Dominance, submission, and safety

I use dominance to achieve an elusive sensation of safety. I use submission to protect me from danger. Twin fears plague me. First, “dissolution” – annihilation, fragmentation. A non-existence lying beyond deadness that I imagine would result from my being abandoned, from loss, from being out of mind. And second, something like murderous aggression, destruction, harm, that I imagine could result from my untrammeled desire.

The twin fears are a Mobius strip. Aggression leads to abandonment leads to loss leads to annihilation leads to aggression… and then, all over again.

At its best, this configuration allows me to rework my childhood traumas triumphantly. In such a triumphant reworking, I conjure a scenario, a relationship, in which I fear neither abandonment nor my own aggression. In which I leap to the other side of the Mobius strip, where desire leads to gratification leads to a sense of vitality leading, once again, to desire.

At its worst, the configuration recapitulates the very childhood traumas I long to master.

Freud wrote a great paper called “Remembering, repeating, and working through,” in which he described this very phenomenon. It’s a psychoanalytic paper, about psychoanalytic technique, but honestly, it’s just about life. I read it in college, and it stuck with me. Even then, I read it as a powerful description of what I knew to be true, but didn’t yet understand, about my own experience, and memory, of trauma. I reread the paper every year or two; I understand it to be something approaching a universally apt theory of human suffering.

That, and the Dhammapada.

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