Aftercare, as the name suggests, is taking care of your journeying partner after play. It is about gently bringing someone from an altered state’s journey back to reality and helping them to feel grounded again, as well as re-establishing the roles each of you had assumed before play. Repeatedly, I have come to realize the importance of aftercare and the fact that the deeper the experience, the more aftercare is required. Furthermore, it turns out that not only bottoms or subs deserve aftercare, but also tops or dominants. Dominants have their own worries, for instance, I often catch myself ridden with guilt or shame after playing with someone because I suddenly begin to worry that I pushed things too far in the heat of a play, or I might simply be overwhelmed or burned out after hours of intense emotional work. As a result, over years of practicing I’ve established my own ways of caring for myself.
When it comes to caring for the submissive, I don’t see it as something reserved only for the post-journey time, I mix it into play. When guiding my partner into their subconscious world, I keep it at the edge of their comfort zone - that thin sliver just outside of it, but just before their fight or flight reflex kicks in. This is rarely maintained precisely, there are fluctuations. Just like breathing in and breathing out, I see my partner journeying between comfort and discomfort, surrender and resistance, tension and relaxation. When I see them approaching the point where the body hardens up, I know this means “that’s enough for me” and I know it’s time to shift gears. I discontinue any input that creates challenge, and instead offer some gentle touch, embrace, or comforting words. I hold the space for possible emotional release or sharing, watching them come back to a comfortable place, before continuing with a new outside-of-comfort-zone dive into the inner mystery.
The care continues with a debrief, which is something I like to offer clients a couple of days after the experience. During this time we begin to touch upon integrating their journey’s insights into their daily life. We reflect on what happened, what it means for their life, what messages and guidance were received, and explore how to put them into practice.