18 October, 2006

As if my usual doubts weren't enough

Much of what I've written about in this blog has been about my process of coming to terms with spanking, and its role in my life. It's a hard process to accept all of the various elements, to admit that I need it, and to understand that it's okay.

And now I'm in the middle of coping with the idea that there are different parts of myself, and it feels like all of that work I've done on this issue has kind of disappeared. Because, somehow, it's like it doesn't count if there are different parts operating.

One of the biggest things is that I feel very... strange about spankings if the "reason" I need them is that I was abused as a kid. It's especially hard when I'm reading a book on healing from childhood stuff, and the person writing it states unequivocally that s/m of any form is just re-enacting childhood abuse, and should be something you try to heal from.

Now, on some levels, I can feel very clearly that this isn't true. I've gotten a lot of strength from having s/m as part of my sex life, and I've had a lot of good examples of the healing power of intimate relationships that are fundamentally based on "safe, sane, and consensual."

But there are other levels, and those are more... confusing. Is it okay to spank an inner child if that inner child really does understand the world as a child would? How about an inner teenager? Am I re-enacting abuse? Is the reassurance and grounding that I experience when there is consistent, reasonable (physical) discipline in my life just because those parts can't understand "appropriate" treatment, and feel less tension once a punishment has occurred?

Perhaps some of the doubts are because, in terms of interacting with actual, flesh-and-blood children, I wouldn't hit. Mostly, this is because I think there are better ways to raise children, and that the lines between acceptable and unacceptable are blurry and way too easy to cross. I don't know that I think spanking children is inherently abusive, but I think most of how it operates when I've seen it in action is abusive, if that makes sense. It's too easy to act in anger, to work out frustrations. And it's not like a spanking can be taken back. Once it's been given, it's happened, and it leaves no room for the person giving it to say, "Whoops, I was wrong, you didn't actually deserve that punishment."

And some of it's the fact that different parts respond differently to spanking. I can recognize that in a lot of ways, this is perfectly normal. Lots of people have a variety of different responses at different times. But when one of my child parts is out, then both W. and I agree that, say, sex is absolutely inappropriate (partly because it's triggering to that part, and partly because, well, it's really like being a child, and that's just yucky).

So where do we draw the line? If something is sometimes incredibly sexual, is it okay to do that with a child? But then again, there are different ways of doing things... say hugging. That's definitely part of sex, but there are different ways of hugging that aren't sexual at all.

I also have to take W's feelings into account. It's hard for her to grapple with the ways that spanking works for me. She wasn't "into" spanking when we got together; she is often very uncomfortable with the role of disciplinarian. But neither of us would feel comfortable with me getting that need met by someone else, for many of the same reasons we struggle with figuring out what to do with the different parts of me. I mean, if a main reason we're uncomfortable with spanking-as-discipline is that it's too close to doing something sexual with a child, then going to someone else for a spanking is awfully close to infidelity.

And I often worry that the things I'm asking for aren't fair, and that I should just learn to figure out other ways of coping. And, certainly, there is some of that in there. It's not 100% W's job to take on raising these kid-parts of me. But it's not 100% not her job.

I have a much easier time acknowledging that it's not fair for W to have to be coping with the results of my childhood than I do in acknowledging that it's not fair for me, either. It's kind of sad, because, let's face it, even if I did fail to keep myself entirely safe as a child... I was a CHILD, and even if I thought I could do special magic things to keep myself safe, and even if they seemed to work (or did work some of the time) it wasn't my job to be able to prevent the adults in my life from hurting me. And staying at home even though things were bad wasn't actually saying that I was willing to accept what was happening. I didn't have other options--a five year old, or even an eleven year old, really can't survive on her own in the world. Just because I chose to stay, because on considering my options, I decided that the most likely way of succeeding as an adult was to stay at home so I could finish school and get into college... that doesn't mean it was okay what happened after I made that choice. Looking back, it was definitely the best of available options to stay. But that doesn't mean the available options were good ones. And it doesn't mean that I'm supposed to immediately be healthy and happy and not have any after-effects.

(Okay, that was really rambling, but this is a blog, and that's okay. Back to the original topic.)

So I have these parts. And some of them really do seem to need spankings in order to feel balanced and whole and... just not wildly out of control. The really ironic thing is, compared to my siblings, I was hardly ever hit as a kid. And it wasn't the spanking, per se, that I minded.

Thinking about it... I absolutely do NOT want the emotional environment that I experienced. I'm really not turned on by being emotionally or verbally abused.

When I think about punishment spankings, the context is very specific. I want clear rules, and consequences for breaking them. I want the person (W) giving the consequence to be calm and authoritative. I want the consequence to not be overwhelming. I want that sense of, "Okay, I messed up. I want to remember to not do this again. I want to have the consequence as a reminder, and as a way of closing off the stream of guilt that comes from having made a mistake or done something bad." I want the recognition that I'm still loved, but that someone cares enough about me to notice when I've done something wrong, and to give me closure on the incident.

