Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Letters: Emotional Baggage

I'm looking for guidance on trying to discover just the kind of submissive I am or if perhaps my feelings are merely an expression of some self-loathing. I've read much and still am not certain about my own feelings or fantasies.

I was abused as an adolescent and humiliation, feminization and fondling were part of it. Some others I know that have had similar experiences have found sexualization of those experiences helps them gain control over those events.
I've never quite been able to master the experiences that way and have just compartmentalized them. Sometimes I'm successful. But, I find I continue to be drawn to being dominated, as I get close to it, the negative feelings of my past experience take over and I'm unable to continue.

I wanted to come to you for guidance because you seem to be very well regarded and in your years of experience, I thought surely you've encountered others like myself.

This is a nice note, and I have sympathy for the writer. And it’s flattering that this person thinks I can help him.

But I can’t. He says it himself: But…as I get close to it...negative feelings...I'm unable to continue. You see, I feel strongly that if you just listen to what people say, they will tell what you need to know. Most people don’t listen to what’s actually being said, they listen for what they want to hear. Or they listen for what they think they already know.

Both those habits will bite you in the ass time after time. And when they do, you are apt to say to yourself, “Dang, I should have known X would happen.” Well, yeah, you should have. Because someone in a position to know told you it would, but you didn’t listen.

For example, this man is telling me he’s not emotionally ready to do BDSM. I can see why. He’s got serious unresolved issues from the abuse he suffered. I predict that if anyone tried to do a BDSM scene with him, it would go badly. Why? Because BDSM is not therapy.

Let me give that a line all by itself: BDSM is not therapy.

One more time: BDSM is not therapy.

Are we quite clear about that, everyone? BDSM is great. It’s fun, it’s sexy, it’s intense, it’s life-affirming, it’s growth-enhancing, it’s stress-releasing, it is a lot of terrific things. But it is not therapy. You will not heal deep emotional damage just by doing BDSM.

It’s a terribly attractive idea, I know. I have personally seen a lot of folks try to use the bondage rack as a therapist’s couch. (I have seen extremely unethical people use it as a lure to psychologically-fragile partners, too, which I find despicable.) But I have never seen any indication that doing BDSM fixed anyone’s long-term emotional problems. Occasionally the feel-good endorphins and novelty of the roles can buoy up a troubled person, but only in the short term. My observation is that the crash from that high often leaves them worse off then they were before.

So, can a basically healthy person use BDSM to vent stress from one tough day at the office? Sure. Can you work through deep emotional issues like child abuse? I really don’t think so.

Thus, while I don’t share these issues and thus can’t speak to them from the inside, I am profoundly skeptical about “gaining control” of any past issues in this way. I will say that I would firmly decline to play with anyone who presented himself to me with such a motivation. I’m a dominatrix, not a therapist.

Being healthy and happy as a kinky person takes some work even for people who weren’t abused. The writer has got some work to do before he can do this from an emotionally healthy place. My advice to him and anyone is a similar position is: find a good therapist, if you haven’t already, and get clarity on this before you try to incorporate anything as highly complex as BDSM into an intimate relationship. And good luck to you.

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