“She was no demi-mondaine who had taken a pseudonym to wage war upon the masculine sex, but the goddess of Love in person.”
– Severin, in Venus in furs
I recently wrote about my most archetypical client, “the masculine woman in the masculine world”. The feedback was excellent, so I’ll in this weekly musing talk about another common kind of client, the Venus in furs. She usually comes in some sort of relationship with a man. They can be secret lovers, single dating parents, or in a very passionate relationship. Fire is their defining element, and they talk about their previous relationships as grey and dull. Together they discovered tantra and BDSM and explore rope bondage, Wim Hof breathing techniques, and non-violent communication. They like to empower and challenge each other, and sometimes this blows up into violent fights with they fight fire with fire. “She is strong as marble and doesn’t back down.”, “He can stand like a rock when my emotions are storming”, and “Her fire fuels my heart”, etc., are things they appreciate about each other.
There is a rule at many of the events where I teach and co-create; that one may not abuse their position of power. Of course, the most obvious interpretation is; do not fuck your students. But there are many more layers to it, especially when working in the field of trauma and recovery. Transference is the psychological concept that I think describes it best.
1: an act, process, or instance of transferring: CONVEYANCE, TRANSFER
2: the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object (such as a psychoanalyst conducting therapy)
It describes a fundamental human behaviour, that when a hierarchy of power exists, one tends to transfer the values and ideas from the top to the bottom. This happens effortlessly and unconsciously. Creating the reversed flow seems an almost impossible challenge for any organization. That is my experience from my years as an organizational coach. Nevertheless, it’s a crucial part of any capitalistic system, where successful knowledge seeds down into the hierarchy. And it creates a feedback loop that reinforces the power dynamic to create stability. While this is maybe wanted in the marketplace, what happens when it takes place inside a workshop environment or therapeutic relationship? And how is it affected when the themes inside that hierarchy are power, abuse, and sexuality?
I’m often asked; why people pay to be bound in rope, and the answer depends heavily on the person paying. And most of my clients are female, about 75%, I would estimate, and this musing is a fictional description of a much too common life situation.
My friend Michael is making an app called reLove that acts as a first point of contact for people curious about conscious relating, intimacy and embodiment. He asked me make a short introduction to practicing surrender – so here is my take on it. I hope you enjoy it.
BBC recently released their short documentary about me and my therapeutic rope bondage, and that led to a bunch of question around the subject of power, abuse and therapy. Being the victim of abuse is having ones power taken away. If the abuse is repetitive, the victim usually normalizes the behaviour, hence taking it for granted to have their power taken away. The result is generally that the person feels powerless and is unable to maintain healthy boundaries to people around them. It is like something has been taken away from them—a part of their spirit. But they are often unable to put the finger on it, as the traumatized state is the new normal. So why can rope bondage help, and what do I think is the keys to success?
Awe is more complicated—awe as in both awful and awesome. At first, I thought about it as a thin line or a sweet-spot between awful and awesome. Now I realize that it is both at once. Where pain becomes pleasure and pleasure becomes pain, and I want and don’t want something at the same time. Where I no longer know how-to or can choose. It’s where I have to surrender or, metaphorically, die.
I’ve recently been reading this newer book by Peter A. Levine on “how the body releases trauma and restores goodness.”. It feels like a follow-up on one of my previous favourite books of his, Walking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, as it goes deeper into how the body, mind and spirit interrelate. To put into perspective, I see Peter A. Levine’s work as groundbreaking because he bridges the science of the brain with knowledge of a bodyworker. Compared to another of my heroes, Judith Lewis Herman, whom more or less defined the concept of PTSD, that focuses on how to work with trauma in various forms of talk-based therapies.
Then you are most likely tensed in your body too.
Many session first-timers tell me that they are nervous. Usually, it was excitement that turned into nervousness as they approached the session. The bodily response to nervousness and enthusiasm are more or less the same. The heart rate rises, first sweat occurs, and the muscle starts to tense. Your nerve system is activated or aroused in biological terms. The interpretation of the experience happens later in your head — anyhow enough nerdiness about the biochemistry of the human body.
A recurring client suggested that I should offer a combined session, half massage and half rope. To first massage the body to help it relax and then use bondage to let the mind to surrender. So far, I’ve shared a cup of tea and some small talk with first-timers to help them land in the room, feel safe, and trust me. However, massage let you feel how my body interacts with your body, and that is closer to rope bondage than tea and small talk. Because ultimately a bodywork session is more a meeting between two bodies in motion, and two nerve systems that develop a non-verbal language together. Starting this way will help your nervousness and body tension to melt away.
We gave it a go, and it was a success. So now I offer the combo session for everyone.
The best book I’ve read on the subject of trauma is by far Judith Hermans Trauma and Recovery – The Aftermath of Violence, From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. In this writing I would like to reflect upon parts of the content from a BDSM and consent perspective.