Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Narcissism and the dream space

'The word 'narcissist' within contemporary culture has come to mean something negative. Certainly, Freud equated narcissism to immaturity. But, there have been other almost equally revered minds who didn't agree with Freud. Kohut, for example, saw narcissism as a vital component to well being. He felt this because rather than seeing sex and aggression as central to the human experience like Freud, he saw our need to develop a solid sense of self as being what mattered most.

Dr Craig Malkin who has written the excellent book Rethinking Narcissism The Bad - and Surprisingly Good - About Feeling Special, writes this:

"It [narcissism] allows us to disappear into ourselves, like Narcissus diving into the pool, but instead of drowning, and becoming lost forever, we discover another world, richly populated with shimmering versions of everyone we love...If we are healthy enough, we can reemerge and rejoin the ordinary world, bringing our bounty, such as empathy and inspiration, with us."

Kohut's version of a narcissist, explains Malkin, is "at his best, an adventurer, slipping in and out of intoxicating dreams of greatness."

On reading this material my mind went immediately to the experiences that I have had as the 'doll'. In the best of times, it is a gorgeous dream space where only good things can happen. There is a very loving and tender element to the doll persona. When in that mindset, a lack of mind, nothing feels more authentic than to be exactly and entirely what many men want.

My doll space has no resistance. Nothing is too much trouble and anything that a man may want is entirely desirable to the doll as well. It's easy, of course, to lose yourself in pleasure but the doll mindset also enables acceptance of pain, of doing what you would prefer not to do; of being entirely pleasing. More than that, the doll space doesn't require what the human mind demands. As humans we expect respect from our partners, good manners and empathy for our feelings and state of mind. In the doll space, these factors aren't relevant. There is no brain matter involved. It's all body. So, expecting a level of respect or person hood is quite irrelevant to the play.

In my discussions with Abel I learned years ago that it is entirely possible to play out a strict and extreme reformatory or rape scene with a girl and to find oneself down at the pub an hour later sharing an ale and some beef pie. No girl is allowed to take part in such a scene without an examination of her reasons for wanting to participate in such a scene. It's understood that this can be scary play with the potential for emotional discomfort both during the scene and later, so it's vital that the reasons for the play are established. After the scene, aftercare takes place, bringing the girl back to the real world such that the affection or care for the girl is secure in her mind. She returns to the real world safe.

I think that in terms of play between loving partners it is a very similar situation for the doll and her Owner. Her humanity, and his, may have had nothing to do with the scene, but once the scene is over the participants emerge from that dream state and comforting activities ensue. Perhaps they have sex, a nap, or one cooks the other a meal. As the feel-good hormones flood the body, each person is there for the other. The respect that was no part of the scene is now in abundance. It's all very, very good. I know this because of my own experiences with my husband. He was very strict and sadistic with the doll in Kyoto but then there was loving, and then there was an afternoon together wherein we both walked on air. Happiness and feel good emotions flooded our body. We couldn't even think, and I really do mean that. It was ecstasy.

Internet play can be, is, very different to that scenario. For one thing, it might be interrupted mid way through. Or, perhaps the play is set up whereby there is no personhood allowed at all. Only bimbo/the doll is allowed. Each and every interaction is one where the person must abandon her personhood and melt into that doll-like state.

I'm very fortunate to have an old friend who understands pretty much all things BDSM and I go to him when I need help. He generously listens to me and helps me see where my issue might lie.

me: 'I think the thing that is upsetting me is that I feel so disrespected. I can never be simply the woman that I am; a doll, yes, but also a person with the same needs and vulnerabilities as any other person.

him: 'As the doll you are an object and objects don't deserve or need to be respected. It's okay to never say no in a particular construct, but you deserve to come out of that construct sometimes.'

Even as I sit here and write these words I continue to yearn for doll play. I really do adore it, crave it; thrive on it. However, the fact remains that over time my discomfort with the incredibly strict and prescribed rules began to turn into something else; overwhelming discomfort. I, very simply, needed to know that the play was appreciated; that my efforts were acknowledged; that I was cared for and that, when I expressed some worries about my reactions, that I would be heard and the necessary adjustments made.

 I did not, and certainly nor did 'the doll' need to set new rules. But, based on the reactions I was having, akin to the discomfort of a spouse displaying bad manners and a lack of empathy for the other, I needed for the other to acknowledge my concerns, at the very least. Simply, I needed to feel that I was heard. I needed for the narcissistic dream space to be abandoned long enough such that the Other said something like, 'I very much appreciate the play. I acknowledge that it isn't necessarily easy for you all of the time, and I want you to know that I do consider you as a person and as a person you have the right to feel comfortable within your skin. The rules remain, but I will keep your comments in mind.' Something like that.

