Subspace – the chemistry behind the phenomena

Written by: Nattkorpen translation by: Lordbyron

Nattkorpen partly wrote out of his own experience but also from the facts that are common knowledge. This is a rather long text but it is tremendously well written and describes the phenomena subspace in a way that we have not seen before.


Subspace is a combination of different kinds of experiences that are both mental and physical. In the mental sphere we can find; total relaxation, calmness and harmony. The physical part is more about the discharge of chemical substances in the body as endorphins, adrenaline, oxytocin and other hormones. How subspace manifest are subject to several factors that are both biological and mental, the difference in how large portions of the various substances that are discharged and the proportions between them and how they affect a single person is different from person to person. In addition to this factors that are hard to define also play matter as sensitivity to outer stimulus and the ability to empathy.

As a base assumption you may say that subspace is the ability to disconnect the thought from the body. To be able to let the though roam freely. The psychological term for this is disassociation that affects mental presence, consciousness, memory, perception and motor skills. It is a defensive mechanism to be able to control and minimize stress, including boredom and conflict. A simple form of disassociation is when you are speaking to a friend; nod in approval but really to not hear what they are saying until they are waving their hand in front of your very eyes and say “hello?” and you are jolted back to reality. It can also be when you find yourself staring at the laptop screen or your book for five minutes without taking in any information at all.


Generally the start of subspace is when you discharge endorphin into the body. The endorphin is often called our own produced opium. You may have experienced the feeling when you have been out running and almost got dependent on it? It is the endorphins you have become addicted to. It is discharged by pain, physical activity and stress, but may also be set free by sex and being in love. About forty five minutes of running will release the equivalent of 10mg of opium. Endorphin is strongly connected to running. In the old hunter/gatherer cultures small pray as the antelope was often hunted down by running them to exhaustion and thus could be easily be killed. Endorphin was the substance that could make humans sustain such a fatiguing hunt and that is the same factor that today makes us almost enter a meditative state that we call the second wind.

What’s so special with endorphin is that it does now release into the body little at a time when subjected to instant pain. Instead everything is discharged in to the body immediately. Shortly thereafter the body starts to build up a new stockpile of endorphin and that takes about five to ten minutes before the body is ready for another release. Every time there is such a release there is an increase of pain tolerance but at the same time our level of consciousness is affected.

Endorphin is released by nerve stimulus that reaches the spinal cord. It then blocks the nerve cells from sending more signals of pain. In that way a human or animal can still feel powerful and in control, despite the pain.

Endorphin and BDSM

How much the body is affected by the endorphin is differ from person to person. For some persons it takes longer time before they are affected, in other cases persons can go into a drug induced state almost immediately.

The effect of the endorphin can be put into five different stages:

  1. No change has been noted in the level of consciousness, but an increase of the pain tolerance is experienced. The endorphin gives a sensation of pleasure.
  2. The submissive starts to feel a bit “dizzy” and are in a state of light drug induce. The eyelids are starting to get heavy and they are getting more relaxed. Inhibitions are removed and moaning and groaning can be expressed.
  3. The submissive is showing a substantial change in consciousness and acts very docile and submits. At this point the body has started to be filled with adrenaline. The adrenaline increases the reactivity and makes the body hypersensitive to stimulus. Beatings with an object can now trigger responses as shaking and twitches. The moaning and groaning will now become lower and more sustained. The body is now very relaxed.
  4. The submissive is extremely docile and accommodating and can sustain almost any pain inflicted. They will be totally relaxed and almost prone, test in a psychological sense call this state movement freeze.
  5. Endorphin is now cooperating with adrenaline and the effect is that almost all inhibitions are released. Body movement can be totally uncontrollable and may cause harm. The reactions goes into the primal and the submissive are to be considered as a wild animal and be spoken to in a very calm and submissive way with very soft gestures. Be aware of flight tendencies and extreme twitches.


