For many of us physical masochists, self-harm has likely been something we've struggled with on and off throughout our lives. Many of us began finding clever ways to hurt ourselves from a very young age, or perhaps we just found the normal "bumps and bruises" of childhood fun and exciting.
We may not be able to trace our fascination with pain back to any specific origin point. This is just simply the way we feel we have always been. As children, we eventually saw that other people did not share our feelings towards pain. They didn't crave it the way we did so effortlessly, so we learnt this part of us was bad, wrong, strange, broken.
For those of us who self-harmed, we heard the fear, worry, judgement and confusion in the words of our loved ones when they found out. If they ever did. But, the inner masochist within us never ceased in their ruthless pursuit of pain. The hunger for that stinging sensation may have only grown stronger when it was condemned and repressed.
Society taught us not to glorify self-harm, not to romanticize the dark, understandably so - they only had the best intentions of wanting us safe and happy. I just firmly believe now that there is not a one size fits all description of what that looks like. Not everyone who self-harms is a physical masochist, sexual or otherwise, but for those of us who are, pain play can have an entirely different meaning depending on the intention we bring to it and the safety measures.
In theory, a safe and caring Dom(me)/sub dynamic is a beautiful replacement for self-herm, but it doesn’t always work in satisfying that craving. In my experience, I found a shift in perspective was the ultimate key to quenching the thirst of my inner masochist addicted to self-harm. If pain play with a partner is more societally acceptable, viewed as a form of intimacy with our masochistic nature and another person, then we can consider self-harm as pain play as well. However, it is a form of intimacy with only ourselves. This means there is less accountability and more room for emotional reactivity or impulsiveness, where we might blur the lines of safety and care that we would've strongly upheld in a Dom(me)/sub interaction.
I think the shame we feel trying to repress our masochistic urges is half the battle. Society is growing to accept masochism in the bedroom but not as a form of self-soothing or play within a non-sexual context. However, if the same safety, care and boundaries are in place, then we can step into both roles both sadist and masochist within ourselves, and play with pain on our own, trusting our ability to take care of ourselves the way we would trust our Dominant to. This means protocols are still vitally important, physical safety measures beforehand and emotionally checking in with yourself, as well as crafting a nurturing aftercare process to avoid the emotional "drop" that can come after an intense scene.
Some keys to remember when you are engaging in a safe solo pain play practice:
- Check in on your state of mind and your emotions before you begin! Journaling can be a great tool to dump your thoughts and feelings onto paper, detoxing them from the dark corners of your mind. You can always tear up or burn the paper after if you don't want to keep it around.
- Make sure the tools you are using are clean or sanitized, that they are reasonably safe and you understand how to use whatever it is you decide to play with.
- Emotionally reassure yourself throughout the process. Even if this feels counterintuitive or silly, it's super important to be kind and supportive towards yourself when physically harming your body. Our bodies love to store trauma and trap negative emotions within the fascia that binds everything within our bodies together, so treating yourself with respect and care, as you would trust a sadist partner to do, is very important. How would you want a Dom(me) to be feeling towards you in the act of hurting you - beneath the facade of the role you're both playing within a scene?
- Stay away from vital organs and if you're using knife play, avoid very sensitive places such as your wrists. I would even suggest doing some research on where your major arteries are located. The more knowledge and awareness you have over your body, the safer your play time can be.
- Less is more, use moderation when you're playing. Bringing the intention of ceremony to your practice can help you honor both your physical and emotional body, treating the experience as you would a gourmet meal you want to savor and enjoy slowly. Rather than a mindless binge!
- Always clean up your wounds after you've finished and address them gently. Thank your body for letting you touch it in this way, appreciate it's ability to heal and for the beauty it creates via bruises, burns, scabs and scars.
- Don't slack off on your aftercare! Journal out any feelings that came up during the scene. Meditate if you need to ground or reconnect with yourself. Take yourself on a walk, have a bath, cry, laugh, drink some tea or eat some ice cream. Maybe designate a special blanket to comfort you after your solo scene, while you curl up to watch something funny or sentimental.
It's so important that we prioritize our well-being, safety and mental health when we want to engage in acts of physical masochism, whether with a partner or on our own. The less we see ourselves as self-harmers in a shameful, negative light, the more room we have to grow into confident, self-assured creative masochists who indulge their vices in mindful and loving ways.
If you haven't downloaded this, I created a free field guide to conscious physical masochism where solo pain play or mindful self-harm is concerned. It's ten pages covering how to emotionally and energetically prepare for a satisfying and safe pain play session. You can learn more about it and download for free HERE.