Updated: Aug 22
There are different theories on how people “should” deal with pain. Some folks argue for being present with the pain. Some argue for focusing on other things and divorcing oneself from the pain. Some argue that you should use visualization to give your pain meaning.
I don’t believe there is a right way to respond to pain. Nor do I believe in “shoulds” for the most part when talking BDSM. What I do know is I have spent years experimenting with how pain is understood and experienced on a personal level. I have also spent a lot of time talking to kinky folks about how pain works and is experienced by them.
This post continues the series on interpreting and categorizing pain.
There are people who argue that you should be present with your pain. By this, most people mean that you remain conscious of the pain, that you don’t try and distract yourself with visualizations or work on “out of body” experiences. Nor do you attempt to engage the higher (executive) brain functions to make sense of the pain during the experience.
Being present with your pain and just experiencing it can be difficult. We naturally want to retreat from pain, block it out, or make it stop. Just sitting with the pain and taking it in without assigning meaning or narrative to it is actually very difficult for most people.
Why would you just sit with the pain? There are several reasons for just letting the pain be a thing in your life. First, just letting the pain be a thing actually can help a lot of people get closer to sub space or drop into sub space. For many of us, sub space happens when the executive functions of the brain are quieted or shut down and we can just be present.
Second, just being present with the pain can help many people experience a scene more fully. Most of us have a running commentary in our heads. This helps us disconnect from our bodies on a daily basis. Reconnecting with our somatic selves comes through yoga, meditation, and can come through BDSM play.
Connecting with our bodies helps give us renewed energy, focus, and a deeper understanding of ourselves. We house trauma in our bodies. We house stress and pent up emotions. Connecting with these feelings, especially in the context of a kink scene can help us release the negative and find clarity deeper peace.
How to Be Present with Pain
I’m going to provide tips and tools for connecting and being present with pain. For me, practicing these techniques with lower-pain experiences like deep tissue massages, was useful in developing the skills necessary to implement them during an intense kink scene. If you have the option to try these in massage, yoga practices or similar moderate pain experiences I strongly suggest it.
Yeah, I know this is a common suggestion. I don’t just mean regular breathing. You can practice conscious breathing techniques. Inhale to a count of five or seven. Hold the inhalation for a count of three. Exhale to a count of five or seven. Hold the exhale for a count of three.
Slow, rhythmic breathing will help you connect to your body and to the pain. If you have a d-type willing to work with you and coordinate the sensations to your breathing (e.g. flogging you on the inhalation and exhalation, pausing while you stop at the top of the inhalation and the bottom of the exhalation) this can deepen the experience.
Reduce what you think about to nothing but your breath. Work on quieting those little voices in your head so all you hear in your breath. Your brain will wander – that is natural. Bring your focus back to your breathing.
I have found with this practice I can drop into sub space much more easily than if I am tied up with any thoughts in my head. It also helps me connect with my d-type.
If you have difficultly connecting with your breath or if you want to deepen the connection with your d-type, try having your d-type sit or stand behind you, arms around your upper body, and just breath slowly together at the start of the scene. If you sync your breath with your d-type at the beginning of a scene you can foster connection and push the scene to a more intense emotional and physical space. Plus, it is sexy!
Observe Your Body
This might sound weird. If you are focusing on your breath and being presence, you will begin to notice your body’s reactions to different sensations. Are you getting goosebumps as your hear your d-type pull off a belt or snap a whip? Do you start to salivate as you are fitted with a gag? How does your body respond to the hit of a flogger? Do your muscles tense in anticipation of being hoisted into a suspension position?
The more connected you are to your body the more your responses can be heightened. I found that knowing what my body does in terms of sounds and smells made me get wet even before the impact scenes began! Knowing how your body responds and being able to communicate this to your d-types can also help refine your scenes in the future.
Our body has a natural aversion to pain. Traditionally, pain communicates that something is wrong or dangerous. We step on a Lego and it hurts! The pain tells us to “get off the Lego!” to prevent us from damaging our foot. These responses protect us.
However, in kink scenes, pain is being used differently. We aim to hurt but not harm. Initially when you start engaging in kink we cannot tell the difference between hurting and harming. Our brain can scream, “You should stop this!”
Being present with pain can help this voice quite itself a bit and allow us to engage more fully in the scene. Tuning into your bodily responses can help you decided how to provide feedback to your d-types. If something is too intense or really feels wrong, calling “yellow” or “red” is appropriate. If it just hurts but doesn’t feel damaging, you may choose to engage. At least for another minute or so.
Being present with pain takes energy and focus. This means you will likely be more tired at the end of a scene where you practiced being present than in a scene where you opted to meditate or transform the pain.
You need to be cognizant of energy levels and the impact is has on you. Planning for aftercare is important. Some of us generally don’t require much aftercare. For us, it is especially important to be aware on how being present impacts us.
Plan on having water and maybe a little food available to restock drained energy. It can also help to ask for a little down time. This can include cuddling, quiet time by yourself, a bath or similar.
Don’t write off the care you need after an extra intense scene. Its okay to ask for more aftercare with these types of scenes.
The next installment, “Pain and Meditation” will be up in a few days! Stay tuned.