To shift between the levels

Theoretical it will take one or two doses of endorphin between each level and that would make the last stage should be entered about 50 minutes – given that the session followed a strict schedule (more on this further down) without improvisation. That is rarely the case in practice and different people react differently. Many have quite low pain tolerance and will have a hard time to succumb in a calm way to be able to receive the pain that it takes to reach later stages when the actual consciousness change will take place. Others can however react far more strongly on the endorphin.

Above this it is important that the submissive feels safe and trusts the dominant. Trust in the sense that the body can relax. Relax and be able to receive the pain without any reflection. It is far easier for a masochist (like me) but other may also be able to reach subspace if they can relax sufficiently and the dominant do not exceed in giving pain. It is also easier, at least for me, to reach later stages in subspace if I do not have to stand up. To be standing up takes some concentration and distracts me from flying away too far. You should be aware that some stages may not be able to attain, that depends on how the endorphin reacts in you and also how it cooperates with other substances like adrenaline that has a numbing effect on the endorphin rush. For some very sensitive persons as myself it may be as short as 10-15 seconds to reach level two.

It may be so that the dominant would like to refrain the submissive from being able to go to deep into subspace. You should then force the submissive to respond to outer stimulus as commands or words, the change of tool may also keep them at same level. Change of force, position and altering your tone of voice. Try not to be to repetitive and change rhythm. But you must be aware that the pain will be more felt and that the endorphin do not protect as good. It also makes it more likely that a stop word will be used

Ability to speak and communication

The more endorphin that is released out in the body the harder it becomes to concentrate on your surroundings. Even if the ability to communicate is there the wish to do it is not. It also becomes much harder to hear what someone is saying.

It is important that the dominant is very observant of this fact. Words must be to quiet, they are not heard then. They should be clear and concise. Be prepared that you may have to ask the same question several times or give repeated instructions. My own wish to communicate almost disappears directly. I fall into a stage two and only respond to direct commands. I believe that at this point I would have a very hard time to use stop words. When I reach stage three my ability to communicate is almost absent. I can respond to simple instruction with a few words but I very seldom hear what someone says to me the first time. It take considerate time for med to understand what someone wants but when I do I’m very submissive and follows instructions. Stop words are impossible for me. My only way of communication is to groan in different types of depth and length and hope that someone does understand that.

In stage four I barely hear what is said to me, have a hard time to comprehend it and I am unable to communicate at all. My movement restricts to a few decimeters. Here I do not even moan anymore I just receive. It is the only way you may notice if anything hurts or are pleasurable is a slant change in my breath. No other sounds emits from me.

At stage five I start to react to the pain again, but I cannot communicate with speech. I can moan but I rather growls. This is a very primal level where the body reacts on instinct. I have non what so ever control over the sounds a giveaway.


Already at stage three I have tunnel vision quite strongly, if I even can keep my eyes open. I only look straight ahead. Focus is only on a few square decimeters and everything else is blurred, obscured. In fact my concept of time also disappear and it is very hard to understand how long time things take. However at the same time I’m conscious about what is happening around me the hard part is to react to it – even if I wanted to.


To enter subspace is to surrender parts of your self-preservation, to be handing it over to the dominant counterpart. It is a huge responsibility and the dominant that is not ready to take this responsibility and continues to state that the submissive is partly responsible is not mature enough to have a session with a submissive that may enter the state of subspace. The submissive has a responsibility before and after the session to communicate their needs and boundaries. Of course also during the session but it is likely that the submissive in subspace do not have the ability to communicate. Not even to say stop word if something would happen that could lead to injuries.

This trust that the dominant have been given may not be misused. It is the foundation for the submisives trust and not only during the session but also in the forthcoming ones. Breach of the trust may result in the process of the submissive giving up BDSM for good.

Body control

To be standing up is what is hindering me from sinking too deep into subspace. The body tries only to handle the most essential, to be able to stand without falling. Not to injure someone else with wild twitches. I have been lying down and had uncontrollable spasm from the stimuli I have experienced and gently put my hand on the forehead of my partner so that I will not head but them during my twitches, everything under the circumstances unable to be communicating. I have hugged my arms around myself and not them as I would be afraid to hurt them if I did.

