Panic and Anxiety
If you know me, you know that I’ve been very interested for a while in Panic, Anxiety, and certain aspects of humiliation play. In a lot of ways, I feel that what passes for “humiliation” or “ego reduction” ends up being a shorthand for “all the hitherto poorly explored and understood psychological aspects of WIITWD.” But let’s not get too high minded here. I also like a cheek under my boot. That said…
The Eroticization of Anxiety
I am very familiar with panic from shame. Some of the most poignant memories of my life are the red tide of shame rising, burning my face and ears, making my throat constricted, and making my pulse pound. But they aren’t erotic for me.
However, we know from real science that they *can* be erotic. We know that people in a mildly dangerous situation will believe they had an erotic response to a member of the opposite sex, and will respond with more interest later than if they met her in a situation that wasn’t mildly dangerous.
Most of us know what both “burning” anxiety and “low level anxiety” feels like. Low level anxiety feels suspiciously similar in some cases to being in love. The feelings Romeo describes in regards to Rosalind might as well be a clinic description of anxiety issues. Scientists are now telling us that in fact, in the brain, love looks a lot like OCD.
In any case, if all your initial erotic experience was in a state of heightened anxiety, you are going to respond sexually to anxiety. Fetishize it. That’s how fetishes seem to work.
And if that was drawn out, for weeks, months, years, it gets stronger. You reach a point of wanting to live in a state of constant low level anxiety, or even high level anxiety. Or craving a situation where you feel the waves of shame wash over you…because that plays into erotic excitement.
The No Win Option
One thing that always confused me was logic traps. Why would anyone want to be put in a “no win” situation where there was no good option. But there are a host of other situations, revolving around coercion, discovery, etc. that combine with those.
As I’ve gained a dawning understanding of the mechanics of panic attacks, panic disorder, and the eroticization of anxiety, I’ve begun to have an increasing understanding of these things. I can’t say I have “a full explanation” but I do have a lot of observations.
The Warring Components of the Personality
Fetish revolves more than most people realize around the ongoing disharmonies between the components of the personality. In the classical model everyone accepts these are the “Id” or the instinctual part of the mind, the “Ego”…the self…and the Super-Ego, which is the critical and moralizing part. The Id tells us we want to the gratification of getting fucked, the Super-Ego tells us nice people don’t fuck strangers and there the fight usually begins.
The problem gets worse if what the Id is craving is a little more extreme than just feeling loved by being touched. If the issue is “I can only cum when I’m being physically threatened or forced shamefully down on my hands and knees in a parking lot with risk of exposure and gagged on cock,” then the Super-Ego may say “You are by the standards of society some sort of fucking monster and you ought not to be allowed any pleasure…your actions are endangering *ME*”
So…it’s not just a fight, it’s the Rumble in the Jungle….the Superfight…the Mother of all Battles…
So…the ego, which has to play broker in this mess tries to do some things to give the Id what it wants, while keeping the Ego from hanging a scarlet letter around it’s neck and branding it an outcast from civilized people.
- Creating “known safe” situations that appear not to be. The Id isn’t very smart and it can be fooled. If our trusted Dom wears a hood and acts fierce, the Id may respond to him with anxiety, but the Superego may not set off the alarm bells that say “you are endangering us all.”
- Creating “known loss” situations. It’s one thing to want to be assfucked in the mud. It’s another thing to endure it. If the situation that creates shame is one where there is not a “win” option at the same time the Id is struggling with delicious fear and confusion, the Superego is saying “well I suppose you couldn’t help this one.” The Superego isn’t actually very smart either.
So…”no win” situations provide a certain “out” for the psyche. By being “no win” you aren’t bad…
THE LARGER ISSUE OF PANIC AND ANXIETY
So…low lying anxiety and panic attacks may be an element of our erotic makeup. But they can also poison relationships and day to day life.
It is tempting to assume that sexual trauma creates a fetish for anxiety. But real life suggests that while that’s not uncommon, there is not a one to one correlation. I know girls who experienced severe trauma, but don’t seem to have panic/anxiety attacks. I know girls who experience panic attacks but have no apparent triggering trauma or cause.
Eroticization is a tool to make anxiety bearable and focus panic and anxiety into something constructive. To provide an outlet and a focus for the needs of the id.
But if in the end, you spend most of your day with “your heart in your mouth,” it’s going to be hard to be an effective person and make effective adult decisions. Hard to let the adult element of the mind have the driver’s seat.
CONTROLLING PANIC AND ANXIETY ISSUES
I tend to feel that panic/anxiety should be treated. There are treatments out there which don’t kill the sex drive, and can make the beast manageable.
When it is in control it is often debilitating, and sometimes the first thing it erases in its stomping is the will to do anything to stop it. Almost the definition of “panic” as opposed to “anxiety” is that the panicked person lacks the ability to do anything constructive to alleviate their panic.
I think it’s also possible to approach panic/anxiety through discipline in combination with eroticization. But I think discipline should be a measure that comes after a valid medical treatment as part of an attempt to create a healthy normal lifestyle.
