Part Two In the “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing” Series: Kate’s Story

Published Jan 7 2023

Hello.

This is the second part of a three-part series called “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing, ” written by three anonymous authors Dorit, Kate, and Sally, who have all practiced contact improvisation. All the stories in the series are based on incidents that occurred within the last two years.

I thank this author “Kate” for the gift of her writing and story that was born out of the pain caused by another.

In the notes of this story, I have added definitions and some thoughts so that the story can be a teaching tool.

Please note the following TRIGGER WARNING: This article tells the story of sexual relations obtained through the exploitation of the vulnerabilities of being a newcomer to contact improvisation. 

Kathleen Rea

Kate’s Story

Spiritual by passing is a form of fragmentation in which a person or a community is escaping and rejecting parts of themselves that they do not want to admit they have, using spiritual and pseudo- psychology language to do so. It is a form of dissociation in a cloak of enlightenment (Lopas,2022).

A year ago I was a newcomer to contact improvisation (CI) who had been attending jams for about two months. But then I had a negative experience that caused me to end my involvement in the improvisation community. I had a one-time sexual encounter with someone who is a CI dancer and a local community leader. I gave feedback to the person telling him I was upset about what had happened.

He told me that I was hurt by the encounter due to being naive and because I carried unprocessed pain from my past. He said he felt compassion and sympathy for my pain but took no accountability for his part in what had occurred. He said he had no intention to exploit me and be opportunistic or hurt me and that, therefore, his actions were not the reason for my suffering. He explained to me that a serious trigger had come up within me and that I was projecting pain from that trigger onto the situation with him. He admitted that “yes”, he could have been more transparent. But then followed up by stating that it was my responsibility to ask him about his intentions. He explained that because I was so deeply affected by erotic connections, I should have been the one asking the questions. Apparently, I failed to check in to see if he was planning on exploiting my newcomer status and my attraction and disposing of me the moment our sexual encounter was over. He told me that the other hundred or so women he had been involved with didn’t say anything. Not a pip. Apparently, it was always fine until I came along with my triggers and my unhinged implicit expectation that I would not be treated as a disposable masturbation device. He questioned my “hostility” towards him.

Gaslighting generally refers to a pattern in which the a person attempts to make someone doubt themselves and their grasp on reality. This can involve telling them they are not feeling what they are feeling and/or blaming them for being “too sensitive” or “irrational” or for “misunderstanding” (Huizen, 2022). 
DARVO  
A person held accountable for a boundary-crossing may move through a pattern abbreviated as DARVO. This stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. To escape accountability, the person denies having crossed a boundary, attacks the person bringing forth the concern, and reverses the roles, painting themselves as victim and the person stating the boundary concern as offender (Harsey and Freyd 2020). 
Frame Control
Your frame is the set of assumptions you hold about the world and yourself, such as your values, your identity, your beliefs about social norms etc. Imagine your frame is a box around you and frame control occurs when someone tries to get you out of your box and into their box. Frame control can be obviously manipulative or abusive.  But it can also be less obvious, with a slow build. You can end up in the other person’s box without knowing it and lose touch with what your box ever felt like. Frame control subverts your agency. Frame control often results in doubt, denial or suppression of your own feelings as you are warped into aligning with the beliefs of another, often for their gain (Aella 2021).

Through my engagement with Contact Improvisation, I have learned that although the CI community does attract wonderful people, it also can reek of spiritually glazed individualistic ideology. This ideology with its belief system has in some communities reached the scale of an organized religion. It is a doctrine designed to gaslight vulnerable individuals into perpetually blaming themselves and asking them to work on their “triggers”, whilst the benefactors are completely absolved of any requirement to contemplate upon their accountability and the consequences of their actions.

What follows is my letter to the person within the Contact Improvisation community with whom I was briefly sexually involved. The person is male and established as a local community organizer.


“Hello

For over a year now I have been unable to recover my integrity and my worth since that incident with you after a jam. I am repulsed by the idea of being touched by a man. I have tried participating in contact improvisation exercises with men and found myself freezing and disengaging almost immediately. Any physical contact with a man, even my close male friends is intolerable. I am now afraid that all men in Contact Improvisation jams are there to find a naive and enthusiastic idiot like me to jump on to and move on to the next.

It is humiliating for me to admit that I am severely impacted by that experience with you. It cost me a lot emotionally and financially.

Your actions were still exploitative even if you say you had no intention to exploit me. Your actions were exploitative even if the many other women you have been with through Contact Improvisation in the past did not tell you they felt exploited. Your actions were exploitative because you took advantage of my beginner status and the vulnerabilities that came with that.”

Newcomer Power Differential
- Newcomers often enter a jam not knowing what the form involves. If their partner stretches the event guidelines they may not even be aware this is occurring.

