What is Subspace?
Subspace is a word that describes the euphoric or trance-like state sometimes reached by a submissive in Dominance and Submission play, or D/s play. It's difficult to describe unless you've ever experienced it and each person's subspace experience is different from the others. Often times, it is described to be very similar to the "runner's high."
It's hard to describe subspace and even its definition seems ambiguous until you analyze it. According to the Free Dictionary Online, subspace is "A space that is wholly contained in another space, or whose points or elements are all in another space." Those who have experienced subspace will say that's a pretty good technical description. To put it into less technical terms, subspace could be defined as "an alternate reality existing within the space of the mind."
Getting to Subspace
Gee, that's some pretty deep stuff! I think I'd like to go to subspace. What coordinates do I plug into my GPS to get there?
All joking aside,subspace is very real and is caused by intense pain and pleasure stimiulation that prompts the body's built in "fight or flight" system to trigger the release of epinephrine and endorphins. The release of these natural chemicals put the submissive into a trance-like state similar to a morphine-induced high, increasing the submissive's tolerance to pain. Because these chemicals continue to release even after the submissive has reached the trance-like state, it almost becomes like an out-of-body experience; a detachment from reality. Many submissives have described it as if they are sitting in a theater watching the experience as it is happening to someone else.
Layers of Subspace
Subspace is not a tangible place and experiences will vary based on the method used to get there, the relationship between dominant and submissive,the inhibitions of the submissive, etc. Not everybody experiences subspace the first time--or even the first few times--of D/s play. As the submissive becomes more comfortable with their surroundings and with letting go, they will feel more comfortable letting go and allowing themselves to experience subspace more deeply.
As mentioned, subspace is different for each person, but there are typical stages, also known as layers. A submissive's normal state is known as topspace. As the dominant begins addressing the submissive and prepping them for play, they become much more focused and obedient, slowly begin their subspace decent. As the play continues, the obedience continues, until a point when the submissive becomes a bit fidgety and mischievous, sometimes whiny. This stage doesn't last long and is a hallmark sign of the next stage beginning. This is the stage where rational thought stops, the submissive may become light headed and disoriented, and feel like they are off to the side, watching the scene with detached interest. Some may be pulled even deeper into subspace, to the next level, where the ability to speak diminishes and primal instinct takes over. In this stage, the submissive's entire demeanor changes, becoming combative and sometimes predatory. If the dominant doesn't maintain firm and unwavering control, the scene could get out of hand.
It is very important for the dominant to understand the subspace phenomenon and know how to react appropriately during each of the phases to keep the submissive--and the play--safe. If a submissive is unfamiliar with subspace, at first, they may be scared or uncomfortable with what they are experiencing. It is the job of the dominant to help them understand the space and to guide them through the experience through their actions.
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Returning from Subspace
The dominant is the submissive's anchor to reality. Once the submissive reaches subspace, they require the dominant's constant care, and should never be left alone in that state. An experienced dominant will know and recognize the stages of subspace by the submissive's reactions and guide the scene accordingly.
Because the submissive is in this euphoric state and doesn't feel the intensity of the pain, they may beg for more. It is the job of the dominant to understand this and to know when to push the limits and when enough is enough. Much the same way as the dominant guides the submissive into subspace by their actions while the scene is unfolding, as the scene begins to wrap up, the dominant will ease the submissive back through the layers of subspace and into reality once again. This is a very critical step, that if not done correctly, can cause the submissive to have a bad subdrop experience.
Subspace After Care
Subspace is very intense for the submissive and upon returning to reality they will be very exhausted both physically and emotionally. The submissive will require rest and after care to properly recover from the experience. They may sleep for hours or days, experience sudden outbursts of emotion, depression, mania, and any number of things based on their personal makeup, the level of subspace achieved during play, and the way the dominant interacts with them during the after care process.
D/s and power exchange can be very exciting and rewarding but is not something to be entered into lightly. Both the dominant and the submissive must have a solid relationship based on trust and understanding in order to gain the most from the experience.