Context: HAI teaches participants to "Ask for your 100%." Though that helped me less with the facilitators than with many others, it omits a counter-balance: Understand others and be sensitive to their needs.
I was driving to an older woman's house for the first time. We met at a HAI workshop and were enjoying a back and forth conversation on the one-hour drive to her house on the phone. It was a great conversation, which I suggested to help us learn more about one another. It built on one of the workshop exercises in which we completed the sentence: "If you really knew me you would know..." I was happy with how it was going.
When I got to her house we sat down in physical proximity partly touching as we continued the conversation. I felt close to her and, practicing my exercise, asked myself what could change to improve my experience. Of all the things I could imagine, having the same conversation but with my penis inside her vagina seemed like the easiest, most direct way to move closer to my 100%. So I made a direct request: "I'm loving this conversation and what would make it even more satisfying to me is to be inside your vagina as we talk. May I have your permission." This is about as clean and direct as it gets: the integration between the idea and the words is clear. I've avoided moving in sideways, which I don't like. And I'm happy to hear a "no."
She says "sure." So we reposition ourselves and I enter her. And I turn my attention back to the conversation. But something feels off. The reason I suggested this was imagining feeling even closer than before. But now I can't feel her at all. "You don't seem as present as before," I say with a question. She has not noticed. "Are you sure you want me inside you?" I ask. "Not really," she admits. "Well, let's go back to the way it was before. The only reason I wanted to be inside you was that I imagined it would feel closer and I liked that idea. But I want it to be mutual." I removed my penis, thanked her for her latent candor and we were able to restore closeness.
HAI facilitators at every workshop tell participants: "You are at choice." However, I have observed a minimum of 20% of participants who don't seem to feel this way at all and who do not make choices in alignment with their deep feelings. Some people feel compelled to do what is suggested by a leader, and with scared body language do what the facilitators ask in some extremely vulnerable workshops. Others watch what the majority do. Others, like my partner on this day, try and please the person they are with without referencing their own feelings.
Given the amount of sexual and other abuse in our country, and the amount of brainwashing by abusive power-structures demanding conformity, it seems clear that regardless of the ritual of "asking for permission," and reminding that "you are at choice," their actions are not coming from a self-referential place. I think that this is understandable. When abuse does not get owned, healed and understood clearly by the victim, the contract with the abuser to survive by "going along with the program and not resisting" stays intact. Most contracts with abusers include fine print that pretend the contract does not exist. This makes people who are the most abused and who need the most sensitivity, unable to defend themselves healthily in the event of a direct request such as my asking for my 100%.
Question: When HAI does not ask participants to disclose sexual abuse history prior to taking a workshop, or address and inform issues such as contracts with abusers, and when their abuse contract involves conformity, silence or pleasing, how many people, like the woman in question will say "yes" to the contract terms with their abuser and thus "yes" to a direct request for sex, but violate their own unconscious boundaries in the process?
Concern: Failure to acknowledge the very real limitations abuse survivors face in their attempts to access their authentic "yes" and "no" is a form of shame. Until the contract with the abuser is broken, which requires help from a compassionate witness many participants do not have access to, if they even know about the concept of a contract (John Bradshaw explores this in "Healing the Shame that Binds You) they cannot be expected to be able to differentiate between their authentic "yes" and the "yes" that comes with the message that "If I say yes I survive and don't get rejected/abandoned and die." I have found myself very concerned approaching the women in some of the exercises because they "yes" in words does not match the "yes" in their faces. I am concerned that after many more years than I've spent observing this phenomena no facilitator has made it their business to write a book, encourage reading a book or insist that this be in a workshop. As it is, I have asked for my 100% hundreds of times without realizing after I did trauma research to understand Peter S. and the facilitator's abuse of my trust, innocence and inner feminine before I knew the questions to ask a woman prior to communicating my 100%. Questions that would give both of us a better sense, based on family history and abuse cycles, of how to honor her. I have had another HAI woman complain to me that she did not know her boyfriend had PTSD until he broke up with her because she triggered him too many times without realizing it. I do not think it reasonable or compassionate to teach the self-centered "Ask for your 100%" without first teaching the other-centered: "Understand your partner's vulnerabilities around trauma. No baby is born saying "yes" when they mean "no." That is a learned behavior when we are punished for speaking our truth to such an extent that we stop asking what we want and start asking: "What do I need to do to not be hurt again?"