There is comfort in obeying authority. In fact, we desire to be guided by a higher power of some kind, be it a government, a specific figure in a government, a religion, a specific figure in a religion, or any other institution or individual with whom we form some kind of relationship, be it political, religious, romantic, professional, familial, educational, etc, etc. And sometimes, the higher power that is doing the guiding is an idea. A school of philosophy. Or that questionable thing called common sense. Or just the outright refusal to be guided by a higher power. That refusal to be guided is in and of itself a guide that can get very high and powerful indeed.
I was watching “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” which is a movie about, quote from Wikipedia, “the American psychologist William Moulton Marston, who created the fictional character Wonder Woman.” End quote.
In the movie, Marston talks about his DISC theory. Quote, again from Wikipedia, “DISC assessments are behavioral self-assessment tools based on psychologist William Moulton Marston’s DISC emotional and behavioral theory, first published in 1928. These assessments aim to predict job performance by categorizing individuals into four personality traits: dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance.
“However, the scientific validity of DISC has been a subject of debate, with some considering it to be a pseudoscience. Critics question its reliability and accuracy in predicting job performance. The theory proposes four central traits to describe personality, but its scientific basis remains contested.” End quote.
Indeed, I wonder how reliable and accurate this theory might be in the realm of job performance. I especially have doubts about the efficacy of this theory in the Westernized world of work. Now, “Westernized,” this word itself, is a debatable word. For the purposes of this episode, let’s say that it’s a word that can describe the general tendency toward rationality, measurability, and predictability that occurred since the Industrial Revolution, which framed humans as units akin to machinery. This likening of the human to machinery was mentioned in episode 28. In the era of steam engines, humans were being compared to steam engines. More recently, humans have been compared to computers, with hardware and software separated, with the requirement of constant updates, and, some might say, with the need to be replaced with new machinery as soon as possible. Heck, perhaps there is even a tendency to make humans break earlier than they would have, just as some companies allegedly make their devices last only for a short period of time, so that consumers will buy new devices.
At any rate. This Westernized world of work, due to its tendency toward rationality, measurability, and predictability, among other similar values, tends to exist entirely separated from life. It is very odd indeed. People talk about work-life balance, as if they weren’t spending the majority of their waking hours on work. It’s kind of scary. But be that as it may, work is frequently seen as being separate from life, and I doubt that in such a world of work, in the world of jobs, the DISC theory would have been reliable or accurate. It’s difficult to imagine how, in a world that exists separately from life, in a world that consists of literal machine parts or humans turned into machine parts, people would admit to being who they are.
Dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance. If a person were to fall into one category, but were to perceive that particular category as disadvantageous for a promotion, would that person answer whatever test questions honestly? Even if a bunch of researchers were to observe people from dozens of security cameras, the behavior of people at work is different from their behavior at home. Home, presumably, is the place where they have a life, given the predominance of a phrase like “work-life balance.” Then, work is where they either don’t have life, or perceive themselves as having no life. Then, can a person who is dominant at their job truly be dominant? And the person who is submissive at their job be truly submissive?
On a side note, I saw a screenshot of a job advertisement, the other day, in the interwebs. In it, the employer stated that they do not want INFPs to apply. They actually said, “INFPs need not apply.” And by INFP, I am referring to one of the 16 possible personality types in the MBTI test.
This development of some folks taking these personality tests very seriously is quite interesting. It’s especially interesting that they think these various psychological tests can be useful in the workplace. And the reason I find it especially interesting is, again, because of the supposed work-life division. It seems to be me—just, you know, it’s just a thing that seems to me, it’s neither measured nor researched—but it seems to me that employers who don’t want INFPs to apply, for whatever reason, would require that their employees behave in a very precise and specific way. Presumably, that precise and specific way has to do with the growth and success of the employers’ business. It’s fascinating that some employers imply that they have this belief that in this world, there are people besides the employers themselves who, as measured by a personality test, will naturally contribute to the growth and success of the employers’ business. As in, it’s fascinating to me that these employers seem to think that there are people besides them who care about what they care about because of the personality they have, instead of because of money or a nice welfare package or, I don’t know, the well-being of the employees themselves. And these types of employers, who need their employees to be non-INFPs in order to manage them, seem to be exactly the types who want the employees to be inhuman. So it’s weird that they take the result of a personality test so seriously. It’s also weird that they think people will bring any kind of personality whatsoever to their workplace. If someone were to work for an employer who says “INFPs not welcome,” and such a someone were to bring their true personality to the workplace, it wouldn’t be a smart move, and that not-smartness would have little to do with their personality type.
