502. Discussion Topic Write-Up: Mental Spaces in BDSM v. 1.0 (12/20/2018)

I am writing this from the standpoint of introducing these ideas and concepts as part of a discussion group and may include ideas and concepts that I have discussed in earlier posts. As this is designed for a Femdom discussion group, it may lean more heavily towards the F/m end of the spectrum although I will try to keep it as role/gender neutral as possible.  If anyone has any feedback about how to make this better it would be greatly appreciated.

v. 1.0

Last revised: 12/20/2018

I.  What is a mental space?

A mental space is a blanket term that encompasses a person’s perception of the world, thought processes, priority structures, preferences, and behaviors at a given time.

While we generally do not use the term mental space to describe our “standard selves,” they become useful when describing altered states of being that differ from our standard selves.  While I have seen mental spaces described with other terms such as facets, faces, masks, or mindsets, I use the term mental space because variations of this term has been used for decades in BDSM and I also don’t like terms that make the differing spaces seem like false acts or something that we can access at any time simply by choice.

To summarize it as simply as possible, I believe that mental spaces are who we are at a given time.  It is the collection of all of our different mental spaces that describes who we are as a whole.

I use the term persona to describe the being that we are when we are within that mental space.  e.g. a person in submissive mental space will be acting within their submissive persona.

For a non-kinky example, if you can imagine someone who works in customer service.  While at work and dealing with a customer that is a complete stranger, they may think, focus, and behave in a manner where the customer’s satisfaction with products or services rendered is their primary goal.  This is a reflection of their work persona.  When outside work and in their standard persona, that same person will likely have little care about the satisfaction of strangers and be more concerned with their own level of satisfaction.  This doesn’t mean that who they are at work is false, it is just that they are in a different mental space.

II. Mental Spaces in BDSM

Terms revolving around the idea of mental spaces have long-existed within the realm of BDSM because there are so many dynamics, kinks, and fetishes out there that involve a shift in mental space to take someone from their standard persona into a different persona.

These may include (but are not limited to):

  • Submissive mental space
  • Dominant mental space
  • Little space
  • Primal space
  • Pet/Animal/Puppy space
  • Slavespace

Three notes of importance:

  1. Not everyone will have a mental space associated with their BDSM role.  While a large percentage of people will have mental spaces, cases do exist where their role is fully integrated into their standard persona.
  2. Submissive and dominant mental spaces are not to be confused with the commonly exercised definitions of subspace or Domspace, which are currently used to describe altered states associated with a chemical high fueled by adrenaline, endorphins, and in some cases, dopamine.
  3. This entry will be focused upon submissive and dominant mental spaces.

III. Submissive Mental Space

     A.  About submissive mental space.    

While someone may rationally know that they want to be a submissive and desire to feel submissive, it is when they enter their submissive mental space that they really become a submissive.

When someone enters submissive mental space, their submissive persona replaces their standard persona.

The difference displayed by the space shift may be mild or drastic depending upon the person.  The contrast is most obvious when a person’s submissive persona differs greatly from their standard persona, e.g. someone that is an alpha CEO by day, submissive by night.

It is also very common for subs that enter submissive mental space to become sexually aroused and remain that way for extended periods of time, frequently for the duration of being immersed in that space.

While in submissive mental space, many subs will have an entirely different way of processing the world, including their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.  The priority structure of their needs, wants, and desires may completely change.  Their sense of self and their place in the world may change.  Their sense of morality and what is right and wrong may become a reflection of the dynamics involved in the relationship with their dominant.

Here are some examples of how this might look:

  • The sub’s priority may be to see their dominant pleased and happy.
  • Right and wrong may become a reflection of what the dominant finds pleasing and what the dominant finds displeasing.
  • The sub may feel like they exist for the dominant’s happiness and experience deep regret/remorse/sadness if they fail to please their dominant.
  • The sub may welcome unpleasant restrictions and corrective measures if they feel it will help them better please their dominant.

