|Free to be?
||[May. 25th, 2011|01:20 pm]
Over the years, Ferrett and I have watched poly groups form and evolve, some of them staying together and some moving on, and it's interesting to watch how issues are handled. Because there is a tendency to have a "circle the wagons" attitude about alternative lifestyles in general, and therefore for there to be pressure - sometimes subtle, sometimes not - for people to stay in the club, and disappointment, even disapproval, if someone decides to leave. And I feel uncomfortable with that pressure.|
It's one of the things I spend a LOT of time explaining to people - Ferrett and I went through a period of time where we needed to pull back to monogamy for almost two years, and we may find ourselves in a place where that's necessary in the future (not anticipating it, just recognizing that it could happen). A person engaged in an alternate lifestyle doesn't have to be ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME. And choosing to be in a different place now does not invalidate who they were before, nor does "who they were before" ever require them to be that person again. We are not binary beings; most of us are on a scale of attraction, desire, lifestyle. And life changes can move us along that scale. It only becomes a problem when the "supposed to be" mentality interferes. We've all seen the results of the "you're SUPPOSED TO BE straight!" attitude and the homophobes caught with a mouthful of dick. That we're used to. But there can be a lot of "supposed to" in alternative lifestyles: if you're kinky/poly/bi, it's easy to think you're SUPPOSED TO stay that way, when in reality there should be love and support for being where you need to be.
That's not to say that we don't have times when we have to push ourselves to discover why we're changing, or deal with a situation that is making us uncomfortable. Sometimes that discomfort is temporary, and sometimes it's a sign of a real change, so it has to be tested - otherwise it's easy to be yoyo-ing between extremes and causing ourselves and our loved ones stress and hurt feelings. But being able to talk about it in a way that feels safe and accepting is really important.
It's brave to say, "I am currently uncomfortable/hurt/insecure" and invite dialogue, rather than either clamming up and internalizing the pain or burning down everything out of the fear that it's all gonna burn anyway so why waste time? It means you have to be willing to talk, and to listen, and to keep reforming the hypotheses and be accepting of the fact that other people will have feelings and reactions and they aren't always going to be comfortable to hear, and they will sometimes be right about the reasons why you are changing in ways that are downright painful to hear. And being strong enough to recognize what's legitimate compromise and what's "just giving in" and doing what's right for yourself.
The fact that the community want you to stay one of them makes that pressure even harder to resist. I see it in pagan communities, too: if someone decides to leave, there is a palpable disappointment that they are no longer "one of us." When true acceptance would be to respect their decisions.
It's natural that we gravitate to people like ourselves, and that we are excited when they share things that are important to us. But it's also imperative, if we are to be the people we would look up to, for us to be wise and kind to those undergoing change or leaving our groups. Because tolerance is a two-way street.
I'm going practice psychology without a certification here, but I'm pretty sure that it's a valid theory:
You can only really know a couple hundred people at any one time. You can only bond with individuals that you really know, OR members of groups that your are part of. You cannot be bonded with a total stranger. There's a reason armies make their Soldiers dress alike at work. It's instant tribal affiliation.
It takes time to get to know a new person. A total of several hours of extended conversation, really, unless you get to bond with them under highly traumatic circumstances.
Until you get to know someone, you have to have a category to fit them into in order to interact meaningfully with them.
A poly/kink/bi 'group' sometimes has a hard time defining who is and isn't really part of 'the tribe' and what the defining characteristics of 'the tribe' are. So part of what you're seeing is dissonance between your definition of 'the tribe' and theirs.
But part of it is that if they don't 'really' know you, and you change the cognitive framework they have for dealing with you, it's confusing on a subconscious level, and hence dealing with you makes them uncomfortable. So they react poorly.
Every book I read, and every study I've seen, and every experience I have with other human beings makes me have a lower and lower opinion of the place that the 'insightful, thoughtful' part of ANYONE has on actual behavior.