W. and I had a long conversation tonight; one of the main topics was me trying to express how I need more structured rules in my life, with both punishment and rewards as part of the system. And as I was talking about the areas where I particularly need help, I had to wonder: am I really, seriously asking to be punished for these things? Do I want to be punished for things I’m nearly certain to do (or, more to the point, do I want to be punished for not doing things I’m nearly certain not to do)?
And the answer is, "No, of course I don’t WANT to be punished for these things."
Which leads to the next question: will punishments work to help me change my behaviors? And there, I think, is the answer.
Yes, I do think punishments will work.
I really don’t like being punished. I don’t enjoy it. It’s not fun. I don’t know how it is that it’s different from spanking for fun, but it definitely is. I love to be spanked for fun, no matter how hard or long. Punishment spankings are different. They can be very short, and not even necessarily very hard, but they tend to encourage me to change my behavior.
I think a major aspect is the sense that someone else is paying attention to me, and cares about what I do, and how I treat myself. So when there’s an element of trying to communicate through negative behavior (and I hate to admit this, but I know that I do it), some kind of response is required. And, unfortunately, I often have trouble getting out of the cycle of negative behaviors without the reinforcement of a spanking.
On the flip side, when I do something wrong unintentionally, I often have a very difficult time stopping beating myself up about it (in the figurative sense). And in these cases, the self-punishment is utterly out of proportion to the mistake that I made. A spanking often helps me to let go of the need to be angry at myself, and helps me to move on.
In both cases, although I absolutely dread getting the punishments, they leave me feeling safer and more secure, better balanced, and more whole.
But this is something that I can’t quite understand at the moment when there’s about to be a punishment. Although I can say, calmly and rationally, separate from the actual situation, that I know it’s good for me… in the moment, I’d do anything I could to avoid it. I’d argue. If I were a better liar, I might lie. I resist. Yeah, more than anything, I resist.
This is a complex situation. Given a choice, W would far rather not be punishing me at all. And it’s very confusing to her, that I ask for something, and then fight it with all my might when it comes to the point of her doing it.
Some of the resistance is testing to see whether she really cares enough to follow through with the consequences. And some of it is simply that, while I might know that the consequences are good for me, there’s nothing that says I actually want to deal with them. (Why dealing with my own negative consequences is better, I’m not sure.)
On top of all the issues inherent in this situation, I’m also thinking about Natty’s post (and the comments on it) about that good old Inner Appalled Feminist. One of the things that comes up for me around this is that mandate from my IAF that I should be a Strong Woman, one who can take care of her own emotional needs, one who is mature and self-reliant. So I struggle with that, particularly in response to W’s concern that she shouldn’t have so much power over my emotional well-being.
And yet, I remind myself to look at what works. And I know I am more whole, well-balanced, secure, stronger, and yes, even more self-reliant, when I am securely within the boundaries of a disciplinary system. So maybe I should revise my answer to the question of whether I want to be punished for things I’m sure to do.
I may not want the punishment, but I definitely want its results.