Anyway. MBTI, the DISC theory, and many other personality tests—I don’t know how useful they would be in predicting job performance, when it’s so… it’s so ingrained in many cultures that work exists separately from life.
But. But. DISC theory is still very interesting. This whole movie, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” was quite interesting.
In private life, I do see how the DISC theory might be useful. It might be especially useful because sometimes, humans lose themselves in the work world. Many humans in the year 2023 spend the majority of their waking hours at work, either at an actual office, or in their home office. In some countries, to say that people spend the majority of their waking hours at work is an understatement. People die from overworking. If they don’t die naturally, naturally from work, then they commit suicide, not infrequently, though I guess it could be debated endlessly what counts as “not infrequently,” when it comes to suicide rates.
But even if people don’t die. Even if, say, hypothetically, they weren’t to spend so much time on work, most countries’ educational systems are geared toward prepping people for the workforce. At least, if advertisements are any indication, then that’s pretty much the sole reason educational institutions exist. It’s very odd that some schools that are supposed to be special, those schools run advertisements in the interwebs. And the content of the advertisements that they run makes me thinks that they are like any other vocational school. The difference between a good straightforward vocational school and a school that wants to come across as special is that the former does not put you hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt while pretending that it isn’t training you for a vocation.
So, given this predominance of jobs and work, training for jobs and work, worrying about not getting jobs and work, and seeing the job or the work as the major label with which to identify oneself—I think the DISC theory would be useful for life. Life, that area of humans in which they don’t have to pretend they’re something they aren’t because they worry about their bosses’ personality preference, promotions, and raises.
In the movie, it so happens that Professor Marston, the character, and the Wonder Women, who are his wife and their female lover, are ousted out of the professional world. Their DISC-ness is not accepted in the work world. They don’t get to be freely dominant inducing submissive compliant. They have to fit one or the other stereotype.
And, the movie does mention some stereotypes along gender lines, as well as a little bit about age, and it kinda looks like men “get” to be dominant while women must be submissive.
But perhaps because of my own age, which shall remain vague because revealing one’s age in the interwebs is as unnecessary as revealing one’s home address—I mean, really, if you have my name and birth details, then what sorts of things would you be able to find out about me unbeknownst to me? I don’t know and I don’t want to find out—anyway, perhaps because of my own age and the background in which I grew up prior to reaching the age of 10, I didn’t interpret the situations depicted in the movie as men having necessarily more control. They don’t. They don’t get to be anything. At all. They must be dominant. Otherwise, at least as depicted in the movie, a little bit, and as depicted in much more detail in other representationsm such as movies, news reports, research studies and whatnot, the male who isn’t dominant will quickly fall down the ladder, whatever ladder it may be.
But, remember, DISC theory was first published in 1928. That was almost a hundred years ago. Elizabeth, who is Professor Marston’s wife, doesn’t even get to have a degree from Harvard. So, it’s understandable how outraged she is. And fortunately, so is her husband, which is why she says she married him. But, see, just like she is forced to fit into a mold, he is also forced into a mold. We, living in the year 2023, regardless of gender, are fortunate that we do not need to fit molds to this extent.
However, we still need to fit into molds, which is why, as I said, DISC theory and similar personality tests are probably not useful in the job world.
So, Professor Marston, Elizabeth, and their lover, Olivia, get ousted from the professional world—back then, most definitely, they were people who absolutely did not fit the mold. At work, their being dominant inducing submissive or compliant was extremely unwelcome. Actually, probably, much of anything that didn’t keep life out of it was unwelcome. You know, life, such as actual interests, joy, sadness, flesh, bones, breathing, swimming, running, cooking, and, I don’t know, sex.
Sex is the main tool with which the movie expresses the DISC theory. There is lots of bondage. Plenty of spanking. But I wouldn’t say the movie is overall sexual. It’s actually quite chaste. If anything, I agree with Professor Marston from the movie: people should know that there is nothing wrong or weird about bondage. Actually, anything that happens between two consenting adults, I don’t see how it would be a problem. With anything. Be it sex or euthanasia. If I’m going to die, then I will die. It would be great for all of us to give people affordable options to die in peace.