     B.  How submissive mental space works.

My favorite comparison of submissive mental space is to picture a swimming pool.  This pool is of uneven depth with a shallow end and a deep end.  A sub in submissive mental space is somewhere in the pool.  They can go deeper within the pool and feel “more submissive.”   The deeper someone goes, the more immersed within their submissive persona they become and the more intense the feelings and vulnerability they associate with submission will be (this may also include increased arousal).  For some subs, the greater the depth, the less “self” they will feel.  Taking a sub deeper into their mental space is generally a matter of applying the types of dominance they respond to and/or control and manipulation of their particular set of kinks and fetishes.

spaces-sub mental space-jpg

Similarly, a sub can go shallower within the pool and feel less submissive.  This can be done intentionally if the situation dictates it, e.g. if a D/s couple are out in a vanilla setting, the dominant may want the sub to remain in shallow submissive mental space so that the sub can still function on a competent social level while still retaining some level of D/s dynamic.

I use the term trigger to describe acts, ideas, kinks, fetishes, or fantasies that elicit a strong enough response to cause the sub to shift into their submissive mental space.  By applying a sub’s triggers, this is the means by which a dominant (or even the sub themselves) can put the sub into the pool.  Triggers can be mild and gentle and be the equivalent of walking the sub into the pool’s shallow end.  Triggers can also be harsh and abrupt, acting as the equivalent to shoving the sub directly into the deep end.  In most cases, triggers include something symbolic that the sub associates with their submission.

When the sub is in their submissive mental space, triggers can also be used to take them deeper.  It is worth noting that there are acts, ideas, kinks, fetishes, and fantasies that will take a sub deeper when they are in mental space, but they are not strong enough to initiate their submissive mental space.  This is where triggers separate themselves from others.

A couple of contrasting examples:

  • A sub may find the ritual of kneeling and kissing their dominant’s feet to be a trigger that is strong enough to initiate their mental space or push them deeper if they are already there.
  • A sub may find that being slapped in the face will take them deeper into mental space, but if they are not already in mental space, the same act will make them angry or defensive.  In this scenario face slapping may be a kink but it is not a trigger.

     C. Leaving submissive mental space.

A sub that leaves their mental space is the equivalent to the sub leaving the swimming pool.  Once out, they will shift away from their submissive persona and they will no longer feel submissive.  This process can happen gently or abruptly.  Being walked out of the pool gradually by the dominant is a lot less of a jarring than being yanked out of the pool due to an immediate crisis.  In some cases, there may be a “hangover” period where it takes the sub some time to regain a stable persona and feel normal after leaving space.

For subs that have a submissive mental space that is strongly connected to their arousal, many of them will experience an abrupt crash out of submissive mental space if they achieve an orgasm.  This tends to be true for nearly all submissive men and a percentage of submissive women.

I will note that for a percentage of submissive women, orgasms that occur relating to some of their kinks and triggers may push them deeper into submissive mental space.

     D. Why is submissive mental space important?

I believe there are several ways in which understanding submissive mental space holds importance.

There isn’t a lot of widespread understanding about submissive mental space within the BDSM community.  People generally understand masochists since the pain they experience yields a positive outcome through the endorphins and adrenaline that bombard their brain from the process.  By contrast, different submissive, styles such as service-oriented submission, are rarely understood as there is little understanding of the “payoff” for them.  e.g. Why would someone toil away cleaning for a dominant?  What is the reward?

For many subs, being immersed in submissive mental space is the reward.  In the absence of dominance, it is nearly impossible to truly feel submissive and experience the vulnerability and intensity that accompanies immersion in their submissive persona.  While some subs are able to access some levels of submissive mental space through fantasy, it isn’t as intense as the real thing.  In these cases, subs end up chasing submissive mental space as the payoff itself.

When it comes to practical application, dominants who can grasp a sub’s submissive mental space as their triggers will be able to keep their sub obedient, immersed, and altogether happy.  Using knowledge of these triggers to craft the rules and dynamics within a lifestyle 24/7 D/s relationship will keep things running smoothly.  Applying triggers when a sub isn’t feeling submissive will ensure that they can be put into submissive mental space when the dominant desires it.

By extension, ignoring a sub’s desire for submissive mental space may yield mixed results.

