D/s relationships, the yips, and never perfecting your putting game

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You line it up. You’ve done this a thousand times before. It’s as easy as breathing. You swing.

What… the fuck… was that? Shake it off. You’ll get it next time. You wait, you breathe, you prep, you go through the same fluid motion you’ve gone through a thousand times before.

Okay, what the fuck, this is bullshit. No way I miss that twice in a row. Something’s going on here. The barometric pressure is fucking with my sinuses. If I screw up this next one… oh no, I’ve got the yips.

Golf is hard. Or, if you thought I was talking about swinging a flogger, Dominant/submissive power-exchange relationships are hard. In this post I’ll be discussing both, simultaneously. Specifically, I want to talk about the yips.

In golf, the yips affect your ability to perform one or more of the basic tasks associated with the sport. One of the most common manifestations of this, for golfers, is the suddenly loss of ability when it comes to making short, easy putts.

Timothy Chambers and Dave Marshall described the phenomenon, in a research paper published in Golf Science Journal, thus:

For most athletes, it is not uncommon to experience pressure when performing a particular task that can negatively impact performance and result in suboptimal skill execution (Beilock, Kulp, Holt, & Carr, 2004). Commonly known as ‘choking’, this phenomenon evokes images of nervousness, distraction, self-consciousness, and pushing performance beyond one’s limits (Schlenker, Phillips, Boniecji, & Schlenker, 1995). A chronic form of choking is termed the yips. In golf, the yips (e.g., frequently missing a simple putt) are most evident following exposure to competition pressure that results in performance decrements (Beilock et al., 2004).

In the context of a D/s relationship, specifically from my limited perspective as a Dominant in a D/s dynamic, I’m referring to the yips as a manifestation of a general loss of eloquence and a fumbling feeling of command.

This isn’t specifically about impact play or loss of motor-skills, it’s more a ‘philosophical case of the yips’ as it relates to a Dominant’s ability to conduct a BDSM “scene.”

In this context, for example, if you suddenly found yourself nervous and stuttering like it’s your first night topping, despite having Dominated the same person for years… and then it happens again, and then again… you might have a case of the yips. It’s okay. Don’t panic.

That’s not to say every tiny mistake you make is attributable to a psychological malady that some athletes never recover from. Shit happens. You’ll shank one from time to time. Don’t sweat it.

But, when the perfect storm hits and it feels like you’ve “lost your mojo,” and you aren’t sure how to get it back, facing the yips head-on with a pragmatic mind-set might be the only path forward.

So, why do the yips happen? Chambers and Marshall, to answer that question, conducted a study to determine what factors contributed to the onset of the yips in golfers. More than 200 participants responded to a series of questions on the subject. Among their findings:

The best predictors of disrupted putting performance were anxiety and negative reactions to imperfection that together accounted for 35% of the explained variance. Anxiety also fully mediated the relationship between perfectionism and disruptions to putting performance.

More than a third of the problem, according to golfers, concerns anxiety and a failure to achieve baseline perfection. An experienced golfer expects to make a six-inch putt every time. It’s embarrassing when they don’t.

When things go wrong in a BDSM scene there’s usually more at stake than there is on the putting green. And, just like athletes, the more pressure a BDSM-practicioner is under, the more likely they are to contract the yips. First time playing in public? Uh-oh.

Luckily for you, I’ve been fucking up for so long that I’ve got a well-worn playbook for shaking off the shanks and shanking the shakes.

  1. Leave the big dog in the bag
  2. Focus on the fundamentals
  3. Talk things over at the 19th hole

The big dog

Epley, et al., in their research paper “Empathy neglect: Reconciling the spotlight effect and the correspondence bias,” wrote:

When people commit an embarrassing blunder, they typically overestimate how harshly they will be judged by others.

Often, after shanking a shot, blowing a game, or screwing up a scene (even if it’s only in your own head) there is a tendency to overcompensate the next time you play.

The golfer who blows a six-inch putt wants to rip a 300-yard monster off the next tee to save face. The Dom who ends up having to turn on all the lights, stop the music, and spend 30 tense minutes trying to figure out how to undo a knot that’s suddenly gone dangerously rogue wants to break out the single-tail whip next time to prove (to themselves) they’re still in charge.

Don’t. Leave the big dog in the bag. In golf terms that literally means: don’t use your driver on the next tee, no matter how long the fairway is. Just club down to a 3 or 5 wood and take a nice pragmatic shot.

For everyone else: cuddle up, watch some TV together, and leave the canes and whips where they are until you’ve got your mojo back. It’ll keep you from compounding your yips.

The FUNdamentals

Another tendency, for golfers, is to start reinventing the wheel the moment they lose their shot. Athletes, even at the amateur level, spend gobs of money trying to fix the yips. They buy contraptions, use machine learning and computer vision for advanced analytic insight, book sessions with specialty therapists, and order “sure fire” solutions online.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the yips for you. My suggestion is to forego spending cash and get back to basics. Instead of focusing on the problem by shining a giant spotlight at it and screaming “be fixed!” at the top of your internal monologue’s lungs – a strategy that’s made things worse for you if you’re still reading this article – don’t give it any more attention than the other parts of your game.

Focus on the basics of your craft. Don’t get fancy. In fact, for me, it works best if I talk to myself – internally, don’t be the old person wandering around the dungeon/golf course mumbling to themselves – as though I were teaching someone with no experience to do what I do.

This puts me in a mindset to focus on the very basics, such as follow-through or after-care. Brick by brick, I calmly steady my shaken confidence.

Talk it over at the 19th

“Leave it all on the field.” That’s one of my favorite sports phrases. It means: perform so well that when you finish the game, win or lose, you have nothing to regret. But that’s hard to do when you’ve fucked it all up (again, even if you only screwed things up in your own head).

So, when you find yourself unable to stop thinking about “it,” turn to the only other people/person who can understand: your fellow golfers/submissive. Tell them what happened and how it made you feel. They’ll empathize… unless they’re assholes.

It never hurts to be reminded that you’re not the first person in history to be really good at something and fuck it up.

You can work through the yips. Stop trying to be perfect. I believe in you.

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