Listen to yourself

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It's really only a teeny-tiny fraction of what we do which has to do with our rational or intellectual selves. Most of the time these aren't the areas which we're aiming at when we're looking for stimulation, arousal or satisfaction. We don't look at our BDSM activities as involving intricate or complex puzzles to solve, or as exercises requiring obscure knowledge of history, science or mathematics. It's why I wrote in one of my books that you don't find Scrabble™ sets or chess boards in dungeons or at BDSM play parties. Much of what we do isn't aimed at our rational, intellectual or even necessarily sensible selves. It's aimed at our primal drives, our gut, our lizard brains, our unconscious minds.

It's the rational and intellectual parts of our brains which are generally in charge in the words department. They're the bits which put together and say sentences, and they're the bits which listen to the sentences other people say to us and make sense of them. Our primal sides, our guts and our lizard brains generally only rise to a level of communication involving "Ugh!", "Mmmmm", smiles, frowns and physical action. Well... it's actually a lot richer communication than that, but my point is that it generally doesn't involve great verbal eloquence. Shakespeare didn't delve into trying to express primal drives in words. We don't read in any of his works, "Forsooth! What beckons on the horizon? 'Tis an orgasm!" No. Words don't work in this particular realm.

This makes understanding our partners' needs challenging at times. When words can't always express what we want, need or feel, how can we get the message across to them? People who do stuff in dungeons often either use pre-agreed signals or just plain familiarity with their partner to guide what they do. They know that trying to use words, trying to explain something in the heat or passion of the moment can be an excellent way to kill the mood.

Is there another way?

Yes, there is.

A thing we should recognise is that in these times when primal drives are being expressed, when deeper urges are holding sway, when our rational mind has moved to the back-burner and our gut is in charge we don't grunt, groan, wince, cringe, tense up, growl, touch, reach out or make any of these other nonverbal expressions just because they're a way of letting off steam. They're actually our gut and our lizard brain trying to communicate.

Our rational mind and our intellect communicate with well-chosen words, but our unconscious mind uses actions, facial expressions, vocalisations and gestures. And just as our rational mind targets our partner's rational mind with words, our unconscious mind and our primal drives yell out to our partner's unconscious mind and primal side not with words, but with actions, facial expressions, vocalisations, and so on.

Our unconscious minds use nonverbal language to communicate with the unconscious of our partners. You could, I suppose, take the time to study your partner, make a note of all the nonverbal expressions they use, put them in a chart and then work out what each one means: "long, low moan = need more bamboo under fingernails; shaking uncontrollable = either cold, having orgasm, or having fit; completely limp: possibly dead, hide body."

The problems with doing this are that it takes a lot of time and you can easily get it wrong, you have to create a new chart for every partner, and it's distracting for you because while they're in the throes of passion or excitement when you should ideally be involved, you're instead wearing your white coat, acting like a lab technician and analysing everything they do.

This chart and analytical business is actually you trying to use your intellect to make sense of primal drives and gut. Why do this when you have a built-in receiver that understands your partner's primal language already?

I'm talking about your own primal side, your own gut and your own unconscious. Your partner doesn't wave their arms around and make funny noises just to pass the time. They're trying to send you a message, and often without even realising it you receive that message from them. They're talking in primal-speak, and your unconscious mind can hear and understand it.

All you have to do is make sure that you listen and don't get in the way.

When you are with your partner - doing something diabolical, no doubt - and you suddenly feel an urge to grab them, handle them roughly or throw them against the wall; or you suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to have your wicked sexual way with them, these feelings are probably not all your own work. Your partner probably did something, made a sound, showed some facial expression or moved in some particular way that helped trigger you. Part of your mind "heard" them and reacted.

This is a good thing. It means that you are in tune with your partner. Assuming they weren't shocked about what you did, or they didn't suddenly get mightily pissed off with what you did, it meant that you got it right.

By quietening your own mind and by learning to notice changes in yourself you can recognise when your partner is sending out primal or unconscious signals. These may not always rise to an intense call-to-arms as can happen during play time, but by recognising your own responses - even when you're in some non-BDSM environment like a supermarket - you can say to yourself, "Hmmm. Snookums is apparently in the mood for XYZ." This awareness lets you act in a positive and productive way, even if it's just to acknowledge that you got the message with a simple stroke of their neck or a brief lowering of yourself such as by bending down in front of them to adjust your shoes. You might also make a note to yourself to do something about it when you both get home.

This is about listening to yourself. When your partner starts sending, your own primal receiver will react. Listen to it, to your feelings and to your gut. When these change and your partner is nearby or talking to you, there's a good chance that there's something other than words going on and you're reacting to that. Listen closely to what's inside you. It's your biggest clue to what your partner is feeling and to what they need.