I’ve been surprised at the number of girls I’ve run into who were very attached to their anxiety and didn’t want to get rid of it. I’ve been able to define two rough tendencies:
a) They don’t recognize that they have an anxiety disorder and so don’t see anything wrong with it. They were taught by their family or friends that being “high strung” (crying jags, hysterical panic) was *normal* for girls, and while weak, it is perfectly fine. Often this plays into submission. Often the girl is scared of appearing weak and has worked to learn to live with low-level anxiety constantly so it only bursts out at certain times.
b) It is addictive and they are afraid to get rid of it. It represents enough of their sexuality that they honestly fear losing it will mean having no emotions. It’s like trying to convince Romeo to WANT to stop being in love with Rosalind. As miserable as it makes him he doesn’t want to stop. Nor does he believe that he could probably be happier loving somebody else (yes in his case it didn’t work out so well, but all analogies have their limitations).
I cannot express too strongly how someone who is in a perpetual state of eroticized anxiety flashing to panic disorders may be both horribly miserable with it (the panic often involves self-loathing and self-torture) and utterly addicted and unable and unwilling to do anything to get out of it.
Anxiety can become the object of love. Whether we imagine that Romeo got off at night to Rosalind’s image, or internalize his erotic response by denying himself as long as she denied him, either way that was his sex-life. Taking her away was no more welcome than the removal of any other lover.
In a larger sense, if someone experiences most of their sexual reward through anxiety, there is a fear that its removal will mean they cannot experience sexual emotion.
c) It may be the only alternative they have experienced to Depression. If their Anxiety disorder causes them to cycle between exhausted depression and new bouts of Anxiety they may consider Anxiety desirable, and seek it out.
THE POWERFUL FORCE OF RESENTMENT
A final and overarcing concern is entitlement and resentment. Anxiety often feeds self-loathing and self-hurt. Why do people hurt themselves? Well typically it’s because they’ve been hurt.
The Id says “hurt something.”
The Super-Ego says “You can’t go around hurting things, that’s bad.”
So they hurt themselves. It’s not a good compromise, but its the only one that both parties will allow. The problem is that in doing so there is a huge amount of anger and resentment built up. Because every self-hurt becomes an additional harm that makes the Id want to lash out. Remember the Id isn’t very smart.
It has been my empiric observation that most of the women I’ve known who invited humiliation…or any of the sorts of sadistic play where the thing that was hurt was their emotions, not mostly their body…have had a tendency to spike back with very strong resentments. Sometimes at the Dominant, other times at other things around them.
Often they self-describe as “extremely submissive” and are very passive and easily manipulated in scene. In some cases they tend to be very resentful and subversive out of scene. In other cases they talk about having massive anger/hatred/violence build up which they want to lash out with, but are otherwise pretty decent people. Sometimes they act out powerfully.
Often there is resentment of a family situation. Neglect, physical abuse, rape by a trusted intimate of the family, or rape by an outsider which was trivialized, ignored, or not believed, or abandonment or desertion by a parent or guardian.
Often there is a strong subtext of wanting to “act out” in a way that is almost saying “look what you made me do/made me into.”
I’ve begun to think that a lot of time the core of emotionally masochistic behavior was a sort of “I’m going to go eat worms” behavior. I’ve seen it especially with women (possibly men too, but that’s outside my experience) who were neglected…who weren’t paid attention to, or who were abused and never got the emotional care they needed for it. I think they asked for attention, and couldn’t get it, or didn’t feel they had permission to ask, so they did “I’ll sit in the dark” behaviors.
As they grew to be adults, and their literal parents grew into the part of their persona that Freud calls the “Superego” – the part that makes rules, sets standards, and tells us if we are good enough…that need becomes unfillable. The adult that won’t acknowledge them becomes…their own mind. And so they engage in hurting themselves, or asking to be abused and hurt with an expectation that being hurt will bring them some sort of eventual sympathy, but the person who could sympathize is long gone.
Of course they don’t objectively believe anyone will sympathize, or even want them to. But it seems plausible and even likely that the lack of sympathy feeds into anger which feeds into anxiety, which is then eroticized.
HOW THESE THINGS FIT TOGETHER
In a perfect world, we could just find erotic outlets for anxiety and that would be fine. But there is a subtext that when we do, if we aren’t very careful, we are feeding the loop of Resentment, and may in the long run be making more trouble.
How do we break out of that? Isn’t that in the end what leads vanillas to say “stop this is dangerous…just bury the fucking Id and it’s desires.”
I don’t think there’s an easy answer other than to point out that the results when the Id doesn’t get any release seem to be…well…bad. Bitterness and an unfulfilled life at best, periodic spectacular acting out to the point of self-destruction at worst.
So…we need to try something. But what we do better come with a decent dose of compassion and whatever aftercare the person is able to accept. Often that’s not very much.
Beyond that I think we need to remember that the Ego is not a helpless partner in all this. If we’re growing and strengthening the Ego, it becomes more able to set terms, make plans and vent resentments on its own. So at the risk of oversimplification, the key to a positive outcome is probably to put the Ego…the Person’s adult self…in the driver’s seat and help them get firmly in control of the whole three ring circus.