Thursday, February 10, 2011

Leather as Catalyst for Change

Each of us has a particular and therefore unique world-view. We see the universe in which we live through what I call “rose-colored glasses.” Reality, as we perceive it, is distorted by our DNA, the culture, time, and place in which we find ourselves, and the personal histories that created the present in which we live.

So my parents, the times and places of the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Catholic schools, the Atom Bomb, Kennedy’s assassination, etc., etc., and etc. have all contributed to creating my unique perspective on life. The same applies to each of us. Since a nearly infinite number of variables in “nature and nurture” are unique for each of us, our world views are likewise different.

Interaction between and among us is influenced by our individual world-views. That comes as no surprise, or does it? I can’t emphasize too often that the interactions between and among kinksters, lifestylers, leatherfolk, or whatever name your world view assigns to those who do what we do are human interactions. Putting on the black hides of dead cows (or whatever fetish wear you prefer) does little or nothing to negate our humanity.

All of the above psycho-drivel leads to the reality that what it is that we do (WIITWD) can and does change our world-view. After nearly 28 years of BDSM in the fullest meaning of its acronym (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism), I am astonished at how much I have changed.

It is obvious that a man changes substantially between the ages of 37 and 64, but I am still convinced that the BDSM in my life was a catalyst for greater change than would have “naturally occurred” otherwise. Scenes, fetishes, altered states, and unique relationships, to say the least, have substantially altered my world-view and therefore the way I act in the world.

Change is a constant but the very radical nature of the changes I have undergone cause me to believe that something greater than the usual has taken place. After all, I have observed the many men and women in my life who have indeed changed, but none have changed as drastically as those I know “in the lifestyle.”

In some way, kink accelerates change as new experiences form the basis for a new world-view. I l have learned of a previously-hidden strength within me, of amazing creativity, of un-imagined spaces and entities that I never believed existed, and of abilities and a birth-right never dreamt of.

Because of these experiences I believe that WIITWD can be both therapeutic and growth enhancing. From my own experience I know that I have been healed by my encounter with this subculture and that over the years I have grown immeasurably in ability, expertise, love, wisdom and friendship.

This is a reality that is too often lost in the glitter and glow of sex, costume and the pageantry of hot scenes. We may come to BDSM for sexual arousal. We stay for a great many other reasons, many of which cause our first reasons to pale in comparison.

As positive as I am about the possibilities inherent in WIITWD for fostering the therapeutic process of healing and growth, I am likewise adamant that neither dungeons nor the scenes we create within them are appropriate venues for therapy. Once we begin to play amateur therapist we head off into the direction of danger. Even professional therapists, if they maintain the ethics of their calling, recognize that intimacy, such as we experience in BDSM, between therapist and client is not only unethical but dangerous as well.

That said, BDSM and its associated intimacies and culture are a natural avenue into our own consciousness, beginning with our conscious self, moving into our subconscious mind, and “descending,” to use a rather poor expression, into the depths of our unconsciousness. It is not a strange concept, since it is similar to dreaming.

What makes it alien is the fact that we can, and do, find ourselves in such states when, fully awake, our scenes are well-played, our intimacies deep, and our experiences intense. Our usual term for such an event is “subspace,” though it is hardly limited to subbies. Clinically speaking it is better called an altered state, one where the conscious mind defers, for the moment, to its unconscious component.

Again words fail, since to cut the mind into three parts is to defy its integrity. Just as to focus on the mind, when the physical body is in the glory of a wonderful scene, is to ignore the wholeness of what is happening.

As my sexual practice have led me ever more deeply into the possibility of change and growth, I have become more cognizant of the multiple levels of information that are available. Last weekend, in speaking to a friend about it, I began to see the multiple layers of allegory that depict diverse and ever-deepening realities of human existence.

Is the flogger one belonging to a plantation overseer? A pirate captain? A Franciscan monk? The scourge of Christ or the punishment of the sinner? Or is it none of these, since it might well be the cleansing and cathartic lash that frees us from burden and pain?

For me it is an avenue of descent into my unconscious self, an opportunity to discover deeper levels of who it is that I am. But that is only half of the journey. The return to consciousness, bringing with me the recently-found information presents a challenge to integrate what I have learned into my conscious life. Doing so leads me further to a life of wholeness, allowing me to become, step-by-step, more authentic.

It is a slow and sometimes difficult process, one that each and every human is called to experience. Leather, human experience that it is, only hastens it, thereby affording us the chance to become more whole. I trust you will take that chance.

Have a great week, Jack

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