     E. Slavespace.

Slavespace is a form of submissive mental space but holds a few differences that give it enough separation to be discussed separately.  Slavespace’s “pool” comparison is more like a well.  It is much deeper than normal submissive mental space’s pool and there is only one depth associated with it.  e.g. people do not feel more or less slave-like, they either feel slave-like or they do not.

spaces-slavespace-jpg

The persona associated with slavespace may display traits of dissociation, depersonalization, or dehumanization and is often signified by a nearly complete suppression of the ego.  Subs that can reach slavespace are quite rare.  The descriptions of it vary a bit from sub to sub, but as a whole, they often describe it as something of a pure existence where they know their absolute purpose is to serve their owner.

IV. Dominant Mental Space

Disclaimer: I am not a dominant.  This is my working theory of dominant mental space as I have come to understand it over the past 15+ years and is based upon the words and feedback of 50+ dominants that I have had the pleasure of interacting with in person or exchanged extensive correspondence with over the internet as well as several hundred blog posts and articles that I have read over the years.  As the majority of my interactions have been with dominant women, this theory may skew more heavily towards female dominance and may differ from certain aspects of male dominance.  I am open to feedback and discussion if you believe any of this to be incorrect and would like to see it revised.  I consider this a work in progress.

     A. Important notes.

The first thing I will say is that I have encountered a larger percentage of dominants that do not have a dominant mental space than subs that do not have a submissive mental space.  The majority of dominants I have met that do not have a dominant mental space are what I call “early awakenings,” that discovered their desire for dominance at a young age and managed to fully integrate those parts into their developing self.

This differs from dominants that suppressed their desires for years before finally embracing them after reaching a fully developed state.  In these cases, their dominance does tend to exist as a dominant mental space.

From my experiences, early awakened dominants do fall into the minority (I estimate they make up less than 10% of the dominant population).  However, even without a separate mental space, the components of their dominance do behave similarly to those who do have a dominant mental space.

     B. About dominant mental space.

When a person enters their dominant mental space, this is the state in which they become a dominant.  While people may routinely exert power, control, authority, decision-making, responsibility, or other acts/characteristics that are associated with dominance, dominant mental space is what separates decisive behavior from dominance in a D/s sense.

Dominance is quite a bit more complicated than submission in both its components and its payoffs.

Each dominant experiences dominance uniquely, but there are some specific styles of dominance that are quite different from one another.  As of this time I can outline five primary types of dominance (and there may very well be more).  With the styles listed below, a dominant will likely associate with at least one of these types and may even associate with all five (or any other combination):

  1. Sadism – Dominance fueled by inflicting suffering upon someone.
  2. Sensualism – Dominance fueled by manipulating the sub’s physical and sexual sensations.
  3. Hedonism – Dominance fueled by having one’s own desires and pleasures catered to.
  4. Authoritarianism – Dominance fueled by having power, influence, and control over someone.
  5. Nurturing – Dominance fueled by having control over the care and development of someone.

The majority of the dominants that I have encountered have generally associated two or three of the five styles.

Early awakened dominants will also associate with certain styles of dominance.

     C. How dominant mental space works.

The inter-workings of dominant mental space are rather complicated because within a single dominant their dominant persona may change depending upon what types of dominance are active.  It is easier to think of each type of dominance that a dominant associates with as its own persona.  If a dominant relates to all five styles of dominance, the result is that they will have a sadist persona, a sensualist persona, a hedonist persona, an authoritarian persona, and a nurturing persona.

Each of these personas has its own set of triggers.  In many cases, a trigger will overlap with and influence multiple dominant personas.  For example, if a dominant enjoys tease and denial, this act caters to both their sensual and sadistic personas (and possibly even their authoritarian persona).

Unlike submissive mental space, dominant mental space does not replace a person’s conscious rational self.  You can think of a dominant’s conscious rational self as another persona that is present within dominant mental space in addition to the dominant personas.  The conscious rational persona is usually present all the time and experiencing everything in parallel with the other personas.  This conscious rational persona acts as the dominant’s common sense and conscience and polices the other personas to make sure they do not get out of hand.  e.g. while the sadist persona may wish to hurt a sub, the conscious rational persona knows that they do not want to cause actual damage to the sub and will prevent that from happening.

If the conscious rational persona gets shoved out, leaving the dominant personas to act without restriction, this leads to a state that I refer to as “power drunk.”  Most dominants will go out of their way to make sure that this will not happen.

