Next step on my wellness journey is a more painful and difficult one.
Disclaimer: I am in a place now that is uncomfortable talking about myself, airing my dirty laundry in public—it isn’t light or elegant—at times it is downright ugly. But at the same time, writing it is helpful to me, and because I have had a steady trickle of people writing to me privately who are wrestling with similar issues, I feel that it can be useful to continue.
The other day, someone very important to me held up a mirror and asked me what I saw. And to help me process, she said, “a narcissist.” To be honest, I didn’t really know what a narcissist is, and am only just learning. I do know, however, that it is a bad word. A strong word to describe what feels like bad behaviour.
What is a narcissist? Here is a helpful stub from Wikipedia. In short, a narcissist is marked by grandiosity, an excessive need for attention, and an inability to empathise. In thinking of the myth of Narcissus, I draw parallels to the Twitterverse and our collective obsession with social media…where so many people are cultivating their narcissism in a quest for followers and validation…it seems so unhealthy to me, and I would love to see social media banned for everyone under the age of 18…but that is a future post.
One of my earliest posts was about whether this blog was an exercise in narcissism, and whether my quest as embodied through D/s was a desire to conquer or expunge narcissistic tendencies. Looking back with the passage of some time, I do believe that “the work” associated with D/s, and more importantly, the nature of the emotional connection that I am seeking to develop and grow with my owner, is exactly the antidote to this affliction.
In truth, I have never been told I was a narcissist before. My immediate response was to deflect and resist, to deny. Then it was to google “narcissism” and find all the ways that it wasn’t true. And then, when seeing a small number of traits really clearly present in me, accepting that a sliver of me fit the bill…that still equates to denial. But because the person delivering the message is someone I listen to, I did listen, and the painful, awful message began to sink in.
There is a trait in me that “gets me into trouble” when I am in conflict, and that is an ability to walk in the other person’s shoes. It makes me horrible at arguing, because I can very quickly accept their position, and anyway, since I don’t much care for conflict this is a quick way out…that works when the people around you are not trying to take advantage. The person delivering the message was safe in that sense, so the message was doubly hard to accept.
Alongside that core message were two get-out clauses. The first was the idea that narcissism is a continuum. The second is that it is possible to be worthy of love even when we are imperfect—and that is a message that even a narcissist can hear.
At first, I refused to accept it, and then, when I did, I simply said, “let’s assume you’re correct,” which is suitably noncommittal. Right? But who on earth wants to be a narcissist? Do you know those little black-grey fireworks that are called snakes? You light them on fire and they let off this toxic grey smoke and then expand and spiral out in this chemical black nastiness that looks like a snake of evil coming from that little nub? Well, I dreamed about having those inside of me. A human figure made of them, this awful, disgusting being inside of me. One day recently I saw him for the first time as he unfolded out of me as I lay in my bed at home…my “crib” in my baby room. I had been having vivid dreams and meditating and drinking all of these teas to help me shift my mind that have been given to me by a witch I know, a magical, mystical shaman, who knows more about what I need at times than I do.
Once I saw this figure, I knew I had to get him out. And I have been scrabbling and scrambling to push him out, the tenacious bastard, but have not fully managed to do so. Now I know his name. The narcissist.
While I struggle to acknowledge, accept, and embrace this thing as an actual part of me, now I know he is there, and he is a he, and I want him out. As we talked about this thing, this it, we also talked about this need, this deep-seated, thirsting need to be validated, praised, patted on the back, and that it just goes in and disappears. My love tank, in other words, either has a hole in it or it is bottomless.
Thankfully I had booked a session with my favourite therapist (I tend to organise them by instinct rather than a regular schedule, knowing which one I am going to need, and when). This particular one is a therapeutic mommy to me. That is a post on its own, but let’s just say that I get very close to wanting to cry out to her sometimes as if she is the mommy coming to me in the dark, and we navigate that edge very carefully. Her practice involves taking me to difficult places in my heart, soul, and body, through guided meditation and hypnosis.
We had been talking about how a series of challenging events in my emotional life had led me to throw out all of these good practices I had adopted, daily ritual, meditation, stretching, hydration, everything…and instead, I was stuffing myself with cake and not exercising—and of course, ladies, who has not binged? My emotional rollercoaster was lined with pastries. And I was 10lbs in already. I told my therapist all about it, but she was not happy that I was castigating myself, or castigating the “cake-eater” who was crying out for comfort.
