I can’t believe I used to identify as a masochist for god.
If god is a sadist that gets off on my pain then that isn’t a god that deserves my devotion.
After growing up in constant emotional pain, and witnessing a mother in constant physical and emotional pain, I found ways to learn to endure pain by finding meaning in it. I thought pain was part of life and love. Instead of seeking ways to alleviate and heal my pain, I sought ways to make meaning from it, so that I never put my attention towards the masochistic pattern that kept me in harm’s way.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I played with physical and emotional masochism within BDSM as a tool for healing my trauma from being raped and having my life threatened more than once by a lover. I do find physical masochism, to a certain degree, to be arousing. Sharp things, floggers and single tail whips, being pushed, pulled, grabbed, and squeezed roughly by my Dominant – these all turn me on in big ways. I believe that was true before I was raped, because I was drawn to erotica about lesbian vampires and I started playing with bondage as soon as I knew it existed. I don’t play hard anymore because I endure plenty of pain with Fibromyalgia, I don’t need more pain. But I still play submissive and light masochist with my partner because it makes me happy.
It’s unconscious emotional masochism that I wasn’t seeing – how I was seeking and co-creating painful relationships to recreate what I believed love to be. Until I woke up.
I am 42 years old and it’s only in the last year that I truly started standing up for myself.
I started trying to stand up for myself when I was co-leading the Impropriety Society (the same time I called myself a masochist for god by the way), but I nearly always let the bullies silence me. I let them tell me I was too loud, as if somehow my volume was a bigger problem than their bullying. I let them tell me I was too honest, as if telling the truth is more harmful than abandoning, criticizing, insulting, screaming at, and acting entitled with your volunteer leaders. I let them tell me cultivating self and relational awareness is woo-woo, as if knowing ourselves and others better is simply a New Age concept to dismiss rather than a vital aspect of sharing this planet successfully with other humans. And despite knowing my truth, I shamed myself into thinking I hadn’t worked hard enough to earn their care respect, as if being human and giving thousands of hours of my time and energy to make the events and the community function weren’t enough.
I also tried to stand up for myself in my relationships during those year with lovers who criticized and bullied me (the couple who called me feral and wrote me a two page letter about everything I did wrong on our last date and then thought we could take a break and come back together for the Valentine’s Party), or treated me carelessly (texting other girlfriends during our one date a week yet never responding to me when he was with others; or using my rape as part of a BDSM scene without my consent), which led to disintegration every single time. Of course, now I know that it’s a good thing I left these toxic people behind. Now I know that if calling out bullying and carelessness is a problem for you then I can’t trust you with my vulnerability, I can’t trust you to hold safe space for me. But at the time I thought pain was part of love and I was just too broken to make relationship work.
Now I understand what was really going on. I am a woman that experienced trauma many times in my life and did not have the knowledge or resources to address and release that trauma appropriately. So I did what traumatized people do, I retraumatized myself over and over again seeking a way to resolve the original wounds. Until now.
With my Beloved Eros I heal through love and we work through triggers together rather than use them to beat each other up because we both desire to grow and heal. He causes me very little pain. Instead of continuous relationship issues to be addressed, he offers me safe space to be all of myself and builds me up. We share joy every day. Over the past five years we chose (and choose) to learn how to face our traumas head on, to look at the deeper causes of our triggered reactions, and to talk about our needs and our hurts gently so that we don’t trigger one another into old defensive patterns. We are learning how to hold space for each other’s thoughts and feelings, and how to go back for more information and clarity when misunderstanding starts happening. We adapt tools from various places – nonviolent communication principles, Brene’s Brown’s strategies for dealing with sticky places, etc. – to guide our communication towards greater kindness for ourselves and each other.
If there is anything I can hope to share with other people who suffer from unresolved trauma, it’s that we don’t have to keep traumatizing ourselves to heal. Relationships do not have to cause us constant pain for us to grow. We can grow in love and safety.
I want you to know that your feelings are real and valid. When someone triggers you, it means that they are wounding you, because we are only triggered where we have already been wounded by some kind of unconscious or harmful behavior in our past. If you are triggered by neglect, it is because you were neglected and something is happening now that feels like neglect. If you are triggered by bullying or other forms of emotional abuse (any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, insult, criticism, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth), then you were emotionally abused and something is happening now that feels the same. You are not crazy. Your present reaction may be bigger than than the present situation warrants because a trigger is old pain mixed with new, but the pain is real both past and present. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I want you to know you are an emotional creature who needs to have your feelings so they don’t have you. Repressed emotions and traumas harm our bodies, minds and hearts. It is good to feel your pain and express your pain, as long as you don’t get stuck in your pain. I want you to know you are worthy of safe space to feel, to heal, to talk, to write, to art, to dance or to yell, to scream, to vent, to swear, to do whatever you need to find your wholeness. You have to move through to find healing and wholeness on the other side. And you can learn from looking into all the dark corners of your heart where you could be capable of hurting others. It shows you where your own pain is, where you hurt so much that you could be capable of lashing out in verbal and emotional violence.
I want you to know that doesn’t love have to hurt all the time. While we are human and disappointments are guaranteed, a relationship that hurts most of the time and requires constant work to resolve pain is not a healthy relationship. We shouldn’t have to fight for love or to suffer for love. We certainly shouldn’t have to fight for safe space or suffer silently in fear of our partner’s reaction to our experience. Our partners need to be committed to ending pain and trauma cycles with us. To meet us at the table to work together on healing. To own their stuff and hold safe space for our stuff. To become more self aware and encourage us in our self awareness. I’m convinced it’s the only way to have the dream of love that most of us pine for.