Non-verbal communication (2020)

We are in constant motion, either away or towards, a point of focus. In reality, there are hundreds of millions of points at any given time, but our consciousness scales it down for us, to a handful few that are relevant in the current situation – to make things more manageable. The points can be anything from a physical object, or a person, to a concept, idea, or behavior. And our relationship to these points defines us. They make us who we are. Therefore, we also show ourselves when we move away or towards something, and here a language is born. From time to time, we meet others, that are also relating to their set of focus points. Sometimes we share the same points, so we move together, in a sort of dance.

Then there is the dynamic of leading and following. When following, we continuously align our motion to the motion of another. When leading, we consciously alter our movement to communicate with our surroundings. In a BDSM-perspective, we dominate when we lead, and we submit when we follow. Or expressed in another way – we decide what points should be in focus when we dominate. And surrender to the decision of another when we submit. Next, there is the question of force – is forcing the movement of another is to dominate them? In this BDSM-context, I would like to relate it to consent. So that to consensual dominate someone is to lead them without force, and if the one decides to follow then force should not be necessary.

In a way, we are used to the same dynamic when we communicate with words – to speak or convince and to listen and understand. But I find it much more interesting to observe this behavior in the body, therefore in a non-verbal way. Maybe because we use words for so much, and consequently they carry such broad meaning, in so many contexts. So boiling it down to the body and physical actions gives more clarity to the movement of focus points. And therefore, the present universe becomes more graspable. Hence there is something beautiful in observing the enactment of domination and submission as fundamental building blocks, instead of relating to BDSM as some elaborate fantasy or a complicated set of rules. I find it very ego-focused in BDSM-culture with the constant intellectual definement of who I am – am I a top, or masochist, or brat, or daddy dom, or latex doll, and so on. Instead of seeing oneself as a part of the endless ocean of motion.

Next is the concept of trust. Trust growths out of experiences. It can either feel safe because we roughly know what will happen, and it can be exciting because we are confident that our communication is good enough to go on an adventure together. And my experience is that we want both, so to build trust, we must engage in both safety and adventure. Therefore trust is relational, meaning that it happens in the meeting between two. It’s like planting a seed of the faith we have and letting it bloom into confidence. And then we can replant that seed again, but this time it’s bigger. In a BDSM-context, cultivating trust is the key to create a deeper power dynamic – this is interesting because it creates a more durable frame for things to happen so that one can experience more. And it goes both ways – the more a top can trust a bottom, the more they can express their desire. And the more a bottom can trust a top, the more they can surrender.

Finally, there are limits. That defines what we want and what we don’t want. In a way, they are related to the power dynamic and trust, because our limits tend to change based on our relationship to others. Most people tend to think about boundaries as something verbal, or intellectually – like something one knows. But equally much, they are something we feel and do. And they can be boiled down to moving towards or away from something. Sometimes even without a logical explanation, more than this is how it feels. Non-verbal communication is a way to practice this – this continuous motion of life.

This was written as an introduction to the second of a series of fifteen workshops on the theme of #the in-between space.