I told her about being assessed as a narcissist and she did not say it outright, but she does not believe in labels, and instead also spoke of a continuum and wanted to talk about those elements of me which might be source elements of narcissistic tendencies. We honed in on a need for love. A deep-seated absence of it, and it’s counterpart, an insatiable desire to feel it. As we went into meditation, she asked me where this original need resided in my body.
It was in my belly. And so she asked, “who now is the cake eater?”
“The cake eater is the part of me that is trying to heal that emotional hurt.”
“Then the cake eater should not be punished, should she? She does not need your hurtful words, but your thanks. What is she telling you?”
“That I need comfort and warmth.”
“Yes, she is. And she is not alone. All these other impulses, are also there to protect you, to help you cope. You need to make friends with them. Can we go inside you, and back in time and find out why you need to eat cake, and know when the wound that she is healing began?”
“Yes, I know. It happened at birth.”
“How do you know.”
“Because already as a baby I can remember that my mother wasn’t there. I remember crying at night, crying and crying until I couldn’t anymore, and she would never come. And we talked about breast-feeding.”
“And what does a baby do when its hungry?”
“It cries to let her know.”
“And it suckles. Babies are soothed by suckling from their mother, having a bottle, being fed and held and comforted. That is what babies do, how they get their needs met.”
“And this baby never had that, never suckled from my mother.”
“So a baby, born to suckle, looking for nourishment, physical and emotional, doesn’t find it…but doesn’t stop needing it. I’m not going to look, but if you want to suckle now, you can suck your thumb.” And so I did. For a minute or so. And then we talked.
“I don’t really ever do it, because I feel so self-conscious—even when I am alone, but I often feel the need to suck my thumb. It comes to me very powerfully. Usually when I’m super stressed, right in a moment of conflict, and I have this idea suddenly in my head. Or sometimes when I am really excited, especially sexually, in D/s, I just want to have my thumb in my mouth.”
“Are you surprised? Do you understand it?”
“Who is going to take care of that little baby inside of you?”
“Well the cake eater,”
“Yes, and who is cake eater?”
“So who is going to take care of you?”
“That’s right. Would you like to hold the baby now and be its mommy, and take care of it, and suckle it and comfort it?”
“Yes,” and I did, and it was like a moebius strip between baby and me, we were interchanging being each other, flowing back and forth.
“I want you to take time each day to hold yourself in this way. To take care of the baby, because it is the baby in you that is wounded.”
And she was right. I have glossed over our session and probably got some of the words wrong, but she is my favourite therapist because through meditation and body and hypnosis she makes leaps and bounds with me in session that it is impossible to get to with straight talk therapy.
There was something else that surfaced in this session that I have found important. My therapist teased it out in the exchange above, as we were looking for where in my body this need for a cake eater resided. We got through colour. She asked me what colour the cake eater represented. And I said “orange”.
“Oh,” she exclaimed. “You know that the colour orange is the colour of the sacral chakra don’t you?”
“Which one is that?”
“It is the one below your belly, your perineum. It is the source of emotions, creativity, sexuality…it is the source of joy, compassion, feeling for others. It is about your flow. Most importantly, the root chakra, the sacral chakra, is the one concerned with eating. Do you understand?”
“Yeah. This is a big deal.”
Mistress has spoken to me recently about the beauty of elegance—that these internal psycho-social-emotional conundrums and needs that are so hard to unpick most often have a very elegant and simple explanation. Hidden in plain sight. That makes them no easier to spot. You could spend a lifetime in therapy and never discover it. This “revelation” about orange, the belly, creativity, nourishment, breast-feeding, my need for love and the form it takes, falls into this category of elegance. I cook for people to show love for them. I eat with people, including strangers, because it is when I feel I can know them best. I see the world through food.
Somatic Experience Therapy
This therapist is having a huge impact on my life. In perhaps 6 or 7 sessions that I have had with her spread out over 6 months, I have had what I would call 3 major breakthroughs. In speaking with my best friend recently about all the different kinds of therapy I am doing, I was explaining how each one has its place. And they do. I know that therapists are kind of like “I’m the only one, it isn’t appropriate for you to see others.” But that is nonsense. No one therapist has it all. And frankly, because of how deep I feel I am going into the inner workings of my whole system, I want a second opinion on everything, from Mistress on down. The posse, however, is really essential for me. It feels a bit like being a plate spinner, and constantly adjusting, only what I am adjusting is which plate (as metaphor for some issue I am tackling) needs tending to. And so, instead of having a “regular” schedule with my therapists, like “let’s meet every two weeks on Thursdays at noon,” I call them based on the schedule of my life and anticipating what certain events are going to do and what kind of therapy will be appropriate at each moment in time. It works for me, because I go into a session with a really clear idea of what I feel needs working on.
