Monday, August 27, 2018

Joy

A sense of joy seems to come out of nowhere, almost unrelated to the events of the day or of a life. Sometimes when in the city, for example, I stand waiting for the green light to give me permission to cross Collins Street. I look up the hill of that relatively long street and I feel a sense of joy. It has happened  several times over a long period of time and I've never quite known why it should happen at that particular moment. Perhaps I once felt joy in that spot and all the other moments in that spot are repeats of that moment of joy...

Having had the experience of joy just appearing on my horizon for no particular reason on many occasions I find it curious that it has decided to pass me by of late. I still function relatively fine. I enjoyed very much having a family brunch yesterday for one son's birthday. I enjoyed seeing him happily cocooned in our love.

I have a number of reasons to be excited about life right now. Well, I am still here and that's enough in and of itself. But, beyond that, my daughter is expecting the arrival of her baby very soon, and I am traveling soon. Spring is on its way. The three ugly trees in our yard have gone and now we can get on with creating a pretty garden. If one were to make a list of reasons to be grateful it would be long, for sure.

Yet, no joy, no little bubbles rising up and giving that sense of aliveness. I suspect it is a little bit of what is commonly known as 'depression'. It stems, I think, from having to accept certain realities; to face facts; to come out of the fog, which is a good thing long term but disorienting right now.

We can, of course, control our behaviors and our thoughts. We can distract and steer our thoughts. We can motivate ourselves to do positive and productive things. We can jig ourselves out of a funk. I've done it countless times. I tend to navigate towards the positive side of the street simply because I am so much more comfortable there.

We can notice the little things. Right now, the sky is blue, the air is clear; as I breathe in and out my inner world is calm. I have a certain amount of influence over my state of mind.

I can't will joy however. I can't make her come to me, overtake me. I can simply be open to the experience, confident that she won't stay away forever. She certainly never has before.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Manipulation

Gaslight has been in my consciousness for as long as I can remember. As a much younger person it was such dark material; a husband who appeared loving but was in fact using manipulation to make his wife wonder about her own sanity, all in the name of him getting what he wanted.

My young mind saw it as movie material. I realize now that I never took the notion of someone doing something like that seriously. As time went by I'd read of a marriage gone sour and one killing the other, and over time I came to appreciate the fact that you are more likely to be killed by someone you know than a stranger. But, manipulation tactics, tactics used to manipulate the person someone professed to love, passed me by.

Manipulation isn't like rape or assault or even stealing all the money from your joint account and taking off with a lover. It is subtle, a little bit here and a little bit there. The clever person gets under your skin; knows you so well that he or she gets to understand what makes you tick; how hard you're willing to work to make a relationship succeed; how entirely possible it is for you to question your own behavior; how often you are willing to turn the other cheek.

Those that have been subjected to manipulation by someone who supposedly loves them tend to all have the same question. 'How did he learn these tactics?' It's a fair question because a person whose default position when pushed is to manipulate another person doesn't look a particular way or even act in a particular way most of the time. Most of the time they can look exactly what you would expect an upstanding member of the community to look like, and most of the time they act the way you would expect a reasonably loving person to behave.

I do wonder if people who become adept at using manipulation in personal relationships did in fact learn some of these tactics in their childhood. Perhaps they did some shady things and when suspicion fell on them they needed to concoct stories. Or, perhaps they had an overbearing adult in their lives such that they needed to make use of deceit to protect themselves.

In the process of protecting themselves they came to see that the world was 'dog eat dog'. To survive, or just to get their way, there were things they could, must, say and do; certain types of people with whom they could build a life, such that the odds of being in control were more certain.

Some tactics of manipulation are so prevalent that any manipulative personality worth his salt is not going to miss them. Raising one's voice, be that in public or privately at home, is a well honed tactic. What does the other person, and at home the other person is likely to be a quiet living sort of person who hates disagreement and shouting, going to do once the tone has been elevated such that neighbors will almost certainly hear. But, of course, the other person leaves the space to enable the manipulator to settle down.