If you want to play only in a dream space in a very strict, uncompromising way perhaps it is best to choose play partners with youth on their side; those girls who perhaps can enter into the experience with a lighter touch than someone like me. Feeling disrespected is a deal breaker, for those of us who have experienced more slings and arrows. Whoever you play with, have something in place to ensure one another of the other's emotional well-being. This space has the potential for intense emotional sado-masochistic experiences that can creep up on your psyche.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Contrived categories

I'm going through a period of time where I take nothing for granted, where I question all orthodoxies, and I quite simply observe, both myself and others. I'm not judging others, far from it. I take a 'live and let live' point of view. I'm simply being attentive to the thoughts running through my head and keeping an open mind as to my feelings; identifying my own needs and what works well for me.

If you think about narcissism as being a scale of 1-10 and healthy narcissism being somewhere in the midde - 5 - then I've been an 'echoist', operating about on a 3. Inevitably, that type of operating in the world proved to be very uncomfortable for me and it was this discomfort that led me to seek out ways to function more in the 'healthy narcissism' category, closer to the middle. I certainly didn't want to suddenly be any sort of leader but nor did I want to experience the emotional pain of feeling that I didn't have a voice.

I discovered that I had arrived in the echoist's frame of thinking through a combination of having been born with an introverts' quiet nature and to a family that encouraged me to be independent early and to leave them to do what they felt they had to do. I was encouraged to be good, quiet, to accept, to not complain and to be an academically high achieving child. I complied.

Ultimately, I found myself craving an intense sexual experience as well as the subordinate position in a personal relationship; to dance with the polar opposite of myself; a leader that was extroverted and demanding. I did everything I could to be pleasing, accepted the manipulation of my mind as part of the contract. It was uncomfortable at times, confusing and upsetting. But, I had some sort of vague sense that if I kept with the program, stayed true to the course, all would be revealed to me in good time. I didn't quite know where I was going but I was on my way and that's what mattered to me; to get somewhere where there would be some clarity concerning the purpose of this long expedition on which I was fixated.

It was something of a shock to realize that the journey had been, in so many ways, about my own self-doubts. Nearly everything that hadn't worked well in my life related to my lack of personal power. There it was in a nutshell. I needed to speak my mind, say what worked and didn't work; what I needed and could not cope with; what I believed. I needed a vote; not to cede the vote but rather for my thoughts and opinions to be sought and considered. I needed to have a voice in the matters that had a direct bearing on me. To be 'the doll' for periods of time: no problem. But, to give up the right to voice opinions; to express what I needed, something that only I could possibly know; that was something that I found impossible to give up.

I didn't need, I discovered, to be torn down or punished or crushed/broken. I needed a man to help me see my strengths as well as my weaknesses; to encourage me to see what others see when they interact with me; a confident, capable woman. I just couldn't see that woman, didn't feel that woman. I was totally lacking in self-confidence. David, my dominant friend who died a few years ago now, he saw that lack of self-confidence. That's why I miss him so. I could be my vulnerable self with David. He wasn't afraid or put off by that vulnerability. He worked with it, bless him. He was fond of me as the complete entity that I am. (As egoless as I aim to be, I don't think that you can, or should, negate the importance of those last two words - I am.)

I'm talking now, talking the legs off the iron pot. I'm explaining my discoveries to my husband daily and he's listening to me simply because he can see that this is so very, very important to me; crucial that I talk and talk until I have voiced it all. We're still playing, he's still in charge, but I feel that I am also expressing my personhood now. I feel more comfortable in my skin and more calm in my mind. No longer concerned about fitting into any contrived category, or people pleasing in a sacrificial way (that is, doing what is told even if I am having doubts), I feel authentically me, closer and closer to operating in a healthy narcissism category. That's a good thing. I am certain of it.

Friday, April 15, 2016


My husband found Outlander on Netflix and being of Scottish heritage was immediately entranced. When I walked in during the third episode he said he'd be happy to start it again so that I could catch up. Since then it has been a part of our evening activities. I believe it is a major hit so I won't bother setting out the plot.

What intrigues me is Claire's marriage in the 1940s to Frank, a dashing but rather reserved and removed man who Claire entices back into an emotional life with her after their estrangement during the War. But, when she suddenly finds herself dropped down into a life 200 years earlier on the Scottish moors, entangled in a skirmish between Redcoats and Scottish highlanders, it is Jamie Fraser who rescues her time and time again from evil men and dangerous situations, and from her own actions and decisions as well. The two of them will find great joys in marriage; a union designed to try to keep her safe. Those sexual scenes on their honeymoon are delicious fare. Yet, given a choice, Claire continues to want to return to her own life in the twentieth century, to Frank.

