With the right intent and the right people, both encourage personal growth
Okay, I’ll admit, I am in uncharted territory. The landscape is D/s. The world behind me is understood and known and is made of vanilla custard. The land ahead is chocolate mousse. At least I think so, but I can’t see it.
What does Vanilla Custard mean?
I think of this as the land of the socially acceptable. Since it is in my past, it is also known, and no longer filled with surprises. There still remains much to discover in this land of the past, in part because of what is still not understood, but more for what it can teach me about what lies ahead.
I make no value judgements about the vanilla world. The world of “norms”. Many people thrive in this world. For some, it is a very easy, happy place to live. I am not so sure it is happy for everyone though, at least not completely so.
You see, to swim freely in the vanilla world, you must conform. For many, that is a natural state. It is lived without artifice. It is perhaps the way most people really are. I don’t know. I am not sure we ever can.
But there are many people who choose to walk a different path. Some dabble, and others jump in all the way. I cannot complain about how I have lived, but I can also be curious about the paths that others have taken…and to respect their choices. To leave the vanilla world takes courage. It is a harder way to live, at least superficially. But I suspect the people who do it, do it for themselves. And by making the choice, they are also saying that it is the only way they know how to live. Indeed, that can probably be said of all of us. We live the best we can, always, under the circumstances.
But we also have the power to change the circumstances. That is our power.
At different and critical junctures of my life, I have turned to therapy.
As a child, not my choice, I was taken to a series of doctors and therapists. My “problem”? I wasn’t happy. At least that is what I was told. I don’t remember being unhappy. But I must have been. Right? I do remember this overwhelming feeling of “here we go again” when starting with a new doctor or therapist, and “what a waste of time!” How often can a child play checkers with an adult who is asking thinly veiled and really “stupid” questions? I am not aware of anything that I “got” out of it. Oh. I think one doctor diagnosed me as ADD, and was able to write a prescription for Ritalin. So, he got something out of it.
Could I have told my mother something, anything, that might have helped her to help me? I don’t know. How could I? I was only 6 when I started. It’s like being a vet I suppose. You try to understand what ails an animal when it can’t tell you where it hurts, how it hurts. That is what they were dealing with.
Understandably, I didn’t much care for therapy by the time I went to college. I associated it with vapid questions and never getting anywhere. I questioned its value…
From an objective perspective, however, my outward life was doing fine, thanks. I got into an excellent grade school, went from being an okay student to a great student, tested beautifully on the SATs, and then got into a top school. I had sport, which was the closest thing I had in my life to something cathartic, therapeutic. Sport also provided friendships that connected.
During my recent move I uncovered a letter from my mother from when I was in high school. She elected to write to me as it was too painful for her to say the things she had to say in person. She wrote to me that she had failed me as a mother. That she was aware that she had had no room in her life for a baby, for a child, that she had not provided for my emotional landscape because she needed her own to be healed too much. She had nothing to give because she was so needy herself. Reading that letter had me weepy all day. I may write about it. But the part that brought it to mind was about my sports.
My sport involved a combination of extreme exertion, and also constant danger. It was a rush. My mother wrote of her fear that I had an apparent disregard for life. That I was taking risks and was so blasé about them, and she wondered if I had a death wish. The answer was “no”. As my SO said of me this week, “you are a survivor.” Indeed I am. But what was going on?
To survive in the vanilla world, I had had to put huge parts of me to sleep. I put them on ice. To express them, to have allowed them to continue to have a voice, would have made it impossible to get on with the vanilla world I needed to swim in, or the one that I felt I had to swim in. I knew no other way. When you put so much of yourself to sleep, live in the open with most of you in hiding, you become numb. This was a survival mechanism. But the cost of such is real…not just for me, but for anyone living this way. Extreme sports made me feel alive. Indeed, there was a zone I would go into, when I would feel one with what I was doing, very in touch with the energy around me, feeling every ripple, feeling the currents, and knowing what would happen if I reacted just so…It was just the opposite of my mother’s fear. I was alive in those moments, without care. The cost of hiding was the need to take those risks to just feel. Being numb is no way to live.
Thankfully I never got hurt. Nor scared. Not really, at least not from my sport of choice—plenty of other mortal scares, but not in my field. It’s funny, my closest friend in those days was terrified by my sport, and I by his, we each tried, but I couldn’t conquer my fear of his sport–nor he mine. My sporting success opened doors for me, and helped me grow tremendously as a person. I had a spirit guide for this process. A mentor.
