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Submission… yup you heard that right

There was a time when I felt revolted and rebellious whenever I heard this word. It always connoted male or parental domination and my gut response never even allowed me to open myself up, consider the meaning and dissect what’s possible with this word, this action.

David Deida was the first to FORCE me to open my eyes with his book “The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work and Sexual Desire.” I admit that when this book was first recommended to me by a (male) friend, I gagged, thinking no way would I seek this book out. My friend raved so about it that I promised him I’d check it out. Wow, my life shifted as I read about the superior man, not an ego driven, Type A leader of sorts but a man who commits himself to understanding his partner, learns how to communicate with her inherent femaleness and knows when and how to act such that his partner will submit to him. Yes, submit.

Why is submission critical? Because it feels good. To be fair here, David also knows that there are times when men want to and feel good submitting to their women too. I went on to read all of Deida’s books and my favorite of his is “Intimate Communion.” I’ll let you read some of his books if you are so inclined, but suffice it to say that my mind became open to the notion of SUBMISSION, my views and feelings of being a woman completely shifted – definitely an upgrade – and my life has changed for the better.

With my newfound openness to the possibilities of submission, I began to realize that submission is actually an ultimate act of love, tenderness, caring and responsibility. When my children were newborns, I easily and naturally submitted to their cries by holding, nursing, carrying, singing and engaging with them. My devotion to mothering submission, if you will, felt right and responsible. It felt like love and connection because the results were always so satisfying: baby stops crying, gazes into my eyes, smiles, drifts off to sleep. As they grew into toddlers, submission was less necessary but still valuable: when she needs MAMA! I drop whatever I’m doing and give her all my attention… I know her hunger and sleep patterns so I am sure to make myself submit completely to satisfy them. As toddlers grow into full-fledged kids with their own (mostly) lives, submission is even less necessary but still feels good when my child needs me for advice or to listen to his ideas or to help him plan an outing or event or project. Yes, I am available to you, right now. I will assist you in any way that I can, right now.

I’d never realized before that this was what I was doing, submitting. The reason the word is important is because it so clearly says what the act is: one of letting go of one’s own thoughts and agenda and releasing oneself to the needs or dictates of another. Despite what I had previously believed about submission, that it was a dominant or controlling, even abusive, act, I now realized that, at least in my world, in wasn’t that at all. In fact, submission never involved the control of another, but rather, love.

The reason I am dissecting this today is because the beauty of learning submission as an act of love demonstrates how naturally children then also learn submission. When I need my child’s attention quickly and say so, he comes running. He has learned from me how to do this. He’s never learned from me how to “take orders” or “obey,” but rather submit to my genuine needs. The miraculous beauty of sharing life with children is that they keep you in check so that you never misuse submission, should it become tempting to play that card for things that don’t actually call for submission… but that’s a different subject and a very long one…. that I’ve covered in many different ways in prior blog posts.

The reason submission is important is because it is a part of the life of FLOW, the dynamic, always changing, always evolving, joyful, feel good interplay of lives we lead as families in community with one another. I now believe that submission is in fact an essential element in living a life in FLOW… even though I only recently realized it as a succinct and accurate description of how we lived as a family. Years ago I would have had a much harder time explaining this… and submission does it. As you immerse yourself in the flow of submission, does it feel as good to you as it does to me?

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you Barb, for this definition of submission. When my daughter was born, my whole life became devoted to her and her needs. I operated on her schedule and gave of myself completely. I battled against the poisonous parenting that I knew as I attempted to forge the trail of ‘attachment parenting’; although I did not know it by that name at the time. Two things I constantly struggled with on this journey were a bit of jealousy toward my daughter and contempt over my perceived loss of self. I had disappeared and I did not matter. I struggled with, and still do, with submission. I suppose this is something I will have to research for myself so I can find the balance between being attentive to my daughter as our journey continues into unschooling and being attentive to myself. My biggest fear was being perceived as selfish because I tended to my needs. Barb, do you have any advice for me as I seek this balance? I appreciate your words.