- Altered states of consciousness can occur when an oxytocin/endorphin "high" occurs due to the level of touch and vestibular movement. This can lead to disoriented states and feelings the newcomer has no practice navigating.

- If, in one's life, touch has been predominantly romantic, a newcomer may associate touch with sex and may not understand the range of platonic touch that typically occurs at a jam.

- Newcomers may not understand that what occurs on the dance floor does not mean they have consented to anything off the dance floor. 

For these reasons, newcomers may be more easily led into dances that have sexualized themes and then be more easily led off the dance floor into the bedroom. Historically some people in CI have used the newcomer/experienced-dancer power differential to gain power over someone to obtain sex.

“You opportunistically exploited my being attracted to you at that moment. It is exploitative because you didn’t provide me with information about how you conduct yourself with women. If you had told me how you usually act in these scenarios, I would never have considered being sexual with you. You withheld information about yourself and cared neither about my best interests nor about giving me an opportunity to make an informed choice.”

Informed Consent in sexual relations occurs when an individual clearly explains to possible sex partners their situation and intentions so that the other person can then make an informed choice. It is the resposabililty of the person who needs to inform the other to deliver the information and not the responsibility of anyone else to attempt to discover all that needs to be known through investigative questioning (Hudak, 2018). 

“The language you have been using to describe what occurred is deeply insulting to me because it so clearly reflects the loopholes contemporary spiritual bypassing culture provides you with to dodge taking responsibility for your actions. These loopholes make integrity and relational ethics redundant for you.

The compassion you say you are feeling toward me is pure hypocrisy because you refuse to recognize your unethical behavior and instead write my response off as self-imposed suffering.

I respected you based on your accomplishments in leading community events. I trusted you. This is a mistake I am no longer willing to make.

When I gave you feedback about our encounter you mentioned an improvisation dancer in our community named Ken. You referred to him as a stud, implying you were not like him. I assumed you did so to position yourself in opposition to how he chooses to interact with women. I agreed with you, and also thought it was revolting how Ken chose to interact with women. Nevertheless, it is open information and it allowed me and others in the community to make an informed decision and stay away from him. The fact that you put forward a front of not being like Ken, but then opportunistically used my feelings and lack of awareness to secure intimacy makes you more dangerous than Ken because you do not give people the opportunity for informed consent. I feel utterly disgusted by you because you touched me and were sexual with me without me giving informed consent.

The "I am a good person" bias
When someone sees themselves as being a good person who is spiritually "evolved", any view that steps away from this utopic view can cause painful cognitive dissonance that they will often fight to resolve by establishing they are in fact a good person. From this view, someone will see someone like "Ken" as bad and themselves as good. The reality of life is that none of us are all good and boundary crossings happen on a gradient scale. We will all inevitably cross the boundary of another as part of living. If we can let go of the "I am a good person bias", we will be much better equipped to listen to feedback.

It is very strange to me that you call our intimate and explicit sexual interaction “just kissing”. It clearly serves your agenda in minimizing your responsibility for how your actions impacted me.

You insist that the problem is not with your actions but with me. In response to your question, ‘why did I not ask you about your intentions at that moment?’, my default was to assume that people have ethics. What you did was exploit my trust and my good faith. It is not my responsibility to make sure I don’t get exploited by men. It is your responsibility not to be exploitative.

You ask for ownership of responsibility on my end. And I say to you, it is not my responsibility to interrogate men on the topic of their intention to exploit me. I cannot own this responsibility because it is not mine.

You repeated that check-ins around intimacy are a top priority for you. So why did you choose not to check in with me? Is it really a top priority for you to check in? My question is: did you not check in with me and inform me of your intentions because you guessed it would change my mind about getting sexual with you? And you didn’t want me to change my mind?

Just as it is not my responsibility to not get raped, it is not my responsibility to make sure a community leader does not exploit the power imbalance between a newcomer and a community leader. This was your job.

You are dismissive of the arguments and explanations I am presenting. You keep playing it lightly; minimizing what occurred and telling me that it was my responsibility. This means you will not get the picture of how your actions impact me and potentially other women.

The main point of this for me is that I deeply regret following my attraction to you because you absolutely do not and did not deserve my respect and my trust. I deeply regret that I was naive to think that because you are a community organizer you would be transparent and have similar ethics as me. I wish someone in the CI community warned me about how you act with women. This would have saved me months of struggle and hurt that I experienced.”

Wisper Chain About The Broken Step
When nothing is done to deal with a person acting out predatory behaviors, a phenomenon often occurs called the broken step. This is when, in the face of inaction, a “whisper chain” occurs warning people away from stepping on the broken step. Sadly, newcomers to jams often haven't been with the community for long enough to receive the whispered warning not to dance with a person known for such behaviors (Jeong 2018).