At the same time I have not been conscious about what I perceived as nibbling at her breast gave her a huge bruise. I could have refrained from it if I had been told to but she did understand that I could not hear her as I had lost my ability to speak. During the sessions after this I was aware of the situations and did not bite so hard them, but rather scraped my teeth against the skin.


For me I get easily overstimulated and that can make me fall back into subspace. I had been deep into level four, but got out of that. We were lying talking for about 10-15 minutes and then they took their hand and stroke my neck and that was all that was needed to put me into a coma that lasted for 10- 15 minutes. The smallest little caress, if only a mere centimeters got me into the shivers and they were forced to withdraw their hands. To hold me was alright but then only to hold the arms absolutely still. No massage. No caressing. The only thing that worked out was for them to hold my fingers. All other touches to my body got me into the shivers and into subspace again. This even 30 minutes after the actual session had stopped.

When I then got out the sunshine almost got me into subspace again and I had to wear sun glasses. The morning after the shower forced me into subspace again as I felt the water caress my skin. I do not say that this will be the case for everybody, not even a few. But it can be good to be prepared on this hyper sensitivity and that it may last quite long, long after the normal bodily functions have been restored.

Slave space

There are other ways to release the endorphin in the body then with pain. Take a look at free churches where the participants speaks in tongue, speaks with God. How they move in ecstasy. It in a way subspace they are into. They don’t have control of the environment, have a strong tunnel vision. They are totally focused on the God they pray to. Remember that both sex and love may release the endorphin, also devoted prayer.

In my text here I choose the expression “Slave-space” for this phenomenon as it does not concern pain in the same way, it is rather about total devotion. If subspace is about focusing your own reactions and feelings Slave-space is about focusing on someone else. Given the difference the chemical compounds involved are the same except for the adrenaline. To speak in tongue or nonsense-language is something that may occur in subspace inflicted by pain.

Bondage and suspension

In experiments with closed water tanks where persons have been laid to rest in body tempered water in total darkness has shown that the body releases endorphin as a reward. It is possible that this is same phenome that occurs with bondage when a submissive express how they have been able to relax totally. With suspension the effect will be even greater as the gentle rocking that are repeated and it is rhythmical. This repetition of movement has proven to be one of the elements that make it easier to reach subspace and to be able to rest in the endorphins. Disassociation is a defensive mechanism to be able to handle boredom.

The active choice

You cannot be forced into subspace. It takes an accept and wish of the state for it to happened. When it comes to pain it is the natural reaction to tens up, to prepare to fight or flee. To be able to relax in this situation, to rest in pain, goes against the natural reaction. It is only happening when the person knows that the pain can’t be avoided. This is probably the reason why subspace can be attained from pain in a BDSM session and not from hitting your chin in an object. Furthermore the oxytocin (more on this matter further down) as a substance in the blood that usually is not present when we feel pain.


It would be easy to be stuck in the endorphin section here but they are not alone of course, another important chemical is the oxytocin – the love hormone. Oxytocin is the substance for human love and moral. It has been proven that persons with larger portion of oxytocin are givers and more ready to share things with others. They feel more love to others and are more inclined to help their fellow companion.

Not only that; persons that are expressing love towards another in fact releases more oxytocin so it has an enhancing effect.

Oxytocin gives us a sense of pleasure and happiness. It is released by sex, caressing, orgasms and actions of love. At tests before and after weddings has the person close to the bride (in the order of; bride, mother, dad and the groom) shown high levels of oxytocin levels and it also affected the other guests at a lower level.


Adrenaline is a chemical substance that triggers fight or flight mode. I will increase the heart rate and make the blood more thick to prevent bleeding to death at an injury. The later state also contributes so that the fine motoric skills suffer and that makes me for example to hold a glass of water after landing after a session.  The adrenaline also have a dampening effect on the endorphin in such a way that the adrenaline have to burn out before it can reach its full potential.

After a longer session it can take up to half an hour for the adrenaline to be burnt out but the endorphin can be in the body for days.