The comparison that I make for dominant mental space is that the personas act like people driving together in a van.  There is one (or more) dominant persona acting as the driver(s).  There may be other dominant personas acting as navigators or back seat drivers, each with varying degrees of influence over the persona that is driving.  The conscious rational persona is riding in the back of the van, ready to step up if things go wrong.

I have created a graphic with some examples.  These examples may not be accurate for every dominant, but I tried to include with each scenario the personas that may take part in each:

spaces-dominant-jpg

Over the course of the journey it is very possible for the personas to trade off who is driving, who is navigating, and who is simply along for the ride.

In addition to each dominant persona responding to its own set of triggers, another large difference with dominant triggers are that in the majority of cases, dominants must trigger themselves.  Some may do this by fantasizing in order to trigger their dominant personas.  Others may simply initiate activities that will trigger those personas very quickly.  Greeting rituals and collaring are a couple of common acts that dominants use to trigger both their own dominant personas as well as a sub’s submissive mental space.

It is rather rare but entirely possible for a sub to understand their dominant well enough to the point where the sub is capable of triggering the dominant personas with words, actions, gestures, or the like.  While some might see this as manipulation, I like to think of it more as encouragement or seduction.  If subs can do this it goes a long ways to elevating a dominant’s mood when they are stressed out or have other distractions blocking them from triggering themselves.

A few examples of a sub working proactively to trigger their dominant:

  • If a dominant responds strongly to displays of devotion, the sub may kneel and bow before the dominant in hopes of triggering their corresponding dominant personas.
  • If the dominant responds strongly to pampering, the sub may have a scented bath with candles drawn for the dominant waiting for when they arrive home.
  • If the dominant is heavily sadistic, the sub may whisper something like, “I want to cry for you,” in hope of triggering their sadistic persona.

     D. Understanding the Payoff

I believe it is important for people to try and understand dominant mental space and dominant personas since they grant understanding on the varying types of “rewards” that dominants get from exerting dominance.

Some dominants are primarily sexually driven and achieve high levels of sexual arousal (and sometimes gratification) from their dominance.  For these dominants, the reward is the build up and eventual intense sexual release.

Some dominants are primarily driven by euphoria.  These dominants experience an emotional and psychological high from their dominance that fills them with extreme joy, may make them feel invincible and powerful, and their reward is being able to bask within these pleasant feelings.  This type of dominant may achieve an orgasm while recalling the memory of the events but frequently shy away from reaching sexual climax while exerting their dominance.

In some cases, dominants are primarily driven by the utility and satisfaction gained from having a sub under their control.  The main rewards here may be things like a clean house and a pampered body.

It is also possible for a dominant to enjoy all three of these rewards, but from my experiences, they tend to have a clear front-runner among them.

     E. Leaving dominant mental space.

Since dominants have their conscious rational persona running in parallel to their dominant personas, they have the ability to return to normal consciousness at any time without the same type of hangover that subs have.

With that in mind, most find a gradual wind-down to be a more pleasant process.  You may often read statements saying that that aftercare is just as important for dominants as it is for subs.  During aftercare, the dominant is able to unwind into an intimate nurturing persona and allow their more aggressive dominant personas to slowly fade into their dormant state.

A dominant has left their dominant mental space when their dominant personas are no longer actively exerting control.

There is no consensus upon how achieving an orgasm affects dominant mental space as it affects people differently both by gender and their type of dominance.  A high percentage of dominant men will fall out of dominant mental space abruptly upon achieving an orgasm.  A small percentage of dominant men will find their dominant mental space to increase in intensity following an orgasm.  Both of these behaviors may vary as well depending upon the intensity of the orgasm.

Dominant women that lean towards being sexually driven in their dominance are more likely to become more dominant following an orgasm.  Dominant women that lean towards being euphoria driven in their dominance are more likely to fall out of dominant mental space following an orgasm.  Like with dominant men, these behaviors also may vary depending upon the intensity of the orgasm and the feelings associated with it.

The phenomenon known as Dom drop or Dom crash is a physical process and involves the hangover caused by the adrenaline (and/or endorphins) leaving their body (see section II).  This is independent of a dominant leaving dominant mental space.

