Between the Dashes ~ Subspace?

6 Nov

Wikipedia defines the physiological aspects of subspace:

During the scene, the intense experiences of both pain and pleasure trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, which causes a release of epinephrine from the suprarenal glands, as well as a dump of endorphins and enkephalins.[citation needed] These natural chemicals, part of the fight or flight response, produce the same effect as a morphine-like drug, increasing the pain tolerance of the submissive as the scene becomes more intense.[citation needed] Since the increase of hormones and chemicals produces a sort of trance-like state, the submissive starts to feel out-of-body, detached from reality, and as the high comes down, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion, as well as incoherence. Many submissives, upon reaching a height of subspace, will lose all sensation of pain, as any stimulus causes the period to prolong.[citation needed]

For the most part, i agree with that definition.  But i’ve heard people talk about subspace, and depending on who’s talking, i think they may mean different things.

One type of subspace sounds like the submissive is actually dissociating.  i associate this with the “out-of-body” experience.  This is what can happen when people are abused or traumatized.    Literally, the definition of dissociation is

The disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected. 

It may be a chemical definition:

a. The process by which the action of a solvent or a change in physical condition, as in pressure or temperature, causes a molecule to split into simpler groups of atoms, single atoms, or ions.
b. The separation of an electrolyte into ions of opposite charge.

Or a psychological one:

3. Psychiatry A psychological defense mechanism in which specific, anxiety-provoking thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations are separated from the rest of the psyche.

Psychologically speaking, it helps the person get through a trauma or abuse by shutting down on the feeling aspect of the experience.  In some cases, there is a sense of leaving the body and watching from a distance.

This can be helpful ~  it helps the person survive the experience and still be able to function.

In some cases, the dissociated parts of self are not reintegrated, and the person develops separate  personalities to help him or her survive.  Usually, however, some parts of the experience are simply compartmentalized and may be forgotten, the feelings pushed away and buried.

This is helpful at the time for the abuse survivor, and may be the first step to developing PTSD, which is also a way we try to cope with extremely difficult or painful trauma.  i know a lot about how dissociating works in relation to abuse.

i want to understand more about how it works in relation to BDSM, but when i talk about it in that context, i’m speculating, trying to apply how i know it works with abuse to how it might work in a D/s or M/s relationship.  If what i’m saying doesn’t make sense or connect with your experience, listen to your own wisdom.  Tell me about it, either in a comment or email me, if you’re willing to.  i have a lot to learn

But what i think might happen in a kinky relationship, when the s-type dissociates during “play,” is that there is an opportunity for a transformative experience afterwards.

When one is abused and dissociates, there is rarely a safe time to talk about what happened or  to reclaim those feelings.   In a kinky relationship, there will be a safe time to reclaim those feelings, to talk about what it was like, to be heard and respected and validated.

i think that most Doms and Masters prefer that their s-types not dissociate during a scene. But i don’t actually know if that’s true or not.  That’s just the impression i’ve gotten from the people i’ve known.  Put that on the list of things that i want to know more about.  

And i’m not saying it’s “bad” or making any judgements about it, really.  i don’t think i know enough about it.  

When i was married to my theoretically dominant second husband,  there were times that he did things and i dissociated because they triggered some old abuse stuff for me.  Unfortunately, when i wanted/needed to process that afterwards, He wasn’t open to that, didn’t want to hear it, and was pretty invalidating and rejecting.  That was the first step towards the end of our relationship, but that’s a story for a different day.

In any case, that’s one type of “subspace” that people talk about ~ at least that’s how it seems to me.

The other type of subspace ~ the type i’ve enjoyed more often in my kinky experiences, seems to me essentially the opposite of dissociation.  i become acutely aware of what’s happening to me, everything else fades away.  i am usually still aware of my Sir, at least to some extent, but it is the ultimate in mindfulness.

Plans, worries, excitement about other things, grocery lists, and personal problems disappear.  

Granted, whatever pain i might be experiencing is numbed.  That’s one of the benefits, and can be risky if you don’t have a wise Sir in charge.  But whatever i’m feeling, nothing exists except what is happening in that moment.

Yes, i come out of it exhausted, and ready to curl up and go to sleep.  It’s intense.  i may be a bit incoherent.  But i am more connected with myself, not less.   And feel incredibly intimately connected to my Sir, who has given me this lovely experience.

Three days later, i may be cranky and irritable and out-of-sorts.  You can go back and find that pattern in my blog, although i don’t recommend taking the trouble to do that.  Just take my word for it.  Three days, then drop.

But we won’t talk about that today…

15 Responses to “Between the Dashes ~ Subspace?”

  1. faerie November 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Wow, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve experienced both the dissociation that comes from abuse and subspace. Transformative is a wonderful way to describe subspace. For me it is an out of body experience. But, I’m not alone, he’s my anchor. He feeds the energy that makes me soar, but keeps me safely tethered and hopefully, catches me as I land.

