2021 has rolled on around, and I wish you and all your selves all a Happy New Year! A much, much better one than 2020 decided to bestow on the most of us.
One of my ongoing commitments to myself that I have procrastinated on for far too long is to write more, and this anniversary of one complete revolution of our ball of wet dirt around a larger ball on fire is as good a time as any. So here’s my first ramble of the year, and probably the first of many.
My thoughts as we move into the New Year are of exploring and knowing ourselves, our multiplicities. How the self we are is ever changing – sometimes in huge events, but mostly in incremental amounts. How sometimes, it’s just so easy to miss those changes. How we can totally miss ourselves.
To miss what’s growing in the shadows, in those spaces that we don’t want to look at, the realms in which we fear to tread. The demons that we need to face. The secret shames and desires. The old festering wounds. The dangerously dark waters of our unknowns.
To miss what gives us joy. What truly feeds us and nurtures us. What authentically lights the fires of passion within us. What gives our lives meaning and takes us from survival to fulfilment.
These two seemingly disparate streams are so often entwined, two sides of the same coin (and even this statement is far too binary for what we are and are composed of). We are complex, more complex than a sum of diagnoses and pathologies. And yet, our identities that we cling on to and show the world can be stiflingly simple, safely one dimensional.
It’s easy to lose yourself in your own identity, to have an unwavering belief in a facade that suits us so very well. But like outgrowing the clothing of our childhood, the garb of yesterday’s skin can begin to feel ill fitting. And just like our ill fitting favourite garments, we’re reluctant to let them go.
Paths of skin
I love walking this path I’m now on, of erotic artistry, of creativity and exploration, of delving deep into visceral human experience. One in which I’m exploring myself and others deeply and with conscious gratitude for all I’m experiencing and learning. A path that also has the potential to open the way for others to find themselves. A path that allows me the privilege of creating safe spaces where others can feel and be those parts of themselves they’ve longed to explore. A place where healing can happen, sometimes through acts of devastations. Sometimes through light touch, caresses and holding.
The act of exploration and opening is one of my deep core values. To try on different skins, to see what rises out of the waters of our psychic oceans. To be curious about what looks back from the mirrored surface. It’s not an easy path; not by any means. But it’s fulfilling.
Every day I try to learn anew something of who I am; who you are; who we are. Whether it’s through psychology, therapy, kink/BDSM, magick, art, music, writing, sex, love. Whether it’s through gardening, cooking, video games, books and movies. Through the ecstatic. Through the mundane. But I still feel the forces of inertia working against me, to resist change. To fall back into comforting but ultimately self negating patterns.
We are constantly changing. Who I am now is far away from who I was when I started as a sex worker. From who I was when I started as musician. From who I was when I first fell in love. From who I was when I first tasted the ecstatic fruit of eroticism. From who I was those times I was wounded deeply to the core.
The skins that we wear must be shed once we outgrow them, and the new skin might be something so very close to what it was before, or something utterly different and unrecognisable.
There are so many reasons we give to hold onto that skin of past selves. Fear that the new self will be “less than”. Fear that those with whom we shared the old skin will recoil, unable to recognise or tolerate this new creature that appears before them. Fear of losing financial security; an identity that one earns a living from is very hard to let go of. Fear of truly seeing who we are. For many, a moment of introspection is an eternity of suffering that cannot be endured. All of these are valid fears.
But I believe we must always be aware of our selves. We must be brave enough and wise enough to dive in, to open up and to see what lies beneath. Like what lies below the apparent still surface of reality, our true selves are quantum chaos. While constant self scrutiny and criticism can build paralysing cage of unbearable self consciousness, self censorship and stagnant navel gazing; a regular accounting of what we ARE and wish to BECOME is a wise thing to do. To know how to move on to where we want to be, we need to know where we are right now.
It is painful having to tear apart a skin that has grown so old, so ill fitting, that wearing it has become a silent scream of dying. A slowly growing wrongness that becomes ever more difficult to cast off. If we don’t pay heed, if we don’t take the time to flow with what feeds us, what nourishes us, if we don’t take the time to notice what kills us slowly, what holds us back and down; the disconnection between what we say we are and what we are becomes too much to bear.
It’s easy to just desire to numb ourselves to it all, but doing this is like putting bandaids over a cancer. Useless. And I put to you that it is the delaying of becoming this true(r) self that leads to so many of the intensely dramatic explosive and destructive events in our lives. For then the effort required to shed that old skin becomes immense. A process of untangling and breaking, burning away and painfully rebuilding.
