Empathy As a Top and Overreach
Empathy as a top is useful for many forms of BDSM play.
Even if, for example, you’re roleplaying someone “evil”, to be doing a good job at paying attention to the reactions of your partner.
This same empathy can sometimes lead to overreach.
To try to do too much.
Or to focus on your partner at the expense of finding your own pleasure.
Or to have weak boundaries.
You know how in the airplane pre-flight safety spiel, they say to put own your own oxygen mask before helping others?
Because you need to take care of yourself before you can help others.
If you pass out from lack of oxygen, you won’t be able to help your neighbors put on their mask.
When you find yourself overreaching, it’s time to make a course correction.
Whether that’s to slow down, to focus more on yourself, to look for ways to find your own pleasure, to maintain stronger boundaries, to spend more time in practice.
Sometimes, if you’ve gone far off course, a strong correction may be necessary. To take a class, reassess your relationship, to get therapy.
Once, when I was young and new to driving, I was driving down a state highway at 55 MPH, bored, and I let myself get distracted.
When I looked up, I was in the breakdown lane, the car was pointed to the right, away from the road, and I was a fraction of a second away from hurtling off the road to my death.
I yanked on the steering wheel as hard as I could, and the car bounced back on to the road. I yanked so hard that the car bounced back and forth on its suspension, left, right, left, right, until I came to a stop in the breakdown lane again.
Learning how not to overreach is a skill that can be learned, like any other skill.
Sometimes a hard yank is necessary, to make a big change to get back on course.
With practice, usually only small course corrections are necessary.
I’m capable of making a hard yank on the steering wheel, if it should be necessary. In all the years I’ve been driving since, it hasn’t been necessary.
Even if, for example, a kid runs out in front of my car, I have enough awareness and caution while driving that while I may need to brake quickly, or steer to avoid a collision, I’ve not needed to yank so hard on the steering wheel since.
But I could, if I needed to again.
Sometimes, to make a big change, all that’s needed is the realization, “oh, I need to make a big change here, don’t I?”
Other times, ego is involved. To make a big change is to admit that you’ve made a mistake. Perhaps you’ll need to break some promises you’ve made. You may predict that some people might lose respect for you. You may predict that some people will be hurt or disappointed. These predictions may be accurate.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that these negatives are necessary and temporary.
And, people can be more understanding than we realize. If we say, “I need to do something to take care of myself”, they might feel some disappointment, and yet still be supportive.
Or, if someone isn’t understanding of a need you have to take care of yourself, you may have to distance yourself. To say, “I’d like to be friends with you, or to be in a relationship with you, but I can’t practice BDSM with someone who doesn’t support me in meeting my own needs”.
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