    You have my email, if you’d like to chat more, feel free to contact me.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      Hi, Faerie,

      Thank you so much for your response. And i love your description of subspace, and how he both feeds you the energy and anchors you. Yes, it is like that, isn’t it? So lovely.

      i will contact you as i figure out more about what i’m doing and what i want to know. Thank you


  2. SirQsMLB November 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I think what faerie says is very important. The fact that there is disassociation in a SAFE environment, a trusting environment, a loving environment is key. My Sir is active in taking me out of my body but also in helping me find myself again. I want to be where I am. I am disassociating but not unhappily, not unwillingly. It’s less about survival and more about the journey. The re-connection between my body and my mind is also something that is done in a SAFE, loving, trusting environment. Therefore the entire experience is positive.

    I LOVE that you analyze these experiences and we can discuss the ins and outs. Thank you!

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      Hi, MLB,

      Yes, i think you’re so right, the safety piece is really a key element. It’s one of the aspects that makes it a whole different experience and not just more of the same old thing. Yep, the reconnection, the sense of it being a journey…. yes.

      What you’re saying makes so much sense. And fits with how i think it all works, which is pretty amazingly cool.

      Thank you.


  3. Ashly November 7, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    Being no great expert. In a bdsm normally it’s in a safe area and after you will talk about what has happens. Abuse is the oppersit

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      Hi, Ashly!

      Yes. i think you’re absolutely right ~ that’s a very key element, isn’t it? Thanks for the input!


  4. maraudersisabel November 7, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    It’s interesting to me that most people always seem yo associate subspace with pain. I do reach subspace through pain, but I can also achieve it without pain. Daddy is a sadist, so when we play, there is *always*pain but I don’t always achieve subspace that way. Sometimes I get there through the simple things; being teathered to the bed while he’s romping with the kiddos. Or on the rare occasions when he brushes my hair as I sit on the floor between his legs. These actions are guaranteed to still my mind and make me floaty.

    Maybe I’m just strange.

    • faerie November 7, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      I don’t think your strange, I have achieved subspace once, just recently with out any pain at all.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      Hi, Maraudersisabel,

      O, good point!! Yes. Subspace isn’t arrived at just through pain. And what wonderful examples of other things that get you there. i love the image of you on the floor between his legs while he brushes your hair. Sweet.

      Not strange at all…



  5. jadescastle November 7, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    As a young child, (about age 5), my disassociative states had more than a touch of magical thinking. i would see myself floating on the ceiling over my body. After a serious trauma at age 12, the same coping skill led me to see the stories of my life with profound detachment as i “saw” the stories taking place as if i was in a movie theater. Around age 12, i read about astral projection for the first time, and later connected my experience of floating on the ceiling to the descriptions of astral projection, with a thread attaching body to soul. i have wondered how that fits in because the concept of floating overhead is a common theme of young child abuse and it has occured to me that this could be interrelated to astral projection (the soul leaving the body more or less spontaneously).

    As an adult, during abuse, the disassociative states lost some of the magical thinking. In some cases, i was consciously willing my body to divorce my mind so that i would not give a response of pain which would excite her. In other cases, i was willing myself to not black out and so was consciously mentally reciting poetry or lists of presidents. These things were lost to me. i was quite put out when i lost “The Lady of Shallot” because that is one heck of a long poem that i memorized for fun in the 5th grade.

    Subspace takes a variety of flavors for me. One is like your definition of it….but instead of feeling diminished, i feel a part of everything at the same time. It feels a bit like flying but i don’t loose awareness and its the most intense pleasure i could imagine.

    The way things are working now is devoid of subspace as i knew it. The end result is similar, after its over, in that my normal physical pain is silenced for many hours (bliss). And i feel that there are no emotional walls, no fear, no hiding, nothing seperating us in a spiritual sense. But since SR has made me able to speak, i am not aware of what i am saying to her while she is beating me. i told her that i was concerned, because i would have no control and no recall of what i said. That smacks of disassociation though i can remember physical sensations and never feel like i’ve disappeared. i certainly cannot divorce my body from the pain, even when i would like to. But there is something going on when it comes to my voice. In any event, the end result is similar in that i feel closer to her than any other human being, in part because she sees me in a way no one else can or has.

    This is long but i’m leaving it because its a hard thing to me to sum up in a sentence or two. i hope this helps as i think this is an important thing to think about.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      Dear Jade,

      Thank you for leaving this comment – there is so much for me to think about here. The idea of astral projection is fascinating, i know nothing about it, and now i want to know more.

      You describe things that i have no response for, no “appropriate reaction,” right? And i appreciate your willingness to do that.

      i’m so glad that what you have now is so good for you. And glad that you’re so in tune with where the feelings are and what you need to attend to. i think it is incredibly lovely that SR has given you your voice back. i really love that.



  6. Wordwytch November 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Good ideas here. What I find interesting is that I meditate. The disassociation I experience with that is very close to what I get with subspace. Very much like a guided meditation too. You can work out issues or look at them from that 30,000ft view in total safety.

    I understand the other things you mention as well, and I’m glad you added all of them in there so that people could look and compare.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      Hi, Wordwytch,

      Yes, i think there are strong similarities between what happens in mediation and subspace. Interesting, isn’t it? Thank you for describing your experience ~ i really appreciate it.



      • Wordwytch November 12, 2012 at 10:57 am #

        Your welcome. 🙂

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