    June 15, 2012
    • Tiffany, try to allow your feelings to guide you. When letting go and submitting feels right and easy and satisfying, then do it and enjoy it and revel in the flow, the gift, the giving. When submission feels forced, consider an alternative: conversation about the interplay or just saying no, you don’t want to right now. Be real with yourself and your needs, knowing that it’s your responsibility to attend to whatever they are. If you want something from another, try asking for it. I used to tell my husband to bring flowers home because I love flowers and don’t like playing the game of wishing he would read my mind and do it. The clearer we are the more grateful others are because they understand us better and usually want to help us to assist in making our lives a bit easier or more enjoyable.

      How old is your daughter now and in what ways are you uncomfortable with submitting to her?

      June 15, 2012
      • I hope you ‘asked’ your husband to bring flowers home rather than ‘told’ him, Barb😉 I think Barb is absolutely right about the peace submission has given me too. And I think the difference is this: if you do it because you enjoy it, because it brings you peace, then it’s good, if you’re doing it because you think Society says you should, then it doesn’t bring peace. If you give your all because you think you ‘should’, for one reason or another, perhaps hearing a parent’s voice in your head admonishing you to parent one way or another, you won’t feel good. Conversely, if, like me, I enjoyed giving to my children but felt Society’s pressure to be an independent, strong woman with ‘me’ time then I felt bad being ‘submissive’ to my children. I felt I had sold our my world class University degree and all the work I had done on my professional career, I had been the President of a company (which I had given up for the kids). I feel like I had sold out feminists everywhere. I felt quite ashamed. But I LOVED attachment parenting my kids. I LOVED spending all my time with them. I could tell because when I took that ‘me’ time, it felt bad. I didn’t really enjoy it. When you take ‘me’ time that’s really needed it feels good. I need the ‘me time’ so little now that I’ve accepted that I enjoy submission, I enjoy my kids being with me all the time – and since I homeschool and have no relatives nearby, they are with me ALL the time! I love submission to them and it feels right and natural. They are still little and I do get a bit of time to read, write and be with my husband just in small, wonderful doses.

        Also, with regards to my husband, I used to really resent the traditional division of household tasks that came with having children and staying at home with them. I really resented doing all the cooking, cleaning etc.. whilst he worked crazy hours. I really resented that he didn’t take over helping with the children when he walked through the door. Now I see that I am the lucky one to be home with the kids and he’s the unlucky one to work so hard to look after us all financially, I have released all that anger and wanting. I accept that I am sooo lucky to have this set up (and I now that we live in Bahrain I do have help with cleaning which is fantastic!) and would never swop him for it (although he would swop me for it in a heartbeat). I feel so grateful to him instead and that was a bigger submission for me and it’s been wonderful. Sometimes submission is about accepting, even embracing, the realities of life and not holding out for some unrealistic dream that’s pushed onto us in one way or another. My weight is the same. And funnily enough, now that I’ve submitted to being a bit curvier than I’d ideally like to be (but hubby likes :)), I actually find it easier to keep the extra weight off – happiness is a great way to lose/keep weight off I find! Happiness and not fighting with myself any more on a number of levels. Submissions brings that peace. I can’t recommend it enough. As for Deida’s ‘Superior Man’ proposition, I’m not sure but I certainly have an open mind and if I had more time would love to read more🙂

        June 16, 2012
        • You know, I thought about that word “tell” when I used it and consciously decided it was the right word. I guess I needed my husband to submit to me and he did so easily! When I tell him what I need him to do for me, selectively and when it’s clear to me that I really need him to do something for me, I have learned to avoid the game playing by “asking” him. Asking him gives him the opportunity to think and decide whether he really wants to do a thing and it leaves me open to his potential wavering. Telling him makes it clear that this is important to me and gives him the message that I don’t want a discussion about it or any ifs, ands or buts. This is a great example of submission and we have learned to do this easily with each other!