“I am disgusted and ashamed of engaging in intimacy with you. I feel used and covered in dirt. And this all happened because I didn’t know who you really were. It’s as if I had sex with the most repulsive man on the planet and I didn’t realize it.

It’s not about me being sad and revengeful because you didn’t fall in love with me. It’s about the regret of being misled, about
making an awful mistake, and about the disgust I feel about that choice.

I am so tired of being told that I am “projecting” pain and hostility, and it has nothing to do with your actions. This is textbook gaslighting, a new-ageist denial trick. You are not a psychic and not a registered psychologist to declare that how I feel is related to some other past trauma.

I hear your argument that all the other women that you “kissed” who then didn’t “blow up” like me means that you are not a bad guy. But this leads to a whole different conversation about why women do not speak up. They don’t because they will be met with the response that I am getting right now. They will be told they are delusional, crazy, and bitter. They will be met with an avalanche of victim blaming and will be told to own their responsibility. It’s very expensive for a woman to speak up. But what would you know about it? You are the one who sits at the top of this pyramid of power, dispensing sympathy and compassion whilst you coach me on owning my responsibility because you are spiritual and nice.”


As I said in this letter, it cost me a lot to fight against and recover from this incidence of spiritual gaslighting. I had to hire a psychologist and a therapist (a very costly endeavor). I carried the nauseating shame, disgust, and regret for months and still do. I beat myself up for being so easy to be taken advantage of. For being naive. Now I know I should be warier, and more skilled at spotting the rotten apples but still be nice and sweet as every woman ought to be. Should I disappear somewhere and not come back until I meditate away and heal all traumas, so I stop projecting them onto well-meaning good men whose only intention is to share the beauty of each moment and embody their sexuality with me?

Intimacy Issues
Using patterns of manipulation to obtain sexual relations is a sign that someone is struggling with intimacy, human connection and compassion. Not the other way around.

The absurd hypocrisy of spiritual gaslighting and bypassing is certainly not exclusive to Contact Improvisation circles. Contact Improvisation dancers are possibly more primed to perform and receive it due to proximity to new age indoctrination through spiritual social media influencers, yoga teachers, meditation retreats, somatic healers, men and women’s circles, self-help gurus and literature, personal development training and all sorts of enlightened experts.

I hope that the time has come for more and more of us to see hypocrisy for what it is and name harm that is being enabled by pseudo-spiritual indoctrination.

Kate

Questions:
Did this jam have guidelines about conduct?

What are jam-leaders doing, if anything, to prevent predatory and exploitive behaviors from being targeted at newcomers?

Did this jam have a place to bring boundary concerns?

How many newcomers have gone to this jam and left traumatized by manipulative and sexually exploitive behaviors?

How many newcomers to CI have left the dance form because of experiences like this? 


References:

Aella (2021). Frame Control. Downloaded from https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/bQ6zpf6buWgP939ov/frame-control?fbclid=IwAR0QXLnomz8gtoxC1l870sA2ayzYL6gx4vsMjLRw9NSWANx-Vs6KAR2ZqEU

Jeong, S. (2018) When whisper networks let us down: How communities struggle and sometimes fail to stop sexual assault. The Verge. Download link: https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/21/17035552/sexual-assault-harassment-whisper-network-reporting-failure-marquis-boire

Harsey, S. and Freyd, J. (2020) Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender (DARVO): What Is the Influence on Perceived
Perpetrator and Victim Credibility?
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. Download link: https://dynamic.uoregon.edu/jjf/articles/hf2020.pdf

Hudak, T. (2018). When Do We have Informed Consent In Sex? And Is It important? Explore Sex Talk. Download link: https://exploresextalk.com/sex/consent/when-do-we-have-informed-consent/

Huizen, J. (2022). What Is Gaslighting? Medical News Today. Download link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/gaslighting

Lopes, C. (2020) What is Spiritual By Passing? (How to Stop Doing It!). https://youtu.be/nhTKWVKJNlE

Further resources:
Part One In “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing”: Dorit’s Story

The Newcomer Experience In Contact Dance Improvisation

Navigating Sex in Contact Improvisation for those in Positions of Power

Other posts in the “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing” Series

4 thoughts on “Part Two In the “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing” Series: Kate’s Story

Add yours

  1. The CI dancer and community leader that Kate had her sexual experience was likely not being truthful with her regarding his prior sexual encounters, that she was the first of 100 women to object to the encounter. Hope that Kate’s chilling article may encourage other women to realize they aren’t alone in dealing with this. See the film, She Said, for how powerful the group response can be. What are the facilitators of CI dances doing to ensure that all participants have a clear understanding of what the dance boundaries are, prior to participating? Thank you for sharing your story, Kate.

    Like

  2. Thank you for making this public. You are heard and contributing to weeding this shit out of the culture at large. This man sounds to me like a sex/porn addict, which is more common and extreme (and dangerous) than many acknowledge.

    Like

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