I didn't get that at all when I was a kid. I got hit, not as a consistent response to anything I'd done or not done, but as a reflection of the people who hit being out of control, or me being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although sometimes it bore some relation to my behavior, the relationship was tenuous at best. I didn't, and couldn't, know what the rules were. I couldn't predict what would happen. I didn't get a chance to learn from my behavior, because the adults in my life just erupted, and then didn't address what had happened. I got hit because they were angry and had the power to hit, not because it was something that would help me to be a better person. I got hit for being a child--for crying, for forgetting to do something they wanted me to do, for making a mistake. Our house didn't have any rules that I could articulate, so, obviously, the spankings I received weren't related to deliberate misbehavior.

They might have used the phrase, as they hit me or pinched me or whatever, "That'll teach you not to (hit or pinch or whatever)." But what it taught me was that the reason I couldn't hit or pinch was that I was a kid, and that I didn't have the right to exert power over other people.

And then, when I was a teenager, and babysitting my younger siblings, my mother couldn't seem to understand why I didn't just spank them when they misbehaved. Because, of course, by fourteen, I was supposed to magically transition from being forbidden to hit to being one of the people who was allowed to hurt others (but only when I was the oldest person in the house, of course!). For whatever reason, I really couldn't make that transition.

I don't know. It's a lot to process through. I'd really appreciate comments on this if you've got any thoughts on it.


Natty said...

Oh oh some of this is soooo applicable to what's been going on in my head regarding punishment spankings, etc.

One, I struggle with the issue of physically disciplining my "inner child" because, like you, if I were dealing with any other child, I would not be hitting her. I'm not going to be judgmental towards those who do spank, I just think there are better ways of raising children. Yet, I then feel like I have some sort of double standard. That somehow I can respect others more than myself.

And if I were raising a child, one of the things I would be focusing on would be mindfulness - the ability to look at actions from a non-judgmental point of view in order to understand the root causes. Now, granted with children this can be a bit difficult to do and ultimately they need boundaries from parents until they reach a point where they can practice mindfulness on their own. But for me this presents two problems with relation to spanking. One, I can't expect A. to create boundaries for me. He's happy to enforce boundaries but he won't create them and frankly I find that the adult part of me really doesn't want him to. And two, even when it comes to enforcing boundaries, having him do it externally keeps me from really practicing mindfulness. It's so much easier to simply say "I did/did not do x. That was bad and if I'm punished, I'll stop/start doing that." But it always feels like it's sort of masking the issue rather than really assessing what's truly going on. I mean, how can you have spanking without being judgmental in some way?

Yet, at the end of the day, I miss it. We've still been doing some spanking but it's been play. Only once this last year was it all disciplinary. And funny enough, in a way it was A. both setting and enforcing a boundary to protect my physical health. I needed something more immediate to keep me from hurting myself, which then allowed me to reflect later on. But I still struggle with whether or not that's a good thing.

I guess ultimately I find that I can't ever completely divorce spanking from my sexuality. Even if there's nothing overtly sexual occurring with it, in some way it's an expression of my sexuality. How my inner child got mixed up with it is beyond me. At this point, I've quit trying to decide what's appropriate and what's not and just focus on what feels comfortable. I can definitely see where for you the line would need to be more rigid, though I don't believe it's accurate to equate all s/m activity with eroticization of abuse. I find that for me I'm a spanko despite the abuse not because of it, though it certainly flavors and affects the way my spankoness manifests itself (i.e. certain scenarios I simply cannot handle or do so only with great difficulty).

Lordy I've rambled on far too long and look forward to what others have to contribute to this. Actually, I think this would be a great discussion for the Punishment Book -- though I totally understand if you would prefer to keep it on your personal blog. I keep trying to put together a post on the issues I've just been blathering about but I think I've been too worried about making it a well-written, articulate piece rather than just vomiting all my concerns out. ;)

Jigsaw Analogy said...


Are you absolutely certain we're not the same person? 'Cause, you know, with these different parts of my personality that I hadn't previously recognized, who's to say I didn't figure out how to make some of them external? And there you are, similar to me, and living in the same town where I grew up... {g}

Thanks so much for your long, thoughtful comment. I can very much understand the worry about making a "well-written, articulate piece." But I got tired of not being able to express anything, which is what happens when I stop to edit.

I've been thinking a little more about the role of punishment and its relationship to abuse. It's a complicated thing. I know that I'm entirely clear that my adult sex life is in spite of and not because of abuse.

In some ways, that's a tiny bit easier. I was sexually abused by people of both genders; if that had shaped my adult sexuality, I'd either be asexual or bisexual. Since I'm very clearly lesbian, and since I have a very healthy approach to sex, I can see that it's a good thing, and not something to be ashamed of.

But this whole thing with punishment, which is a far deeper part of who I am... boy, is it hard. And then there's the simple fact that one of my best-developed skills is self-doubt...

I totally agree with what you've said about setting boundaries, and who is responsible for doing that. W is also more or less willing to enforce boundaries, but neither of us thinks it's a good idea for those boundaries to come from someone outside of me. The added complication is that I have parts who are still at an age when their developmental task is to struggle against boundaries, so there are times when W struggles against her own inclinations and punishes me, and gets a blast of resentment; or she doesn't, and has to cope with the fallout of a kid who resents that, too. It's so hard for me to know which help it's okay to ask for, and which help it isn't okay to ask for; which things I should be responsible for working on healing myself, and which things it's okay to have some concrete support in doing.

