Perhaps not the happiest title of a blog entry, but one I feel necessary to speak openly about as a leatherman and a human being.
By ‘wounds’ I’m not referring to the decorative welts or cutting marks that are shown off with pride after a heavy play session with a sadistic top. I’m actually talking about the wounds that we THINK we’re hiding from everyone…but are just as openly displayed. These are the marks of ‘damage’ from our past…our emotional wounds, that we have developed all kinds of interesting and clever mechanisms of concealment and compensation to coincide.
I have always spoken that a chief component of leather for me is the PLAY…for it is in the playroom/dungeon/bedroom where the greatest opportunity for transformation can happen. It is there, where we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, exposed..open ourselves up to trust. It brings our connections to an even deeper level of intimacy; of knowing the other person..knowing yourself. And consequently, it presents more opportunity for the emotional landmines of our past to detonate.
I have frequently referenced that I have a very emotional past….as many do. As a child I endured years of emotional abuse from my mother and stepfather, and covert incest by my biological father. I was living in a household where I was frequently told that if I wasn’t “perfect”, that things would be taken away from me. My mother frequently told me that I was very stupid and lazy, and that I was quite unwanted in the house. I would then seek refuge with my real father…who instead of nurturing and protecting me, would tell me incessantly that he needed ME to make him feel whole. For years, I felt as though I became by Dad’s new ‘partner’, and that I was responsible for his emotional well-being. In time, it became sexualized. The way my Dad would hold me, the way he’d touch me…compliment me on my body. And then to compensate, he would tell me something I did “made me look like a fag”. And I endured it because I felt it was the only ‘safe’ option from the abuse at home.
When I became a teenager, my mother and stepfather sent me away to a boarding school. Now, I don’t want to say that this was a bad thing, because it really was an amazing experience and I am very grateful that I got the opportunity! And given the downward spiral I was in as a child…this was a chance to finally “get away” and become my own person. I will say though…that at the time, I felt I was sent there because I was unwanted at home..and that I wasn’t “perfect”. While there, I also had to endure constant phone calls from my real father having crying fits and saying things to me like, “why do you have to be so far away from me? I feel like I can’t live without you. I don’t think I can go on with you being away from me”. I was immensely resentful of the guilt he laid upon me.
During my freshman year at the school, a counselor had reached out to me. The degree of loneliness and turmoil was evident in me…as was the fact that I was also beginning to realize my gay feelings. I felt that I had found a man who I could confide in and trust with my feelings, and it meant a great deal to me that he wanted to help me so much. In fact he would come by my dorm room at night from time to time, just to check in with me and to make sure I was doing alright. Now..obviously as adults it is clear as day what was going on. And yes, eventually this counselor molested me. In the course of our “talks” he had told me that I appeared to be reaching out to him as a young man who desperately wanted to be touched and explored. In other words..make the lonely boy believe it was his own doing. Sadly this is a very common pattern in cases where young boys are molested by authority figures that they put their trust in. I however, needed to understand what was going on. So as a 14-year-old boy, I actually went to the school headmaster and told him everything. I still cannot believe I did it…as I didn’t fully understand the crime that was committed. But a week later when I was brought back in to the office, the headmaster revealed that this had been going on with 12 other boys in a 5 year period, and that action would be taken. It was the first time an authority figure had told me, “it wasn’t your fault”.
This mantra has saved my life.
It wasn’t your fault.
As you can see this is a substantial amount of baggage – let’s call it freight – that can present itself as demons or negative ‘buttons’ that can get pushed from time to time. Many have endured all kinds of abhorrent experiences from their childhood…and these create a kind of filter that life gets perceived through. Often if we have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to something, we are really reacting to the intensity of something in the past. To say that one will stop doing this is impossible…as it’s part of our design. But, we can recognize that this IS what we do…and therein lies the power over it. A therapist used to refer to this as “making friends with the dark”..in other words, recognizing what the emotional defaults will be when a button is pushed, and peacefully accept it as just that.
It’s very important that as we deal with our emotional landmines, we remember that they are OURS to deal with. Reminding ourselves that “it wasn’t our fault” does not excuse us from how we deal with our reactions. It becomes all too easy to put the responsibility of the upheaval on someone or something outside of ourselves. By not taking ownership we get the perceived luxury of being the victim. In leather, we have to keep an eye on this…often when we relinquish control to a Sir or dom for instance…we may fall into the trap of also abandoning responsibility for our emotions. And when we play the victim, we leave it up to someone else to fix what is rightfully ours. Believe me..I have played this game often, especially as a boy, and it never ended favorably for me.
Something else we have to watch out for with wounds, is turning our traumatic history into our identity. We relate to others and ourselves as if what happened to us IS who we are. How many of us..especially gay men…have been in those social situations where we try to “out-saga” each other?? Admittedly, there have been many situations where *I* have attempted to hold my own or garner attention by sharing my traumatic history. I have seen this often with others and myself when it comes to leather connections. That when we relinquish control to a dominant, we believe we have the luxury of relinquishing ownership of our ‘crap’ as well. NOT something I’m proud of….but I certainly own it now. I see how it alienated those around me. It starts to become quite silly…what we really should be doing is sharing in order to HELP others.
A Sir told me years ago, that deep emotional wounds don’t really ‘heal’, they just hurt less and less over time. And they have less power over you. I find his approach to be much more realistic other than the overly metaphysical approach of “forgive and let the pain dissolve”. I put in enough of my time volunteering for Louise Hay in the 80’s ..thank you very much. BUT, on those lines, I will say that after 30 plus years of extensive therapy, meditation, and sharing like I’m doing now, I have reached a point where I don’t feel like using up my energy being angry about what happened to me. I think it’s very important to acknowledge what happened, and to look at it objectively…and to embrace the anger, shock, and sorrow around the circumstance. Then, it’s up to each of us how long we want to do that for. Eventually, you may decide, that the anger is repetitive, predictable..and wears down your spirit. It is in that moment you have a great opportunity to no longer be held hostage by your wounds. They may always be there; but you have the liberty to declare that you are going to enjoy the NOW regardless.
My parents are different people now than they were then. My mother has gone through a deep life restructuring of her own, and my father has developed dementia in his old age. Regardless of what happened to me in my childhood, they are still the people I refer to as Mom and Dad, and I simply feel better now honoring them for that fact. They are not gods, they are human beings. And as such, they are the product of how they were raised. Knowing what I know now…they were simply doing the best they could do with how their parents treated them. I am never going to get any sort of “answers” or apologies…any kind of acknowledging statements of closure that is going to magically make the pain of my past disappear. I don’t NEED to. I am at a point in my life, where I am very present to the blessings I have every day. My health is excellent, I have incredible friends and connections, and I am married to the most amazing man the Universe could ever present to me. I can’t focus on the immense joy if I am using up my energy being angry about something that happened decades ago. Is that to say that these wounds don’t rear their ugly selves from time to time? Of course they do. And they always will I’m sure. But now, I have a good working relationship with them.
Thank you for indulging me. I hope my sharing this will help you.