Friday, December 26, 2014

Empathy shouldn't lead to stress

I discovered a blog per chance recently, written by an intelligent, clear-headed American male who is sexually dominant. He calls it BDSM: Things You Need to Know and over the past couple of weeks reading there I have enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, he hasn't updated the blog in the past several months, although he does respond still to the odd comment left for him. I'm hoping he'll come back to writing there because it is most insightful reading.

In response to one of his posts a commenter made the point that she experienced anxiety when her dom was "upset" and Will responded to it as follows:

'Hi Jennifer, your anxious response to his "upset" state of mind could be due to your natural empathy, or previous experience (in childhood or adulthood) of someone close to you not dealing well with their own burdens, or an unrealistic sense of duty towards your partner. Asking yourself "what is the origin of this anxiety; what do I fear might happen" whenever it occurs might help you get clarity on that.

How he feels and behaves is of course his responsibility, and although you can lift him by your devotion, you cannot shift that obligation from him. Empathy is beneficial in that it gives you insight into his feelings without him having to describe them. But not to the point of stress on your part — you need to remain at peace in order to be completely present for both of you. As for latent fears you might have, see Assuaging a Sub's Fear of Abandonment.'

Will's comments resonated with me for a couple of reasons. First of all, I can most certainly experience an anxious response to an authority figure being upset. Whether it was a boss from the past, or my husband or my mentor, I've been anxious when I have displeased any one of them.

Will responded to Jennifer that her feelings of upset could be her natural empathy and this is certainly the case with me. I can very easily put myself in the shoes of another person and feel their anger, or their pain, or their distress or their 'upset'. I absorb this upset and it becomes my own distress. This came up in the therapy I had a few years ago, my tendency to hold onto someones distress, and I was encouraged to give back that upset to the person who owned it. It wasn't mine to take, she said. Yet, it's one thing to say something like that and another thing to make such a huge change in one's thinking. I remain profoundly empathic.

Will also suggests that Jennifer may feel an unrealistic sense of duty towards her partner and I do that too. When I feel bound to someone in some way my sense of duty towards them, to make them happy, and happy with me, is notable. It is something of a crusade for me, to see it as my responsibility to keep the peace and to be pleasing. To not be pleasing to such a person is to fill me up with an uncomfortable level of guilt. I'm really quite eager to take the blame and to analyze how I may have done wrong, regardless of their own personality traits that may make it difficult to always be pleasing in the first place. I tend to nearly always feel that I could have done better and to see it as my responsibility to please.

The really huge statement that Will made in my opinion is that empathy is useful, but not to the point of causing distress, because it works best if a submissive is at peace and present for both of them. As someone who has traversed the road seeking consistent peace of mind it made complete sense that my anxiety was in fact a lose:lose situation. My goal going forward was clear: to limit or even eliminate anxiety in terms of taking on other's people's distress and calling it my own.

When you've lived with someone for decades, known them since they entered University, you get to understand that people are fundamentally 'cooked' at any early age. Yes, people can change if they are motivated to do so, but a great deal doesn't change. My husband, for example, needs to express his distress and he usually needs to express it to me. This has been a constant for over 35 years.  In general, once he has blown off enough steam, he gets over what it was that distressed him, but in the meantime I am in a position where I must listen to the distress, acknowledge it, sometimes over and over, but not allow it to lodge inside my body or my mind. So, I demonstrate my usual levels of empathy, hold onto any opinions that wouldn't be helpful in such a situation, and I endeavor to distance myself from the anxiety such that I don't own it or accept it as my own anxiety. This is the theory, not always obtainable in practice usually because I am pushed to my elastic limit over time.

In terms of a power exchange dynamic things don't always go perfectly in spite of the best laid plans. In the rush towards Christmas, for example, I didn't take the time to fully understand a directive and I did it wrong. This was very far from my intention and no-one could have been harder on me than I was on myself. We're all human, doms and subs alike, and disappointment can tend to sit like an unwelcome visitor, making everyone uncomfortable.

Will asks Jennifer to consider what is the origin of her anxiety. I asked a similar question of myself and find it very hard to answer. I think my anxiety stems from finding myself in a situation where I have displeased and not being sure what to do about it. I think it is the uncertainty that is so anxiety-ridden for me, because if I was told to repeat the exercise properly, I'd do it and the anxiety would simply melt away. It's the 'I'm not sure what you want me to do now' feeling that makes for such anxiety, almost as if holding me in an anxious state is the punishment and the way I am meant to learn. Certainly an anxiety-ridden state means that I'll do everything humanly possible to avoid landing myself in that state again, but it also means I'm operating on the basis of fear, and I'm not sure this is a good thing, for me or for anybody. Whether fear is intended is something it is impossible for me to judge, but I know I do feel fear, fear of having displeased and what that means to my inner landscape.

