Changing Your Relationship With Pain by vahavta

Since joining the more public fetish community a bit over a year ago, I’ve frequently received messages – first, from people who’d seen me scene in public, then from people who’d seen pictures of me post-scene on mine or another’s profile – that basically came down to, “teach me to be a masochist like you!! Teach me to take as much as you do!!” I’ve decided to compile some of the responses I give, here. I hope some of you find it helpful.
I cannot teach you to be a masochist.

I came to the scene and my relationship already craving pain and destruction. It’s hard-wired in my brain. There’s a reason the DSM has considered masochism a mental disorder. I can’t give you this. Some things to note about this:

Being a masochist does not mean that I don’t feel pain.
I definitely feel pain. I definitely suffer. I definitely scream and cringe and hurt. I just like it.

I don’t think I have a high pain tolerance.
But I’m frequently told otherwise. What does this mean? It means if you’re feeling like you “don’t take enough” because of the way you do or don’t mark, the length of your scenes, etc, it’s pretty possible that actually, you’re taking a lot more than the average bear. Don’t sell yourself short. This is where I repeat the Fet mantra of GET INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY. Watch other people scene at events. Learn how implements affect other people. Don’t compare yourself to them – but watch, and learn.

Being a masochist is not required for a D/s relationship.
You can learn to take pain without enjoying it at all physically and enjoy the service aspect. In fact, a D/s relationship doesn’t have to include pain at all! If your top-y person wants you to enjoy pain and you just really, really, do not – you may just be mismatched. Sorry, just like one might be mismatched in terms of libido, religion, politics, or anything else, if that’s an important aspect of the relationship to you or your partner, that’s something to consider.
Who are you playing with?

This post is designed for bottoms, so I can’t offer you techniques as far as impact, warming a bottom up, etc. They exist. Find them.

Play with people that know you.
And that means that if you aren’t playing within a relationship or a situation where your partner knows you well, you need to get real good at communicating what you like and what your cues are. Shaking may be a sign of shock for one and a sign of extreme pleasure for another.

Know how your partners play.
Watch them. Ask them. Some sadists like to get the most out of only one implement. Some like to go in waves with breaks in between, starting at a warm-up level again each time. My Owner tends to escalate in terms of implement and strength throughout a scene. If you aren’t sure how to handle pain, it will help you to know how things are going to go.

Only play with people you’re capable of being completely honest with.
Before, during, and especially after play.

Okay, now that that housekeeping is done, I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty. Here’s how I “handle” pain.
The Mental

Set an Intention
This is, as far as I’m concerned, the most important tip – and I offer no apologies if it sounds a little Namaste, y’all. Know your scene’s intention. How? Discuss it ahead of time. Know what both you and your play partner want to get out of it. Listen to the cues from your top, the little tidbits hidden in their talk about wanting you to suffer for them, or wanting to make you come. Play with people you know really well. Know, and know well, why you’re doing this scene. This could be for yours or their sexual pleasure, to serve by suffering, to serve by having a really great, connected scene, to go to the point of destruction for humiliation or the rebuild after, or any number of things. Figure it out – and then put that intention into a short, repeatable phrase. You can now repeat this with every strike, or when the pain gets to be a little too much. For me, this phrase might be “I am His,” “I will make Him proud,” “I am safe.” Here’s a fun fact: your brain is easy to trick! If the scene is about giving you any sort of pleasure from pain, you can oftentimes get there by repeating to yourself something along the lines of “I love this.”

Personal example: last week, my Owner took me for a whipping. It became very clear to me early on (from His body language, His urgency to start the scene, His words, and the way He used the whip) that this was not a scene about my pleasure whatsoever. This was about Him wanting to whip me, and for me to suffer from it. Period. This was about serving my sadist. My mantra for this scene was “this is for Him.”

Count down in small numbers.
If you’re going to be hit 200 times (or, more likely, at least in the scenes I do, some large but unplanned and unknown number), it doesn’t do well to think “I have AT LEAST 199 strikes left!” But you can always, always count to ten. This is another brain trick. Maybe you’ll be doing it 20 times. But you still have a small victory every tenth strike (or thirty seconds, or new position, if you’re doing some sort of non-impact play.) Like the mantra, this also gives you something else to focus on.

Make a conscious effort to do so. Similar to the “I love this” placebo effect, you may be able to trick your brain into pleasure.
It’s also really sexy.
The Physical

Learn to breathe.
Don’t assume you know how. Practice taking a big breath for a second. Your stomach should be going out more than your shoulders are going up. This kind of breath is one that goes through your diaphragm. It maximizes the oxygen intake into your bloodstream and calms down your fight-or-flight response. It’s also very hard to do this properly quickly – if you’re breathing through your diaphragm, you can’t hyperventilate. If you breathe in a way that expands your chest over your abdominals, you’re making your life harder in every way. Stop it.
(If you don’t know what diaphragmatic breathing looks like, ask any singer.)

Treat your body well pre-scene.
Treat your body well all the time. But especially if you’re going to get beat up, you need to eat protein and good sugars that day and drink water – so you don’t pass out, among other things.

Yep, this goes with the above, but there’s a secondary reason. Ever experience the “hump” in an aerobic exercise where you think you can’t do it anymore, and then you get past it and have a “second wind”? Get used to getting past it – and pay attention to what you do to get past it. This, too, is a form of “pain tolerance” – as well as an overall way to increase endurance

Sexual pleasure.
Your brain automatically chooses pleasure over pain. Some people can take more pain while being sexually stimulated in some form. Careful, though – getting all the way to orgasm is a risky business. It’s gonna take you out of your head and screw up your breathing. Your pain tolerance may be zapped post-orgasm. But then, your sadist may know that…

Play more often.
Just like anything else. Of course, I’m assuming you all are rational people who are going to play because you WANT to play, with people you want to play with, and not just for the sake of increasing your tolerance for someone else. Like anything else, this takes practice. I’m about to leave the country for four months. I already know when I get back, my first scene is going to be Hell.
(Awesome, awesome Hell.)

All right, that’s what I got. I mainly wrote this to link to people who message me in the future, but please love and share if you find it helpful. And please, feel free to add your own strategies in the comment section!

– vahavta