So many of My ideas for articles are derived from conversations with O/others, and this is no exception.  It's in discussing the lifestyle with O/others that I sometimes discover little understandings that I didn't even know existed.  That's part of My personal growth in the lifestyle.  In sharing them, I hope to make it possible for O/others to find understanding that promotes their growth as well.
The discussion that was the genesis for this article was about the tendency for submissives to focus upon the happiness of O/others, their Dominant for example, to their own detriment.  And for the purpose of that discussion, and this article, W/we shall concentrate upon a submissive's tendency to focus upon their Dominant in a relationship.  In that discussion I referred to this concept as a circle.  But upon further exploration, I've found that the circle is a mirage. And I'll explain why in a bit.
I'm sure most submissives can relate to the fact that they derive pleasure from giving pleasure, especially to their Dominant.  Most Dominants will understand that as well.  It's part of what makes a submissive what they are.  It's part of what promotes a power exchange.  It's part of what makes the lifestyle what it is.  And yet there comes a point in which this focus upon a Dominant can become unhealthy, when Their pleasure is being addressed to the exclusion of a submissive's own pleasure. 
First of all, it's important to note that pleasure is not a zero sum game.  There is not a finite amount of pleasure to go around, and it's either all the Dominant's or all the submissive's.  O/one's pleasure does not exclude the O/other's.  They are not, in other words, mutually exclusive.  In point of fact, D/s is supposed to be a mutually pleasurable lifestyle, entered into for the express purpose of being pleasurable to both Dominant and submissive.  Not for One or the other.  Even in relationships in which a submissive enjoys being treated like a doormat, she does so for her own pleasure.
Still, W/we can A/all think of instances in which a submissive's focus upon their Dominant's pleasure has reached an unhealthy level.  A level in which the submissive finds themselves unhappy, unfullfilled and seemingly unable to do anything to find a balance between their happiness and their Dominant's.  In most cases the submissive has allowed their need to please their Dominant to overwhelm and suppress their needs for personal fulfillment and pleasure.  It's never healthy for one need to supplant others.  For all needs are just that, necessary.  And those unmet needs are sooner or later the source of great personal discord and unhappiness. 
The symptoms of such imbalance are felt most strongly inside, as a sense of unhappiness and frustration.  But they can be seen externally as well, within the relationship, career, etc.  And it's often difficult to be specific about the problem when questioned about it, as most submissives can best describe it as generalized frustration and unhappiness.  The source is often elusive. 
As Dominants, We are charged with the general well being of Our submissives.  We must remain ever vigilant over their state of mind, their feelings and emotions.  We use a variety of sources to gather information, such as observation, journals and probing questions.  Amongst other things, We understand the nature of a submissive's need to please, and the dangers of having that need overwhelm personal needs for pleasure and fulfillment.
The pleasure derived by both Dominant and submissive within a D/s relationship is obviously intimately intertwined.  A submissive derives pleasure from submitting, and a Dominant derives pleasure from Mastering.  One is not possible without the other.  And yet, what distinguishes a healthy submission from an unhealthy one?  After all, outwardly they would appear to be one in the same.  The answer is motivation.  And this is where the "Fallacy Of The Circle Of Motivation" becomes important. 
Draw a circle on a piece of paper.  Mark any point on that circle.  Trace the circle in any direction and Y/you will return to that point.  Now reverse your direction, and again Y/you will return to that very same point.  And yet you started off in two opposite directions.
Motivation is much the same as that circle.  In one direction, a submissive will submit for their personal pleasure.  And in doing so, understands that it also pleases their Dominant.  That's not selfishness, it's simply understanding the dynamics of a D/s relationship.  They travel together around the circle and in the end, they arrive at the point in which both Dominant and submissive are pleased.  In the other direction, a submissive will submit for the pleasure of their Dominant.  And in doing so, operates under the same impression that they will return to the same point on the circle, where both are pleased.  But they don't.  Why is that?
