In the first article About Surrender#1, we explored that surrendering doesn’t help indulgence, but setting boundaries does.
Modern Studies, exploring the “design” of our nervous system verbalize the formula of the sequence of natural surrender as following:
- Step: Safety (protection of my boundaries)
- Step: Aapproach (sizzles… and contact…)
- Step: Touch/ Contact (incl. indulging sex)
- Step: Bond (common territory/ground – maybe nest-building and babies)
Summarizing, our culture uses the sequence which is opposite to the natural impulses of our nervous system.
We don’t trust our bodies; instead we listen to the modern fairy tales of our time: Perfect erotic indulging leads to trust and connection, feeling safe and protected by the other.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help me, if my hero is willing to take a bullet for me after sex, because my somatic nervous system is still reacting in alarmed mode. Later on, I will shrug it off with a simple “He just wasn’t the one…”
We learn the opposite to what would be easy. So it’s no surprise that it’s hard for us.
I believe that we can find the origins of our compulsive controlling relationships in the anti-instinctive sequence of finding and being in relationships, as well as we can understand why “You don’t even see me!” has become a classic accusation in our relationship conflicts. Everything we avoided, suppressed, dreaded and denied in the years BEFORE the nest-building will catch up with us eventually.
The result of this is that we don’t feel safe with the one person in our lives with whom we spend the most time and space.
“A generation incapable of relationships”? It’s not our inability to relate, it’s the incapability to confine.
In my opinion, the easiest way to explain this mass phenomenon is with the help of a collective trauma structure. In her book Schluss mit second-hand sex, Marlise Santiago, a sexual therapist, analyses our sexual behavior and describes a common detachment of the somatic body – our alienation from ourselves, as unnoticed and completely normalized by society.
We sense that the whole question of surrender is not as simple as we may wish. Instead of searching the battlefield where we have lost, we must look for the key to wholeness in the light cone of our awareness.
We now know that our inability to sense what we want and don’t want – and when we want it, comes from an alienation of our instincts and this alienation is a strategy learned through trauma.
The fact that the obvious is disregarded – the first and most basic impulses (closeness, distance, anger, touch, sex, movement etc.) are missed, weakened, suppressed and adjusted as soon as we’re not alone; the fact that we find the easy complicated and the complicated normal – all of the above are characteristic of traumatic influence.
Trauma is composed of uncompleted, suppressed movement in our nervous system. Trauma is the gradual estrangement from our instincts, which we have observed above.
Interestingly enough, the word “trauma” may trigger strong resistance, especially mentioned in a sexual context. Yet it’s interesting that this dynamic pin-points exactly how and why we act in a certain way and why we can’t change that even if we become painfully aware that our strategies for contact with others are not working and why we keep getting carried away in the closeness with others.
Trauma is not a disease, an exception or a flaw
Trauma is far more than an individual thing. Trauma doesn’t need a “predator” – we know trauma can enter our lives on various levels, we know we can inherit trauma, deform, dissolve or codify it through generations.
Trauma is one of the things the world was made of; it’s a force which transcends and interweaves with everything; it’s always the same substance with millions and millions of different faces, forms, movements, effects, curses and gifts.
Trauma is a dynamic which affects us collectively even more than individually
And with regard to our common sexual helplessness and inexperience, collective trauma is a very apt description.
If we subsequently want to reinforce our boundaries, it is good to see the dimensions this challenge presents.As soon as we consider the dimension of trauma in our project, many problems will be clearer and easier to approach, both for us and our partners.
On the track of the causes…
Trauma emerges in a violation of boundaries , which inevitably affects the humanimal.
Of course this happens in the animal kingdom as well – every day prey have to run for their lives.
An animal would immediately mend its violated borders before looking for a new partner and before eating. An animal would secure its old territory, or would find a new one; it would mark the borders of its space and would protect them. Of course an animal has experiences which we would find “traumatic”, but it would not suffer from “trauma” in the sense – it wouldn’t suffer from an ongoing chronic wound to its intuition and courage, to its awareness of boundaries and in its ability to protect them, and to finding them worth protecting.
“Trauma” as we experience it is the non-dissolution of the boundary violation AFTER the boundary violation, it’s to remain in the experience and feeling of violated boundaries which are now beyond repair, open and fragile for ever.
Trauma doesn’t reside in the actual experience itself, it emerges from our behaviour afterwards, what we do or don’t do. Only if we don’t give ourselves and our nervous system the space, understanding and the permission to do what we want to, better said have to – namely to protect and repair our boundaries – then and only then is our nervous system harmed.
Protecting your boundaries plus surrender?
“That’s silly – we don’t want to harm each other. We love each other, we have been a couple for 4 years – and we just want to enjoy sex together!” That’s what we would like to add at this point.
Of course we don’t want to harm each other. Obviously. We just want to make love, but that’s not the point, it’s the collective dead angle, the same gap in our nervous system. We are all – despite our good intentions – children of a confused culture. Waiting for “the one”?
“The one” with whom we can practice surrender (to set boundaries) is more replaceable then we would like to believe. And I have never, ever met someone who simply and comfortably lived within his boundaries without having consciously worked at it.
That’s how slowly, secretly and silently whole areas of our lives are brought to a halt, we paralyse our talents, forget about our ecstasies, dive into work, our deepest and most important muscles collapse, we contract the fasciae of our bodies and arrest in our organs – in order to prevent the most powerful and instinctive forces of our bodies to rise within us. That’s why Peter Levine says: Trauma is what we hold on to.
Trauma yanks at the poles of intact boundaries and surrender through contact, which for an animal are the same thing, and turns them into antagonisms. This collective deep rupture in our nervous system is mirrored in countless questions in our culture: “freedom or commitment”, “saying yes or no“, “aggression or love”, etc.
What does it mean?
It means: violated, vague and foggy boundaries feel “right” and when we experience clear and healthy boundaries in another human being, we start to doubt, criticise, interfere, and judge. To take care of one’s own boundaries makes us restless instead of peaceful.
When we live in trauma, we live upside down. Wrong feels right, and right feels wrong. The animal within us, which has been straying through the wilderness for years, becomes wound up, exhausted, leery and confused.
We see that the common and seemingly mundane topics of surrender and control lead us to the concept of cultural trauma and our individual potential to reveal and release whole fields of inherited trauma.
That means that in order to celebrate sexual surrender, we have to eventually go through the process of repairing our boundaries.
In order to rediscover deep surrender we have to find the courage to sense our own boundaries and allow ourselves to protect them, because there is no other way, because our nervous system doesn’t want it any other way.
Any healing demands repairing boundaries; there is no way around this act of love for yourself…