Paying attention

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Attention is a limited resource. When we pay attention to one thing we can't be paying attention to other things. This doesn't mean that we can't multitask. We can, of course, otherwise it'd be challenging to walk and talk at the same time. Although we might not realise it, we see this one-track attention issue all the time such as when we are walking and talking and come to a corner and need to decide which way to go. We say to the person we're with, "Hold on a moment while I work out which way to go," and then we go silent - i.e., we stop talking so we can focus our attention, even if just briefly, onto the problem of where we're going. Then, once we've looked at all the street signs and thought a bit, we make the hopefully-correct turn and then we can start talking again until our attention needs to be used for something else.

The fact that we do this is relevant to our BDSM lives and activities in a number of ways.

If we're delightfully occupied in our dungeon with a partner and we have problems or concerns which we can't manage to leave outside - such as financial woes, family problems or health concerns - then we can't give our full attention to the activities at hand. This is because part of our available attention is being spent on things outside of the dungeon and as a result the actual amount of delight we and our partner can get inside of the dungeon suffers.

I would guess that most of us are aware of this particular problem and we know that there really is only one solution, namely not going into the dungeon until the problems are sorted and we can focus our full attention where it needs to be.

Secondly, because attention is limited it's good to plan ahead. If we stay with the dungeon as an example then we can say that if we have something challenging or complex in mind we're going to be able to devote more of our attention inside the dungeon if we've organised as much as possible ahead of time. For dominants, this might mean planning out a sequence if activities and laying out the appropriate array of diabolical implements so they're ready to grab when we need them. For submissives, this can mean planning ahead of time how we're going to manage pain or prolong our endurance.

Going back to the walking-and-talking example above, if we've planned the route before we started the walk then we don't have to stop our conversation at corners. We already know which way to turn. It's the same in a dungeon: If we've already got everything to hand then we don't have to stop the BDSM "conversation" we're having with our submissive or dominant. It just keeps on going, full steam ahead, without distractions.

It's not necessary to do this planning ahead all the time. Indeed, I think that ad hoc and spontaneous activities can be quite exciting and definitely shouldn't be neglected. But for something complex or for something which we want to last for many hours or even days, then planning ahead means we can focus our attention more on the pleasurable and exciting aspects during the scenes and less on management.

Thirdly, an important thing to say is that there's a difference between toiling and achieving. When we have a difficult problem, particularly a relationship problem, it can be easy to focus our attention on the wrong things. It's easy to focus on the wrong things because it allows you to say to yourself that you're working hard on the problem. While sweat may be pouring from your brow, you don't actually move forward because what you've chosen to do doesn't have any chance of changing or fixing things.

A classic example of this is where a couple into bondage or pain play starts to have relationship problems. These problems may be that one or both of them starts to feel restless or dissatisfied. To deal with this they start doing more bondage or pain play scenes, and more scenes, and ever more scenes. They focus their attention on these scenes because they know how to do them. They're things they're familiar with, things that are comfortable to do even though they're hard to do and even if these activities require a lot of sweat and toil to do. And in spite of a lot of effort going into these activities they may not be the right things to do to solve whatever problem the couple has. Most likely, more of what they're already doing isn't going to be the answer.

So, if paying more attention to something that you're already paying a lot of attention to isn't making things better, step back and find something else to focus on which will.

Like so many things, attention - being able to attend to things - is something we have and which we can use to make our BDSM and our relationships better. But we only have so much. Are you spending your attention wisely?