     F. Why is dominant mental space important?

Since dominants are the ones that trigger their own dominance, in some ways it becomes less important for people to understand just how this works.

Subs that understand their dominants well enough to be able to trigger their dominance do have a bit of an advantage of keeping a lifestyle 24/7 dynamic flowing smoothly.

Other practical applications of this knowledge mostly revolve around subs and dominants trying to find a good fit.  The more that dominants know about their dominance, the easier it is to represent the type of dominance that they offer and how a sub should cater to that.  Similarly, a sub that knows how their submission caters to the types of dominance out there will be more likely to pursue avenues that have a stronger potential for finding a match.

V. Finishing Statements

Normally this is where I might make some concluding statements or include a list of cited resources but this was written without a purpose beyond trying to describe one of the more abstract BDSM concepts that doesn’t get talked about very much.  I don’t have any resources to cite as the original places where I first learned about the original terms no longer exist and majority of this content was simply me trying to make sense of what goes on within us and is based upon my own experiences and the experiences shared with me by others.

If anything, I hope that this can serve as a resource for people trying to understand what is going on within themselves and hopefully keep the ideas alive so that they can be evolved upon by the next generation of writers that engage in the lifestyle.

I plan to revise this posting if I come across any new information that is more correct than what is represented here or as terminology evolves to better describe what is written here.  The version and revision date should represent the most current update (the original version 1.0 was posted 12/20/2018).

18 thoughts on “502. Discussion Topic Write-Up: Mental Spaces in BDSM v. 1.0 (12/20/2018)

    1. Thank you for the feedback, jlynn. I am glad that the drawings helped. I was on the fence about whether or not to do them since I knew they would add a lot of time to this but I am glad that I did them if it makes things clearer.

      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Another thorough explanation. Thank you! It’s through your writings and comments that I have learned so much about myself as a submissive, and how my mental spaces are affected/can be manipulated. I feel that you have contributed greatly to my growth and understanding; I would not be where I am if not for your insight. *hug*

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for all the time and effort you clearly put into this. You are impressively talented at taking abstract concepts and making them concrete and straightforward. The community is lucky to have a resource like you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As I mentioned earlier, there is a summary of studies about personality differences between dom & subs at this link: http://bit.ly/2RKgECV : dominants differ from submissives in regards to being more willing to take charge in social situations and having a more favorable opinion of themselves rather than in regards to being more sociable as such…dominants consider it important to remain calm and keep a level head during scenes. People low in neuroticism/emotionality tend to be naturally calm and not easily upset, so this would be helpful in the dominant role…dominants compared to submissives were lower in emotionality, higher in extraversion, and equal in agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and honesty-humility. .. dominants had higher self-esteem, satisfaction with a life, and a greater desire for control, but did not differ from submissives in empathy or altruism.
    In your model, doms need to retain some conscious control of their actions toward the sub. The sub is free to let his emotions take over (sub-state).
    In most forms of dom/sub interactions, there is a degree of intensity: from mild engagement (such as suggestive talk, light touches, etc.) to heavy scenes as applicable. This is particularly evident in “lifestyle” relationships. The dom or sub will engage the other in mild “foreplay” in the direction they intend to scene. If this agreeable to both, the intensity increases to a level that both parties believe is appropriate and acceptable for that moment.
    For practitioners with considerable relationship history, mild “foreplay” can trigger the mental spaces. Practitioners who are not acquainted or are in a constrained playspace might not be able to attain any depth of the mental spaces you describe.
    Due to the comment limitations, I’ll send more thoughts on the subject in another comment as time permits.
    I hope this helps flesh out your theory. -D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Dave. That is some interesting information. I also agree with the comments you have made. This does help with my theory as it runs consistent with how I view things.

      Something I didn’t mention within the post is that I believe that the ability to access mental spaces can be trained and practiced. In hindsight, I realize that I have been triggering myself into mental space since I was 11 years old. It is only within the past 7 years or so that I have been aware of what I was doing and in turn, I have developed ways to trigger myself rather easily (although this may be blocked by mood, stress, or depression). This has also allowed me to teach dominants how my triggers work to where they can drag me into mental space in nearly any setting.

      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s