Did the other person think that the shouting person had erupted on purpose; that he or she got all riled up on purpose? Maybe. Or, maybe it is thought there is a lack of self-control. Either way, the conversation has come to an end. Whatever was being discussed, not to the liking of the person who has started to shout, is now unresolved, just as was intended.

I think frustration leads almost anybody to sometimes shout back, by the way, but again, where does that lead? It does not lead to a civil, sharing of thoughts in a rational conversation between two people who need to sort a matter out.

When the default becomes that one person of a couple has the God given right to raise his or her voice whenever they feel something uncomfortable, perhaps a doubt being raised, or having to explain something, it doesn't take long before people around that person begin to 'walk on eggshells'. Once everybody is walking on eggshells, well, that person has everyone right where he or she wants them; concerned to raise a matter, keeping as quiet as possible, being agreeable; keeping opinions to themselves. Control is theirs for the taking.

The drama stops by putting up limits. The offended party may say, 'I can't go on talking to you until you stop shouting', or they can remove themselves from the situation. This is what is recommended. But do note, there is still complete control assumed by one party. Nothing was resolved. The affection takes a heavy hit until a more reasonable dynamic has come into place. But, what are the odds of a new default behavior; 50:50 at best. Once the fog lifts and the behavior is seen for what it is, well, you can never go back to being in the fog.

Raising one's voice is merely one of a good dozen of strategies used by those for whom winning means everything; for whom keeping another in the bottom down position is important. I think it is important to call them for what they are - manipulation strategies. In the world going forward people will be more and more informed about this sort of thing; expectations for playing fair will mean that people are more awake. That's a good thing.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Vulnerability

To be alive is to have feelings. We probably all experience a number of them on any given day. Some people wear their feelings such that it is obvious what they are feeling. It might be someone ranting, and so we can make an educated guess they are feeling angry. Or, a child might have a hang dog experience on her face and we can guess that something has happened to make the child feel sad.

I tend to label many feelings in the 'upset' category. My hairdresser was upset yesterday, taking a long time to do my hair so that we could talk. This was very obvious to me. Her husband is exhibiting some very controlling behaviors and she doesn't know what to do about it. She was in therapy earlier in her life after being in an abusive relationship so she knows various strategies. When she is not happy with something that has gone on between them she knows to say, 'I feel...' rather than 'you......'. She tries to negotiate and discuss  matters but she has so little autonomy. He was angry with her when she hung the curtains her parents had paid for in the baby's room. He really does want control over every little thing.

Specifically, she wanted to know how she could get him to go to therapy. The short answer was and is that she is wasting her time trying. He is feeling much too much threat at having his vulnerabilities and feelings exposed to ever agree to do that. Even if he does agree, to get her off his back, he won't follow through. A lovely young man, sensitive and caring, there are bullying issues in his past and he has abandonment issues, so he's locked into controlling his world to shield himself from his most vulnerable and painful feelings, and that's that.

We can reasonably refer to these traits as 'narcissistic' or 'borderline', but I think it is far more common to be unaware of some of our more uncomfortable feelings, or to not expose them, than to label them as just belonging to certain personality types.

I can certainly speak to some of my more uncomfortable feelings. I could tell you about them here, but in the moment, when I am feeling those feelings, deeply hurt, I can't utter a single word.

Partly, this is training; training myself. If I try to express my feelings and it turns into a negative or circular conversation, or a controlling situation, I stop talking immediately.

But, putting that aside, if my feelings are very hurt, I ride the situation out and taking my feelings away with me to process. I in no way encourage this strategy or behavior. I am only saying that this is what happens for me.

Perhaps it is embarrassment. Perhaps it is hopes dashed. Perhaps it is a feeling of being insignificant, or unimportant to the other person.

The thing about being human is that something happens earlier in our life where we felt something - perhaps that we were not as important to the other person as we would like to be, not as important to him or her as he or she was to us. Let's call this feeling sadness. I give this example as one that I have experienced myself.