And I think about mindfullness, balanced by "what works." Certainly, W and I have observed that spankings work, and give me the mental space to be able to be balanced and mindful.

I've found that discipline, when used correctly, actually does help me to be mindful in ways that I can't figure out how to be otherwise. Perhaps someday, I'll consistently have the tools to do it on my own, but right now... I'm struggling to rebuild my ability to make it through the day in one piece (well, more or less).

And it's just hard to figure out how life should be renegotiated if W and I are going to accept that I have different personalities. And I miss the parts of my personality that have more fun, darn it!

Natty said...

Are you absolutely certain we're not the same person?

LOL! Yeah, there have been times when I've read stories of yours or posts and think, damn that girl's a lot like me! Especially as you named your character Michelle. It almost freaked me out a bit. ;)

At some point when my health/INR get stable enough, my sister wants to fly me out to Baltimore where she lives and we want to drive up to visit New York. If nothing else, maybe then we can meet and settle the whole "are we really different people?" thing once and for all! ;) LOL

It's funny because there are times when I wonder if I have a form of DID on some level. It certainly feels like I have at least two different people living inside of me at any given time. And I feel like so much of my energy goes into either suppressing or parenting that "Natty" part of me. Yet, somehow I feel guilty about trying to get someone else to parent "Natty." Or resentful when somebody does try to. I definitely relate when you say that you struggle with knowing which help is okay to ask for and which you need to do on your own.

And yeah, there is something about spanking that just works. It does calm me. Provides attention to the "Natty" part of me. Helps me break out of bad patterns to which I've become willfully attached. John over at Renaissance Reflections once suggested in a private email (I don't think he'd mind me saying this publicly) that he thinks spanking unblocks energy stuck in a key chakra located where the buttocks are. Whatever it is, it just feels right.

But, just like you, I get all these self-doubts. Is spanking really the attention my inner child needs? Am I so impatient for perfection that I immediately turn to spanking to fix something (i.e. "A., I need to do my yoga every day so spank me if I don't") before really looking at why I'm not perfect (i.e. I'm just really too sick to do yoga every day)? I dunno. Sometimes A.'s able to look at things a bit more realistically and say maybe spanking in a certain instance isn't a good idea. But most of the time, it's impossible for him to do that. Only I can. Or not. ;)

At any rate, I think these are really interesting questions/issues, etc. A. often tells me I think way too much. That some things are best just left unexamined. I probably do spend way too much time on self-doubts and examining every little thing. But, well, when you grow up with crazy people, it's hard not to look at every little thing to determine whether or not it too is crazy.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I just want to say thank you to both of your for your post and response. The whole reason I started searching online- just last month- was to find out if any other women are grappling with just these exact issues. I had a horrible, traumatic reaction to a scene I would normally love- and I wanted to figure out why. I am so very glad that you are here and sharing your writing. You are fabulous.
I am a little slow, maybe, in coming to the point where I want to be mindful about my own sexuality. Things like this take me a looong time. I think because it took me a long time to get over admitting to myself that I am submissive, and that I want my partner to hurt me- and then it took a long time to find a partner who wasn't actually abusive. Now I have been together with H for more then ten years and all that time I've just felt so lucky to have exactly want I want. Then last month all of a sudden I'm child screaming NO.

It set me back pretty hard and I had to wonder all the same things I see you all discussing- am I reinacting abuse or have I truly moved past it? Is being hurt by my partner just an extension of other self destructive behaviors I gave up years ago, cutting, anorexia, etc. and if so does that mean I have not moved on at all?

Now I know this isn't true, I'm safer, more mature in my choices than when I was a teen, much more powerful than when I was a child, and yet, where does it come from- this terror, so out of the blue?

I think it comes down to whether I trust myself to keep me safe. Whether I beleive that I am have created a safe space with a safe partner or if its just a trick of lights and I'm actually still the terrified child I was. Its hard, if you have a history of phychological issues to believe that your choices can now keep you safe, to relax the tension, turn off the watch towers shining lights in all directions just sure there is going to be a crime. My solutions is that I realize now it was just one bad day, and my emotional reaction- triggered by something can be calmed by remembering all I have done since I was truly helpless so ong ago, all that I have become.

As for being seperate parts I'd like to read more about that. I've always felt there were seperate parts of me since I was in Catholic elementary school and was taught that the holy trinity is a mystery we couldn't understand. At 8 I felt I could. There's always the calm outer mature me, and the little one angry or freaking out whom I constantly have to pet like a cat.

One final note -I know I going on and on but I'm so excited! I really appreciate your thoughtful comments about raising real children. I have two, who think their mother is nothing more than their cook driver kisser if owies, cuddler,support and teacher. We'd never hit/hurt them in a million years, and they are turning out great.
Thanks again, both of you, for this discussion. Just to know you are there is a gift.