Developing Boundaries and Confidence

by Andrew King

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. 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 my life. 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 crossing the boundaries at work. 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 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.

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