He was a wonderful man. But also human. He was an unknowing father figure to me, helping me to grow into an ethical and strong, honourable man, always true. Ironically, he also hit on my girlfriend when she was a minor and he was a schoolteacher in a position of authority over her. Not only was I there, but he betrayed me! He wanted to know what she saw in a boy like me who was so effeminate, wearing items of girl clothing. She came straight to me and told me. That fed my view that “men are dogs”. It is amazing how quickly respect can be squandered. From him, directly and indirectly, I learned of the importance of forgiveness, the value of a mentor, and the truism that if you don’t start by building your own house, you can expect nothing from life.
And as for her, my friend who shortly after became my girlfriend, bless every ounce of her. She was the first person who really showed me the beauty of the female embrace. She understood and respected my non-binary nature, gave me my first lingerie, taught me how to be sexual with a woman, and took my virginity. Never mind that later she broke my heart. I will never forget all the wonderful things she did for me. And all the tears I later cried over her, they just made me a better, stronger person.
Today, I am exploring D/s and very strong /s (submissive) feelings with a muse. I also continue to learn from a growing number of fellow subs and helpful Dommes and Doms.
The first time we met one of the things we talked about was the parallels between D/s and therapy. I promised her that I would not regard her as my therapist, and in that sense, the only person responsible for my emotional well-being is myself. But there would be no doubt from either of us that if I was able to “be a good sub” things would likely bubble up that were therapeutic in nature. I mention Her in the context of a post on therapy, because the parallels are real and the goal in both cases is the same: growth. For my part, I also promised to diligently and faithfully work on myself, so as to be able to give to her at the same level of commitment that I was promising to her. And that I would always try to follow her command—and in those instances where I could not, would try again. And even though she is not my therapist, I do look up to her—I respect her knowledge and expertise, and know that her knowledge of and feeling for the landscape we are exploring is vast compared to mine—all I have to go on is instinct. She is my teacher, and I respect her for that. Accepting her teachings is part of becoming.
After college, in part instigated by my then GF, perhaps the vanilla person who I came closest to having a D/s relationship with, introduced the idea of therapy to me. [I wrote about her here]. I was tired of “living like this” which really had to do with being self-destructive. The roots of that behaviour are all over this blog and beyond the scope of a rehash here. The point is, I followed her advice, and chose therapy.
This was not the same landscape of “dead therapy” I had lived through as my mother attempted to figure out how to be a mother to me—but great, Mom, the best way was to make me feel that there was something “wrong” with me by sending me to therapy—and then drugging me. I just needed love! Hers.
What was different about this therapy? For one, I embarked on it with explicit goals in mind, a commitment to working on issues that were dogging me. The parallels with D/s are real in other ways too. Just as I have developed a deep and abiding affection for Mistress, so too I came to attach to my therapist.
It is impossible to be so open with someone and not feel affection develop. Perhaps the affection crossed over into need—and perhaps it is not possible to make real progress until this happens. There is no doubt that I became attached to my therapist. I believe that this was definitely the case with both of the therapists I have seen as an adult. With the first one it took longer, because it isn’t easy. But my need for her was very real. I knew I needed her in the sense that she was taking me a on a path I needed to tread for my own health and well-being. And that knowledge is what gave me the strength to pry myself open to her when I wasn’t going there naturally. Trust and openness are the foundations stones of a successful therapeutic relationship. Indeed, they are also the foundations of any successful relationship. She is the therapist I credit with breaking my cycle of self-destructive behaviour. [You can read about that here]. Actually, I did it, but she helped create the conditions for it.
I have not written about my second therapist, but I know I needed her, and knew it at the time. I was also prepared to acknowledge it. She was attractive, and I am sorry, but it helps. I really don’t know why, but pretty means submission for me, which opens me up and gets me talking. She looked a bit like a cross between Anna Magnani and Sofia Loren. She was a very womanly woman, Italian, and yes, she was beautiful. She is the therapist I credit with helping me love myself enough to be able to love my wife, and for helping me to process all of my sexual baggage which allowed me to have a long-term loving relationship.
Both therapists came out of the same Jungian school of psychotherapy, even though they were in different countries, different nationalities. And indeed, I think part of the reason I was more open and easier to work with the second time around is that I was familiar with the method, and I knew by then that I would only get out what I put in.
Both of these people opened a door of personal growth for me. The parallels with those moments in my life, having specific goals, and exploring an emotional landscape to the present are clear. What I am doing with Mistress is very similar, except this time, I don’t think I am working on something that is a “problem” or something that is getting in the way of my ability to function. Instead, we are growing something that has been hidden away for so long, since I was child. We are developing my id, letting her out, feeding her, and in so doing, nourishing me. And it is relentlessly positive.
I can feel the power that comes from that growing inside of me.
Therapy? Yes, that too. But a different kind. It is time to grow again. Why? Because I need to change. We all do. If we stay still for too long we grow stale. Are you willing to change? If so, how?