BDSM & Near Enemy

Near Enemies: Exploring the Concept Introduced by Brené Brown in Relation to BDSM

Chaos reigns in our shadow selves; the more we know and integrate this part of us, the more personal power we have to choose our responses in every aspect of our life.

Near Enemy and BDSM

“Near Enemy” in the world of BDSM is not just to spice up the plot but as a vehicle of exploration to help us understand human relationships and their dual nature. BDSM scenes allow participants to paint a picture of how harmful habits can often disguise themselves as good ones – a concept known as the ‘near enemy.’ This idea offers a fresh perspective on understanding our relationships and, in turn, ourselves and those around us.

The BDSM dynamic, with its well-defined limits, agreed power roles, and open communication, reflects this ‘near enemy’ idea. It shows us the thin line separating love from unhealthy attachment, genuine compassion from pity, true joy from over-indulgence, and balanced calmness from indifference. The ‘near enemy’ concept prompts us to recognize these subtle differences; play allows us to explore and know these behaviors on a deep level.

bound submissive

Near Enemy and the Submissive

The concept of “near enemies” applies to various personality types, including those who may identify as submissive. Here are some examples:

  1. Humility vs Self-deprecation: Humility is a virtue that involves recognizing one’s own limitations and not thinking of oneself as superior to others. Its near enemy, self-deprecation, can appear like humility, but it involves undervaluing oneself, often excessively and unnecessarily.
  2. Obedience vs Passivity: Obedience involves following rules or instructions from a respected authority. Its near enemy, passivity, may seem similar but it’s characterized by lack of response or resistance in situations that might require action or change.
  3. Respect vs Fear: Respect involves acknowledging the value and rights of others. Its near enemy, fear, can sometimes appear as respect, but it’s driven by anxiety or apprehension rather than genuine admiration or consideration.
  4. Service vs Servitude: Service is about willingly helping others out of love, respect, or duty. Its near enemy, servitude, might look like service, but it’s characterized by a lack of personal freedom or the sense of being dominated by others.
  5. Patience vs Apathy: Patience involves calmly tolerating delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Its near enemy, apathy, might appear like patience, but a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern characterizes it.
bdsm and trust in negotiating

Erosion of Trust and Connection During Negotiation

In BDSM, we often run into the near enemy of connection in the negotiating process and get derailed before a scene even begins. Consent and trust are paramount. In BDSM, vulnerability might appear as a submissive partner willingly giving control to a dominant partner. The near enemy here could be coercion or manipulation, where one partner pressures the other into participating in acts they’re uncomfortable with. It might look like vulnerability because the submissive is giving up control, but it’s actually a violation of trust and consent.

Dominant Manipulation

An example of a dominant manipulating a submissive: “If you truly trusted me, you wouldn’t have a problem with this,” in an attempt to get the sub to participate in acts that she previously expressed discomfort with. This is a clear example of manipulation, as it involves twisting the concept of trust to pressure the sub into agreeing to something she’s uncomfortable with. A dominant pushing boundaries after a scene has begun, or using their power to get their way is a clear intimacy killer.

Submissive Manipulation

On the other hand, a submissive manipulating a dominant can also occur. For instance, a submissive may use guilt to influence his dominant partner to move beyond agreed limits. John might say, “If you really cared about me and my satisfaction, you wouldn’t mind doing this for me,” attempting to use emotional manipulation to get the Dominant to feel obligated to engage in acts that she isn’t comfortable with. Again, this is a violation of trust and consent in the relationship. Topping from the bottom is a common example of “near enemy”.

Similarly, courage in BDSM might be trying a new scene or activity. The near enemy could be recklessness or disregard for safety. It might seem like courage because it involves taking risks, but it lacks the careful negotiation and risk awareness that responsible BDSM practices require.

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Value your Partner

Brené Brown’s concept of near enemies helps us to discern between authentic expressions of vulnerability, courage, empathy and their deceptive counterparts. In any relationship, including those involving BDSM, recognizing these near enemies can help ensure that all parties feel safe, respected, and valued.

