Yesterday we talked about the three ways that people naturally process pain. Today and tomorrow I'm going to cover the ways we manage the pain we experience. I'm going to stick with describing the pain that we experience during play for this discussion.

Now, part of these posts will talk about the benefits from play that the bottom and top, typically a sadist, gets from the play. If you ask any sadist what they enjoy out of pain play, it's likely going to be watching the bottom respond to the pain. The more response, the higher the enjoyment for the top. Why is this important? Well, if the method of pain management doesn't allow you to respond well to the pain, then the play will be less fulfilling for at least one, if not both of you. Ultimately we want to be able to have a wonderful responsive play time.

Pain management is different from pain processing in that management techniques are how we learn to deal with pain; the natural processes are what are available to us at birth. You learn or pick up pain management techniques by example or through the way you were raised. Even being called a "cry baby" or being told to walk it off one too many times can retrain your brain on how to process the pain in a way that is detrimental to SM later in life.

Typically a person will employ many methods of pain management in a single play session. Some combinations lead to subspace while others will lead to a heightened experience of sadism and masochism. Goals for everyone are unique and should be discussed as a part of negotiation before play begins.

These three methods are the most negative in result, tomorrow I'll cover the positive techniques and also how we can combine them in a play session.


The first method of pain management I'm going to talk about is detachment. With detachment you separate your mind from your body so pain doesn't register in your mind. It's the most common pain management technique during sub space. A lot of descriptions of sub space are that the sub was above their body looking down and they could see what was happening but not feel it. This is detachment. As you can probably realize, most people don't start with this technique, but rather end up here.

Detachment is not what masochists look for with pain play. Since the pain isn't experienced, the full pleasure of it is lost. Sadists also don't like their bottoms to detach from the pain because they don't get the responses and reaction from the pain they are looking for in a fulfilling scene. A SM scene will rarely end with subspace; a sadist will constantly bring the masochist away from the detachment phase to extend the play.


In compression, you try to internalize the pain and bury the pain deep inside. With each bit of pain you press it and stuff it down further until you can't feel it anymore. This method of pain management is most commonly associated with emotional pain, such as the denial phase of grief. It is also seen in pain play if this method is fresh on the person's mind. Common ways people bury the pain is by clenching muscles such as jaws, hands and other large muscle masses. It's also easy to notice compression when someone holds their breath.

With compression, the bottom doesn't get most of the benefit of the pain experience and because of this the sadist also gets denied pleasure from feeding on the reactions of the bottom. What can be worse is that the unreleased, compressed pain turns into stress that will build over time until it is released.

Fight and Extinguish

The last negative method for pain management is force of will. In this method the person experiences pain by fighting it. The pain is snuffed out by the force of will; practically suffocating it. Someone using this method will still feel the pain more than through compression but you don't get the long term stress build up of compression. You do however feel immediate exhaustion and stress from the effort of fighting the pain. You've likely seen someone who is practically vibrating in their bondage, or sucks their breath in and out through pursed lips and eyes squeezed shut in concentration.

As with the other negative ways to manage pain, you don't get the full benefits of the pain and neither does the sadist.

  • Do you do any of these negative techniques?
  • Why would I include detachment as a negative rather than a positive since subspace is so sought after?
  • What do you think some positive techniques might be?

In the essay tomorrow, I'll cover a few positive ways to manage pain as well as good combinations of methods that make pain play rewarding and beneficial for those involved.

Processing Pain in Play Series

  1. What is the Natural Process?
  2. This post: Negative Pain Management Techniques
  3. Positive Pain Management Techniques
  4. Learning a Processing Technique
  5. What is the Benefit of Pain Anyway?
  6. What Can Interrupt or Block Pain Processing?
  7. Overcoming the False Edge

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