The adrenaline is ejected in situations that are dangerous or stressed in a tensed war. It makes the body react quicker to stimuli’s and pain. That’s why it is harder for a person that is in a nervous state or worried to reach subspace. More adrenaline is then pumped out and that makes the endorphin calming effect to be minor. It is also harder to resist pain with adrenaline. It shows how defining a calm environment in combination with security can be to reach higher levels of subspace.

That’s why it’s good to not give everything you got in the spaces between when the endorphin reserves are generated. That only makes the adrenaline levels to increase and delay the effect of the nice sensation of the endorphin, if it’s not the desire of the dominant that is in control.


Dopamine is a reward substance created for reward driven learning. Mostly dependable drugs call forth dopamine. Dopamine is a substance that is present more in persons that are extrovert than introvert.

Dopamine helps to diminish the pain and the endorphin in the body helps to fill the frontal lobe with the substance. That explains the orgasmic sensation that I feel in subspace as a response to the pain I’m subjected to. Dopamine also fills the frontal lobe when we have sex and orgasms. At an orgasm the body releases another substance called prolactin that reduces the levels of dopamine. That is the substance that makes men “curl up and sleep” and it has an immediate effect but takes longer to affect women.

Without the orgasm the dopamine stays in the body a longer time and the effect on me is that it gives me a feeling of an orgasm that last for several minutes.

A session

As mentioned above the endorphin is sent out in large quantities when it has replenished after about ten minutes. This means that a session would preferably also be in ten minutes intervals. What this means is that you have to start with a level of pain that generates the first wave of endorphin to be released. After that the dominant part may lessen the pain received for eight to nine minutes and then again increase it the last couple of minutes with an intense peak for ten to fifteen seconds in the end. After that a new interval of ten minutes starts over again. This is then repeated again and again until you reach subspace.

But it is not so simple. An important thing is that it is not endorphin that is released but also adrenalin. It is the adrenalin that quickens and heightens the response at the submissive. It will make the submissive, despite the greater tolerance for pain caused by endorphin, will react more strong with responses like twitching and moaning as they are subjected to paddle or cane.

The best level for this is level three. Then the submissive still can communicate with moaning and whimpering with forceful twitches at the strokes. Still the need for hard hits are not necessary, the submissive will react strongly. As the pain level is higher harder strokes with more continues spaces between is preferred.

Most sessions end at level four. That is the point where the submissive is barely conscious about what is going on, the show almost no reactions on stimulus at all. I remember myself to believe being hit by a light leather flogger. But I was in fact hit hard with something made out of metal! The only difference was that you could detect a small change in my breath as the strokes got harder and harder.

You may continue at level four but you should be aware that the situation is dangerous. It is very important to know the submissive boundaries on beforehand. For me there was no way to protest at all, whatever was done to me. I had no language left, could not move. At the same time the adrenalin levels are high and together with the endorphin it gave me a sense of ecstasy.

Level five I reach when somebody continues to give me pain despite the fact that I cannot move at all. It takes quite a considerate amount of pain then, what I thought painful before I barely notice. As my ability to speak disappears I can only moan in various lengths of time, at this point I’m still at level four. But within me growls start to come forward, in a low pitch then increasingly higher. That is signals of warning. When the wimping starts it is me begging for mercy, when it hurts very much the growls are a warning that somebody should watch out.

Note that this is pure instinct. It is not I that choose if I’m going to wimp or growl. My senses are disconnected; it is like a ghost is hovering above me while my body acts. At level five I can make sudden twists and move very fast. I can twitch uncontrollably in a more extensive way where the whole body is engaged and I feel that I have the potential to become dangerous if I would feel threatened for real. From being at level four can be relatively insensitive instead I am very hyper sensitive for sounds and touch


Aftercare is a critical moment as it actually can be dangerous for the submissive. Let me take an example. We aborted a session where I had been standing. My dominant asked me if I would like to sit or lay down. After they asked a couple of times I could respond that I would like to sit down. I needed their support to be able to get to the chair and sit down. I could not simply move to the chair, barely with their assistance. There I sat for several minutes just hugging her before I could utter a word.

