Part 1: Witness, Pause, Decide

I had a conversation the other night with my son Dan about how my spirituality informs and/or is informed by my philosophies about relationships, and more specifically in the realm of Domination & submission (D/s). I realized quickly that it was something about which I should elaborate.

Years of study and practice in Tibetan Buddhism helped me become a far more thoughtful and considered person, and those traits spilled over into how I viewed my relationships. In no single area did it impact those relationships more deeply than in my bonds with the people I knew and loved in the kink and fetish communities.

On a fundamental level, there are two transformations that forever altered my relationships. The first is the way I see people. Our natural tendency is to make subconscious judgments about others based on their behavior. That makes sense if we are thinking from the point of view of survival, but as I’ve written about elsewhere on this site, survival brain inhibits critical thinking, so it’s not the best foundation upon which to begin or strengthen a relationship of any type.

When we judge solely based on actions in the moment, our survival brain wants us to react. But when we are in reactive mode, we aren’t in control at all. When I see people and witness their behavior, I view them from a neutral place because I’m not going to react to them, I’m going to witness, pause, and make a decision about action.


When we are a witness to someone’s life, we are an observer. To witness requires that we are fully present in the moment, and that requires us to observe what’s happening with the intention of understanding it, not responding to it. This is an important distinction, because it is the difference between engaging the survival (reaction) or critical thinking (action) brain.


This is one of the most critically important steps that is so commonly ignored. Reactive behavior compels us to move, to speak, to do something right away based on the information we’ve received. But again, reaction is most often led by a brain that is not evaluating things critically. Take a pause and step away if you can. If what you witnessed is triggering feelings, use this time to understand what you’re feeling and why – because your feelings are your responsibility, and should not be what you base decisions on in the moment.

Next, use your pause to objectively consider the behavior of the person and ask yourself why they might be behaving this way. What traumas and experiences do you know – and not know – that may be contributing to what you have witnessed in them?


Now that you have taken the time to witness and pause, you should be ready to decide the best course of action. If you don’t feel ready, spend some more time in Pause mode and deal with your feelings on the matter.

Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to do something. Sometimes the best thing to do is just be still. We don’t have to respond to everything. When you take the time to breathe through what you know, you can more carefully consider what the best action is, even if it is no action at all.

The Series: