5 personal observations about the Wheel of Consent
This post discusses some of my personal insights about the Wheel of Consent by Dr. Betty Martin. Check her website for more resources and explanatory videos.
Socrates, a semi-fictional novel character and the young gymnast Dan Millman are sitting at a bar when Socrates lights a cigar. Dan laughs and jokes about smoking: “We don’t do this anymore, remember, we know better!” Socrates, being Dan’s spiritual mentor, replies calmly:
“Habit is the problem. All you need to do is to be conscious about your choices and be responsible for your actions.”
This short dialogue from Dan Millman’s book Way of The Peaceful Warrior introduces two topics which often emerge when practicing The Wheel of Consent: (1) power of habit, and (2) understanding choice.
In my work I often support clients to see their unconscious habits and hidden patterns of behavior. Only when these patterns are visible, they can be changed if desired. Habits which serve well are kept, those which don’t serve anymore are gradually disposed. Wheel of Consent can serve as habitual detox!
Dr. Betty Martin’s “The Wheel of Consent” is a beautiful tool to explore our habits and bring more awareness and clarity about giving and receiving touch and the question who is the touch for. While touch is useful for somatic learning, the giving-receiving dynamics are also transferable to other areas of life.
The beauty of “The Wheel” is its combination of simplicity and complexity. The questions are simple, the answers are often not. While some of the dynamics seem to be universal, the aha moments tend to be quite individual and nuanced. In the following paragraphs I would like to share some of my personal observations, epiphanies and aha moments.
YES and NO
In the past, I used to feel bad about saying NO to something or somebody, because I feared to hurt their feelings. Now, I am more used to the idea, that NO is just a preference, not a rejection, I start to trust my honest and intuitive choice more. I understand, that NO is a complete sentence, which doesn’t need to be explained. Saying NO to others is saying YES to myself.
Power of Choice
Knowledge of choice is freedom. Freedom is power. Only when I can see all my options I can place attention where I want. Choosing ambiguity can be fun. Humor, comedy, flirting live from vagueness, different meanings and a variety of interpretations. When I feel lost, I can go back to the safe harbor of clarity. It’s OK not to know. In that case, I slow down or stop.
The Wheel of Consent is not an ethical approach. It neither tells me what to do or what not to do, nor does it judge my choices. Working with it, however, reveals my own judgements about my choices, habits, desires, fears and boundaries. Practising The Wheel gives me the opportunity to explore these judgements and my very own dynamics around the topic of consent.
Let’s Make Consent Sexy Again!
Consent, boundaries, clarity and ethics are sometimes considered to be limiting and restricting when it comes to passion, emotions, desire and romance. I believe that it is quite the opposite! Anyone who has ever received an enthusiastic “Hell, yes!” regarding touch or a sexual activity of any kind, knows that. Only when I know what I want can I ask for it. Only when I know what I don’t want can I set and clearly communicate my boundaries. Only when I am able to say YES can I also say NO. Clear and unambiguous choices can be fun and sexy.
Safe Harbour in the Flow of Life
There is a popular belief, that the ideal of human interaction in general and intimate encounters in particular is to be in flow. We wish to surrender to love, passion and attraction and not worry about anything else. I wholeheartedly agree: As long as everyone is happy, surrendering to flow is awesome! However, what if it doesn’t flow? In that case I can use the The Wheel as a safe harbor to figure out, what is actually happening. It is my intuition’s magnifying glass, a reality check: Do I enjoy what’s going on? How does it feel in my body? Can I change my experience to my liking? Who is it for?