Safe Exploration of Self

In healthy BDSM relationships and roles, it is crucial to exercise care and mindfulness to avoid the near enemy. This entails purposefully exploring these themes within the boundaries of pre-negotiated scenes, where we engage in role-play to gain a deeper understanding of these behaviors and our personal shadow desires to act them out. By doing so, we create a safe and consensual space to delve into these aspects of our sexuality and psychology, fostering growth and self-awareness. So, let us continue to explore and embrace the complexities of our desires and emotions responsibly and ethically through BDSM. Overall, by recognizing and understanding near enemies, we can foster healthier and more fulfilling relationships both within and outside of BDSM dynamics.


near enemy

What Are Near Enemies and How Do They Impact Our Relationships?

Brené Brown, a world-renowned researcher and storyteller, introduced the concept of “near enemies” in her work. It’s a Buddhist concept that refers to states of mind that appear similar to certain virtues or positive qualities but are subtly different and can lead to self-deception or misunderstanding and, ultimately, a lack of intimacy and connection.

shadow dominant near enemy

The Vulnerability, Courage, and Empathy Killer

In the context of Brené Brown’s work, she often talks about near enemies in relation to vulnerability, courage, and empathy. For example, the near enemy of vulnerability might be oversharing or emotional dumping, where one person unloads their emotions onto another without consideration for the other person’s boundaries. This can seem like vulnerability because it involves revealing personal information, but it lacks the mutual trust and respect that true vulnerability requires.


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Example of Near Enemy

  1. Vulnerability vs. Oversharing: Vulnerability is about sharing your feelings and experiences with trust and mutual respect. The near enemy, oversharing, happens when someone shares personal information indiscriminately without considering the other person’s comfort level or the appropriateness of the situation.
  2. Empathy vs Sympathy: Empathy involves feeling with people and understanding their emotions. Its near enemy, sympathy, is feeling sorry for someone but not necessarily understanding or sharing their feelings.
  3. Self-care vs Self-indulgence: Self-care involves taking actions to preserve or improve one’s own health. Its near enemy, self-indulgence, can appear similar but involves giving in to immediate desires or pleasures without considering long-term well-being.
  4. Courage vs Recklessness: Courage involves facing fear and taking considered risks. Its near enemy, recklessness, might seem like courage because it involves risk-taking, but it lacks the careful consideration and respect for safety that true courage requires.
  5. Confidence vs Arrogance: Confidence is a secure belief in one’s own abilities, while its near enemy, arrogance, is an exaggerated sense of one’s abilities or worth, often combined with a lack of consideration for others. Arrogance can appear like confidence, but it lacks the humility and respect for others that true confidence embodies.

Play with the Near Enemy

Explore your Shadows

Engaging in a playful exploration of the concept of “Near Enemy” can involve creating scenes where individuals assume shadow roles, allowing them to act out and experience desires that resemble the near enemy. Through this process, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their emotions and behaviors, empowering them to exercise greater control over their actions in their daily lives.

After boundaries and roles are clearly negotiated, these examples of scenes show how BDSM allows players to gain a deeper understanding of the near enemy:

Both of these scenes are examples of role-playing subtle near-enemy behaviors.

Scene 1: Dominant (D) and a submissive (s) could engage in a school-themed role-play scenario. Here, D assumes the role of a strict teacher while s portrays a defiant student. The near enemy arises when the domination of the student takes place without considering s's needs and desires, as D enforces punishments during the role-play. This exploration allows D to delve into arrogance, recklessness, and self-indulgence while s examines fear, passivity, and self-deprecating behaviors

Sene 2:
A medical-themed scene where D, portraying a demanding doctor, subtly guides s, the patient towards specific activities disguised as "necessary testing." This scenario explores the concept of violating boundaries, as the powerful doctor seemingly takes advantage of the vulnerable patient, allowing participants to delve into these complex themes.

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