I was recently inspired to dive into a thought process around healthy limit pushing and crossing the line into actual damage.
It really is the proverbial line in the sand--you draw it, stand there with your nice little stick pointing firmly at it... and a big wave comes along. Bye bye line in the sand. Sometimes it's a good thing. Other times, not so much.
So we try to walk on this finite line and travel in a direction that's healthy. Hopefully without falling off one side or another. But falling along the way is inevitable. Kind of like learning to walk or swim--at some point you are going to eat dirt or breath water.
There's a line between growth and damage. Sometimes it's difficult to see through the waves, but it's there. And I was recently asked where exactly "there" is.
The truth is, I don't know. Pause for shocked silence (yes, please do smirk here).
Your line might be over there, someone else line might be over here and off to the side.
For me, the line falls somewhere between that place where I just know I can't go any further even though I can (in that "I can't think or speak because my brains are goo and may never function again" kind of way), and feeling icky the next day or when the experience is duplicated. But it has so far been nearly impossible for me to catch on my own. I need His help.
It takes a while to figure out where your line is. And even then the damn thing has a tendency to move. And it takes time for someone else to pin down your moving line. So it's easy to cross when you are trying to push the limits. And damn do I like having my limits pushed. In a love/hate kind of way.
It is possible to experience ttwd and come out cleaner, heal old wounds, expand your mind and the way you see existence, to create a relationship that is, to plagiarize myself (can you do that?), closer than skin will allow.
And it is also quite possible to come out wounded and damaged, with new scars and a relationship lacking mental intimacy.
I believe that overall, we come closest to shark infested waters when we deal with pain or humiliation.
Pain factors into Alpha and I's relationship, but it's not something He generally pushes further than I think I can go. Pain, while extremely physical, is also a very mental experience--how it is given, how it is taken, the individual processes along the way.
I think humiliation (referencing myself again of course), is a bit different. It can be kind of like swimming with dolphins in shark infested waters--dangerous but oh so incredible. And it's not so much about the event itself as what happens afterwards. So maybe the line between growth and damage isn't so much about what happens when we play on the edge, but the things that happen when we hang off of it.
I'm gonna get sidetracked with humiliation for a minute here...I used to think it was squarely on the wrong side of my little line in the sand. And then I learned that there is nothing quite like it. Having someone piss all over you and treat you like a dirty whore one minute, then turn around and tell you that they love and respect you the more for it and you can try to take over the world again tomorrow? It's one hell of an experience. Yes, I know run-on sentences are one of my major grammatical errors. I can't help it if that's how I think lol.
And it's tricky, because that worthless feeling can be a sneaky little bitch who wants to sit next to you and be a close companion. Sometimes she wants to hang around and mess with your head. That's why what happens afterwards is so important--It can crush her or bring her in for coffee.
Alpha likes to say that He will hurt but never harm me. And I think that is an important distinction. Hurt is a temporary experience that offer opportunities for growth. Harm occurs when there are adverse impacts with lasting effects.
How do we avoid crossing that sometimes finite line between to much and not enough, between hurt and harm--how do we walk on the perfect road? Never gonna happen 100% of the time. Huff at me all you want lol. It will still remain true.
But I do believe it is possible to maintain an overall healthy balance.
There's no substitution for knowing someone well. Alpha knows me well, and is quite acquainted with my migrating line in the sand--He has moved it upon occasion. The better a Dom knows their sub, the easier it is to avoid damage.
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I think that safe words (and actually using them), can really prevent a lot of harm and diffuse situations before they reach the point of causing damage. They give submissives the tools to help prevent harm. If you have one? Use it when you need it. Not after. And the better you know yourself, the more effective and useful it will be.
Is there one single point where everyone's line intersects, a common point between pushing the limits and incurring damage? If so, I think that it is an emotional intersection. Perhaps a feeling in common...But whatever path gets us there will be unique to each.