Then, many years later, along comes an opportunity to meet with someone you've come to know quite well in an electronic sense. You're excited about it but there's ambivalence on the other side. You don't understand it, assure the person that there's no need to meet if he doesn't want to. He says he does, but still, there's doubt in your mind.

So you do meet, it's kinda fine. If you were a third person looking in, you'd think it was fine. But, inside me there was a whole lot of distress going down. Adept at holding my feelings in, I was struggling.

I've asked myself many times since then, 'well, what were you hoping for?' and also 'why couldn't you say what you were feeling?'

It's easy to answer the second question. To expose my feelings of hurt is an extremely vulnerable thing. To say, 'I feel unimportant to you' is almost impossible to me. I'd rather go off and cry alone, and I mean that most sincerely.

What was I hoping for? Well, of course, to feel a connection; for him to have made a bit of a fuss; to have carved out time for me; to have found a little quiet restaurant where we could speak from the soul. I wanted to walk away feeling nourished; a tender memory to hold dear to my heart.

My point is we are all subject to feeling too vulnerable to expose our more difficult feelings at times.

Intimacy can only occur when we do. And so, I work on it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Non-duality

It's one of life's great challenges, to put oneself in the mind space of someone else. This is the great value of novel reading, because novels don't write themselves. They are written by other people who see life from a different angle simply because they are different to us.

If someone like me is reading a novel like 'the shepherd's hut' a whole new mind space opens up. I can't imagine causing violence and so to read of people who do it so effortlessly, with relish, is to attempt to understand the Other; not to necessarily understand the behavior but to acknowledge it as simply there in the psyche of some people for whatever reason.

If you are prone to looking out for the Other - helping, healing, giving the benefit of the doubt - which is also classified by some as naivete, understandably, it's close to impossible to get into the head space of someone who isn't any of those things, or is rarely any of those things; certainly not his or her default stance.

One son was in an elevator carrying a Haigh's chocolates paper bag when a colleague asked him why he had bought chocolates. My son, who already thought this chap psychologically impaired, responded that he was going to dinner at his parent's house and bringing them the chocolates as a gift.

'Why?' the man wanted to know.

It genuinely intrigued him why my son would do that.

'Because, I know it will make them happy,' he replied.

This didn't impress the colleague. For whatever reason, his brain could not compute.

The more absorbed we are with our own problems, almost insanely forgetting that everyone has problems of one kind or another, the more introspective and lacking of generosity we become.

When we focus on what we don't have, like looking through a microscope at a single drop on a glass plate, we entirely forget about the fact that we are the speck in space.

The more we notice the space around us, above and even below us, in front of us and behind us, the better able we are to put our 'problem' in some reasonable sort of context.

In meditation I encourage, with carefully chosen words, for people to feel all of creation within them and for them to enter into all of creation. In a relaxed state, both mind and body, it is not difficult to conjure this sort of  non duality where the 'I' is transcended.

When the 'I' is transcended, violence upon others is unthinkable. Still, it's not the way of the world, is it? Violence begets violence and so the wheel of violence keeps turning; selfishness endures.

I asked  the teacher I work with about Emily when at school this week, a cute and highly intelligent but troubled 7 year old. It was rough right now, I was told. She arrived back from a holiday in Bali with her Dad to discover that Mum had moved out of the house; much of the furniture had gone with her.

The teacher made this interesting observation. 'I just hope that she has the tenacity to say, 'I won't wear this failure. Whatever you choose to do with your lives, I choose success.' And, it made sense at that moment why some people become quite hard and single focused. They have to be that way to survive a life where the odds right from the start didn't go their way. It's the survival instinct at play. 'I am going to work hard and make a success of my life despite the odds against me'. Right now, school is where she can feel safe.The rules don't change, the expectations don't change.

I remember now that the Headmaster of my sons' school said exactly this to me years ago; that money was no security for some boys there; that the school environment offered them the stability and care that they didn't necessarily get at home. This reminds me of Hillary Clinton's phrase, that it takes a village to raise a child. It is the truth.

