Undoing Damage with BDSM

The most common person who reaches out to me for coaching is struggling with the personal exploration and intimacy because they carry guilt, trauma, and pain from being raised in a conservative religious household. Part of the reason they seek me out is because I too was raised in a conservative, religious family. The blocks this type of upbringing creates are common, painful, and can be worked through.

Understanding Your Past

Whether you consciously left your religious upbringing behind, found an accepting denomination, or just started to ignore religious references and inclinations, they background leaves traces of trauma for most of us. When it comes to kink and BDSM, a churches’ interpretation of submission and power can cause people to chafe at power exchange. Additionally, ideas about sexuality and desire are imparted to children early in religious instruction. These linger.

Getting to the core of what ideas lingering from your upbringing can help you identify what is causing personal blocks today. There are a few techniques to help you delve into core issues.

Journal about it. If you are a writer of any kind, write about what you where you are stuck. Remember, journaling does not have occur in narrative form. It can be bullet points, brainstorming, and grammar and spelling do not matter. The point of journaling is to get stuff out of your head and onto paper so you can start making sense of it.

Scene Debrief. Lingering trauma and problematic beliefs arise during BDSM scenes for many reasons. We store trauma in our bodies. When we are touched in some way, or we engage in intense physical activity, this trauma can start to come out in a myriad of ways. This may be crying, anger, or other intense feelings. It may be a desire to avoid a partner or an intense dislike of certain play or touch. It might be words that make you upset and you can’t put a finger on why. Talking about how you and your partner(s) felt in a scene can help you start to identify what is festering in your body and brain.

Bodywork. Body work includes an array of techniques for getting in touch with what is staying in your body.

  • Try taking time alone and get naked. Simply exist in your nakedness and pay attention to how that feels and what feelings arise.
  • Touch yourself. This does not have to be an erotic touch or masturbation. Touch different parts of your body and notice what you feel and what thoughts occur.
  • Try a body check-in meditation. I offer one here.

Identify Recurring Thoughts and Emotions

When thoughts or emotions consistently occur with specific inputs this is a result of learning. You think about sex and feel uncomfortable, angry, embarrassed, along with desire or need means that the old learning around sex being “bad” or “dirty” or “wrong” is also coming up with your current needs and desires. If someone talks about women submitting and you feel your skin crawl, it may be because you grew up in a religion where women were seen as lesser than men and should not have a voice.

Making a note of these recurring thoughts and emotions during the exercises above will help you narrow down what you want to work on to break through your blocks. Once these emotions and thoughts have been identified you can start to trace it back to what you learned growing up. Now you have the tools to start healing.

Unlearning

People talk about unlearning for all sorts of things but rarely follow up with tools for doing this. Unlearning requires a couple things.

  1. Identifying what you originally learned which does not serve you/is a problem.
  2. Articulating why this is problematic.
  3. Replacing the knowledge with new understandings of the topic.
  4. Retraining your brain and body to respond to the old stimuli with the new knowledge.

The first two steps above will take you through steps one and two of unlearning. You can identify problematic thoughts and beliefs. Next, you figure out why they don’t serve you today. You are now at step three: replacing the knowledge with a new understanding.

You can’t just say, “Oh, that is what I was taught but it’s not applicable today.” Your brain and body will want to replace old knowledge and reactions with new ones. Leaving that space blank will create consistent opportunities for your brain to return to the old thought patterns.

Depending on what knowledge or beliefs you are trying to replace requires learning about the same topic from a new perspective. For people with religious trauma, it requires relearning what sexuality and desire represent and how they can legitimately be expressed.

To 95 percent of the people I talk too I recommend Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is Not an Apology. For many of us raised in conservative religions, our bodies are the site of “sin” or “evil” or are “wrong.” We may have been taught that masturbation is a sin. Fatness and evil are equated amongst Evangelicals in the United States. Dark skin, disability, illness, and so much more are seen as signs that we have fallen from the image of our “maker” and need to be “fixed” or “healed” or “saved.”

Taylor’s book goes to the heart of these beliefs. Taking time to read and let the messaging set in is a great start. Coupling it with the workbook can be incredibly healing.

If you have a partner you trust, try some body-affirming kink play. This can include having a partner consistently praise your body. It might take the form of writing a body apology letter and reading it to your partner or many other things. The link above provides introductions to a variety of body affirmation exercises.

If your disconnect comes from the imposition or roles based on gender and sexuality, you can benefit from connecting with other kinky folks who identify with your role, sexuality, or other kink identity. Connect with submissive groups, queer groups, Black kinky folks or others. Chances are there are a good number of people in these groups what have experienced the same type of learning or trauma you have. Talking to others about their process is very healing in a variety of ways.

Kink and BDSM provide a myriad of ways of addressing religious trauma and negative messaging. So many of us suffer from what we were taught as children. These thoughts still impact our adult relationships. Luckily, through the community, or with a partner, or even by yourself, these kinky practices can help you heal.


If you are interested in booking a coaching session with me, please contact me at Auntie.Vice@gmail.com for more information. I charge $50/hr for a session.

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