Anyway. If I remember correctly, the only bare chest in the movie was that of Professor Marston. But then, I am not particularly scandalized by women’s breasts on the screen, especially these days, because I am watching Game of Thrones right now, and… there are many boobs. So, any fewer boobs than Game of Thrones seems to me, oh, very chaste. So platonic. Entirely innocent.
Most importantly, again, they are three consenting adults, and so, why not?
Professor Marston says in the movie, quote, “I am teaching readers to submit to a loving authority.” End quote. He means his Wonder Woman comic books. He is teaching readers that it is okay to submit to a loving authority, if they feel so inclined.
There is comfort in obeying authority. If that authority happens to be loving, even more so. This is the case in every aspect of life, I would say. And I believe this even more now that I am interested in the idea of self.
As in, even if we go inward, there is a “self” that isn’t us. There is a “self” that isn’t the ego self. There is a greater self, and that self, I do not control. That self is a loving, higher power. And indeed, it is very comforting and comfortable for me to fully accept that my thoughts and emotions do not come from the ego self. Not a single thought or emotion of mine occurs of my own volition.
I have always felt this way when writing fiction, and now I have accepted that even when I am not writing fiction, as in, even when I’m just living this life that is supposedly mine, I don’t think for myself. I don’t feel for myself.
When I think that I want to drink coffee, that thought, I didn’t make it occur. It came to me. I don’t know wherefrom it comes, but it came to me, meaning, it wasn’t with me, so it must have been somewhere else, outside of my awareness.
So, since accepting and admitting that everything else in my life also functions this way, amusingly and a bit ironically, I don’t have mental chatter anymore. I used to have mental chatter because I thought that I—the ego self—needed to think. Now my stance is, “You do the thinking, then tell me.” And the “you,” here, isn’t the ego self. It’s the loving higher power.
This particular snippet of my worldview isn’t necessarily spiritual. It’s… actually it’s mundanely logical, at least at this level. Where do your ideas come from? Where do your thoughts and emotions come from? Do you decide to make them come to you? Do you command them? If so, where did the decision and command come from? Where did it all start?
When one adopts the worldview that the ego self is doing its own thinking and feeling all alone in this wide vast grand universe, it can get overwhelming, at times. Hence why it is so comforting to obey authority. It can be a government, a specific figure in a government, a religion, a specific figure in a religion, or any other institution or individual with whom we form some kind of relationship, be it political, religious, romantic, professional, familial, educational, etc, etc. It can be your mother, father, teacher, girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, sister, or anybody else. It can be a Youtube video. It can be stoicism, nihilism, existentialism, or taoism. Anything, truly anything, including the argument that one isn’t guided by authority, in which case the guiding authority becomes the refusal to be guided by an authority.
And there is nothing necessarily wrong with being guided in whichever way.
DISC theory becomes even more interesting because, in the movie, Professor Marston does not interpret it as a static thing. Actually, it appears more malleable than the MBTI test.
In the movie, the character of Elizabeth is dominant. Meanwhile, the character of Olivia is submissive. And Professor Marston is sort of in the middle.
Initially, Elizabeth is not only dominant when it comes to sex, but also in other areas of life—basically, every interaction. This, later, leads to an emotional clash between Elizabeth and Olivia. You see, Olivia left Professor Marston and Elizabeth, when both their professional lives and personal lives were destroyed because of people’s disapproval of their sex life. Then Professor Marston got sick. Elizabeth called Olivia to the hospital. But Olivia still remembers how Elizabeth didn’t want anything to do with Olivia, not exactly because of Elizabeth’s fear, but more because of her refusal to admit fear.
At that point, Professor Marston says to Elizabeth, quote, “You cannot win every argument. You cannot dominate all the time.” End quote.
And that is when Elizabeth shows her softer side. One of the things she says to Olivia is, quote, “I thought love wasn’t enough. But it… It has to. It has to be enough, because we cannot…. We cannot live without you. I cannot live without you.” End quote.
In the dualistic worldview, there is the mistaken implication, sometimes, that once you’re something, you aren’t the other. For example, if you are submissive, then you’re submissive in every aspect of life, and can never be dominant. And vice versa.
But that is like saying that if you ever eat cold ice cream, you cannot have hot tea. We can all have both the ice cream and the hot tea. We all have both dualistic elements inside us. Those elements are there to be used.
If you look up images for the yin-yang symbol, sometimes it’s purely the black-and-white wavy division of a circle. But at other times, you will find images of that circle as well as tiny smaller circles within the circle. In other words, within the white side of the big circle, there will be a small black circle. And within the black side of the big circle, there will be a small white circle.