It seems to me that it is quite an art to be human; to have the tenacity to succeed, whatever success means to the individual, and the heart to feel for fellow man, regardless of personal circumstances; to be open to failure.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Objectification, again

There's a lot of material on this blog about objectification and much of it is positive. It's positive because in so many of my experiences where I am a 'doll' or a 'bimbo' or an 'object' or just 'it', it is so incredibly freeing. I love having my mind vacated and my body responds so enthusiastically to that sort of play.

For quite some time, many times, there was a feeling of being deeply connected to another person, a wonderful feeling of being intertwined in the play, because of the play. Trust is such an integral part of the play where objectification is involved and if the trust is there, that's very connecting, and soul sharing.

If my body wasn't responding to the play, just the mind, though I don't think that's technically possible, it would almost be enough. At its best, the sense of joy that floods the mind is its own reward. The facts are that the play was/is deeply arousing to the body, and much of the 'feel good' sensations come from that too. It's such a mind/body experience that it is hard to separate them into categories.

To be clear, for me it's about the Top wanting me to have that connecting and pleasurable experience as much as he wants to feel the sexual turn on and the connection himself. I operated on this understanding of the play for some time, in an intuitive sense, without spelling it out, even for myself.

I used to wonder a long time ago if I had a 'slave' soul. But, I don't. I don't have a slave soul, not at all. I've noticed for some time now, though I didn't have the words I have today to express the awareness, that if I am in fact treated like an object or a fuck toy, and it becomes very clear to me that my feelings and my pleasure have nothing to do with the event, I am thrown into a pit of despair that I don't crawl out of for some time.

Oh, I can camouflage those feelings of emptiness and disconnection. I can go about my life such that you won't notice much, or any, difference in my words, my tone, my behavior or my pleasure in life. I've become so able to live in the moment, to categorize the confusion and upset in a particular place where the day is hardly effected and the relationship is not affected in a veneer sense. Even if the sex wasn't right for me, harmful to me, I can find a sense of gratitude in many other moments in my life.

However, I become skittish, you see, about wanting to interact in a sexual way any time soon. It's such a dark place I go internally when I feel that I have been used as an object purely for the other's gratification, or pleasure or sense of power, or whatever the heck it is that motivates this behavior, that I will just about walk over broken glass to avoid any such similar interaction. It absolutely does not work for me if I don't feel a sense of generosity.

It is said that those with narcissistic behaviors aren't so good at thinking about the 'we' in sex; that they can view their partners as objects that satisfy their needs. In fact, rather than more sex bringing the two partners together in the case of sex with a narcissistic bent, it can cause further separation. When I read this research finding, it made complete sense to me.

What I think is important if the kink tends towards objectification play is that both people understand what lies behind the motivation for such play. Kink is kink and person specific, but in kinky play the motivation should be for greater connection for both players. If it isn't achieving that outcome, then it's just not working as it should. No kinky play is probably a much better outcome than doing it in a way where one partner causes emotional harm and disconnection. Whether that makes sense to a person who does not see sex in the 'we' sense, is the debatable question.

I want to add that I am not just talking about kinky play here. Any lover who is inclined to take his pleasure rather often without concern for the partner's feelings and body state will cause disconnection in the partnership. Those who are divorced may well be able to speak to this.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

How things go

It is said that it can go either way when a child's basic needs have not been met - you  can turn out an empath or you could turn out a narcissist. There are detailed arguments about why one person goes one way and one person goes the other. The more I simply observe people the more I think that narcissistic behavior is often the province of the empath who doesn't feel loved.

It is a stretch, this thought of mine. Put it this way. You can try heaping love on a narcissist and if he or she responds positively to that, you might be onto something; a way to improve the reactions and interactions.

If that doesn't work - and it might not be love that is needed so much as approval or respect, according to the relationship - then I think it's fair to say that there is narcissism involved and it may be unchangeable. It may be necessary to accept the 'isness' of that.