Every time I slip on a new skin, I wiggle in it, shake and see how it fits.
Sometimes things feel uncomfortable at first, but we grow into them. Finding my sense of dominance, of the dance of power and authority exchange. Being able to let go of my fears and internal blocks towards holding my own power and agency. Finding my ability to take, to really ask for what I need and want. Allowing myself to relax and receive without feeling guilty about taking too much, without feeling like I need to give something back immediately. To really open up to pleasure without guilt.
Sometimes things feel wrong even though we truly, really want them. Finding a way to trust; to really trust in others and let them in. To show them my unguarded self without feeling the sense of impending disaster that most who experience CPTSD will encounter in forming intimate connections is an ongoing struggle.
Sometimes things just fit. Opening myself up to the fluidity of gender has been much easier than the journey of most others. I’ve been lucky in the way I’ve been brought up to not have a lot of the walls holding me in that others have had to traverse. It’s something that I’ve danced in from early childhood. Being tied for the first time, was like coming home. Tying for the first time was like learning how to build a home that I could invite others into.
There are so many more experiences, so many more skins.
Shedding What Does Not Serve
A lot of skins fit… at first; and that’s why a regular reckoning of self and the wisdom and willingness to slip off a skin is so necessary. Humans are remarkably adaptable. I’m smart, creative, a quick learner and I adapt to systems and situations rapidly. But that’s a curse in itself, a curse that can, for example, see me rising quickly up the ranks of a corporate gig that was at odds with the majority of my core values.
Was I happy with my job? Yes, in some ways, and I was damn good at what I did. Did those close to me approve, show pride in what I did, praise me for “getting ahead”? Yeah, sure they did. But the narrative of my life around that was deeply unsatisfying, and not really connected to my own ethical and moral compasses, nor my hopes and dreams for life. I did try to accept where I was, to learn to be happy in what I had. To be grateful, to be content.
But I wasn’t. Working for a resources company was the antithesis of what I believed in, or at least had intensely complex feelings about. It paid good money, but I had no savings and a lot of debt. I spent half of that on paying off debt, drugs, alcohol and other things to numb myself. I had complex and toxic relationships with my art, goal oriented behaviours that poisoned the joys that could be found in the moment. I had toxic relationships with people. Patterns of trapping myself in relationships, of being terrified of speaking up about what I wanted, or how I felt. I self harmed increasingly, and lost a lot of time on increasingly high doses of anti-depressants.
I became a bitter asshole – I was the bullied that had become the bully. I acted passive aggressively instead of communicating my wishes and desires openly. I had needs which I suppressed and repressed every day, and the frustrations came out snarling and unexpected in my most intimate relationships, leaving me lost, shaken and feeling utterly powerless and ashamed.
I was trapped in my skin. Afraid to change but living a slow death where I was.
The moment when my life caught on fire and I lost everything years ago was one of the best and worst things that ever happened to me. With everything taken away from me, my very sense of who I was utterly shattered, I had to find my/selves again. To find what were the important things, to find my path towards the transcendent, to find quiet joys in the mundane. To know once all things were taken what really mattered and matters to me, and what does not. It is a cliche, but we know why those things are the way they are. It was also a deeply traumatic event which may have been avoided had I been more upfront, brave and honest about who I was, and who I had become. And slipped out of the skins that no longer served me.
I found BDSM and kink; I found sex work – I revisited and dove into magic and archetypes once more. The psychological aspects of it, the skins that we wear in Power and Authority exchanges, in role plays; from surface level play to the conscious inhabitation of archetypes fascinated and fed me. Not just the slipping into skins, but the process of slipping out of them too. The fluidity, the flexibility of channeling.
Feeling the flow
Every skin I slip into, every face I wear and inhabit tells me something more about myself each time. Every skin I slip into allows me to live out parts of myself in a consensual and conscious manner; powerful enactments of those dark parts of myself – but within a consensual and loving framework. The sadistic, gas lighting torturer. A helpless and innocent child. An animal utterly driven by base desires. An indulgent / predatory / protective parent. A submissive slut utterly overcome by sensation and the desire to please. When I inhabit the seductive blood thirst and maternal aspects of Lillith, when I inhabit the darkness of my Beast, when I inhabit the healer archetypes.
All of these can be utterly problematic when taken out of context, when we slip into them unconsciously, when we don’t shape the way these explorations take place. They become delusions of grandeur, they become abuse, they become toxic relationships, codependencies, they become unconsciously enacted patterns. When there is a safe container to try them out in; within a session, within a well defined scene, within a ritual context – when we can consciously take on these roles and skins, and have a well contained outlet to express these desires which have been so othered by society; when we can see ourselves in other skins; that is when some truly magical and wonderful things can happen.
