A recent conversation with a friend has gotten me thinking about a few things in regards to punishment vs. reward within lifestyle D/s. The process I am about to document is one that I have gone through 3 separate times. If I refer to "her," you can assume it means whichever Domme I was in a relationship with at the time.
I look at sub training as sort of like learning the procedures at a new job. They teach
you the system of how things get done, you stumble around at first,
acclimating to it. Over time you become faster and more proficient and
have figured out how everything works. For a sub, the acclimation
process is what training is for. Once trained, what next?
At some point in the lifestyle, I reached a stage, post-training, where mistakes finally stopped happening. I wasn't 100% perfect, but any slip ups to rules or protocols were few and far between. I properly addressed her as Mistress or Ma'am if we were in public. I opened every door. Rituals were automatic. I completed all of my assigned tasks thoroughly and without complaint. I knew when to have coffee ready. Everything became instinctive and there were no questions about what was expected of me most of the time.
When I reached this point, I felt proud, but at the same time, a little bit odd. The corrective punishments that had served as her outlet for inflicting pain were few and far between. I don't want to sounds too arrogant here, but I am a fast learner and mindful of details.
This led to a period of... I wouldn't say boredom, but "predictability." I doubt any Domme would seriously consider trying to undo training once it has been established just to punish. This yields a different solution: Getting rid of the old rules and making new ones.
Positive reinforcements were no longer necessary. The idea of these actually felt strange by this point. Does doing what I always do actually merit a reward? I thought this was just me performing the role and services I promised. Being recognized for any individual action became very strange. What I did appreciate was when she would show me love for all that I do and all that I was to her. We did have a romantic and personal bond beyond D/s, but D/s was the foundation from the start that held things in place. With this in mind, my collective efforts were bigger than any one action and she would show appreciation for my work as a whole.
Changing to new rules aided in deepening my subspace, increasing her dominance, and just changed a lot in our dynamic in a positive way. I am not a masochist, so pain was always used as a punishment under the original rules. Under the new rules, she could inflict pain for any reason and at any time.
While many might see this as unfair, it didn't feel that way within its context. This was a year's worth of training coming to fruition... this was the final product. The old rules did not apply anymore. While logically, this choice may have been unfair since I had no say in the matter, it actually turned me on quite a bit and made me love her even more. I felt this decision unleashed a growth in her dominance and it was her "green light" to delve deeper into the sadism within her. This put me truly at her mercy.
Any reason became viable:
-Because I'm bored.
-Because I want to hear you cry.
-Because I'm turned on.
-Because I want to exert my status.
-Because it amuses me.
I didn't care what the reason was. I only cared that it brought me closer to her and I could be part of bringing her pleasure. This is when I could really sense the depth of my subspace going deeper and deeper as time went on.
Keep in mind that I don't think this is how any D/s relationship should necessarily be at the start, especially with newer or novice subs that are having to adjust to the submissive mentality. Once a sub has put in his time, is seasoned, trained, and performing admirably, it just feels like the next logical step.
I see this step as growth... for both Domme and sub.
I will note that there is always room for further evolution of a sub after their basic training has been completed. Setting new standards and new rules provide another chance for positive reinforcement... until those too become their ordinary habitual behaviors.
We adapt and that forces us to adapt :)