Reactance Stages and Slave Space

Author: yielding slave to Master Stern ©


All articles are used with the permission of the author(s).


When I first noticed my reactions during punishment I thought I had hit upon something completely new; the stages one encounters as a result of challenging restrictions. My theory, however, was hardly unique; it had been proposed in 1966 by J.W. Brehm in "A Theory of Psychological Reactance," and has since been applied to the Master/slave lifestyle on the Internal Enslavement web site <>. While the web site itself deals with enslavement, the theory of reactance can be applied, at least to some degree, to those who consider themselves to be Dominant & submissive, and certainly to those living a 24/7 lifestyle.

I won't recount the theory here - the site above is likely best source on the web for information pertaining to reactance as it applies to the submissive or slave. Moreover, the complexities of the theory are better left to experts. What is necessary to know for this essay is the crux of Brehm's proposal; that when faced with a restriction, or a loss of freedom, an individual makes a effort to restore his or her freedom. This is reactance.

This piece is being written because of a recent incident of misbehavior on my part, and my Master's subsequent suggestion that I spend some time exploring the reasons behind my actions. Using the reactance model (specifically the portion describing the effects of reactance), and myself as an example, I will discuss some of the methods I used to restore my freedom, how I came to the point of acceptance, and how that relates to what I call "slave space." (My definition of slave space - as opposed to subspace - is recounted in the essay Subspace vs. Slave Space.)

The Nutshell:
In "Reactance to Enslavement," web master Tanos describes the effects of reactance as follows:

  • An attempt is made to restore freedom through behavior.
  • The denied freedom becomes more desirable.
  • The freedom is reasserted indirectly.
  • The person denying the freedom is the recipient of hostility or anger.

The final "stage" of the process is one in which the slave encounters psychological "helplessness." In Brehm's model, as applied to the whole of society, helplessness can lead to depression. In a Master/slave relationship, where the slave has a desire or need for the control her Master offers, rather than a state of depression, "helplessness" leads to acceptance, and thus, positive reconciliation. In my opinion, "acceptance" is an entry into "slave space."

How it Worked for me:
The incident in question was my failure to write a journal entry one night, despite my knowledge that writing each day is a requirement. I couldn't pinpoint the exact reasons behind my failure to do so until I used the reactance theory to analyze it. When I asked myself the logical reasons behind disobedience, especially disobedience that would be immediately obvious to my Master, I could only think that I was trying to get his attention. The question arising from that explanation was: "Why did I feel I need to get his attention?" This led me to evaluate my recent feelings and behaviors, and I saw how well they fit into the "reactance" model.

An attempt is made to restore freedom through behavior:
I am not allowed to go to group BDSM gatherings (parties & events) without Master Stern, and I had been feeling a desire to be more active within our local community. It was disappointing to have to miss the majority of the group activities because of scheduling conflicts that didn't allow Master Stern to be there. I also felt that I was "out of the loop," and that I hadn't met many of the people I should have met. Master Stern's schedule was dictating our community interaction, and my "freedom" to attend any of these events, as long as I was accompanied by him, was threatened by a schedule I foresaw as a long-term problem.

As a result, I made an attempt to restore my freedom by suggesting to a male friend within the group that he "chaperone" me to events if Master Stern was not available. Although I wouldn't get to participate in activities, I would at least be present. He agreed. I then brought the proposition to Master Stern.

Had I not felt my freedom being threatened, I would have gone to Master Stern directly, asked him for this kind of permission, and if it was granted, allowed him to contact someone to be my escort. Instead, I usurped his authority, made arrangements myself, and then presented him with the outcome.

Master Stern's answer was "No."

The denied need becomes more desirable:
While I always feel a bit "warm and cozy" when Master Stern exercises his authority, in this case, I decided he was being unfair to me, and attributed it to a lack of concern for my "needs." I thought of all the gatherings we had missed, and realized that, due to a wedding Master Stern was attending out of state, we would be apart for a month - longer than we had ever been away from each other. It seemed like we were drifting further and further away from our involvement in the lifestyle, for no other reason than schedules.

Our next scheduled meeting did include an event, but it was not a local one, not my people. I wanted to spend more time with the people in my area, and I wanted Master Stern to express more interest in doing the same. An event in another area was almost undesirable, because I was still missing activities with people I know well and want to interact with more frequently. I began to feel a bit resentful.

The freedom is reasserted indirectly:
I started spending an excessive amount of time with the web site, which is an obvious connection to the community. While Master Stern encourages me to maintain the site, he would not approve of its maintenance at the expense of necessary daily routines. But I got up every morning to check the mail and the stats, came home from work and wrote (relatively boring) journals, and spent the rest of my time tweaking this paragraph and checking that link.