After that she took me to the bed. She tucked me in with a blanket. This is critical for what will happen onwards as the body gets rid of the substances that tranquilize us, it becomes cold and dehydrated. Just the same as after sedation at the hospital. Water and warmth is a must.

On the bed I could relax. Nothing in my body needed to focus on holding itself upright. Then I hyperventilated for a long time. The body got more and more tensed until I went up in a bridge like state. To prevent the body from poisoning itself with too much carbon dioxide as the body already has sufficient amounts of oxygen by the hyperventilation. Here the breathing almost stops for a brief moment, just small gasps in and out, barely notable. After that the breathing increases to more normal pace. For some submisives could it go so far that there is a stop of the respiration, something that can be quite terrifying for dominant that does not know what subspace can contain.

The reason to this condition is that the adrenaline is about to be spent from the body. How long this takes can take vary, but a minimum is 10 minutes and it can take up to half an hour. For me the experience waves of hyperventilation and tensing of the body cycles in several intervals during this period.

Should I have been able to talk during this period? Probably yes, but it would not be good for me. I should be high on endorphin and I should be in danger of falling back into subspace again and this time without someone who were beside me and in control. Because I am one of them that gets hypersensitive at this stage. The smallest little touch can get med shaky and to fall into subspace again. I had to stop showering prematurely as I started to feel how it affected me. My poor dominant could barely hold me and less caress me before I started to shake again as soon as she did it. The effect was still there lingering almost fifteen hours later!

From what I have read about this it is important that the dominant verbally guides down the submissive. Remind them of relaxing, to get down slow. Step by step. Do not give any extra stimuli but just be calm and continue to talk them down. This until the adrenalin is totally gone.

After that the worst danger is over. When the adrenaline I gone the full effect of the endorphin kicks in. For some it is like flying in heaven with all colors in strange landscapes. For them I can last for hours afterwards at this point it is best for them to be curled up in a blanket and be still and just enjoy their endorphin rush.

It is also important to understand that even a masochist that looks like functioning normally still has the body full of what could be considered as opium. The person should not drive a car and should be under supervision until the endorphin reaches a quite normal level.

I am extra sensitive and exposed after a session. Closeness is important for me, to know that there is somebody close to me. The dominant is the only that anchors me in the world and it important for me to be able to say a simple “hi” when I do the first touchdown before I fly away again and to know that someone is there for me and have an eye on me.


Both the adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol that is pumped out in the body during BDSM sessions, is vital for what is called fight or flight syndrome to the point where the body prepares to flee. The readiness is heighten in the body, energy is moved over to the muscles, the heart pumps faster, the awareness is heightened. In the first hand it is the adrenaline, with less damaging effects that are pumped out at stress, with long stress it is cortisol. The later also affects the digestion and breaks down muscles. The memory and concentration ability is also affected and the increased insulin production increase the risk for abdominal obesity is a fact. That’s why stressing down is a very important factor after a session.

For me it is the hypersensitivity that are left after the session, really heavy the hours after. Then at a little higher level the next day or so and then in less levels. It feels like sounds are attacking me from different directions. I cannot help but to register the smallest movement in the corner of my eye, tries to take in everything around me, are overloaded with impressions. Sunglasses are a must for protection against the sun, every reflex calls for my attention. The heart starts to beat faster and I become more and more stressed of things around me. That’s why I try not to go out, at least in longer periods or in rougher environments. Then I rather stay at home and chill out.

As mentioned above the cortisol is the real culprit in this hyper attention ability. To lower the levels of cortisol it is good with sleep, relaxing, rest and light physical training that helps the most.

Movement freeze

One issue with hyper attention is that the sensory impressions can be too many. The nerve system can only take a certain level of stimuli and when exercising pain that limit is exceeded. To be able to tolerate pain, or to hinder to much sensory input, lesser important functions are shut down, this so that the body may be able to focus on the more pressing matters at hand, more easily. It is this function that can get someone to freeze in a dangerous situation when the fight or flight syndrome strikes you. Among the function that shuts down can be the speech center so that the brain more easily can focus on non-verbal communication.


