The DSM-IV defines a mental disorder as “a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual [which] is associated with present distress…or disability…or with a significant increased risk of suffering.”
In short, your idiosyncrasies, your proclivities, your deviance must cause a problem to be a problem. Otherwise, they’re simply quirks.
I had the opportunity to hear the incomparable Mistress Joanne speak at an educational event some months ago. I sat entranced for over an hour listening as wisdom effortlessly flowed from her. There were two points she made in particular that triggered moments of absolute clarity:
“No one can shame you if you are not ashamed.”
Very much in the same vein that epithets lose their sting when enthusiastically embraced by the groups they were intended to wound, when you refuse to apologize for who you are, no matter how strange you may seem to others, and instead turn the intended shame and belittlement into pride and self-confidence, those would judge you lose most of their power.
“The roles we play in BDSM, they are no different than what happens out in the world every day. It’s just that in our community, we’re honest about it. We acknowledge it. We talk about it.”
It’s true. Where I now participate in consensual power exchange with my partner, I used to be confronted at every turn by hidden power struggles in my Vanilla relationships – passive-aggression, gaslighting, manipulation, insidious subjugation. For my part, I responded to conflict with servility, constant concessions to people who didn’t appreciate or even understand my efforts. And how could they? I certainly didn’t.
I can’t help but wonder how things would be different if the emphasis on communication, clear consent, and transparency that I see in the kink and poly communities were “standard” among the general public. Would the way we behaved in romantic relationships be more open and honest as a matter of course, rather than healthy enduring relationships seeming to be the exception rather than the rule? Would we speak more frankly with our friends and family members? Would others be more likely to respect our boundaries? Would certain social problems virtually cease to exist?
My psychological boundaries are perilously thin. I sense sudden mood shifts in a room, like that feeling you get when someone’s standing behind you. I let everything in, positive and negative energy. Joy. Rage. Fear. Sadness. Love.
I’m aware that I’m sensitive. I know it’s caused me a lot of pain.
But I like being sensitive. Vulnerable. I like living with my heart open wide.
So I’ve found this new home, and I’m nesting, creating a smaller place where I can live as my true self, a refuge nested within the larger world.