Can Bondage Play Reduce Anxiety? 50 Shades of…

Yes and no.

News stories that draw conclusions of this sort (please read, however cursorily) always strike me as rather hap-hazard & a little sloppy, since they fail to correctly consider perimeters or qualify findings, and their take-away often lacks context. Consider: when you’re looking to draw conclusions, and you’re an outsider, intuition plays an important role in knowing where and what to look at/for, or sensing what you don’t know. What stands out, in your observations? How do you interpret them? (It’s also something you can consciously cultivate–it does not need to remain this thing that emerges from vague depths, powerfully sensed at times but still, somehow, poorly understood. Most people act as though it is necessarily so, so their sensibilities are contradictory or murky; their emotions are what D.H. Lawrence and Anaïs Nin would call “uninformed”. There is an alternative. It takes diligence. There are no high roads to the muses.) But intuition can be clutch, even where you aren’t wholly ignorant. So, too, self-restraint. What you’re looking for will color your view, ineluctably.

That said, Sagarin is no mere tourist skirting the BSDM scene. Research like his is important because it is reducing the level of stigma that comes from outside the community, and undermines the basis for those inclined to describe such choices and behaviors as pathological.

But to point: within the article, I noticed a glaring oversight. A Dom/me must stay above the act, and constantly attend to their charge with a heavy amount of what PUAs call microcalibration–basically highly attentive focus. Psychologists call it feedback. With Dom/mes, their powers of observation–measured directly by Sagarin’s study’s tests–cannot slip. Achtung! Das ist streng verboten! Their faculties are thoroughly brought to the fore. It’s the essence of control. Which is also a polite way of saying ‘no duh’ to the study’s findings that they stay sharp, vs. those of a sub, as well.

As to the observed spike in physical stress and the release a sub describes, the egregious “disconnect”? I can relate it very readily to cutting. The whole çry for help reading of that might apply to some, but generally the experience is: someone feels overwhelmed, there is no outlet, this physical experience has an end, it provides focus and release from that, or at least exhaustion which is just as welcome. A clean break from the aches, angst, etc. Not unlike rope play or really anything short of a 24/7 lifestyle.

But then: I’m expecting these insights within a general culture that encourages lifestyles which are largely conducive to anxiety, so. I should not be surprised by any mystified observations that those who’ve “escaped” this are better adjusted. And wouldn’t some kind of “bondage prescription” be much safer than the more generally accepted medical ones? So where do I get off?

The flow that’s described in the NYMag article has much to do with a great partnering–just like dance, or awesome sex–and great partners are observant of each other’s needs and careful about one another’s feelings. Despite allowances for exercise “under the right conditions” achieving a similar state of mind in the same, this act of being able to create certain conditions, together, and the care inherent within that, is really taken for granted (unless you count nods to “the feelings of enhanced relationship closeness”.) You can’t just get it from anyone–not just because our desires are so wonderfully personal. There are skills involved–which is a nice way of glossing over the large amount of work that’s done. But I have wanted our culture to provide better ready expressions for truly common wants for a long time. It’s failed in this well before the emergence of things that encourage the increasingly insular yet supposedly more expressive form of existence so many participate within now. Instead, some people, or rather corporate people, have commodified the yearnings that come of our symptoms of not doing what we want, and the symptoms of not knowing what we really want. Not what’s at the core of it. Ergo many people are invested, strongly, against their own fulfillment and struggling with their growing dissatisfaction and don’t feel so great. Surprise! And so once again: wrong tree. But these articles, which seem to mean well, fall so short–observing details that aren’t quite critical in place of those that would be much more helpful.

And if, somehow, more people were to simply get to the heart of those unfulfilled desires, and I don’t mean purely sexual ones, but if more were to step off the hamster wheel? Yep.

federico-fellini

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