When dealing with a new sub, it is important to me as a Dom to be able to build in my mind a gnosiological pattern of his mind and ways of reacting to stimuli, such as, but not limitedly to, pain.
It is one of the most scary stimula for most of the less experienced subs in BDSM, and even more for those who are betas and / or people submitting for a specific man, outside of their comfort zone.
Not every sub is a Masochist – actually in 10+ years of 24/7 lifestyle I would say I have met very few real Masochists – but almost every sub can be converted to the worship of pain as a language, when driven by a meaning.
Imagine to be at work, wondering through the corridors of whatever company you might be working in. Out of the blue, for no good reason, some guy or gal for whom you don’t have any specific esteem or deep respect for, smacks you in the face. How would you react?
Imagine now instead to be a little boy who made something wrong, or is showing a temper tantrum. Imagine to be smacked by your Daddy, before it actually fucked up your relationship, when you still had a vision of him as a Mentor and Heroic parental figure. Different.
If tattoos have a special meaning to you, imagine the first time you got yourself inked. Different kind of pain, right? Different kind of reaction. It was a pain you wanted, and you remember almost every moment of it; it was meaningful.
A leap of faith, or a pharmacy?
Some subs (that should not be called subs at all) seek pain as they had ways in their life to discover the incredible chemical reactions that happen in our bodies when we are subjected to pain; adrenaline, cortisol, endorphins start flowing in your blood. You get high. Some Masochists are actually pain junkies, and some of them care really little about any Master and slave kind of relationship. They want the pain, you enjoy giving it. It’s all about pure sensation, and its meaning is not then so important.
On the other hand, a man can have a very low pain tolerance threshold, but because of the power of the mind-powerplay that a Master has built, because of how much that Master deserves that sub’s esteem and appreciation, the fear of pain itself becomes manageable, as the reward is to make his Sir proud, and to be able to overcome his limits. At that point, the sensation is still scary but is worth its meaning. For these subs, it’s all about the meaning behind the activities, and it’s completely in the hands of the Master to craft and rewire their perception of painplay, once the sub is working with Him.
The Collins Dictionary translates pain as “Pain is the feeling of great discomfort you have, for example when you have been hurt or when you are ill.”
The International Association for the Study of Pain’s widely used definition defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”; however, due to it being a complex, subjective phenomenon, defining pain has been a challenge.
Right there, you already have the key solution to this big chapter in BDSM: pain is a highly subjective phenomenon.
But let’s keep on describing what pain is: scientifically, nociceptive pain (the one we’re talking about mostly, in BDSM, although there other ways pain can be used and felt as a language) works this way: Nociceptors are the specialized sensory receptors responsible for the detection of noxious (unpleasant) stimuli, transforming the stimuli into electrical signals, which are then conducted to the central nervous system.
Overwriting the pattern
Nature has designed pain in all beings to be automatically associated with a highly unpleasant sensation, which kickstarts a chain reaction that makes your heart race, and your body jump in the attempt to run away from it, or to fight back. Let’s not forget we are coming from the animal kingdom, where being able to feel a sharp pain and counter react immediately is a matter of life or death.
When you are in a playroom with a trusted Man, though, you’re not in the jungle; you’re not fighting for your life. It’s all about trust; once you’ve learned to give up control, trust your Master and accept your desires, you’re ready to start rewiring pain itself. Pain is nothing more than electric work interpreted by your brain in a pre-scripted way; good news is that you can override that script. You can channel pain, you can use pain, you can feel pain and yet stop running from it. In the exact moment you’re not scared of pain, and you translate it into the ENERGY that your Master is giving you, and the intense feeling you feel is the answer to that stimula, the passion and deep love that is running through that Whip, you’ll still feel the sting of the pain, but you won’t be running from it. You’ll want more. You’ll grow more and more excited by it, starting to get into a state of euphoria in which you realize how strong you are, how much you can take, and how much you were so scared of something that you can totally deal with*.
You become invincible
Pain as a Metaphor
Most people tend to have an idealistic dream of a life devoid of pain; a life of constant success, of everlasting loves, of relationship that work on all levels, aesthetic perfection, beauty, and more. Most adults have instead realized two things: perfection doesn’t exist in nature, and pain is part of life.
Just as shadow needs lightning to exist, everything in this life is a pendulum swing between joy and sadness, pleasure and pain, love and sorrow, life and death.
In this sense, accepting pain as a language and part of the many stimuli in BDSM, is also therapeutic psychologically in accepting pain (and other unpleasant feelings such as failure and shame) and its lessons in life; when we overcome pain, when we survive trauma, we cut our tooth. That’s how we keep growing wiser, stronger and, in the end, better and happier people. On the other hand, in my experience, refusing pain, running from confrontation and hiding away from it, creates unhappy and weak people which will always feel like a failure in front of the challenges that life present.
The Paradox: love yourself. Hurt yourself
And what about love? Those of you whom had the luck to really be in love, or to find the love of their life, already know that in their happier relationship, there always have been a decent level of pain. Wether it was the longing and anxiety of not seeing your loved one for a week, wether it was a misunderstanding, a first fight, or even a second or umpteenth fight, wether it was jealousy, wether it was fear of losing your loved one. The experience of pain is also part of the experience of Love**.
Unfortunately, as a consequence of the above stated “naive idealistic vision of a pain-free existence”, love is very difficult to handle to the most. In my case, being able to accept and enjoy pain from a meaningful Man as part of the Power Exchange that is being created, have made of me a more understanding, caring and patient husband. Accepting love must include accepting the pain that comes with it, the Power Exchange, the chase and the run, the strong emotions, and the ability to give trust, before expecting it.
*as long as your Master and you are working together, and the Master is worth this title. Those who make more than aesthetic damage, and actually create physical damage, is a Master who failed, or an idiot faking to be a Master.
**Just like in BDSM, pain should never be abusive or not consensual; when a relationship becomes painful by default and there is no lesson to be learnt, but always a continuous need of one party to hurt the other, that’s a toxic relationship. Not what we’re talking about here.