          June 16, 2012
          • Very interesting. I think I’d need to read the book/s to take it to that level but so glad it works for you both🙂 Thanks for your answer!

            June 16, 2012
            • Feel the energy of submission. When you submit to your infant, she is not asking you to pick her up, she is telling you. It’s true that you have a choice and certainly many do not pick up an infant who is crying. But when you flow with the submission of it, it is not a request but a telling.

              June 16, 2012
          • Hi homeschoolingpenny. My decisions are definitely not because society says I “should”. My decisions have always been in a different direction than what I perceive as the current societal norm. Like you, my conflict derives because I felt I was moving against the tide of the feminist movement by wanting to be at home, wanting to be devoted to my children, and wanting to homeschool. I want my daughter with me at all times and like you I do not like “me time” despite constant encouragement that I engage in those activities. I am the individual who brings my daughter wherever I go and I will not go somewhere where my daughter is not welcome; even if this means I miss out on something. As my daughter gets older, I am having to navigate a new phase of life, however. She is starting to want to be more independent and away from me sometimes; likewise, I am wanting to do some things on my own too. But we will never agree to do these things unless we talk about it with each other. The submission never felt wrong but it was my battle between wanting to and feeling like I was abandoning the “strong woman”. I guess then it was sort of a “should” for my personal belief, but I had to find an alignment. Today, I am happy to say that life is offering me some circumstances to find that alignment and balance between wanting to submit and wanting to still retain myself. Thank you very much for the conversation. Tiffany.

            June 16, 2012
      • Hi Barb. Thank you very much for the words to chew on. My daughter is six. She is my world and I would never consider doing anything different. I do not do what I do because of obligation or ‘ought’ but a conflict exists because I think my definition of submission was a bit skewed. I believed that submission meant total loss of me; but you are suggesting that personal boundaries are ok so long as you and the other can find a happy balance. Is that correct?

        Life has a way of helping me find balance if I am unwilling to look for balance; but I do not usually realize what is going on until much later. For example, right now, I have many circumstances that are asking me to stand up for myself; including some that are coercive and have tremendous potential for me to feel badly about myself. In this phase of my life, I was suddenly unable to be the level of attachment parent I wanted to be and I felt guilty for having to set boundaries. I lamented these situations and could not wait to get out. But then I submitted to them and now I am starting to see the wonderful gifts they are providing; gifts such as allowing me to find that balance between submission and self-acknowledgement and acceptance. Self-acknowledgement and acceptance are super hard for me. I believed they were the opposite of submission; if I tended to myself then I was not submitting and if I was submitting then I forgot about myself. Uggg…

        So, Barb, I will follow your advice and be ok setting boundaries; a lesson I feel life has been trying to show me and you confirmed. I hope I understood you correctly. Thank you.

        June 16, 2012
        • if I may… I’d like to comment on the use and feeling of the word “balance” which does not agree with me because it tends to require a thought process, a dialog of sorts to weigh pros and cons, desires and shoulds, etc. What resonates with me is the feel of the word “flow” which describes this always changing, ever evolving fluidity of people, thoughts, events and desires. As we maneuver life in the FLOW, we allow our FEELINGS to guide us. Allow yourself to response according to how you feel about a thing. Your feelings will always guide you toward honesty, personal integrity and right action for you. It can be darn scary to be honest and there are always ways of being honest without being insulting, even ways of being honest without saying anything!

          We all have boundaries… have you read my blog post on Boundaries?

          June 16, 2012
  2. Reblogged this on Nadine LeBean and The Life Humblings and commented:
    This is something I’ve never come across yet feels right for me. Maybe you’ll love it too.

    June 15, 2012
  3. Have always thought submission has been given a bad rap. Thanks for this.