Even as I felt uncomfortable about it, quite foolish for making such a silly mistake, I was trying hard to not absorb the negative feelings. It was my mistake, absolutely, but it was just that, a mistake. Should I allow the mistake or the negative vibes I felt were coming my way to interfere with my effectiveness such that other people would be disappointed in my performance, or that my state of mind would be compromised such that I didn't enjoy Christmas?

It was in these moments of conscious decision making about my response to the unhappy situation  that I decided it was time that I recognize that my empathy could not be allowed to spill over into distress. The mistake had happened in spite of my best intentions. I'd made my apology, was not in a position to rectify the situation to satisfy immediately and thus must recognize that there was no value in going over it in my mind, in distressing myself. I was choosing not be distressed.

Maybe this doesn't sound like a big deal. For people without a particularly empathic soul I don't think it is a big deal. However, for a deeply empathic soul, one who gets off and finds peace in being pleasing, it's huge. The message I have taken from Will's blog, one of the many messages there, is that a submissive's job is to be present. The dominant may say something out of turn (dominants tend to be full of themselves, let's face it, and hence blurt out something that is upsetting to hear), but it's helpful if this doesn't trigger a submissive too often, that's she resilient and cognisant of the fact that his distress isn't hers; that being submissive doesn't extend to owning and wearing his emotions.

In the same way, Will (and I'm still thinking about this) doesn't wear his submissive's emotions and makes the point that to get too involved in her emotions is to make it difficult to control her. In essence, the message is that we are both responsible for owning and controlling our own emotions; very grown up stuff indeed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Festive Season

After a hectic year it should have been no surprise to me that the Festive Season was similarly non-stop action.

I'm very fortunate to have my husband and all my children with me on Christmas Day this year.

With luck, December 25th signals the beginning of a period of time of calm, rest and relaxation for us where we can settle in a spot for awhile and simply enjoy life at a much slower pace. This period of time often also allows for play and that is always a good thing.

My very best wishes to you for a happy and safe Festive Season.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Feeling inconvenient

 I have been reading Gretchen Rubin's blog recently, the blogger famous for her 'Happiness Project' and I took note when she wrote that often she does something just for herself, just to please herself. If her husband happens not to note something she has done (for example, lose some weight) she tells herself that it doesn't matter too much because she can do some things for herself, to please herself.

I've been thinking about this concept and trying to apply it to my day too. Even if my efforts are sometimes not noticed, or at least not acknowledged, I remind myself that I did that thing not to just be pleasing but because I wanted to do it as well.

I've been applying this thought to being supervised in my goals. I asked for help in losing weight, which in some respects takes the onus off me and onto the person supervising me. I must say I have found it invaluable to be supervised and I don't think I could have make the changes I have been making without this supervision. There were just too many loopholes in my thinking.

But, does this come at a price to him? This is what I have been wondering. No-one feels dominant or likes dominating all of the time and especially in the run-up to Christmas when there are so many get-togethers and so much work to be done before the end of the year. Wouldn't it be a drag for him to be given one more responsibility, to have any aberrance on my part needing to be dealt with as well as all his other responsibilities?

I've been very fortunate to have a good number of get togethers with friends during this holiday season and temptation is often put in my way. On the whole, my friends don't order dessert so I'm lucky there to not feel left out, but there are occasions when we might order one dessert amongst us (well, I don't order it but someone else does) and it might be divided up amongst the four of us, or it might be divided up amongst the seven of us, like the piece of lemon tart that sat in front of my birthday celebrating friend, who happened to be sitting next to me at lunch yesterday.

If I had had no sweets this week, or even one sweet, I could have safely had a bite of the lemon tart, but unhappily, I had already eaten the two points of my weekly sweets allowance. Normally, I could leave it. It's a touch of fear and potential guilt that keeps me honest usually, but my defences were down yesterday. I was tired (all that girlie talking can exhaust me) and I had half a glass of champagne and a full glass of wine over lunch which makes me all the more tired and wanting a bit of sugar to wake me up. I picked up a spoon and scooped out a small piece of the tart and put it in my mouth to have with the black coffee. Yum!

