Pleasure, Pain and Science…Part Two

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Before you read this, please take a look at Part One! right here-  https://asubmissivesinitiative.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/pleasure-pain-and-science-part-one/, which discusses Pain. There will be a poll for Part Three, for you to participate in, so we can analyze a little information for ourselves, and maybe gain some insight. Either way, I hope you will enjoy it, and benefit from the information I’ve gathered.

How do we translate pleasure? you could start with asking the question, “Why do I like what I like?”

Let’s have a look at some research. A study was done with people volunteering to sip a glass of wine while being in a neuro-imaging scanner. While they are doing this, a screen is in front of them, telling them about the wine. Some are told it’s expensive, etc., some are told its cheap, etc. Some are told nothing. Not unexpectedly, those who were told it was expensive wine thought it tasted much better than any cheap wine they ever had. (It was all the same wine, of course). Besides this though, the pre-frontal cortex, which responds specifically to pleasure, and reward, lit up like a Christmas tree! This did NOT happen with the volunteers who were told they were drinking the cheap wine! This suggests that their responses (your responses!) are not just about the wine itself, but your perception of it. So, what you think about the wine, can apparently make it taste better, or worse!expensivewinecheapwine

What you think about what someone looks like, seems to have a lot to do about how you feel about that person. Studies done on ‘happy couples’  resoundingly show that those who think their spouses look better than anyone else, are the same couples that say they argue less, and have more sex. Does this mean those couples have more pleasure? Or love each other more? Think about it. Think about your grade school bully, or the person who shares your office that never shuts up. Now think about how attractive they look in comparison to your best friend/partner/child? Definitely interesting.

Capgras  Syndrome is an affliction where the sufferer believes someone close to them has been replaced by an impostor. As you can imagine, this usually has tragic consequences for the afflicted and their family, because they believe they are killing or removing the impostors and making things better. One case in 1931, had a happy ending though.capgras

“In 1931, researchers described a woman with Capgras Syndrome who complained about her poorly endowed and sexually inadequate lover. She was happy to report that he had a double who was rich, virile, handsome and aristocratic.” HA!** (see below)

So, who you think you are looking at can have a profound effect on how you react to them. Now, think of consumer products. One reason we use them is purely utilitarian, i.e., what they can do for us. Think of a couple of everyday things, like, oh, i don’t know, a sweater and a pair of shoes. (pictures inserted below)

The sweater keeps you warm. Maybe it’s even in style, so you’ll look like you give a damn about what Cosmo says. Shoes, they protect your feet, maybe help you run faster. How much would you pay for an average sweater? For average shoes?airjordansaveragesweater

Now, what if I told you that sweater was worn by George Clooney, and the shoes worn by Michael Jordan? (Insert whatever your favorites are) What kind of responses are lighting up in your brain now? Would you pay more? Do you want it more because of the history that surrounds it? The status or money it might bring you? What you know, or even just what you think you know about anything, or anyone for that matter, has a lot to do with how much you think it is worth. With how much pleasure you think it will bring you. A wedding ring may be considered irreplaceable, and therefore priceless, but usually only by the beholder. Therefore, your response to how much you like something or someone, and how much pleasure you get from them or it, is deeply related to your beliefs about how it came into being.

A study was done on chimps, using a reward system. Signal lights turned on, meaning a reward for work was about to be given. First, the reward was given 75% of the time, and dopamine levels in the brain were measured. Next they reduced the reward percentage to 50%. Surprisingly, dopamine levels were higher with the 50% reward, seemingly meaning the element of uncertainty has a lot to do with pleasure. How does this help us understand ourselves? well the human element in this experiment is time. The time between finishing the work and receiving the reward can be a non-issue for us. Religion is a perfect example. Some of us are able to keep up our levels of excitement about a certain reward, presumably satisfied with not being able to receive it until after we are dead! This is a quality unique to humans, as far as we know. It is also the exception to the rule, however, as most of the time, our own dopamine levels, (and therefore our excitement about it) drop if we feel too much time has passed in between the work and the reward.

Puts the BDSM allure into perspective for me, certainly!How many of us look forward to our Master’s reward after the work is done? This may also help us when we think about the Why’s, How’s, and When’s of Sub Drop. Maybe understanding the ups and downs of our neurological system  might help us identify triggers and other responses, and make some scientific sense out of all those emotions!

Think back to the beginning of your exploration into the lifestyle. Did it meet your expectations, exceed them, or neither? How, or from whom, did you first hear about it,  and how do you think that might have affected your ideas about it in general?safesaneconsensual

So, pain and fear seem to be very closely related. Pleasure, beauty, and worth seem to be just as close. With that in mind, I will close by saying if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then surely pleasure and pain must be as well.

I’ll have the poll posted very soon!

Links to relative info/some resources:

**As quoted by Physchologist Paul Bloom, who has some very interesting research:   http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665606/how-expectations-can-turn-anything-from-worthless-to-priceless

http://on.aol.com/video/robert-sapolsky-on-the-dopamine-and-pleasure-516981862

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capgras_delusion

Pleasure, Pain, and Science…Part One

Our website has moved! Please check out this article on our new, independent website!