I felt unmotivated to do housework; the dishes piled up, as did the dirty clothes. I didn't make the bed. The bathroom was just gross. Had Master Stern been here, all of those things would have been tended to before I sat down at the computer. I tried writing some new essays, but wasn't able to finish any of them. My inability to complete them was, in my opinion, the result of feeling dissatisfied.

When Master Stern called me, he was having a lot of fun, and always asked if I had been "good" in his absence. Technically, I had been obeying the few rules we keep going while he is away, so I was able to answer in the affirmative.

Nevertheless, he was away, "off duty" so to speak, and I was home where nothing had changed. On the last day of his trip, I made a choice to forego my journal. The journal, being one of the 'rules,' was obviously going to be noticed, whereas my shoddy housekeeping was not something he would see or ask about. Ignoring the journal, which we initially thought of as the "problem," was instead an attempt on my part to reassert my freedom in an indirect manner.


The person denying the freedom is the recipient of anger or hostility:

When Master Stern returned from his trip, I "allowed" (if you'll forgive the word) him to tell me all about it, but once he had told me, each time he brought it up again, to recount a story or tell me something he'd forgotten, I reacted by expressing little or no interest. My answers were short, my attitude unacceptable. I don't know that I could have explained why at that time; however, it was very important for me to think he was able to discern the reasons for my distance, and do so without any help from me.

I was angry that he was tired, I was peeved if he didn't read my journal before our call, and I was irritated if he had read my journal but didn't mention it. Finally, the phone call that placed me at the peak level of reactance was one in which he hadn't read my journal and my tone instantly changed. I expressed that I wished he had because it was relevant to our conversation. "Would you like me to read it and call you back?" he asked. Those were not the words I wanted to hear. What I wanted was for him to take what I considered to be an active interest. Instead of posing a question for me, I wanted him to say, "Let me read the journal and call you back so we can discuss it."

I had transferred my interest in community involvement to the web site and everything within it, and somehow, I had expected him to do the same. I was very angry that his interest did not match mine, and I suggested it was aimed at me personally; that I needed him and he wasn't there for me. If he hadn't bothered to read my journal, he didn't care about me, and if he wasn't able to discern, from my irrational behavior, what was really going on, he was not being a "Master."

Obviously, I knew this was illogical thinking, even as I was saying it, but it didn't stop me. What did stop me was his ending the phone call because of my lack of respect. I tried to argue that, as well. "Why should I offer respect when the issue is being ignored because of my tone of voice?" He didn't fall for that, and the call ended.

I considered writing him a nasty email, telling him how disappointed I was in him, how he had let me down, etc., but as I considered it, I realized that these were words I would never say to my Master, that things had spiraled out of control, and that I needed some resolution in order to avoid a blow up that would have lasting effects - and, one that I knew I would blame myself for later.

Helplessness/ acceptance/ slave space:

I knew Master Stern would not call back. I had approached him with disrespect, and continued in that vein after being warned. It has always been one of the things he simply won't tolerate. My choice, at that point, was to wait for him to call me the next evening or to take the chance, call him back and approach him respectfully. "Helplessness" was the knowledge that resolution would not be accomplished by deliberately ignoring the edict of respect for my Master. "Acceptance" was the further knowledge that Master Stern is the only one who can tell me when, or even if, my "issues" will be discussed or resolved.

The desire for resolution was still there, made stronger, I think, because of my small amount of research into this theory. The wise decision may have been to wait for his call, but because we have a mutual dilemma; trying to maintain the relationship when distance can make it difficult, I knew that there are times when conflict resolution outweighs the need for immediate punishment. This would not necessarily be true if we were living together. I took the chance and called him back.

When Master Stern answered, I asked if he would please stay on the phone with me. Some respect was evident in the question, as well as the acknowledgment that a conversation would be his decision, not mine. For that reason, he agreed, but his tone made it clear that there would be no more accusations, and no more "attitude." More, there was a reminder that a punishment would occur in a different form at a different time.

My Master's authority and my only option when confronted with it - acquiescence - removed any left-over anger and allowed me to conduct the conversation without resentment or rancor. There was no longer a need to react at the same level. Discussion ensued, and although we parted no closer to "resolution" about my desire for group interaction, I didn't need immediate resolution any longer. Instead, I was reminded that the willing acceptance of conformity to Master Stern's methods and desires is the only way to live my life as his slave. The mere recognition that he is in control and that he will not allow me to manipulate a situation to my advantage left me with the sense of peace and well-being I associate with slave space.

Of course there are still issues; there will always be issues in any relationship - but using this process to analyze my behavior eventually helped to eliminate stress and pressure. By exploring its root cause, there was no reason to fall into the uneasy mindset of being a "bad slave." Further, a process like this seems to be a necessary step to true acceptance of a slave lifestyle. In the future, my level of reactance to an issue such as this should be lower and the steps toward acceptance and slave space arrived at with more ease.



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