Later, when I went to write up my daily food journal I really laboured over whether to report the sin. Perhaps I should take responsibility for the aberrant behaviour myself and not bother him with it? Did he really need the headache of having to deal with me amongst all the other things he needed to do at this time? In the end, honesty prevailed. I think my overwhelming and overarching thought was that this wasn't my decision to make; just report it like it was and let him decide.

As a woman with a submissive personality I remain aware that a dominant person can't possibly always desire to dominate; that he must get sick of the role at times; that he must wish that she simply did as told; left him free to deal with other matters. How much room has any one person got in their lives to take responsibility for another person's behaviour on top of their own?

I admit there is no feeling that I deplore more than that I might be an inconvenience to someone. David and I both shared this feeling to some extent, that horrible thought that we might be inconvenient to someone else. He started it one day when he said 'I'll go sit over in the corner and wait in the dark' and we often repeated the joke when we shared this feeling that we both sometimes had, that we were being a bit of a burden to someone else, or that we felt a little forgotten. (We were all too aware too that like a good Jewish mother, as the theory goes, we were making note of our feelings out loud!)

One of the difficulties with a long distance relationship of any kind is that one is tempted to predict how the other is feeling, whether he might need a rest from the dominance. These thoughts spring to mind from time to time as one assesses how things are going. I do realize that these concerns do spring forth from this fear of being an inconvenience and as a submissive this thought can be quite disquieting. Or, perhaps it is another case of assumptions making an 'ass out of you and me'.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bodily sensation

In the absence of adequate stimulation being applied to my body, I apply it myself. I did so just now. It occurred to me about an hour ago that I'd like to push into my ass the plug that I refer to as Mr Bom. Everything about this process is a ritual that transforms my thinking brain to the parred down  space to which I am addicted.

I gather the plug, lube, baby wipes and a towel. I undress, lay down on my side and lube the plug with care. I bring him to the hole and whilst I very slowly ease him in, I close my eyes. It's a very meditative, no-thought sort of time when I am only aware of the sensations I am creating. At his thickist part I must endure, riding over that sensation of being stretched to the max and then giving one big final push inwards to enable him home.

I am instantly immobilized; self bondage. For up to a minute I cannot move, think, speak or even take in my surroundings. I am absorbed in the sensations which I assume are not dissimilar to taking cocaine. It's a trip and one I repeat routinely. Yes, I am an addict.

A few minutes later, my whole body responds sexually. I am completely aroused and the urge to touch myself is overwhelming. Images flood my brain. I am contained in various ways, tied up, humiliated and beaten. I'm reminded of my status, my position and place. I was born, and shall remain all my life, a submissive girl, I am told. I am to do as I'm told and be punished if I disobey.

My body is marked with implements to remove me of my ego and 'tags' are pierced into my body as permanent pieces of jewellery. These 'tags' are symbols of my high status. I am owned! I'm trained for my body to be thought of as an object that is owned. When I'm told to kneel my mouth cunt opens automatically to satisfy its true purpose. I radiate joy as I provide joy.

This is how I am loved, how I love and how I live. In these day dreams, I am blissfully me. Is it little wonder I love Mr Bom very much.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Secretary, revisited

My husband and I were sitting on the couch last night, me draped over his body as he allows me to do, when the movie Secretary came on. Since we knew the story very well it allowed for a different kind of viewing this time and my husband mentioned several times how extraordinarily well Spader and Gyllenhaul play out the dynamic, whilst I made mention of what a great screen play it is. Every scene drives the story onward and reveals more about what the characters want and what holds them back.

There are countless examples of the way the dynamic works for both of them but what jumps to my mind first is the scene encompassing the telephone answering lesson and the way Spader leads up to the difficult conversation topic of Miss Halloway's habit of cutting herself when under anxiety. Her first walk home after work after being given permission to breathe in fresh air with the full knowledge that she will 'never again' cut herself, exemplifies all that is great in the dynamic between a dominant and a submissive - the positive effect the dominant can have over his submissive's life.

For a time Miss Halloway only wants to please. Her typing mistakes are just that, until he stops playing with her and then she is more manipulative. She's so keen to feel his control and to be 'punished' that she lets the odd mistake go, in the full knowledge that he'll notice. Goodness. I would never do such a thing!

I admit I respond viscerally to the masturbation scenes since I know that it is critical to have in my mind thoughts that arouse, such as being given an instruction and knowing that however odd it might be, I am going to obey. She was told to eat four peas and so she did, and what a huge turn on that was for her. Only a truly submissive mind can understand how we really live for these moments of tight control and how they elevate us to a new dimension of life.