 

I have Decided to separate this article into a 3 part series, since the information I gathered has turned out to be too much for just one article.  Well, hopefully 4, if I can convince enough of you to take the poll I have envisioned for the third part! The results compared to the research I’ve presented here, would be the theoretical fourth part, so I need your help, please!

Let me begin…

Photo from commons.wikimedia.org

Have you ever wondered why you love the BDSM lifestyle and your best friend, whom you have so much in common with, doesn’t? You could say it was the difference in family environments in which you were raised, but what about your brother, who cringes at the thought of spanking his girlfriends ass with a paddle? Shouldn’t he be open to that kind of thing since you both had the same upbringing?

While most science isn’t looking for answers to these questions, (since BDSM is considered ‘fringe’ at best, and ‘criminal’ at worst) it’s fun for me to be able to think about the research in this way, and present it to you. I’ve done my best to put together the facts and new information, so I, along with your help, can maybe put together a sort of hypothesis on why we feel pleasure and pain the way we do. Turns out, it’s a lot more than external stimuli to our nerves, and electrical signals being sent to our brains. The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as:IASPimage

‘Unpleasant sensory and emotional experience, associated with actual tissue damage, or, described in terms of such damage.’

The ‘and’ is an important word to include, as so many doctors and therapists are finally accepting that pain is not just felt at the physical site in question, but also is being felt in your mind as well, which can have emotional repercussions. This changing attitude is shown in new and better diagnoses and treatments of ailments such as  Depression, Bi-Polar, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and Fibromyalgia. Pain is subjective, meaning it is a personal statement, and cannot be measured in any way but by the person feeling it. In this way of looking at it, you could say, and be correct, “pain is in the genes”.

In fact, it turns out, it is. Or at least some of it. There are many instances of people, even entire families, not being able to feel pain ‘normally’. For instance, putting your hand on a hot burner, and not feeling your flesh singe. In one real, documented case, the sufferer had a broken ankle that went unchecked for over a week because they could not feel the pain of the broken bone, or the swelling tissue! Geneticist John Wood is currently working on the genome of an entire family affected in different ways of not being able to feel pain. Already his findings promise to open up new ways of treating pain at the genetic level. (The gene SCN9A is responsible for how we interpret and feel pain.) So, pain is essential for a normal, healthy life.

DNAOk, so you don’t have the time or money to have your genome decoded, haha. Neither do I. Some Neuroscientists think early childhood experiences  have effects on how we translate pain. Promising research seems to show that ‘pain receptors’ piggy back, if you will, with our basic ‘touch receptors’ during childhood development. This may lead to incorrect, or unbalanced neuro-responses, especially if we have early traumatic experiences. This rings a bell of truth when you think about the irrational fears some people have of everyday objcts, such as birds, balloons, brooms and clowns. (Ok, so some clowns are just plain CREEPY!) The point is, this could show how pain can be related to fear.

It goes back to the ‘subjectiveness’ of it all. We have all surely realized how you feel about something has a lot to do with how you translate it. Your best friend may be unwilling to try bondage, because of a deep fear of being tied up, or being out of control. Therefore, what she thinks about it, is as real as if it were painful. So even if she agrees to do a session to try it out, it is unlikely she will enjoy it, or garner any pleasure out of it, because of how it is perceived and thought about by her to begin with. 

Tighter iz better Nov 27, 2010
There are even some studies that show being born pre-maturely can affect your pain sensitivity. Heel Prick tests are commonly done to infants after being born to draw blood, etc. during these tests, infants are hooked up to painless
neuro-response sensing electrodes. They are then able to measure the amount of brain activity in regards to how much pain the baby might be feeling, i.e., the more the brain lights up, the more pain is involved. Done on both full-term and pre-term infants, the study consistently showed that the pre-term babies had more brain activity, which would seemingly mean they felt more, and/or are more sensitive to feeling pain.
baby heel prickWith that knowledge in your mind, you might ask your best friend if they were a ‘preemie’ baby, or think about how you know your brother was born early. Or did they have an early childhood experience they call traumatic? Could those things make them more pre-disposed to turn away from the BDSM lifestyle? There is no way to universally know what effect those experiences may have or have not, but I bet you’ll be analyzing your friends and family, and hopefully, yourself!

My Piece on “Pleasure” will continue this article, and will be posted very soon! So please check on ASI often, and hopefully I will have enough readers to have a poll taken and we can analyze it for ourselves!

Links for related info/research:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/the-gene-for-pain/3400134 (geneticist John Woods)

Infant heel prick study: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/26/14/3662.full and http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/726736

CIPA (congenital insensitivity to pain disorder): http://voices.yahoo.com/people-cant-feel-pain-1741147.html

http://www.iasp-pain.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home/

http://hkoa.org/hkjos/1997-1/045_049.htm