So a few weeks ago the epic Kayla Lords and John Brownstone’s Loving BDSM Podcast was on positive reinforcement, a subject that is very close to my heart. It is something we use every day at home, but we also use a whole host of conditioning tools, classic and operant conditioning, to Premack and Counter conditioning, with a big old dose of CBT thrown in to the mix for good measure!
I make no apologies for the fact that I suffer from extremely complex health problems, both mental and physical. I have after a lot of therapy, got to a point that I will talk openly about my mental health problems. I think I must a point that I relies that I don’t need to be ashamed by them. Some I have had all my adult life and some are because of being in a violent, abusive relationship for most of my adult life.
So, this is where I fully out my mental health problems, buckle up this might take a while. I suffer from Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), which is a disorder in which a normal worry to a normal person, to me is Debilitating. It also means that my body has a heighten reaction to stress and worry. I have very serve depression as well, that at its worst has left me house bound and struggling to get out of bed, wash or eat. coupled with this I have extreme phobias and suffer from panic and anxiety attack, that at one point I would have up to 15 a day and again left my unable leave the house. (I am agoraphobic). Then after being raped and nearly beaten to death, I started to suffer from Extreme PTSD, coupled with dissociative episodes. This is still very hard to talk about, but what I know is that it affected me to the point I made a good attempt at ending my life, but my darling kitten found me just in time. (love you baby x). I also suffer with quite bad dyslexia and AADD, both on the AS range.
Well I had been living with all that, well not living sort of existing. But then around 2 years ago something inside changed, I wanted to start living and enjoy my life again, but I needed to make some pretty big changes, but I knew with the help of my darling master I could do it. But I also need to us to use technics that I knew worked and were based in fact and logic. This is where people think I’ve lost the plot on stuff, but bear with me. I work as a dog trainer and behaviourist, I use techniques such classic and operant conditioning all the time. I know it works and it is based in since. It works, I have seen it work, so I decided to run with it! (Adding here that I had the help and support of my therapist on this)
So, we came up with to encourage better mood and motivation using +/- reinforcement. We also decide to tackle destructive thought patterns, that lead negative behaviours, such as putting, hiding my feelings, and self-harm, using +/- punishment. +/- reinforcement, and +/- punishment comes under the banner of operant conditioning and is based on the research of B.F Skinner. Basically, it is the concept that Good consequences encourage repeat behaviour and Bad consequences discourages repeat behaviour. Positive reinforcement, is adding something in to increase likelihood of a behaviour being repeated. Negative reinforcement is removing something to increase the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated. It’s the same with punishment, but instead of increasing the behaviour it decreases the likelihood of it being repeated. So, what the boss man did was got to make reward charts. One for everyday house hold / work stuff/ Homework, like answering emails, food shopping and Doing homework. I also had one for Personal care and D/s stuff. At the end of each day if I get sticker on each of my charts for getting all my ticks, I get a £1 in my Treat money box (it has UNICORNS on it) I can also earn extra stickers and £££ by being extra good, or brave or for doing stuff without being asked. Those stickers can be given to me by the boss man or Babe. At the end of the month I can open my tin and spend the money on whatever I want or carry on in to the next month for even big rewards at the end of the next month. if the is something Massively stressful going on or that is going to take a lot of time to get to, I get rewards along the way and a big goal reward. I should add here that for me rewards are not gifts or treats. A lot of the times they can hugs, item spent as a family, extra free time or not having adult for the rest of a day. For punishment for things like hiding stuff or self harm, I lose my free time and privileges. This does not be loss of time as a family or time with the boss man. If I need comfort or support from him or the girls and I actively ask for that help, I get rewards for that! For putting myself down (which is the biggest thing that the boss man wants me to change) I either get made to write a list of 20 things I like about myself or good stuff I’ve done. Or I have to buy small gifts for 5 friends, write down what I said and then write a list of 5 reasons I’m awesome. (Sir Beasty came up with that idea)
The next thing we started using was classic conditioning. This theory is…
We used this for My panic and anxiety attacks. The biggest thing we did, and this was my CPN’s idea, was trained one of my dogs as a phytologic support dog. She is very laid back and calm, which flitters down to me. she has also been trained to notice my triggers and pull me away from them. So, she is my calm, by having my calm with me I start to identify that having her with me meant I was safe in the places. Also having her with me I have learnt to enjoy new stuff, like being in a group situation or talking in public. We also taught me to have safe places go when I feel the start of an attack coming on.