We can BE our/selves. Once we allow ourselves to be seen, we allow ourselves to be accepted, valued, heard, cherished.
Within this accounting of self, we have the power to shape our present, to set the paths for our futures. We CAN shape who we will become. Sometimes acceptance instead of fighting and shaming the self is needed. Sometimes acknowledging the danger of who we are lets us then make the changes to keep us, and those we love safe. One of the most dangerous kinds of person is one who does not know themselves – because then you do not know what they will be capable of.
Within a safe container
It can be hard for some to understand the positives behind being “a worthless piece of shit slave” under the boot of a “smiling, sadistic torturer“. The positives of regressive play, sexualised or not. The positives of receiving or delivering pain and humiliation. Well, these all CAN create safe spaces for those involved, who can’t find them in other ways – or for whom this is the purest and truest way for them to find it.
It’s a space where those parts of ourselves can be seen – it’s a space where childlike openness and wonder to the world can be relived, and bound with an adult understanding of sexuality. It’s a space where our “shameful” desires, those dark parts of ourselves, whether to be used, or to use – to degrade or be degraded – can be expressed and reveled in. One where boundaries and desires can be discussed openly, and clearly consented to. To me, these dark parts are every bit as healthy and wise to explore as the light.
We are evolutionarily still so young, our genetic pasts are painted in the desires for blood, for war, for power, for pain, for hurting, for rampant animalistic sex and death. They’re all still so close to the surface, and in refusing to face our dark urges and be comfortable with them, we create the perfect conditions for them to become unconsciously manifested in our every day behaviours. As opposed to taking control of how we choose to engage and express those dark sides of ourselves, we allow them to control us. We choose to deny the very primal urges of life from which we sprang, and from which we can draw immense power and wisdom from.
We fuck up, others fuck up. Sometimes the new thing is a terrible thing and we mark it in the box of “never again” or perhaps “not right now”, or “definitely not with them.” But even each of these experiences changes our perception of the parameters of our self. We must be wise and prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best. (One should also always prepare for the best!) Trying new things doesn’t mean being stupid about it, exploring our darkest urges doesn’t mean negating the consent of others, being a slut doesn’t mean being indiscriminate, healing our trauma doesn’t mean throwing out all our defensive mechanisms that we’ve built up over time. But we must be ready to accept the risks with the rewards.
Yes, we ARE complex, and as someone who has engaged in years of therapy and who’s still coming to terms with who I am, I absolutely acknowledge that there’s no magical “just be yourself and it’s all sweet aye” and I hope I’ve conveyed at least the surface of the complexities that I’m exploring and musing on.
There are some paths which must be walked alone, but so many more where a guiding light helps us navigate the mires, whatever that light may be to each of us individually. Some paths we’re not ready to go on yet, “you must be this psychically tall to go on the ride”. Some parts of ourselves we’re not ready to face yet, and it’s ok to look at that box and say “not just yet”. But even the knowing of that box is necessary. Sometimes there is preparation that needs to happen before we’re ready to face the darker parts of ourselves. And sometimes we need a guide for that journey, be that therapeutic, esoteric or erotic.
I’ve said “our selves” and “my selves” many, may times – the tacit acknowledgement of the multiplicities within. The inability to recognise that multiplicity and reconcile those sometimes extreme juxtapositions is one of the fundamental flaws of our society. We pigeonhole ourselves and others within the binaries of beliefs and genders, of political ideologies, of taking sides and rooting for the home team. We are all more complex than those who wish to puppeteer us would want us to believe. For me a “finding of self” means an exploration of the many selves that we can be, and where we exist along our defined spectrum of possibilities at any given moment. To be flexible and deft enough to slip in and out of skins, and selves.
Finding the things that you truly love, that feel right, that feel true and necessary is a beautiful, never ending journey. Sometimes there will be griefs as we shed the old skins, and with them some of the people that have shared the journeys with us up to this point. But there is always something to look forward to on the other side. Your unfettered self, and new connections. The journey may be hard and what we see at first we may not like, however only by knowing where we are right in this moment, can we begin to see the paths to where we would like to be.
So open up and explore with me this year, to celebrate the selves that you find joy in. To acknowledge and be at peace with the darkest aspects of ourselves. To cast away the skins which no longer serve you. To explore all the possibilities and potentials of ecstacy, consciousness and fulfilment that can be found here and now.