The sadistic and evil 'Black Jack' Randall, a forebear of Frank who looks just like him and speaks just like him is quite fixated with our Claire. He wants to question her, yes; part of his job you might say, but it is so much more than that. Those scenes where he messes with Claire, punching her in the solar plexus so that she can't breathe, or cutting away at her clothes to reveal her breasts, or threatening her with malevolent intent, really do make me hold my breath. You can feel the evil oozing out of his every pore.

I felt sick to my stomach during the scene where the bastard whips Jamie unmercifully trying to 'break' him. It was unbearable to watch. I listened, remained in the room, but I drowned it out, disassociated with it. It is Randall's explanation as to how intimate he finds the whipping process that had my skin crawling. Such scenes remind me that evil really does exist in the world and that some men truly believe that by harming someone else they can find beauty and solace. To a healthy mind, that makes no sense.

It is at just the moment when we are in morbid fear for Claire that there is relief. Jamie appears at the window and demands that Randall take his hands off his wife. Dashing, pure and exuding goodness and honour, yet sexy as all get out, we feel safe again knowing that Jamie will somehow save the day regardless of more trials that he will no doubt have to endure before he can save Claire. (This is where we are up to in the series.)

I do wonder how the writers can resolve the dilemma that has abounded from the start. Claire loves Frank who is the descendent of this tyrannical bastard who emotionally and physically torments her, and she is growing to love Jamie as well. Who could not? How does she choose between them?

Somewhere, deep in my psyche and from the youngest age, there has been some innate understanding that there are good men who love and care for women, the 'Jamies' of the world, and there are men who narcissistically want control of women for their own reasons. When I married my husband I knew I was marrying a Jamie and with that understanding clear in my mind, I know I will always be married to him. I'll always choose true love. But, Claire's dilemma is even more complicated. Frank is no 'Black Jack', but nor does he have the deep sense of loyalty and innate need to protect a woman that comes so naturally to Jamie. Would Jamie have decided to return to Oxford without finding Claire first? Hardly. I'll be fascinated to see what comes of her.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

'The Daughter'

I left the cinema after seeing The Daughter quite discombobulated. I hadn't realized then that the film is based on Ibsen's The Wild Duck. The story line, the weather and the location are bleak. In the last days of a dying logging town in Tasmania, Christian returns to his family home for his father Henry’s wedding. As he reunites with his friend Oliver from university days, he discovers a secret that could blow Oliver's family apart.

The movie is wonderfully set up to provide the audience with an intense emotional response. The daughter, Hedvig, is academically bright, the apple of her parents' eyes, and remarkably empathic. She assists her grandfather (Sam Neil) to tend for injured animals including, of course, the duck that Henry has shot down in the first frame of the film.

When Christian reveals the secret it crushes everyone in its path. No character in this story is spared the pain of the revelation. Yet, as the grandfather tries to explain to Oliver, 'Everyone's got a story like this. It's as old as the hills.' Secrets are, in fact, common as dirt.

Yet, we understand why this secret is such an explosion in Oliver's mind. Bright, he left university prematurely and has struggled financially and career-wise ever since. Hedvig will make up for all this. But, what is his relationship to Hedvig now that he knows about the past? Hedvig is the innocent party in all this but her beloved father can now not even look at her. The life she knew and assumed has vanished. It's all so tragic it is almost unbeable to watch.

The film asks us to explore what we tell and don't tell; that revelations are neither good nor bad in themselves. It is the havoc that a revelation can prompt that makes for careful reflection on the consequences of assuming responsibility for revealing secrets of the past. There's a great deal of selfishness, the film seems to be stating, by taking your own grief and distress and using it as an excuse to take actions that have dire effects on other people's lives; effects that cannot be foreseen.

As by-standers it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand what makes up a marriage or close relationship. It can seem the right thing to get involved, to give advice or to meddle. Who is to say that we hold the ultimate wisdom? I think the film asks us to ponder this question.

It's a very complicated thing, life. My daughter mentioned over a mother-daughter brunch this week that a girl had approached her, wanting to leave a boyfriend who was manhandling her. She didn't want the police involved and the lease for their apartment was in her name. She felt trapped; emotionally, financially and ethically. Basically, he was hurting her but she didn't want to hurt him. She was trying to contain the hurt for everyone by making some sacrifices herself. Until she is ready to take the next step, to take responsibility for her own self, no advice offered will be of much value.

