Thursday, 1 January 2009

Two Ways Of Coping

Over at an old thread of Ren's, I got into a conversation recently with Rachel Cervantes, who had this to say about her visceral squicks about BDSM:

I had this to say, which may get me into trouble for that "oh oh you must have been AB-UZED!" thing (I was, though that's not the particular trauma I'm describing here), but eh. If people don't get that being changed is not the same thing as being broken, I really have nothing left to say to them:
Trinity and Ren...sorry I missed this. It's a good question. What makes me uncomfortable is cruelty. I cannot separate inflicting unnecessary pain from cruelty. Also, deriving enjoyment from infliction of pain is very troublesome for me.

I've seen far too much pain and cruelty. It just hurts. It hurts me whether I'm involved or not. I know that may be over-identification, perhaps even intrusive. Then again, maybe not. I’m not inclined to analyze why it is painful to me, but one thing is clear: A lot of people have been victimized throughout humankind’s history. An unfathomable amount of pain has been inflicted needlessly. Small cruelties are on a continuum with huge cruelty. I’m not equating small with large or gigantic; but it’s on the continuum. I cannot separate unwanted pain from “voluntary pain.” Intellectually, I see the difference. Emotionally, no.

I’m not trying to “defend” my position, only explain it. And since we’re talking about feelings, my reactions will not be logical. That’s as it should be, I think. If emotions were logical they’d stop being emotions and start being cognitions.

After writing a lot of words, it seems I’ve not answered the question. Right now it is the best I can do. The idea of BDSM makes me anxious, very much so. Do I condemn it? I don’t think so. But I don’t understand it.

Your feelings are your feelings. If something makes you anxious, it makes you anxious. You're not alone in that, and you're not in bad company either. Your feelings are your feelings, and I don't believe anyone should shame you for them.

From my observations, though (and all they are is the observations of one person, not some grand undeniable conclusion), people who've been through horrible pain deal with it in two different ways.

Some are like you: just plain hurt by it, suffering from it, overwhelmed with compassion and wanting to wipe it all out and make the world... soft and soothing and gentle after such horror.

And then there are people like me and some others, where what happens is... different, and they actually end up fascinated by pain and cruelty to an extent, and to want to play with those emotions in a controlled way. They don't like real, senseless violence, but they do have an interest in that side of humanity.

I don't know how to explain this in general, but I also think it's why some people like violent video games, aggressive music, horror movies, dark dramas, whatever.

And I don't know how to explain how it happens, other than how it happened to me. And that was that before my trauma as a teen I was one of the other kind, the kind like you. I couldn't watch horror movies or even, really, listen to heavy metal, or... anything.

And then the trauma happened, and everything I thought I knew exploded and broke. And the painless Utopia in my head that I ran to didn't comfort me any more, because it suddenly seemed horribly, horribly fake. I tried to flee from my pain and it caught up with me.

And the only thing that I found that enabled me to heal was to let myself feel all the emotions I had inside me then -- including pain, anger, the desire for revenge. I had to turn inward. I had to experience my pain and see it as a worthwhile thing, a worthwhile part of me.

And that changed me. That showed me that pain isn't all bad -- that it's part of life, just as pleasure is. That knowing myself meant experiencing my pain.

But if that's true, then how can I really be intimate with someone, really be close to someone, if sex and cuddling and togetherness is all scrubbed clean of suffering? It just doesn't make sense to me any more, because that whole way of looking at the world doesn't make sense to me any more.

Yeah, some things in life just feel awful... but I'd rather believe that my pain means something beautiful than that we're just put here to suffer and die and at least there are some laughs along the way that maybe balance it out, sort of.