    June 15, 2012
  4. I found it amusing that when I first glanced at the title of this post, I thought it was about submitting your writing or something like that. To me, a ”submission” is when I send in a creative piece to a blog, magazine, or publisher. I wonder how that relates to your ponderings. Once you\’ve conceived and created a piece of writing, now it has to be let go, it is ready to be ”submitted” to a place where it will be read and digested. Hmmmm. Food for thought.

    June 20, 2012
    • A darn reasonable analogy although one that we are conditioned to. Interesting huh, what complex messages we have absorbed regarding the use and meaning and acceptability of this word.

      June 20, 2012
  5. That’s an interesting definition of submission, Barb. I must admit I have also always been aversive to the word. When I had my children I totally submitted myself to their needs. However, I never thought of it as submitting. People around me used to comment on my “sacrifice”, as they thought I was putting my life on hold for their sake. I rebelled against this too. I said it was no sacrifice at all; it was my choice, the kids had never asked to be born in the first place. As for submitting to a man… I left my country, my family and friends, my job… (hmm… what else?) to live with a man on the other side of the world. I did it for love, I never thought of it as submission. Yet again, I did it because I wanted to do it; it was my choice.

    I will definitely read David Deida’s book, I am very intrigued!

    June 25, 2012
  6. Robyn #

    Dear Barb,
    Thank you so much for this article! Reading it I had to think immediately about a horse I loved very much. I had cared for this Arabian stallion for some years and I think it took me at least a year until he accepted me as the boss. He tried every trick on me until he knew for sure that I was capable and trustworthy – and then he submitted to me. From that moment on, I could throw the rains away and pick apples from trees standing on his bare back.
    Only when this moment of submission arrived did I understand what he had been doing – he hadn’t tried to trick me to get his way or to actually get rid of me. He was just testing me if I was a good person to submit to, if I was acting in his best interest. His submission never was something that made me feel “superior” – quite to the contrary, it gave me a lot of responsibility because I knew how much trust he had in me and I wanted to prove myself worthy of it. I was serving him just as much as he was serving me.
    And I think the same applies for couples. I do test the men in my life quite a lot, just sadly so far noone has passed the test. One could say I’m quite a demanding horse – I’m a strong woman and a man has to prove himself worthy of my submission. Not because I am bossy and want people to prove themselves – it’s rather important for them that they do it, for if they don’t get me into submission on their own, without my help, they won’t be able to stay with me anyway. Does that make any sense at all?

    July 16, 2012
    • Well Robyn, I have done so much thinking on this thing called “testing” and I find it complex. I get it with the horse example: he came to you with a learned set of interactions and expectations about humans and it took him some time to figure out how to be able predict and trust your behavior. That’s pretty easy.

      With regard to human-to-human interaction, I hear this expression a lot, someone is testing another. If a child has had less than completely trustworthy experiences with adults, I can see this, much like the horse story. As an adult in relationship with another adult however, the testing is very bothersome and troubling to me. Sort of like the way many adults are still trying to please a parent or someone else, instead of enjoying the freedom and joy of self direction. When you go into a relationship with an adult, whether through friendship, professional association or love by “testing” them for worthiness, you are automatically setting your relationship up for failure because testing is never authentic and always contrived. Meaningful relationship is always centered on trust, not of the other person, but on oneself, to know and feel, from moment to moment, what kind of thought and expression and action feels right and true and good and satisfying. The testing of another never feels this way, even when you get the outcome you think you want. If I have any advice to give to you it is this: go into a prospective love relationship completely openly and freely. Give up any notion of what you think this person is or how their past will effect their future, or yours. Trust YOURSELF to gauge, from moment to moment, how the relationship is developing by how you feel when you are with them: are you comfortable, enjoying meaningful conversation, feeling connected with likeminded interests, feeling the electrical charge of a chemical connection, etc. or does it feel like less than this? If it feels like less, then focus solely on asking yourself what you can do for yourself to improve your feelings. This is never another’s job and is and always will be your job. As you experiment with this and begin to feel better, you will find new people coming into your life that match your good feelings. I promise.

      July 19, 2012

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