The kink lifestyle has always been incredibly fruitful for me. I’ve been able to explore myself sexually, discover what makes me tick, and been able to tap into pleasures I never knew could exist. Beyond the physical pleasure, I’ve been fortunate enough to have found a place of healing within the kink lifestyle.
I am someone who has suffered from mental health illness since my pre-teen years and this is not to suggest that kink is any sort of cure for mental health—that is far from the truth. However, alongside traditional Western medical approaches, Eastern medicine, and religious practices, I have found ways to intentionally incorporate kink into my comprehensive wellness plan for my mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
I observe others using kink spaces as a way of escapism, which is very easy to do considering how fun things can be. For me though, I discovered an additional and transformative layer in kink and have geared my kink journey towards both pleasure and personal development. Through my kinks, I’ve been able to explore myself and have even overcome fears and shortcomings.
Caring Is Sharing
My idea of submission has transformed over time. When I first stepped into the kink world, I was under the impression that to submit to another person, was to give everything you had to another person. A sort of sacrifice of the self for the need or desire of the other. That concept was mirrored in my vanilla relationships and at the time, made sense. However, as I learned more, I realized that submission for me means to maintain and cultivate the self under the guidance of a Dominant and that the results of that cultivation are the true gifts.
In learning that, I discovered an entire deeply embedded layer of self-sacrificing tendencies that permeated nearly every area of my life. I had not been able to see it before I began my submissive’s journey. Under my Dominant’s guidance, I was able to shed that side of me. He never requires me to give more than I can and brings awareness to the times I spread myself too thin. After some time, I began to do this in other areas of my life—learning to stop overextending myself in relationships, at work, and in life.
Domination of The Self
Early into my journey, a kink friend said something along the lines of “you are your first Dominant” and initially, it sounded vague, dramatic, and a little silly. However, when I reflected a little more, I realized there was a lot of truth in that statement and found that even though I didn’t FEEL like a good Dominant to myself at the time, I could become one.
In general, I would love to experience a certain type of care and leadership that helps me grow into a better person. At first I thought about all the things I would like a Dominant to do for me (in general) and decided I should do those things for myself. However, I didn’t quite know what that looked like in reality so things didn’t progress too far past surface level feel goods.
My current Dominant has control over specific areas of my life and has provided the structure, discipline, and care that has guided me to a better place in those areas. I began to wonder why I couldn’t stimulate that self-growth myself, so I tried to emulate that structure, discipline and care in the other areas of life which ended up working well. Having a clean home is very important to me, for example. When work becomes too stressful or if I experience a depressive episode, my physical environment can suffer as a result, which bothers me quite a bit. Being someone who experiences frequent depressive episodes, I often feel high levels of anxiety and discomfort when this occurs. Similar to what my Dominant created for me in other areas, I began a reward system for myself for doing chores. As of this writing, I’ve made many tweaks to it so that it always functions at an optimal level even in times of stress or depression. If I’m having a low day I will pick a “low-energy” cleaning task like wiping one of the counters off. I’m learning that even if it’s a “stay in bed” kind of day, I shouldn’t bully myself about it. My Dominant would never bully me about that sort of thing so I try to emulate that which is admittedly difficult but it gets easier with time.
I went to a virtual course on submission and one of the Tops mentioned having an “exit plan” which involved taking the necessary steps to ensure the ending of a dynamic doesn’t leave the submissive’s life in tatters. If the goal of a Dom/sub dynamic is to help the submissive grow or reach their desired goals, I thought another goal should be to help that submissive be self-sufficient—even in a 24/7 dynamic. By striving to be a good Dominant to myself via mimicking or putting a creative spin on my Dominant’s leadership techniques, I can ensure that the dynamic doesn’t dissolve into a codependent relationship.
One of the benefits of having a Dominant is that he often creates systems for me so that I can function within the dynamic which I mirror so that I can function in life. For example, when I am having a depressive spiral or potential anxiety attack, he’ll instruct me to do a few things. The first centers on bringing me “out of the red zone” or “out of that headspace” so to speak. This could be taking a moment to breathe for example. The other actions are designed to address the issue at hand and get back to an emotionally better state. This could mean having a phone call and journaling my feelings followed by cooking a meal, watching something I like, or playing a video game. He always gives me space to discuss the things that cause the emotional distress so that I don’t suppress the feelings.
Similarly, I try to create systems for myself. I understand that my Dominant may not always be available due to work or time constraints. Emotions can happen at any given moment and it would be unhealthy of me to solely rely on my Dominant for all my emotional needs. While my Dominant’s support is irreplaceable, I’ve learned to be a better support to myself by finding methods that help ease me back into a more stable state. I’ll always consult with my Dominant when he’s available to not only let him know of the situation but also get his opinion on whether my method of handling things can be optimized.
The person who I am today is a culmination of circumstances both inside and outside of my control, each leaving an impression on my being. Some of the more challenging circumstances have led to burdens I still hold today. Burdens which, if left unchecked, can hold me back.
While I can’t change the circumstances, I get to choose how I carry myself and how I take care of myself as I heal. A part of any healing process requires an analysis of the situation. Getting to know myself, facing my personal demons, and admitting my shortcomings was a scary process. However, BDSM helped me with that as well.
In the past, I would have issues explaining to my kink partner what I wanted, desired, or needed. When it came time to discuss things like triggers, limits, and aftercare I had a very “I’m open to anything” attitude. Which was an unsafe way to be. On one hand it made things difficult or scary for me when it didn’t need to be. On the other hand, it sets the other person up for failure. If I don’t know my triggers, and the person triggers me, then we both feel bad.
