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Good Fear and Bad Fear
By Erin Nahrgang
Letís all admit it. For those of us with a love for the BDSM lifestyle, fear can be very exciting; for both those who cause it and for those who feel it. What is important is that we know the difference between good and bad fear. Fear can be defined as apprehension and anxiety or as pure dread. There is a very clear difference between them.

The type of fear that we enjoy in a "scene" makes the submissive feel "out of control" and unsure of what to expect next. This is a very enjoyable emotion if he/she has the assurance that nothing harmful or beyond their limits will happen to them. The "fear of the unknown" is common in all aspects of our lives. But along with the fear comes an excitement of the unknown. Think back to when you first moved out of the nest to fend for yourself. What a frightening, exciting time in your life! That is good fear. Knowing that although you are frightened and not sure of what will happen, you are growing, learning and experiencing something new and wonderful!

So what is bad fear? There is nothing positive about true fear. There is no excitement and no thrill. It is real, and founded. Generally, bad fear stems from a person feeling that they are in danger. Whether they are in fact in danger or not, the emotion is still very real and valid. The Dominant must be aware and respectful of that. A person may feel frightened because of true danger or risk; a past experience remembered or triggered in a scene; lack of knowledge, preparation or discussion of the scene; or crossing limits that have already been established. In some cases, the reason behind the fear may never be known, yet the feeling remains.

There are ways that you can avoid "bad fear" in a scene. Get educated. If you know the risks and dangers that can occur, you can avoid them. Never put yourself or your partner in a dangerous situation. If you donít know, find out. There are many resources out there. Dominants and submissives alike should be well informed of safety issues in S/m.

Talk with your partner about your limits and why you have them. Some limits are based simply on disinterest of something. Others may be because of a phobia, an abusive situation in the past, or moral issues. If the Dominant knows why you have a limit with one thing in particular, they may be able to anticipate other "triggers" that might have unexpectedly come up.

Establish a trusting and loving relationship with your partner before getting into any scene. Trust builds slowly so allow your explorations in S/m to build at an even slower rate. If a person does not trust their partner they will not feel safe.

Regardless of all the precautions, bad fear can kick in on occasion. What do you do if it does? Most importantly, be reassuring and caring. If your partner is really frightened, this is not the time to be cold and emotionless. Remember that you are partners in this. Take care of each other.

Become familiar with the differences between good and bad fear so you can recognize it quickly. Fear increases rapidly if the cause is not removed early on. The physical signs of good and bad fear are different for everyone, but if you allow yourselves time to learn each other, it will become more apparent.

Be respectful of the personsí feelings whether you feel the fear is valid or not. Emotions do not need to be justified, they are real. The one experiencing the fear must also be in touch with their own emotions and respect them. Donít try to be a martyr. If you are really afraid, use your safeword. Safewords are not just for physical distress. If you are not experiencing "good fear" you owe it to yourself and your partner to be honest. The Dominant also must be able to trust their submissive. No one wants to hurt or be hurt, so take a break and talk about it. Besides, this is a great opportunity to build trust and understanding into your relationship.

Be prepared when exploring new areas of S/m. Something that seems great in fantasy can be quite different in reality. Donít be afraid to say "this isnít what I expectedÖlets talk about it." Not all is lost if you pause and discuss. This is the time to decide if the fantasy should become reality. Perhaps a few changes will ease the fear or discomfort. Perhaps things are going too quickly, and it should be put on the back burner for awhile.

Good fear can be delicious, exciting and thrilling. The safest way to experience the positive is to be informed and aware of the dangers and risks. Remember that safe, sane and consensual bdsm must be enjoyable for everyone. Be safe and have fun!

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