When such a dynamic is well in place disobedience is really something of a nightmare for both parties. To have an instruction refused must be deeply unsettling for the dominant, but I think it is important to understand that even whilst a submissive is creating havoc with her ministrations that she can't or won't do a task, she's suffering as well. It goes against every bone in the body to refuse to comply with an order and speaks to a very unsettled state of mind. It seems right to insist on obedience, the fastest way probably to restore good order,  but at the same time the decision to not comply needs to be more than noted. What led her to speak the unspeakable?

In Secretary there was no spanking, no telling off, that could interfere with the deep connection they had formed. She thrived on his control and suffered when he withdrew it. He doubted that they could do 'this' 24 hours a day but her only response to that was 'why not?' And, why not indeed? Together, they demonstrated what it is to love and live in their own way. It made us both smile. It reminded my husband that what I want is really very tender, sweet and most heartfelt.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A glimmer of insight through the fog

When I can achieve that 'doll' frame of mind, it is really a wonderfully simple inner life. The news of the day starts to fade in its importance. I often float through the day oblivious to the outside world; not so much 'in my head' as without much news worthy, noteworthy thought.

Naturally, the doll frame of mind comes and goes. I do have to attend to worldly issues and it occurred to me that I best get in touch with someone at my academic institution to ask when class starts for my last subject in the MA. A senior tutor replied to my inquiry and took the opportunity to remind me that she'd like to receive a story for the Institution's magazine. How do I to tell her that I have been in 'doll mode' for the past few months and have not written a thing, except one unsuitably smutty story? Hmmmmmmmm

It was time to get back to putting words down on the blank page. Without a clear idea of where I was going I had a go but was soon distracted onto other sites (e.g. tumblr). I deleted the page and settled down for the night. Would my head ever focus again?

Through the doll haze, for several weeks now, even a short story has seemed such a huge ask. When I read I normally have a pencil at the ready to mark what I particularly love, and a note book to write down thoughts that come to me as I read, to explore in story form sometime later.

Nothing. I've done nothing that I know works for me, except to one day have this inkling, this sense that Richard Flanagan's various points of view that he uses in The Narrow Road to the Deep South - to shift from the mindset of an Australin prisoner in Burma during WW11 to the Japanese Colonel's perspective, from Dorrigo's inner landscape to that of his wife, or his lover - gave the story a richness that I wanted to explore in my own writing (although I wouldn't attempt anything as challenging). I told myself that inklings are worth something. 

I've been watching for free lectures from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and felt compelled to send for Andrew Sean Greer's The Story of a Marriage. His talk affected me in some indiscernible way and I wanted to read his latest story. With a glass of white wine in one hand and his little book in the other, some vague reminder of the writer's life returned to me. More than that, the uncomplicated nature of the sentences gave me hope that it wasn't necessary to write particularly poetically to tell a story well. There's not a metaphor to be had in the following paragraph, save the first sentence, and yet it has us thinking, draws us in.

Beauty is a warping lens. He had the kind of looks that are always greeted by grins and handshakes, extra glances, stares held for a moment longer than usual; a smile and a face not easily forgotten. Even the way he held a cigarette, or leaned over to tie his shoe, had a certain masculine grace that made you want to sketch him. What a distorted, confusing way to live. To be offered jobs and rides and free drinks - "It's on the house, sweetie" - to sense a room changing as you move through it. Watched everywhere you go. To be someone people long to possess, and to be used to this feeling; to be wanted so immediately, so often, that you have never known yourself what you might want.

Thirty something pages later we learn that Holland was once the lover of Buzz, the 'friend' who has come calling regularly and befriended Pearlie. Holland wants him back and is prepared to broker a deal with Pearlie.

After Flanagan's ambitious tale of the lives of the men who helped with the building of the Burma Railway under sufferage this is a deceptively simple story of a marriage. I was instantly pulled into it.  I found myself interested in the construction of single sentences, in putting myself in the author's seat and imagining how Greer orchestrated the tale. I was starting to think like a writer again.

Responses to the novel have been mixed. Some readers adore the book while others have complaints about being deceived (by omission) for a time that Pearlie and Holland are black. It occurred to me what a long and hard road it is to write fiction. One reviewer even said of Flanagan's brilliant saga that a 'red camelia' occurring a few times during the book was a 'literary devise' that she found too co-incidental. My goodness, but we are picky!