In order to explore myself sexually for the sake of finding what true pleasure means to me, I had to start asking myself more indepth questions. What do I like? Why do I like it? To what degree do I like it? In order to be intentional about how I connect with others as well as keep myself accountable and safe, I had to develop a deeper level of self-awareness. What do I seek in a partner? What sort of aftercare do I need? What makes me feel safe and can I communicate that to my play partner?
When I connect with and know myself, I’m able to convey my truth, my struggles, and my needs with my bdsm partners and in all relationships by extension.
Regression for Inner Child Work
One of the things I enjoy about being little is that when I’m in a deep headspace, I feel incredibly joyful. My little is non-sexual and is very happy although shy. As I started going to little-based events I was able to intentionally connect with my little and tap into that joy. I consider myself 24/7 little because many of the activities littles love are things I’ve loved my whole life. Having stuffed animals, being babied by others, and my love of bubbles were just seen as “quirks” to my parents and peers although at times I would be called “childish”. After finding BDSM, I was able to give more space to little me. However, I’ve found that regression has had the added bonus of being an avenue for healing.
In order to heal from past traumas, I have to heal my inner child. At least that’s what the self-help books say. Choosing special outfits, exploring activities that immersed me in littleness, and connecting with others like me has been an incredible experience. When I’m deep in that headspace, I don’t experience anxiety or feelings of sadness and my theory was that if that headspace was free of that, perhaps I could learn how to carry over that joy when I’m not in that headspace.
I will admit I am still working out the kinks (pun intended) with this theory. However, whenever I am stressed I try to do a little’s activity. When I am so stressed, I can’t function, my Dominant will often suggest a little activity for me as well. In doing so, we’ve discovered that littleness can help me get to a neutral emotional point which is a very valuable tool for someone who gets stressed easily.
Vulnerability is the state of being exposed to possible physical or emotional harm. The very foundation of many of my kinks include the inherent risks of willfully playing with vulnerability. As a submissive, much of my play involves me consenting to being vulnerable for the sake of pleasure and growth. While things could stop there, my partner and I have cultivated our dynamic to go beyond just the surface-level pleasure of things. We use that vulnerability to foster growth.
Submission is inherently reliant on vulnerability, whether that be physical or emotional. When working with vulnerability, it’s inevitable to run into your inner darkness, fears, sensitivities, and many feelings can come up as you open yourself up to another person. Rather than shy away from those less-than-stellar experiences, I lean into them in order to grow.
In February of 2021, I got a kidney stone. It was incredibly painful and I had to go to the hospital. Following this incident, my Dominant had enforced a temporary no-alcohol, no-caffeine rule. Despite my love for coffee and Cabernet, I agreed to the rule because it was a genuine safety concern. I did have the option of asking if I really wanted either and depending on how much water I had consumed that day, he would approve or deny the request. A month later, my mother visited me, which is incredibly stressful for me and I often resort to emotional consumption when she’s around. We were at breakfast and I’d ordered a coffee without asking my Dominant for permission. I wasn’t going to tell him because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but I felt guilty so I confessed. Punishment is not particularly fun but it can be a useful teacher. During the spanking, I apologized and he asked me what I was apologizing for and I said because I’d drunk the coffee but his response was something along the lines of:
“You didn’t have to lie to me, you could have asked. I understand you’re stressed, I would have said yes.”
When he said that, it hit me (no pun intended) that the punishment was less about not following the no-coffee rule. It was the fact that I felt the need to lie about it rather than being honest and when I thought about it, I had a habit of dishonesty that I’d never realized before. Following the spanking we examined things together. I realized that the behavior of white-lying had developed as a result of some of my previously toxic or abusive relationships. Overtime, he has continued to provide a safe space for my honesty and even in serious matters, he always encourages me to share my truth. This has allowed me to be less afraid of being honest not only about keeping accountable for things but also honest about my limitations, boundaries, etc. I spent so much time fearful of others’ reactions that I had never considered that being overly angry when someone tells the truth is not a healthy behavior. So through his actions, I had the benefit of being able to weed out additional toxicity from my life. Being honest shouldn’t be penalized or met with anger or passive aggressiveness—especially if one expresses themselves in a kind and true manner.
Both within and outside of kink, every moment of vulnerability is an opportunity for change. Whether that change is good or bad depends on the circumstances and the beauty of the lifestyle is that it relies heavily on consent. Which means, I have much more say in using vulnerability to my advantage and promoting positive changes in my life.
Subspace Develops Vulnerability
As part of my healing journey, I visited a hypnotist who told me that hypnosis is something that happens everyday— all you need is to make someone vulnerable and grab their attention. When you do that, it becomes very easy to imprint messages on their subconscious. He gave an example of a child being told some negative statements that they carry with them into adulthood and how sometimes those negative statements permeate all the areas of their life. Thoughts of being not good enough, led one down a path of self-sabotage for example.
When he told me that, the first thing I thought was “kink makes me vulnerable, I wonder if I can play around with this” so I spoke up about it to my Dominant. During heavy play, he reiterates how much of a good girl I am and has me repeat positive things back to him. Outside of scenes, he gives me lots of praise and when I am being too rigid with myself, he will bring awareness to that so that I can practice positive self talk. I’ve noticed a significant change in my thinking and I’ve even been able to catch myself in the midst of negative self-talk on occasion. Whenever I do, I make sure to tell myself something positive or at the very least something more balanced.
By Scarlette Hemsworth
Scarlette is a polyamorous kinkster, freelance writer, sex worker, and indie author based out of California. She was introduced to the kink world in 2018 and identifies as a 24/7 little, sub, and ABDL. Scarlette enjoys watching anime, playing video games, and building terrariums in her spare time.
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