These circles, the big one and the smaller ones, and the even smaller ones that aren’t in the image, are us—infinitely so. Thus, when we’re seeking comfort in obeying authority, it’s not that we’re submissive all the time and never can be dominant. Also, we aren’t stuck with any of the traits that might be associated with being submissive. Some such traits that come to mind are adjectives such as weak, directionless, and indecisive. However, we need not be stuck with such words. In fact, I would say there is power in submission.
In the movie, there is a scene where Olivia’s wrists are tied with ropes. It’s a sexual bondage scene. In the area of sex, she is submissive. But is she submissive everywhere? Oh, no. Not at all. The girl lived in the earlier half of the 1900s and she decided to join an already-married couple for love. She walked out of an engagement. She gave up on a more promising career. Damn. All of that takes a lot of guts.
And even when only considering sex, there is power in being bound. The binder can only bind because the bindee lets the binder do it. Ironically, it is the binder who must do exactly what the bindee wants, because, if it goes anywhere beyond that, it becomes a crime, or at the very least, something that is… quite pointless, really.
Outside of the DISC theory, Professor Marston continues to adopt a non-dualistic attitude. For example, he does not separate between his psychological study and comic books. The reason he writes Wonder Woman is that he can’t teach anymore. So, does he wallow that the great institutions of education don’t let him join the club? For a little bit, understandably, because suddenly he must change his lifestyle. But then he decides that he will educate the masses in a much more approachable and effective way. Imagine if he hadn’t written Wonder Woman. Who would have talked about DISC theory? The Harvard psychologists who kicked him out of their club? Nah. This professor didn’t wait around for that. He says, quote, “Wonder Woman is a love letter.” End quote. Indeed, wow. I never knew there was this backstory to Wonder Woman. I am actually not familiar with the comic book or the movie version, but maybe I should be.
So, see. His life led to the movie “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.” That led to me learning about his DISC theory and its connection to Wonder Woman. That led to this podcast episode. And maybe, now, I will absorb some of his fiction—Wonder Woman. These things don’t exist separately.
Who Professor Marston is cannot be subdivided into work part and life part. That’s ridiculous. He isn’t a machine with replaceable parts. He isn’t going to stop being interested in DISC theory just because a bunch of educators didn’t let him join their club. And likewise, he is neither just dominant nor just submissive. He is neither into inducement alone nor into compliance alone. He uses all the tools in his toolbox, as we do, all of us, if only we were left to be ourselves. Even if we were allowed to be our best and most ideal ego selves, we would be less limited. And oh, if we were allowed to be our true selves who are greater than the limited thing that experiences one thing at a time, then we could be limitless.
We could be that entity that knows of cold winter mountains while bathing in the sun at a tropical beach. I mean, it’s great that we have our bodies—I love my body—because the body is an excellent companion for experiencing this world. But at the same time, we aren’t limited to the body.
This relationship of us to the body goes with Professor Marston’s idea of “pleasant bondage.” The body is, in some ways, a bondage. But it’s not something that must be tortured out of existence. It’s excellent for catching the feelings and emotions that don’t come from the ego self. It’s the little chills and shivers and tremblings that tell us that something is happening. Even the most serious intellectual logical seeming thoughts tell us something through the body. When Archimedes said “Eureka!” he didn’t sit static in his bathtub. From Wikipedia, quote, “He is said to have been so eager to share his discovery that he leapt out of his bathtub and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse.” End quote. His body told him something, and he obliged. Because, I guess, it must have felt really good to just do what his body told him to do, after his discovery about the water level and volume of water and all that fun stuff.
So yeah. Body. Bondage. Submitting to authority. Not necessarily a bad thing. Not necessarily entirely submissive either. Inside that submissive side of the yin-yang circle, there is the dominant little teeny circle, hidden, but always there to be found.
A quick last note: I moved away from the intro, because… I definitely skip intros, always—on podcasts, on Youtube videos, wherever I can. I just… I skip them. So, after having tried the intro for some episodes, I thought… Meh. I tried it. It’s meh. As to the outro, I like fading into the music with the actual content part, not the outro. Yeah. I’ve tried them for long enough. Maybe, if I feel differently at some point, the intro and outro will come back. But only maybe.
- “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”
- “DISC assessment”
- “MBTI” (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
- Yin Yang
- BENJA – The Barrenness of a Busy Life
Everything I do is organized here:
© 2023 Ithaka O.