Fifty Shades of Psychology

A few weeks ago I finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I feel like it took me too long to get through, but I don’t often read fiction and the time I can dedicate to that kind of leisure activity sometimes is scarce.

I started reading the book after it was suggested by a Facebook friend. Historically, suggested reading leaves me frustrated and let down. A book about five love languages comes to mind. The vast majority of all books ever suggested to me have been books I finished and absolutely hated. Usually, good reading just finds its way to me.

Fifty Shades of Grey is …. well, a grey area for me.

The writing is very clearly by a female author – you could guess this probably without even knowing the author’s name. In discussing the writing style with a female coworker (who has not read the book, and likely won’t – she’s also not seen the movie.) she said that much of the writing I was choking on was typical of female writers. I recall that, for the bulk of the book, one of the main characters, Anastasia, was found to be blushing at every turn – like, about 5 times per page – apparently immensely bashful. And the other main character, Mr. Christian Grey, while not bashful at all, is almost always described – in practically every scene – in the same way. The color and condition of his hair, his eyes, and the way those stupid grey sweatpants “fall” on his hips. That was very tiring and made me wonder why a billionaire had such a limited wardrobe. I found myself quite often skipping entire sections, multiple paragraphs at a time just to avoid the superfluous descriptions.

Some people focus on the fact that this book (and the ones that followed) technically counts as smut. And I suppose it does. It’s true that there are a number of parts in this first book that count as such. But, in my opinion, for a book centering not only around a sexual relationship but specifically around a BDSM sexual relationship, the writing is rather… innocent. I feel it’s likely not nearly as graphic as it could be.

Quite honestly, some of the scenes in the book are enough to get anyone hot and bothered but what really kept me reading was the psychology involved. Even the raciest scenes from the book really aren’t terribly stellar – save for the mental part of it all. She’s the younger of the two, not quite a college graduate when the book begins, and ridiculously inexperienced – It’s only a couple weeks prior to college graduation and the only male she’d ever kissed prior to all this was her dad. Grey, on the other hand, is older (although not by much), completely independent, successful, very rich, and not naïve in any form whatsoever. His sexual life appears to have begin while he was in his mid/late teens.

Many times I wanted to smack the author. I would finish reading a section or a chapter and find myself thinking, “Really? REALLY?” and wonder how in the world anything like this could ever become the money-making phenomenon it is. Three books to start out, then a movie, and now a fourth book (which has already had drama of its own, being stolen and whatnot). Ridiculous.

Still the back and forth between the two, while sometimes absolutely lame, really gets one thinking about human interactions. Or it did me, anyway. I think in lots of ways and on lots of levels all of us are playing these “Dom” and “Sub” roles. It goes far deeper than just who holds the riding crop and who squeals in pain (delight?).

Interestingly, the Sub in all of this is the one with the true control. The Dom is perhaps recognized as the active force in the relationship and its interactions. And truly, the Dom is that. But the Submissive is the one with the real and total power. It apparently takes a very strong, determined, and dedicated entity to fulfill successfully the receptive role in Nature / Life, and I think this is paralleled in true spirituality.

In Sahaj Marg we speak of “becoming” instead of “experiences.” A lot of the work abhyasis do is to remain open and permissive of the “will” of our evolution and integration. This is not unlike the way Anastasia has to be open to the will of her Dom – open to the various things he has planned and the path on which he intends to direct her for very specific purposes, including his idea of punishments. (In the book her habits of rolling her eyes and biting her bottom lip are almost always getting her into trouble.) And yet, as open as she must remain for the exchange to work, she remains absolutely 100% in control. The book makes this clear more than once, and it’s no less true in spirituality. Our gurus are often referenced as “master” and in many stories they behave quite a bit like strict Doms – their punishments and lessons often seeming enigmatic or harsh at the time. But just as in this book, our gurus / masters can’t have the intended effect without our permission and complete willingness.

In Sahaj Marg we reference our “Masters.” Here is an interesting blend of what could be considered the Dom / Sub. The masters of our lineage guide us in ways that are often beyond our understanding and comfort – and there are accounts of this relationship even being somewhat harsh. Additionally, each Sahaj Marg master has emphasized that no work can be done on or through the abhyasi without the devotee’s full participation, namely willingness and permission.

It’s not about forcing anything or pain for the sake of pain or amusement. It’s a true and deep example of how “no pain no gain” is in many instances very valid. Our spiritual evolution requires active participation: our submission (permission) and willingness. Without these no Guru, no Guide… no Master can serve the higher purpose and our growth is incredibly unlikely.

When I first came to Sahaj Marg, I struggled with the gurus being called masters. Seemed cultish to me. But I find it very fitting. These individuals are truly masters. Like Christian Grey who came to BDSM far ahead of Anastasia, our gurus mastered the path that we’re following now and are the ultimate insofar as capable guides are concerned. And, like Anastasia we’re the submissive / permissive and retain the entirety of control and responsibility.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti