ASK THE THERAPIST
by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1998 by William A. Henkin
<Q> Is it possible for a top to experience some form of trance while engaged in a specific activity such as whipping?
<A> Yes, certainly. Indeed, my own experience indicates that it's possible in at least two ways. First, performing a sustained whipping can be a highly aerobic activity. Over a protracted period of time aerobics prod the brain to produce endorphins in order to combat pain, strain, stress, and fatigue. This endorphin high is just the sort of trance some bottoms specifically seek from long whippings or other intense scenes of long duration. The aerobic activity itself can produce a related sort of high for physical top such as a whipper, rather like the one she might experience after jogging, swimming, bicycling, or engaging in some other moderately strenuous physical activity.
A second form of trance, which gets less play in the SM press, is the meditative state some people can derive from staying focussed on a single rhythmic, repetitive action over time. This sort of psychological trance can be induced far more quickly than a physical aerobic trance. For instance, meditation teachers often propose that beginning meditators practice for 20 minutes at a time, but an experienced meditator can snap into trance almost instantly; and hypnotic inductions, which are really forms of trance states, sometimes take no more than a couple of minutes to produce, even in inexperienced subjects. When I've taught stress management workshops I've generally included both the longer (20-minute) sorts of meditations as well as a quick-fix, do-it-at-your-desk self-induction that takes most people about one minute.
During a whipping scene, of course, a top should be paying attention to what he's doing. Understand, then, that when I speak about this form of trance I do not mean trancing out, which may lead to the bottom's feeling as if the top has "gone away." Rather, I mean trancing in, so that the top's focus becomes utterly absorbed in the task at hand. For some players the rewards from such a trance go both ways: the top learns to practice an intense form of concentration that can be very useful at other, more mundane tasks, while the bottom has the experience of the top's truly undivided attention throughout the scene.
For the musically inclined, both forms of top trance come with their own rhythms, and when the top can identify those rhythms and whip along with them always keeping the bottom's responses clearly in her view and mind she can let the scene pace itself in a sweetly organic way, rather than having to make extra, and often fatiguing efforts, to keep the scene's flow under her tight control.
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