After a session the different chemicals breaks down at a various rate. When the endorphin breaks down after the session and closes normal levels it temporarily sinks under before it stabilizes. The reason for this is depending on how much endorphins that have been released and it may take days to regain the levels. On top of this the dopamine acts as a counter effect in the creation of the prolactin that affects the mental state in a negative way. The cortisol that builds up to hold the blood sugar at an even level are connected to depression.

In conjunction with that the endorphin is burned out and there still is cortisol and prolactin left in the body you may start to sense a depression.  This is what we call a sub-drop and the submissive can then feel lonely and a little depressed. You may also get feelings of guilt and s feelings of shame. Simple things as training or a bit of chocolate can result in another release of endorphin and help to regain the balance. Sleep also helps a lot.

An advantage here is that oxytocin still is left in the body for a longer period of time. It is also easier to regain and balance. Hug your friends, cuddle with animals and let your dominant take care of you. All these actions help the oxytocin to be high in the body.

Otherwise it is the usual rules that counts then fighting depression, look after yourself with meals and fluids so that the body has energy. Keep your blood sugar level stable. Do eat extra vitamins. Interact with others and socialize. Cuddle with your household pet and try and have conversations with your dominant counterpart over the phone or even better meet and hug. It could be a good point for the dominant to check in and get in touch so that everything is ok as the submissive tend to draw back. Train physically or take at least take a walk. You may also write down your experiences in text to be able to sort out your own thoughts.


Roughly the same substance that is in motion with the submissive is also present in the dominant, endorphins, adrenalin, oxytocin – but in smaller amounts. The dominants focus and concentration on the submissive makes the substances less pressing and the level is also lower. But for some dominant persons it may result in tunnel vision that is a certain state that is called domspace.

Even for the dominant it the effects can be felt when the substances start to break down. When you have looked after you’re submissive and they have gotten their blanket and water, lie down with them. Remember that you need the blanket and the water. For the submissive that comes out of subspace also remember to make the dominant feel safe. Tell them and say that you like them and that you felt secure, that this was what you wanted. If there was something that you did not like, be truthful and honest about it, now when you have the chance. Because the next time you are in subspace you may not be able to say anything. Be ready for that a dominant may also be chocked by their own feelings. Be ready to take care of this the same way you should like to be taken care of.


Domdrop is a bit different from subdrop and usually occurs closer to the session, sometimes at the same point where the submissive is starting to recover from subspace. It is often a sub sequel of that the dominant can start to release the control and the focus they have been forced to have during the whole session. As the texts mentions above domspace may create feelings for the dominant, or even the absence of feelings. Some feel total numb and emotionally shut off after, some may doubt themselves and question what type of person that actually have put a submissive thru such an ordeal. Some also may simply feel a feeling of loneliness and some only feel physical exhaustion. Even if the submissive think that they are ok after a session and don’t need aftercare the dominant may need it anyhow and needs the closeness.


A dominant may believe that there is no reason to be concerned about subspace if they only dominate over the internet. That is wrong. Some submisives can enter subspace as easily. Then the problem occurs that it is much harder for the dominant to read the signals and handle the submissive so that they really lands safe. In principal it all boils down to talk the submissive into a safe landing and try to be very observant on the level and tone of voice. In text it is very hard.


Dissociation is a mechanism that has been created to handle situations like physical abuse. Physical abused women have proven to be able to withstand more dissociation then others (most people can describe some experience of dissociation that has happened to them) and the increase by the severity of the abuse. Dissociation may also lead to some repression of feelings. Persons that have been able to cope with trauma suddenly may start to feel that old feelings are triggered when they have been in subspace and then they are transferred to what is called trauma space. It may happen by itself or by something the dominant is doing, and that is a reason to why the later should be careful if he knows that the submissive previously have been involved in a traumatic.