This is a guest post by Mistress Steel. It was part of her Steel's Chamber Scrolls which is now defunct. Shared with Permission.
Affectionate care and attention following any type of traumatic or mentally challenging event.
D/s relationships are engaged with a passion and intensity that are often so strong that they can strip away at the barriers and defenses that we normally use to protect ourselves from exactly those extremes. To 'feel' that intensity means that we are not 'as safe'. To some extent, we have stepped across our own thresholds of security and exposed some or all parts of our inner selves to the scrutiny and possible damage to others.
Scening can or may be seen as a compromise between what the submissive is seeking or desiring and how close to achieving those desires the Dominant's own fears will allow them to go. This is a stretching in 'both' directions. Both the Dominant and the submissive often venture into areas they have never gone before. These areas can test their inner strength and resolve, their will and compassion. To retain 'personal integrity' or a belief in ourselves we have to stay within the 'codes' that we live by and believe in. In learning about ourselves we often test these codes to see if they are indeed 'our' codes or codes we have simply adopted by rote at some point along the way.
The road to 'emerging' as a Dominant or submissive is filled with these kinds of moral and ethical choices and the contradictions and apparent paradoxes that they present. Reconciling these contradictions and forming 'true' choices of who we are and what lines are inviolate within the self is a process that takes years and perhaps the entirety of our lives to discover fully.
When we 'expose' ourselves to another human being there is an expressed obligation by both people to refrain from injury or damage, offer solace, nurturing and care until that sense of exposure recedes. We call this period of time 'aftercare'. Most often we associate this term with the time frame immediately following a 'scene'. However, this term is equally applicable at many other points and times and many times is not associated with BDSM or D/s at all. Essentially it is an 'understood' promise that should exist prior to anyone agreeing to engage in any type of relationship. Often it is overlooked or ignored as an 'incidental'. The concentration or focus of many people appears to be on the action 'events' such as any and all forms of BDSM or sexual interaction that may and in many cases will occur as part of the relationship. Minimizing the importance of aftercare is a mistake. Aftercare is a period of necessary 'recovery'. This is a fundamental recovery of the self into a form competent and 'safe' to independently interact with other people.
Some aspects of BDSM trigger responses much like intoxication. The ability of the brain to rationalize or make important or serious decisions may be seriously impaired for a substantial period of time after an event or scene. Scening can and sometimes does summon up long hidden memories, feelings, emotions and traumas that the individual has kept safe behind the barrier wall or mental defense system that during a scene may suddenly no longer exist. We maintain these walls through diverting a portion of our mental energy to them at all times. In periods of low stress, this constant trickle of energy is negligible. In periods of high mental activity, the brain diverts energy toward activities which take precedence. Managing a BDSM scene will often become an activity of such precedential choice. When this occurs the brain is no longer sustaining the wall and it may simply vanish, exposing what is behind it.
We maintain personal barriers and walls of defense to protect ourselves from things we know but perhaps have serious trouble dealing with. An example of this would be an automobile accident. Some portion of the brain does 'know' and fully experienced all that occurred during the accident or 'event'. The extremes of the experience may be so great that a self-protective determining factor inside the brain decides that it is 'unhealthy' for the cognizant areas of the brain to experience this event through memory loops over and over again. At that point, this determining factor selectively places this event in a 'safe area' or behind one of the brains natural mental barriers or walls.
Should one of these 'events' become exposed then the individual may re-experience the event. It is vital to remember that these hidden events were considered to be potentially damaging when the real event occurred so much so that the brain took active steps to protect the individual from them. Supporting and assuring the person who has re-experienced one of these events that they are 'safe' is profoundly important. The new 'information' may be of a nature that they do have great difficulty coping with it and in some cases, they may need good professional assistance from a qualified therapist.
Normal aftercare occurring without such an exposure is often the simple nurturing of one human to another. The support and protection of and from revealed intimacies and aiding and assisting in rebuilding the former protective walls, barriers or defenses. These protective mental measures appear to rebuild naturally as a simple part of how the brain functions and manages over a period of time. That time frame will vary with the individual and with the intensity of the experience itself. Aftercare in its most simple form is just being there with your partner for a sufficient time period that they feel safe and no longer feel the need to cling to you. It is equally important to recognize that aftercare is for both the Dominant and the submissive. If either person leaves too soon then their partner may feel abandonment or loss far exceeding the apparent parameters of the interaction.
It is also important to recognize that aftercare may be a serious factor when a relationship ends and especially when that ending is the choice of one person and not the other. To some extent, it remains the obligation of the person who makes that choice to extend aftercare support in a form agreeable to the person who has not made that choice until they have reached a point where they feel emotionally less devastated or more able to cope with the changed aspects of their life. In these days of acrimonious breakups, it is common to act without dignity or respect for yourself and for the person whom you have engaged in a serious relationship with. This type of attack damages everyone involved and is seldom decent but most often reflects cowardly and selfish actions.
Written by F.R.R. Mallory - also known as Mistress Steel. This article may be excerpted from Extreme Space, The Domination and Submission Handbook, Safe, Sane and Consensual, Dangerous Choices or other books by F.R.R. Mallory and shared here with her permission. Please click on the book title for information on how you can order a copy of these books and others by F.R.R. Mallory.