My brother and I had an interesting conversation yesterday. Our mother is demonstrating odd behaviors; different odd behaviors to before. We've been trying to tease out quirkiness, egocentric/selfish behavior, and behavior that could suggest a form of illness. We've had to look closely at her behaviors and do a lot of talking to sort that out.

I happened to say that I had done an experiment in relation to my mother when I returned from holiday last month. Instead of kissing her and hugging her when I next saw her in a cafe, a few days after my return, I stood by the door, watched her come in, said 'hello' and waited. She said 'hello', of course, but that's it. She made no effort whatsoever to touch me in any way. Nor did I. I told her I had a table reserved and escorted her to it. We sat down.

On the various occasions I have seen her since, it's been the same thing. Oh, I've dressed her in the hospital after a test, and held her arm as we walked and so forth, but there has been no greeting with touch. She seems absolutely fine with that.

My brother revealed that he had made the same experiment a few years back and since then there is no greeting, even when months have gone by since they saw one another. He tells me it relates to the fact that he used to kiss her on the cheek and then when he went to hug her he could feel the sentiment, 'Oh God, do we have to do this again?' from her. She made it quick, with her body well away from his.

I told my brother that I have scanned my memory banks for any touch from my mother at any time in my life, perhaps one of comfort, and I can't. I have also scanned my memory banks for memories of touch from my father and I located one memory, where he came up behind me; hugged from behind. It was in the kitchen of a hotel they owned.

There are no memories of my mother's grandmother or grandfather hugging me, and not my father's father either. My father visited his father religiously on a Sunday morning and we two children tagged along to play in the garden. But, there was no hug hello, or goodbye. He seemed a lovely man to me but I was more or less invisible to him.

I shared a long ago memory with my brother. My mother and I were in the laundry of another Hotel, a time period later in my life when I was in my mid to late teens. I think my mother must have been complaining about my attachment to Maria, an Italian woman who was with us for many years. My mother must have really angered me because I was a very quiet child who kept her feelings to herself.

'I talk to Maria,' I said to her, 'because she acts more like a mother than you do.'

It was a confession. I didn't expect my brother to necessarily support the outburst. He said to me, 'If  Maria hadn't been in my life I am sure I would be a drug addict.'

The mind is crazy. We get hurt somehow and then the mind compensates in various ways. My mother had very little education and so her business and being a business woman meant far more to her than being a mother on the ground with us. She would deny this but it is the honest to goodness truth. If she developed narcissistic traits it relates to problems in her own childhood. Nothing comes from nothing.

In my own case, I became a giver. There was no determination about this, it just happened that way. Perhaps it felt comfortable since I had been doing it all my childhood; considering the other person's feelings ahead of my own. My husband can be sexually selfish; negligent; absorbed in what interests him. I notice. I am aware. But, as good a time as we can have, people return to their default position. It is just the way it is. I can't change this.

I've been leading a meditation group and I love creating a sacred space where I can afford other people peace and quiet. I encourage effortlessness; to just Be; to just be the dark screen or the blue sky that always sits behind the most cloudy day; that essence of life that is the natural self; ease.

I take refuge from the damage that was done to me at an early age, from selfishness, in goodness, kindness; an understanding for the suffering of all mankind and an appreciation for all the many brave attempts to counteract that which is not right.

This is just the way I turned out.

Monday, June 18, 2018

My definition of Intimacy

Since our most recent holiday in the States I've been ruminating about intimacy and what a feeling of intimacy might really be like, and be about.

I have no idea how other people feel about intimacy but for me it isn't necessarily about being sexual. I have, in moments, experienced deep intimacy through sex. I remember them distinctly because they are not at all everyday experiences.

Don't get me wrong. Many sexual experiences are wonderful, and some are even liberating, but not necessarily intimate. That is to say, they don't raise me up to a dimension that is in the upper hemisphere of experiences.

If you were to ask me, well, which sexual experiences have raised you up to another dimension, my honest answer would be those where a deep, soulful need of mine was fulfilled, even if just for seconds. Those seconds stay in my mind, and can be recalled immediately at any time, on any day.