It is interesting that as a member of the cinematic audience we can see quite clearly where people have gone wrong, but movies are designed to do that; to give life some sort of clarity. The reality is that we are all forced to make judgments about our behaviour that can impact other people. Every important decision demands that it is done with intention rather than impulsively. That people so often do act selfishly, impulsively and without regard for others, or even with the best of intentions but without a full understanding of the impact of those decisions, provides story tellers with endless dramatic material. They're not so much 'making up' stories as unpacking human frailty.

I'm not entirely convinced about this business of one person being responsible for the behaviour of another. As much as there is potential for power exchange to be made in heaven, I suspect that it is, generally speaking, subject to all the flaws of any other marital or long term relationship dynamic. To live in an erotic partnership where the role and purpose is well defined is ideal for some people and if it is not broken then there is no need to fix it. 

However, the human condition demands, I think, that we learn to take responsibility for our own actions and decisions. I think this is simply a part of human growth and maturity; that we learn to stand on our own two feet at the same time as we respect the fact that as human beings we desire and need human connection with other people.  We continue throughout our lives to learn to dance gracefully without stepping on other peoples' toes; at least, not breaking them.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


When we harbour an emotional pain, especially one that we have carried from childhood, there can be glimpses of that old feeling in what appears to be random moments. I've glimpsed my childhood loneliness in moments of stillness early in the evening when it is time to close the curtains in my bedroom. The sense of loneliness comes to me for an instant, a returning shadow. There is a feeling of heaviness, like a weight or anchor is holding me to the spot. I acknowledge its presence, the moment moves on into the next moment. I get on with my evening tasks and the feeling goes away. I've had a vague sense of understanding of these moments of hurt over time but I haven't dwelled on them. We tend not to do that. It's called denial.

As uplifting as the vast majority of my experiences have been in a power exchange, I have experienced moments of what I will call 'loneliness' through that connection also. In some acute way a particular experience, or just words, would tap into a deep emotional pain that made me want to run from the dynamic and end the pain. Eventually - a minute, an hour, a day, or a week later - the feeling would pass and I'd realize that I couldn't run from it, needed it. There was nothing else to do but to return the pain to its deep recesses in my mind and to hope that it didn't return; to attempt to mitigate the possibility of those same scenarios playing out in the same way.

For the past few months those feelings of what I am going to call 'loneliness' returned repetitively, almost to a point where they were with me more than they were absent. I can only guess that my mind had reached a point where it was ready to interrogate the feeling.

I read voraciously online and I had a stroke of good luck. I came across two reputable therapists of long standing who had written books about this word that kept speaking to me - co-dependency - and I sent for both of them.

Co-dependency, I have learned, is a symptom of trauma. No-one intends these traumas but not everyone is designed for parenthood and, unfortunately, all children have the same needs, regardless of the quality of the parenting style. In the face of a narcissistic parent, a parent who needs to feel special in their own way, children must determine a way to cope. My way of coping was to be good, quiet, no trouble; to keep my feelings to myself; to provide the space and caring they needed, whilst not getting the care I needed.  This is nobodies fault. It is just the way it played out.

Sensing that there is something significant about these moments of 'loneliness' I intentionally explored my experiences for an explanation. I have been surrounded by family all my adult life, and their friends, who love/like me very much. I've the opportunity to see my friends and acquaintances when I choose and those friendships are warm. I am not alone, and still I was feeling deep loneliness.

Of course, it is the quality of the connections you make that factors into a sense of loneliness or not. A couple of years ago now I had a single session with a healer type of person and I remember now that he said to me 'You don't give anybody all of you, do you?' My response was immediate, 'No, I don't.' I knew that deep in my bones, but I didn't know why. I didn't know that I carried shame (is 'shame' the right word...?)  that needed to be hidden, even from myself.

When a co-dependent meets someone who has also suffered a similar sort of childhood trauma (e.g. neglect or conditional love only), a dominant type of person, the sense of comfort and arousal is immense. The pull towards him is magnetic. The force field is as strong as an addict towards his drug of choice. The experience can be electrifying and joyous. But, for someone like me that power dynamic can also result in a sense of isolation for a number of reasons.

It is often said by a submissive or a dominant that the other "completes" them. But, what if you have two underdeveloped people - two half-people that need each other to make one complete person? It is only when there are two individuated people that there can be one healthy relationship.

If I am correct in this analysis, then I have no alternative but to address the co-dependency, for as much as I love power exchange so much of the time, the low times are overwhelming for me.

So, how does one heal from this dilemma left over from childhood experiences; from core needs not being met? My reading says the answer lies in self-love. As I come to understand the problematic issues that can relate to the power exchange dynamic and that have affected my life, I feel stronger.