The next thing we used was counter conditioning to Help me with my Phobias Counter conditioning is basically Changing the emotional response to feared stimulus. For me some of things I fear (Phobias) like being seen necked by a partner and eating in public. For the being naked I got calm gentle encouragement to remove clothes and got to see that the more I show, the more sexually excited the boss man got. For the eating in public started with a calm relaxed pixie, sitting with people calmly eating, then to me having a drink with people eating, and then finally me eating with them.
Then we used one of my favour tools ever! Premack, this is a principle that to get the good reward you must do the less rewarding this first. basically, eat your veggies and you get to have ice cream! This for me is a great motivator. We used It when I was finding it hard to leave the house. If I walked to the gym I got to have a cuddle and training session with Steve (my hot personal trainer) if I went to the super market I got have a hot milk and a ginger bread man. If I went to a hospital appointment I got to have a happy meal afterwards!
The next thing we worked on was breaking bad habits. You will be really shocked to know that I have habits that drive the boss man up the wall! Like leave my car keys on the kitchen table, not tidying away my Lego or colour stuff or hooking the dogs lead on the banisters, so with gentle polite reminds from the boss man and the girls I stop doing the bad habits and start to use the desired good habit. Hanging my keys up, putting things away when finished playing with them and hanging dogs leads in the porch. It is said that it takes 28 to create a habit, and 3 months for that habit to become a behaviour, and you know, for me at least it’s true!
The last big thing the Boss man got me to work on is something I don’t openly talk about, but he thought I needed to include it, as it is a huge part of who I am. So here goes. I’m dyslexic and due to this I find reading, writing, and understanding incredibly hard. I’m not stupid, very far from it. But it does mean that I struggle and find things like reading complex letters, filling in forms, or writing emails that make sense, hard. It also means that I find getting and staying organised hard. I also have a form Of ADHD known as anxious ADD. It basically means that when my anxiety or stress levels are high, my brain kind of seize up. I can’t function, I get angry and frustrated, I come across as rude or aggressive to people. It also means that I have trouble judging peoples tone and meaning, so I find communication hard. With both it means that I find sudden changes to my routine or things happing unexpected knock me for 6 and I will and do sort of shut down.
The biggest thing I must deal with this are rules, limits, structure, and routine. It makes me feel relaxed and safe. Babe has helped me to learn to plan things out, so the is less stress of not knowing what is going to happen when. I have a detailed diary and household planner. Being a creative person it’s all brightly coloured, with sparkles and stickers. Anything written in them in pen , happens no matter what. But if something is written in pencil, it can be rubbed out and does not have to happen. The only people who can write in these are Myself, the boss man and Babe. Although I tend to get little notes from little bear and kitten, saying Boobies or I love you. I also get time outs. I know it sounds a little tot and like I’m a child, but again it works for me. I have two type. One is for when everything gets too much, it is given by Babe or the Boss man. I get sent to my quiet space (aka the box room). With no tech, know talking and sit and calm down. Babe or the boss man will come and check on me 20 mins later, and if I’m calm or crying I get cuddles and can then carry on with my day. I then have time outs that I give myself if I feel panic coming on. I will politely ask to leave what every situation I’m in. I will get my iPod, a drink, and my book, find a safe quiet spot, and calm myself down, before I end up in full on panic. When I feel better I re-join the family and carry on like nothing has happened. But I also have my little space that I go to when I just can’t cope. I will ask the boss man if its ok to and he then sort of takes over thinking for me for a bit. It is the only time that I do 100 % of what he says , without being able to ask questions. It normally involves activates I find calming, such Lego, colouring being read to or watching a Disney film. But it also involves lots of cuddles and reassuring words. The best bit is when I get sleepy and I get to take a nap with kitten!
So that is My/our take on behaviour modification, and how it has helped me. It’s a very personal take on it, but it is what works for me. I’m doing so much better than I was two years ago. I’m happy, steady, and doing things that I thought I was never going to be able to do again. It’s made my relationship with my Dom even more close and special. Its’s not for everyone, but it’s what works for this little pixie!