our egos at the door.  To always relate to people as equals.  To show respect.  But also, to expect it in return.  Equality is vital.

And when I put my finger on the intense and beautiful year I spent in service to a wonderful dominatrix, I know that right here lies the essence of why it didn’t work. There was an absence of equity. And in truth, I didn’t ask for much. I’m not sure I really even asked…but I wasn’t willing to stay within the confines of a “play”-based and session-based relationship. That part was the least interesting to me. I will call it child’s play. Sandbox stuff. And plus, why on earth should D/s be only about kink and sex? There’s an awful lot more to life than orgasms.

Why does this matter. Because the absence of equity smacks of egotism. Of arrogance. When it isn’t there, things might be fun, but they aren’t sustainable. The scales always return to 0.

Without opining on the politics of the British Royal Family, I would note a distinction between some of them whom I have met.  Three very senior members of said family have impressed for their evident humility—and this was not “working at” coming off as down-to-earth.  They just treated the people around them without “airs”.  I met another one, who though senior, was outside of the immediate path of succession, and was issued protocol before meeting: do not look in the eye, do not attempt to shake hands, do not address unless addressed first, do not approach, stand exactly here, etc.  It was weird.  You can guess what I thought of that one.

You can imagine what distortions might come about in someone’s psyche when they believe that this is an appropriate way to live and behave towards others.  How damaging it might be.  And how lonely-making.  How can we possibly live happily if we erect these barriers around ourselves?

Fighting the scourge of arrogance, the temptations that flattery offers, requires effort.  It is also healing.  I have so much to learn, and thankfully, have come to realise that you can learn from anyone.  And you don’t even need to look hard.  It’s there in plain sight.

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