Of course, Hemingway had this idea that we must write only what is 'true'. Jim Carrey spoke to a room full of creative arts students in recent times and told them that the creative and performing arts industry was the last place on earth where they could write and act out what is 'true'.

'What's your truth?' I often ask myself, and particularly as recently as this weekend when I read a long post by another tutor of mine who called for stories for a new world; the kind of stories that poeple are searching for now to help them live their lives better.

If, for me, the correct answer to that calling is to write stories about finding connection, my characters must first experience disconnection, alienation and confusion. Dorrrigo (based in part on Weary Dunlop) never does find the sort of connection he seeks, except in times of crisis. He's a man that needs a crisis before he can 'step up'. Holland, for all his beauty in action, as typified in the above paragraph, is deeply disconnected. Gay and living in the 1950s in America, a quiet marriage to Pearlie is a good place to hide, but not one that allows him to feel much of  a connection to her or anyone else.

I spent far too long talking this morning to a friend after my exercise class. She puts on a brave front but she's had considerable concerns to bear over her life. I've often wondered at how she hasn't journeyed into the land of despair, rather than remain forever forbearing. Finally, she wanted to share with someone that her step-daughter has competed with her for her father's attentions for the past 32 years and that she hates her. I hope my shock at her use of the word wasn't visible.

It finally sunk in. It's not just me that's complicated. We're all complicated, all flawed. This is why the character arc is so essential because innately we know this about the human race and stories need for central characters to learn something so that we can learn something; so that we have an opportunity to be better than we are.

Yes, Dorrigo let his opportunity to find that connection in his life pass through his fingers, but we say to ourselves, don't we, that we must never do that ourselves; that we won't make that mistake?

I've written down these thoughts as they have come to me so that I can return to them, before they fade away. In doll mode, thoughts do come sometimes, and then they very quickly fade away...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When three is not a crowd

My sexuality is expressed through thoughts of having someone control me. Thus, I'm aroused by the thoughts of my partner being direct about what he wants.

'Take your clothes off.'
'Come here.'
'No, you don't need a second coffee.'
'I'd like you to have your breasts pierced and I've arranged an appointment for tomorrow.'
'Bend over the bench. It is time for your inspection.'

All these sorts of words, whether in reality, in a story or in my imagination, arouse me. I am not comfortable having much wiggle room nor am I naturally inclined to ask or initiate situations in general, though I continue to try to modify this instinct to allow for more assertiveness.

This morning my mind stretched over other landscapes. What if he were to say this:

'I have arranged for us to play with another girl and I'd like you to dominate her. I'd like you to hurt her. She has given her consent to this and it would thrill me for you to do this.'

I've already vaguely sketched out in my mind something like this scenario because I am such an afficionado of films like 'Story of O' where the man's love interest is asked to carry out sadistic behaviours towards another girl.

I honestly don't think there is the vaguest sadistic streak within me, but if asked to do this in a no nonsense way, it seems almost impossible that I would refuse. She has given her consent to the experience, it would make the man I love thrilled, and (wait for it) I kinda like the way an implement feels in my hand. I've whacked myself with a few implements and found it something I could do without difficulty, so it makes sense that I could bring a paddle or a whip down on a girl's backside, if told to do so, and not be distressed about it.

As a submissive, one is familiar with the sting or thud of implements. Sure, it hurts, but the experience can also be very profound, cathartic, joyful, enriching and satisfying. Knowing that those cries of panic and distress can be transformed into something deeply arousing and fulfilling could well make the dominant experience something that wouldn't be at all arduous to perform.

Honestly, I've never allowed my mind to focus on giving rather than receiving pain in this way ever before, at least not in my conscious mind, but it is has to be said, under the right circumstances, it could be deeply rewarding for all participants.

To watch someone 'fly' must be a real trip. I saw this happen once in a documentary, where this older woman had a girl on a fucking machine who was spaced out on the most profound orgasms. Over the older woman's face was an expression of such elation that she had enabled the joy and release. I paid particular attention to that and found it to be both erotic and tender.

What I continue to feel is that I don't have the personality to insist on outcomes, to demand my way or to exert my force on another person. If they said, 'No more', I'd say, 'Okay, I'm sorry, are you ok, sweetie?' rather than, 'Oh that's too bad because I'm not finished yet.' There's no way it would be a good idea to leave me in the room on my own because I'd botch the experience, but if the sadistically/dominant oriented man was with me, yes, I could do his bidding in this way. I know I could.