It was Mistress in her wisdom who introduced me to this kind of therapy—where our trauma lives inside our body, and finding that is a great help in making progress. She was right, as she is about many of these things, and it is one of the great gifts she gives, as she is an educator and a healer…and she gets through to me in ways that nobody else does, because D/s cuts through the crap.
With this therapist, who is both classically trained, but also trained in this area of body therapy, we talked of shadow work. Born from the work of Carl Jung, the essence of Jungian psychotherapy is an exploration of our shadows, that which we have repressed. All of my therapists since I began to choose my own therapists instead of having them imposed upon me as a form of abuse, have been Jungian. It works for me.
Some people advocate for the use of psychedelics as an accelerant to enlightenment and self-discovery in this regard. LSD, peyote, magic mushrooms, Ayahuasca, toad venom are all examples of this. My Reiki teacher is completely against these substances, as she feels they are like a sugar high—she prefers instead that I do the work through meditation and breathing. And I am prepared to learn from her. Sadguru, an Indian guru I have been listening to, also does not like these substances for the same reason. But there are a great many others who swear by them. I am not interested in judging, and as I dabbled with some of those substances when I was young for recreational purposes and mostly had a blast, I think that if done with the right people, the right motivation, and the right environmental circumstance, they can be useful. But I also have the uneasy truce negotiated with my Reiki teacher which is to try, but not rely.
I bring this up, because my therapist and I were discussing shadow work in relation to narcissism and all of this that we discovered together in session. And she felt that there is a point at which we need to stop working in the shadows—which is an interesting perspective for a Jungian-trained healer. As she said, “we all possess shadows, things we repress, we all have narcissism in us, but there is a point at which you begin to do damage when you dwell too much on the shadows—by looking for things you can create them.” What she guided me towards is gentle meditation, and “thinking” from my heart… “what does your heart say?”
Who Am I?
As I go through my day on this day and other days, I sometimes realise that I am actually a baby. I still am a baby. I put on a suit, and go to work, and have a family, and have raised wonderful children with a wonderful woman, but I am still at heart a baby. A baby with some very sophisticated disguises.
So much of this is reflected in what I have posted here…the importance of Innocence…The nature of love…the art and spiritual power of sensual touch. What does it mean? That to be able to live without guile, to live without selfish motivation, to be able to give without strings attached, but to also be able to receive and feel it…these are all holy and healthy quests…and yes, when I say that this is how I love and also how I believe, it is raw me—wanting to connect and feel with the same whole-being abandonment that a baby finds in a healthy dynamic with a mother. [And yes, I have listened to many womens—some very close to me—rant about how so many men just want a mommy…and OMG, I literally do. And can I tell myself that at least I know it? Is that okay? Will you still love me?]
This energy and dynamic has informed my D/s dynamic…where for months I was too ashamed to even talk about this [I mean if you can’t talk about something like this to a Dominatrix, then you are really up against it]…but now, I can openly say that she who owns me is also a mommy to me, and part of her enslavement of me is helping to raise me again, this time with consciousness about the parts that are unhealthy…and so, there you have it. This slave will grow by facing his demons, and by building myself from the ground up, all over again…and this time, the narcissist can just f259487k off and go be somewhere else, so that I can love and succeed and thrive without the baggage.
P.S. One really important by-product of this has been feeling the presence of God in my life. It is all around me, this beautiful, loving, emotional, non-binary God/dess.
P.P.S. I have now asked all members of the posse about whether I am a narcissist…and more importantly have asked my closest friend. My therapists don’t like labels, and have at least granted that narcissism exists to an extent in everyone, but did not see that in me. My bestie, who has known me since we were tender young things, does not see this in me at all, and comes from a family afflicted by this, and a lifetime of therapy to deal with it. That said, rejecting the label is one thing, but accepting the need to work on things, to develop and grow, and to be able to be with anyone I love in a way that is for them, not for me, is a crucial step on this journey and one which I will invest in.
Just me the best you can be and remember “feeling the presence of God in my life. It is all around me, this beautiful, loving, emotional, non-binary God/dess.”
Be YOU always
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you. This is so true. I am trying to do that in my daily practice. Mistress is a fabulous teacher and inspiration.
LikeLiked by 2 people