Developing Boundaries and ConfidenceBY ANDREW KING
I was a doormat for people, a rescuer, a person everyone came to when they had crappy work they wanted done or didn't want to deal with something themselves. They knew I was the responsible one who would take on any task. For that reason, I was also a role model. Being special that way was one of the perks. I was always held to standards that no one else could or would meet.
On the other hand, I didn't feel like I had the choice to ever say no to these requests. I had no other desirable status. Growing up in an African American community of the inner city, I could not meet standards held up to young black men. I wasn't tall and lean. I didn't have a six-pack. I lacked the skills that would enable me to conquer women, which was supposed to be the number-one priority of all men. Even in the elite college I attended, those norms were reinforced, by both men and women. Because I didn't have a girlfriend, and I wasn't having one-night stands, I was seen as defective or as a wimp.
After graduating, I found a job where the environment was hostile towards me because of race and gender. Working on a team that was all women, I would get performance reviews that gave me the lowest rating because I wasn't an ass-kicker. I was regularly mocked and humiliated.
One day, some friends took me to meet a group of people who were talking about OM. They seemed warm and open and included different races, backgrounds, and ages, which made me feel comfortable. I had a sense I could trust them. OMing sounded scary, but I was so blocked and shamed that I felt I had to either go to a therapist to figure myself out, or I could try this strange technique I didn't understand. What did I have to lose?
I was in full fight-or-flight mode in my first OM. All my social programming said I wasn't even allowed to ask for a kiss, much less touch a woman between the legs. The whole time, my hands were shaking, and I was thinking, Am I doing this properly? How is the other person feeling? At some point, my mind went blank, and then I felt energy shooting from my finger up my arm to my head. Then I realized, Wow, I'm actually doing this, and it's not a disaster.
After the first time, OMing became easier, and I ended up doing fifty or sixty OMs. I learned a lot that I could apply to all my relationships. In an OM, when the strokee asks for adjustments in the way I'm stroking, she's matter of fact and not judgmental. There's no sense that I'm doing something wrong. It's just that she wants something different. In the rest of my life, people asked me for adjustments too, but they were often more like insults. I didn't see that those kinds of adjustments were actually projections, and I'd immediately take all the responsibility and assume there was something wrong with me. OM taught me to discriminate between real requests and abusive treatment and not take the abuse on myself.
The OM container is the set of steps and rules that makes the stroking process safe for both people, as long as they stay within its boundaries. This concept helped me recognize that I had a container too, and I began to notice when someone was violating the boundaries that made me feel safe. I started to speak up in those situations, to say no to requests that weren't good for me and to refuse to accept offensive treatment. I discovered that I could choose whether to leave an abusive situation or stay and handle it.
At first, people in my life were shocked by this new behavior. Sometimes they blew up at me, which in the past would have been scary. But I had experienced intense sensations while OMing. If I could handle the sensation of stroking a woman, getting yelled at by someone who's being abusive was easy in comparison. Ultimately, my relationships became infinitely better. I dumped the people who were abusive, and in the relationships that were worth saving, people raised their level of behavior as they came to respect me.
At work, I also learned to say no to inappropriate requests and to call people on their offensive behavior. As I learned to push back, I found that even if I couldn't change my situation, I felt like I had dignity. Eventually I quit and found a job where I'm treated much better.
Another OM step that had a big effect on me was noticing, when the stroker looks at the strokee's genitals and describes what he sees in completely neutral language. I learned that women's parts are of different sizes and shapes, and I learned not to judge because there's no basis of judgment. I started thinking about sexuality and women's bodies in a non-judgmental way, and then about my own body in the same way. I'd always felt bad about my height and weight, but now I recognized that I could be seen without being judged. Meanwhile, I was learning how to stroke someone, a beneficial skill. OM tore down the narrative I had grown up with, that I didn't have the right kind of body to attract other people. I discovered that women were sometimes attracted to me, and I had always ignored the signals because I didn't see that story as possible.
I believe OM would be a good practice for all young men who are mature enough to question themselves. Normal dating patterns will teach you to objectify women, and those patterns are terrible. I see people who, unlike me, meet all the superficial standards for being desirable. They have lots of sex and relationships, and yet they end up a mess because they feel empty. For those men, an intensive practice like OM can help them throw out the masculine norms and find a more authentic sexuality and an authentic sense of self.