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The things bdsm can teach us about pain:
1) as bad as it hurts, every day pain cannot kill you
Not from one spank, or slice of a bamboo cane across ones ass does pain have the ability to steal your ability to live. It cannot take your breath, or stop your heart.
The pain of relationship break ups, parenting struggles, and broken skin and bones cannot kill you. The residual effects of pain can impact how you face life of course, but experiencing pain, as fucking uncomfortable as it can be, does not mean your life is over.
2) dealing with pain poorly leaves you sore in places you never needed to be sore in
I give needles to babies often in my work and despite the fact the newborn baby has no prior history with needles the parents often wince empathetically as we talk about it. The baby isn’t worried in advance about getting the needle. But the parents are. Parents have lived enough to know needles hurt. And a submissive knows enough to wince and tense seeing a cane or belt, even before it hits their flesh. The anticipation of pain can be crippling.
I cried when a bag of clothes pins were opened and every god damn muscle in my body seized. My jaw clenched, my toes curled and calves cramped. And the pain over worrying about the pain was unjustifiably just as painful as any implement could be. I created that pain though. I was the source of my own pain, both prior to the application of clothes pins and the day after when my body ached in all the wrong places.
We anticipate pain in interactions in our life, we sometimes create pain where their never ends up needing to be any. And some days we are sore from yesterday’s fight against our own fears and worries instead of just accepting the moment for what it could be.
3) that we spend a lot of time in our society trying to dull anything that looks like pain
BDSM is one of the places in society where pain is acceptable, dare I say welcomed? Yeah, some people get off on it, receiving it or giving it. Right? That’s where the masochists and the sadists come in. Some people get off on letting someone get off from pain. And it is essentially the lesson in itself. It is primitive and basic. Pain is felt and that is the lesson. It is not anesthetized with lidocaine or with alcohol or avoided by turning on the television or picking up your phone. It is loud and screaming red in your face (or on your ass). Feel it. And the people that are choosing to feel it, are learning how their instincts to flee it, aren’t always the better option. (Of course there are exceptions)
4) feeling pain is better than not feeling anything at all.
Have you ever heard about lepers in Bible times? Or the fact that they lose the ability to feel in their extremities? It sounds great to avoid the pain of hitting your thumb when using a nail and a hammer, but what happens when you don’t feel something you need to feel in order to save your limb…or your life. What if you couldn’t tell you stepped on a nail, or when something was too hot to touch? Feeling pain is a nature designed way to preserve the species to protect us from further hurt.
There are people in the bdsm community who need pain, to remind themselves they are still alive, that they are still here. And again I am not discussing extremes like self-harm but you can see how similar some may feel. The sharp sting of the whip, or the release of a clamp and filling of nipples with blood flow all screaming sensation, with the ability to feel pain means you have the ability to feel pleasure. And it can heighten either. Peaks and valleys people, in other words, it can’t be all bad all the time, and the good wouldn’t be felt without knowing how the bad felt.
5) pain teaches us how strong we are
I remember thinking I could call my safe word at anytime. But I’m stubborn. I knew I was safe, I was never afraid, but my body was feeling every sting and bite from this goddamn bamboo cane. I wanted to endure. Not for the one on the other end of the cane but for me.
I am not a phenomenon. Everyone has things in their lives that cause them pain. Relationship break ups, work trauma, a misbehaving teenager in your life or an actual physical ailment. But there is a gift pain gives in hindsight – the gift that tells you, that there was no one else that could have gotten through your pain but you. Winston Churchill said, “if you are going through hell keep going.” Although I am pretty sure Winston wasn’t into bdsm he also knew the benefits of endurance. I believe that getting to the other side brings you insight you wouldn’t have had otherwise, a lesson in pain, in and about pain; how only you were designed for your lesson, no one can walk that path but you, and the gift of seeing yourself in a new light, as strong, as an endurer is a game changer. (Even if those around you had seen your strength all along.)
6) that it’s ok to call uncle
Sometimes it’s too much. I called uncle on my relationship. A moment where the relationship itself was causing more pain than pleasure. In medicine we might say the risk inside the relationship was outweighing the benefit of it. And every (good) Dominant is relying on their submissive to speak up when it’s too much. When limits have been reached. And instead of being tipped over into brokenness a halt is called to prevent any damage that can’t be repaired.
Sometimes we have to call uncle on parts of our lives that are causing us pain. Jobs need to be re-evaluated, relationships need to be evaluated and let me be clear. Calling uncle is never about avoiding the pain, but instead to prevent further damage; to yourself, to children, to your spirit. Calling uncle, or using your safeword is a safety net in bdsm for when you’ve been pushed too far.
And lastly but closely related ….
7) pain is emotional just as much as it is physical
You can break a person if you’re not careful. A Dominant and submissive have a finally tuned relationship centred around trust. Trust that the Dominant has control and won’t take it too far and trust that the submissive will say when they’ve had enough. Because when this communication breaks down, and the safe word isn’t used, the pain can push you too far until relationships become at risk. And it has been the cause of some D/s dynamics ending. When limits are reached, passed; spirits and people are broken.
Sometimes we are so engulfed in life, doing, being, filling our life with busyness and not out of sinister neglect but out of sheer humanness we miss the signs we have been pushed too far. By our kids, our spouses, our work or our friends. And we miss the cues, WE DON’T LISTEN TO THE CUES that tell us we are on the verge of brokenness. We care for others, but don’t care for ourselves, we give, but feel bad about taking, we empty our buckets essentially. The emotional pain of being broken shows up in many places in our life. In depression, workplace burnout, caregiver burnout. And if not careful this emotional pain can send you into self-destruction mode in order to numb all the pain surfacing. Resulting in more pain and a vicious cycle of avoidance. All if you’re not willing to take the risks of being self aware, acknowledging the signals before the signals gone out.
Pain and hope are ongoing themes in my life. And a niche I find myself contemplating more and more. But these are some of the insights I have learned about through involvement with those involved in the D/s lifestyle over the years. Be kind. I understand not everyone condones or agrees with such a lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean it can’t teach us things about ourselves. The other thing is that some metaphors or conclusions can only go so far and I tried to clarify that along the way.
If you are over your head experiencing pain that seems out of control reach out to someone who cares. A health care provider, friend, pastor or co-worker. We’re all just human, trying to find meaning. This is how I find mine. In writing.