I could speak to you of the time I was bound and spanked well beyond my limits. That he did not stop as he saw me pulling and pushing at the ropes around my wrists and ankles made that for me, both in the moment and long after in my mind, one of the most intimate experiences of my life.

Such experiences fulfill needs for me over which I have no control. I could go without, of course. Doesn't someone imprisoned in  a situation go without? They don't necessarily wither and die when their needs are not fulfilled. Then again, they don't flourish either. The need for human intimacy, for love and fellowship, remains. The need to be known and understood sits there under the surface.

It was on this past holiday (vacation) that I realized that I also have a need of intimacy in a non-sexual way. It happened one other time for me, that that need was fulfilled, and maybe that time sat in my deep memory banks willing me forward. I am not sure.

It was quite simple really. My husband suggested a hike to a waterfall that would be a challenge for me since I was suffering a bit of altitude sickness and my fitness isn't at his fitness level. I immediately agreed to the challenge and the next morning we set off.

It wasn't long into the hike that I realized this was a significant challenge. It was one of those hikes where you walk upwards, turn a corner and find you have to walk up an even steeper rocky path. Multiple this hundreds of times and you might see why at a particular moment, maybe half an hour from the waterfall, I found myself wording, 'I don't know what to say'.

My husband assured me we didn't need to keep going, that we could turn around and go back. But, once I had taken several breaths the thought of failing, of giving up, became a repugnant thought to me. I do wonder, if in that moment, I was chasing a feeling of intimacy that I hoped might ensue if I finished the hike. I had no way of knowing how I would feel at journey's end but I just knew I had to find out.

When I caught site of the waterfall, all I felt was relief. I just didn't know where to put myself. I suspect he had the same thought and he had me follow him closer to the waterfall. With a final burst of effort I climbed up a rock with him, very close now to the waterfall; so close that we had the spray of the waterfall on our faces.

Finally, I had arrived. I could sit and soak it in. I was very quiet. I watched the water thundering down the rocks, listened to it, and I felt cool, but warm inside. I felt so happy to be here and to be having this experience.

'Turn around,' my husband whispered. 'Look back at the town. You walked all this way.'

If you looked way back, as far as the eye could see, in the very far distance was a square of green , in the center of my vision. On either side were majestic, rugged rock and tall trees. And, then I turned around again, to see the cool water at the other end. I was sitting in what I think is referred to as a 'box canyon', but at that moment, and maybe any moment, the canyon could be quite simply referred to as 'Paradise'. It was so beautiful, so pristine; so wild.

That's when it happened. I reached for my husband, hugged him, climbed up behind him so that my legs were around, and I hugged him tight around the waist. My heart pulsated with eternal feelings of love for him, always there but not always available to me.  He hugged me back. I could feel his sense of love for me coming back at me, into me. In these moments, we were 'one'.

There are simply no words to explain the welling of emotion in my being in those moments, perhaps like bubbles that rise up in a champagne bottle when uncorked. I overflowed with gratitude for the experience, for being alive on this day in a canyon in Colorado, far away from civilization.

What I loved about the whole experience was his tenderness towards me to make this possible. He knew, without me saying a word, that I wanted to make the distance. He knew it would be hard, but he facilitated this for me. When I needed to stop, he stopped. When I needed water, he got out the water bottle. When I needed to voice my doubts, just that once, he offered to go back, but more out of the fact that he knew that's all I needed, to say it, and then buckle down.

He praised me. He held my hand. And, sometimes, when I said that I felt more motivated when he walked ahead of me, he did that. He was patient. He was kind. He facilitated my success.

When I think about moments of intimacy in a power exchange, a BDSM situation, it's just the same. Well, not quite the same. If you suggested to me that the spanking or some other sensation could stop, I'd be too bamboozled by that. Maybe not. It might be the same, ensure I buckle down for the ride. I do so hate being giving options in such moments. But, you know what I mean; it's the same approach, facilitating success, by whatever means, tapping into my need to succeed, to stay the course. That's incredibly intimate to me.