Slave mentality, vulnerability, trust

I´ve just read a series of slash fics set in an alternate universe where people still have slaves. It is admittedly bizarre, but at least it is more intriguing than the stuff I´ve usually “just read” when I start a new entry. The story deals with a very benign, gentle and fair master working with slaves who have been traumatized by their previous masters. It is intended as erotic fiction, so it is not supposed to be realistic. I noticed, however, that the stories tend to end whenever master and slave are getting on too well, when the slave is finally trusting the master. And that I find remarkably realistic. Because at some point crossing the border towards friendship would turn nasty in such a setting. The slave wouldn´t know how to behave anymore. And that somehow resonates with me.

I can oddly well relate to the feeling of never being quite an equal, but having to pretend I am and that I´m doing whatever everybody else wants out of my own free will. And yet sometimes I feel like they know exactly I´m not their equal and that they have a right to my submission anyway and I feel resentful over the cynicism of asking my opinion. Based on this general feeling of inequality, I am chronically scared of people. I must not displease them. Yeah, I could relate to those slaves.

When reading about the master giving one of them a present, as a way to say sorry for having punished him too harshly, I was starting to feel a little anxious. I thought about why I was feeling that way, and I realized that I feel like kindness requires some kind of payback on my part. I have to be extra pleasant now, or else there will be terrible rage for tricking the “master” into being nicer to me than he needs to be. It will happen inevitably, because I will always fuck up at some point. So actually being punished seems less scary than receiving kindness. It starts with me never knowing how to react to presents. I feel like I ought to be grateful, but I also feel silly for showing gratitude (for reasons which I will explain later). I feel like presents are not really about me, and my feelings, but about the feelings of the ones who give them to me.

Say my parents give me a present. I know I need to be happy about it, but I must not show too much happiness, leave alone gratitude, or else they will question its authenticity. Always in a playful way, like: “Come on, we´ve seen through you, you can be yourself with us!”, but it makes me feel just like that: A plaything. An experiment. I feel so watched that I don´t even know what I´m feeling anymore and the pressure to respond and to appear authentic (quite a paradox, this) puts me under a great deal of stress.

I often feel like I´d be more comfortable if there was a strict set of rules which I have to obey, and if I don´t, there will be consequences; but I never have to fear anyone´s spontaneous anger. I´m being treated without too strong emotions, but by adhering to the rules and doing a good job I can gain the “master´s” appreciation.

This, however, is not how social interactions work. Sometimes I think I´d do well in a monastery or such a thing. In everyday life, even at work, things are more complex than that. There are no easy, absolute rules, and consequences are all too often not about you breaking a rule, but about you pissing off someone important. The exact thing I dread.

I walk through life consciously and subconsciously fearing that anyone notices I don´t demand the same level of respect others take for granted. That anyone notices I´m easy to push around or manipulate. That, if approached in certain ways, I´m downright submissive. Like one time during a concert when a guy started a conversation with me and simply put his hand on my knee. It took me a few seconds to realize I ought to object, rendering my protest unbelievable. Guys and boundary issues…don´t get me started or else I´ll reach 2000 words quickly. Way too often I simply freeze. I don´t know what to do, how to assert myself, so I pretend I´m not there. Thankfully, so far the guys I´ve encountered were spooked off by it. It´s only a matter of time, though, until I encounter one who´ll take advantage. This is why I get so stressed out whenever I have to be alone in a pub, or sometimes on my way home on the train at night, or when I´m waiting for someone. I don´t want the insecurity, the shame, knowing how much of a fool I´m making of myself, knowing how other parts of me will batter me for this later.

Then, sometimes I encounter people who see my insecurity, neediness and lack of self-protection and, instead of taking advantage of it, tacitly give me what I need.

