This is a continuing of the series on pain processing. If you want to read previous essays, check the first in the series on natural pain processing.
Pain processing is natural to a certain extent. For some people—boys more than girls—an additional degree of pain processing is taught from a very early age, but not always in the healthiest way. Then there are the lucky few who, once they become involved in SM, intentionally continue their education in pain processing by noticing what works, and developing that; noticing what others do, and trying that; and by asking questions or taking classes to increase their pain-handling capabilities.
So how can you learn a pain management technique?
Since pain management is personal it may be difficult to get people to talk about how they process pain, and they may even not be really sure what they are doing in an SM scene. I recommend you take some time to watch the bottoms at a play party during a flogging or caning or other painful play. Keep your eye open for the pain management techniques that I've described previously.
Learning to accept pain has various methods. I suggest you practice these the next time you play and find one or more that work best for you. The best way to learn a processing technique is to practice.
Women in labor who are asked to breathe through the pain aren't doing it just to distract themselves. It's been a long-known medical tactic that breathing rhythmically helps to lessen pain. According to researchers on a clinical trial at Arizona State University, halving the number of breaths per minute decreased pain. The average number of breaths per minute is 12 to 18, and slowing down to six had a significant effect. The researchers believed that "slowing breathing has a direct impact on the sympathetic nervous system, which helps control blood flow and skin temperature, blocking some of the pain response." (http://asunews.asu.edu/20100407_painstudy)
Placing yourself into a fantasy role, or enacting a fantasy in your head while experiencing pain can act as a distraction to the pain; or, depending on the fantasy, work to enhance it. Pretending you are in a dream where the pain is expected can help your body tolerate the pain until it's ready to process and handle it in its own way. It's not uncommon to eventually drop the need for fantasy once your body can process pain in other more beneficial ways.
The next three methods are the ways that I personally use to process pain and for me, they work the best to reach and overcome the pain edge.
1. Light - Seeing the pain come in as light and then dispersing it throughout your body is an excellent coping technique and is relatively easy to learn. Imagine the impact as a burst of light, from a pinprick and growing like a flash, spreading out across a larger surface on your body. For example, if you receive a flogging strike and visualize it as light flashing across your back it will spread the pain; making it more tolerable.
2. Heat - Heat is a really easy visualization method also, because anyone on a receiving end of a spanking will know that your skin heats up as it's spanked. Taking that heat and using it to spread the pain, or to release it into the air as heat can be a way to accept more and greater forms of pain. In the same method as the light technique, use the heat to spread across your skin. That warmth can be soothing. It's also possible to take deep heat and visualize moving it to the surface, where it will be more tolerable.
3. Color - If you are good with visualizing light then adding color would be a next step. This form of visualization can take on many forms, from seeing red or yellow or even white colors racing across the skin to imagining the colors shooting into the sky; taking the pain with it. When I'm being really creative I can imagine rainbows of color radiating from the point of pain. From white to red to yellow, green and blue. Each color lessens the pain until it's dissipated and gone.
Novices commonly have issues accepting pain as anything as pleasant as heat, color or light and so they may use an easily accessible pain technique called storage. In this case, the bottom accepts and stores the pain in the immediate vicinity of the site it is happening. Holding the pain in as long as possible, and then with warning to the Top, you release that pain in one action. Release it by shaking, screaming, laughing, wiggling, whatever works best for you.
Bottoms who wiggle and squeal throughout the entire scene and are encouraged to are using this technique but dispelling the stored energy almost immediately. In a larger play space or at parties this can be distracting and disturbing to other players. Constantly releasing the energy stroke by stroke is a lower pay off. It's like spending your paycheck dollar by dollar without a savings plan. You can't get the big pay off and results in less intensity in responses.
The next time you see a pain scene, understand that the bottom is likely working as hard as the top. Pain processing for the benefit of themselves and the Top is rewarding and exhausting work. It encourages good habits of breathing and centered presence, drawing you into the scene, opening you to its possibilities rather than letting you stew on its likely side effects. Scenes like this are magnetic and beautiful to see.
Tomorrow we'll talk about the benefits of pain. Coming up is a piece on things that can negatively impact pain play as well as overcoming the false edge that I've mentioned but not yet talked about. See you then!
Processing Pain in Play Series
- What is the Natural Process?
- Negative Pain Management Techniques
- Positive Pain Management Techniques
- This post: Learning a Processing Technique
- What is the Benefit of Pain Anyway?
- What Can Interrupt or Block Pain Processing?
- Overcoming the False Edge
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