Well, the answer may seem trivial, but it's not.  submitting for the pleasure of one's Dominant teaches that it's good and right to submit for Their pleasure alone.  submissives are highly impressionable and intelligent creatures.  A pattern is established.  And each time where there may be a choice to be made between the Dominant's pleasure, and the submissive's pleasure, it becomes easier and easier to choose the Dominant's.  To the exclusion of the submissive's. 
On the surface that may seem consistent with a D/s relationship.  But that's a false premise.  Because it ignores the fact that D/s is supposed to be a mutually gratifying lifestyle, and that there are more than just two choices to be made, either pleasing the Dominant OR pleasing the submissive.  With few exceptions, there's a third.  Pleasing both.  That's what negotiation, communication and consent are all about.  Finding those directions on the circle that please both, and ultimately end up at that point on the circle where both Dominant and submissive needs are met, and both are happy and fulfilled. 
I'll grant Y/you that submissives are often unable to ensure that their needs for personal happiness and fulfillment are being met.  In part, they rely upon and trust Us Dominants to help them with that.  Often they do not understand their own motivations, and pleasing their Dominant seems to be the equivalent of pleasing themselves.  To be sure, there are many times when that's truly the case.  But there are many times when it's not as well.  As Dominants, We have an obligation, a responsibility, to help Our submissives stand up for their rights and needs.  We need to help them understand their motivations, whenever there is a choice to be made.  Because in knowing their motivation, We truly know whether there is informed consent.  In knowing motivation We truly know whether a submissive's own happiness and pleasure is being looked after.  In knowing their motivation, We truly know which direction W/we are headed on that circle, and whether O/our destination will be that point of mutual gratification.
I'd further submit that it's not enough just to look after a submissive's needs for personal happiness and fulfillment.  I think it's incumbent upon Dominants to teach a submissive how to do this for themselves.  Helping them to become more proficient at self expression and understanding is part of Our obligations for their personal and lifestyle growth.  After all, without helping them develop this ability, what will they do when We're not around to look after their needs?  Teaching them ensures that they have a lifetime ability to look after themselves in Our absence.  That's the safe and sane thing to do.
Y/you want a valid circle of happiness to replace the false one described in this article?  There is one.  When both Dominant and submissive make their decisions based upon mutual gratification, not the happiness of One over the other.  And especially not upon the happiness of Y/your O/one, over Y/your own.  No Dominant I'm aware of could possibly be happy if They knew that Their submissive was not truly happy as well. 
Here's a few things to keep in mind when happiness seems to involve a choice of One over the other:
  • submissives, be honest with yourselves and with your Dominant.  They want to make your happiness part of every decision They make.  Don't deny them the opportunity to be a good Dominant to you, by denying them the information They need to do so. 
  • Don't think that mutual gratification is in any way incompatible with a D/s lifestyle.  While Master may still make the final call on all decisions, They wish to do so with all the available information that's possible.  And while what makes U/us happy is not always good for U/us, a Dominant will take that into consideration.  That's inherently different than not knowing a submissive's true feelings.
  • Y/your personal gratification is not the same as being selfish.  In ensuring that Y/your personal needs for pleasure and fulfillment are being met, Y/you are also protecting much of the gratification of Y/your partner.  Because they derive pleasure from Y/your pleasure as much as Y/you do.
  • There certainly are times when there IS only a choice between a Dominant's happiness and a submissive's happiness.  But those times are few and far between.  In knowing when they occur, a Dominant can at least make sure that the decisions made in total, are fair.  That is, a Dominant can be certain that there is some equality to the frequency in which a decision favors O/one's happiness over the O/other.  Fairness is another concept that is not incompatible with D/s.
  • Dominants, always consider the motivation of Your submissive when it comes to choices.  Don't accept things at face value.  Ask questions, probe and fully understand what it is that motivates them.  An unhealthy motivation can closely resemble a healthy one at first glance. 
  • Help teach and encourage Your submissives to look out for their personal gratification.  Help them to understand that in doing so deepens the relationship, and enhances Your pleasure as well.  The end result is gratification for "U/us", rather than "you" or "Me". 
I hope this may be helpful to some couples in their personal relationships, and welcome comments and suggestions so that W/we may consider A/all facets of achieving mutual gratification in O/our personal D/s relationships.