Last year I went to the dentist after staying away for three years. I went to a new dentist because the old one, who had always been a tad nasty, had really gone all the way to complete asshole the last time I´d consulted him. There were several elements that made visiting him so harrowing, but one of them was his schadenfreude. He´d give me a dental cleansing and, when I whimpered, told me: “If your gums were healthy it wouldn´t be bleeding!”, without even giving me a little break. When he had to cave out one of my teeth he delightedly told me to sniff, as it already smelled rotten. I actually tried to, as I was in my “I must not displease” mode (understandable when someone is working on you with sharp instruments), but he didn´t seem to notice my efforts, as he told his assistant in an amused tone: “She can´t, she´s in too much of a panic!” Of course I was, he had investigated my tooth, told me: “Yeah, we need to cave it out!” and gotten started, telling me I didn´t need anything when I frantically asked him for some kind of anaesthesia. Typically I started to dissociate and feel dizzy as soon as I entered the treatment room. Not because of the pain, but because I felt I was at the mercy of someone who couldn´t care less about how I felt.

Well, I was starting to feel very unhappy with the shape my teeth were in, so I decided to be courageous for once and see a new dentist. Indeed I needed a dental cleansing and, not having seen a dentist for three years, I knew I was not exactly in for a treat. I entered the treatment room feeling a little nervous. The lady in charge was extremely nice, showing me how to take better care of my teeth (my old dentist had just barked at me to floss without showing me what exactly I was doing wrong), then telling me how she would proceed and how bad it was going to be. This knowledge was kind of comforting, because now I could estimate how long it was going to take. It is something I never could with my old dentist, and feeling like it would never end was part of what made it so torturous. Then, she said something beautiful. She said: “I´m afraid this is going to hurt, but I´m not hurting you on purpose. There´s just no less painful way of doing this.”

You wouldn´t expect a dentist to say that, would you? Because most of them would take it for granted that their patient doesn´t assume he hurts them on purpose. But somehow, for some reason, she must have known that I would feel like that anyway, and that, on a deeper level, it was not the procedure itself I was scared of. Maybe her statement was not cut out for me specifically, maybe most people will hurt less if you tell them you´re not doing it to punish them. But the best thing about this was that it abolished pretense.  I didn´t have to pretend I was a tough grown-up who is scared of nothing. I didn´t have to save face. And if I had looked tougher and less afraid she would probably not have said it because it would have seemed out of place. She spared me the plight of having to play a role that didn´t fit. I could just be nervous, and, paradoxically, I relaxed.

It did hurt, and at some point my eyes were watering, but I didn´t even whimper. It simply didn´t feel so bad. I could take it. She kept on talking to me, at some point remarked on how brave I was, which was flattering but untrue. I can take pain if and only if I trust the person who´s inflicting it. Not exactly a hallmark of bravery. I need a lot of emotional safety cords before I let someone hurt me. And she gave me those. At some point she even wiped away my tears (not with her hand, no. That would have been a little too intimate.). In the end I had to spit out some paste she had put on my teeth. I wasn´t allowed to use water and immediately I was starting to gag. To my surprise she just put her hand on my back reassuringly, and I calmed down straight away. And this from someone who has a phobia of vomiting…

When I went out there, I was sort of high. I felt strangely close to that woman, like we had some mutual affection for each other. Not as persons, since we didn´t know each other, but…on a different level. Something about this encounter had been incredibly soothing, as if I had been cradled and hugged like a little child. I still hated the procedure, but I sort of enjoyed the memory of it, of that feeling. I even thought fondly of the painful parts, as I had felt most cared for then.

It´s funny, this would never have worked on me if it had been a man. Or maybe it would have, but I would have much greater problems with it. It would have felt sleazy. I feel some kind of resistance building up inside of me just thinking about it. I wouldn´t have wanted that with a man. It would have been one step away from taking advantage of my fear in order to cross my boundaries. Indeed, this encounter was just that little bit dodgy, though in a nice, non-awkward way. I do recognize the similarities to my BDSM experiences. Especially with regards to my own reaction, of course.

It reminds me of something else, though. It reminds me of how I imagine transference is supposed to work. The positive type of transference, where you develop a crush on your therapist. Just like my resistance reminded me of how gross I found the idea to be that emotionally vulnerable to Dr. Stoneface.

I hate to break it off here, now that I can finally write again (I don´t know how many entries I started and never finished over the last week), but I desperately need to sleep.


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