Kink & BDSM have long been pathologized and stigmatized in the mental health community and general society. Wanting to incorporate intentional power, pain, bondage, and dynamics have been viewed as due to someone’s trauma history or mental illness. However, more therapists such as myself and other folks in the BDSM community have been making connections between somatic and relational healing, and kink. Regardless of someone’s trauma, which may look exactly like their kink or not at all, kink provides a container for a somatic & relational experience that can re-write our narratives about ourself, form new brain pathways, and help us return to our bodies. Below are some of the (many) ways BDSM & Kink can be framed for healing purposes if done within a safe and healthy relationship container (which could be a long term relationship or a carefully negotiated pick up play scene at a party!).
Experiencing a safe, predictable container.
Much like the therapy office, having the same day and time for an appointment, and discussing goals and treatment modalities with a therapist, kink can provide a similar safety container, if done in a safe place and with safe people. There is a scene, which is the time and space in which play happens, and before then planning between partners about what is ok and not ok to happen in that scene. There is predictability, which calms and heals the nervous system.
Completing our stress response cycle
Similar to other physical practices, kink can invite stuck traumatic stress energy that is pent up to be released. Through movement and expression, we release this energy that is no longer serving us. Here, we get to do this while also connecting to another person, and a larger community.
Connecting with our felt sense
Kink done well invites us to connect with our internal sensations. It asks us to be in touch with how things are feeling for us inside of our bodies, and name them to our partners, whereas other physical or sexual activity can never invite us to drop into embodiment.
Getting a corrective emotional experience or a “mismatch”
If we have experienced trauma, harm, or misattunement in the past (which I could argue everyone has), then kink can heal this due to the need for extreme attunement. Here, we get the experience of being attuned to. Here, we get to change our narratives about ourselves in relationship (it can be safe to be known, we can choose what happens to our bodies, we can set boundaries).
Getting to experience safe attunement
As mentioned above, here our attachment systems can get a new experience of someone being tuned into our emotions and sensations and needs, and having that be safe. During a scene, partners need to be aware of each other to an extreme level, and in a healthy dynamic, that leads to more closeness and better play. This is different than someone being attuned to you and using that knowledge as a way to manipulate or harm you further. This is also different than someone not attuning to you, and the experience of being abandoned or uncared for.
Kink & BDSM is another opportunity for embodiment and healing. To find out more, I have an hour long workshop available here for purchase and download.