I suffer

I sufferProbably the most difficult school of psychotherapy in the world is the psychoanalytical one. Deeply traditional and deeply linked to the work of Sigmund Freud and his ideas, highly inefficient, dense, using complicated language and wasting a lot of time… But if it wasn’t for psychoanalysis, we wouldn’t have known so many things today about the human psyche…

In this article I will show you how psychoanalysis sees a hard issue: the sadism and the masochism. It was prepared after a book I recently read (you can see it in my reading list) and it was made as simple as possible, and yet, it is nearly impossible to understand. I’ll do my best. I warn you that there might be some inaccuracies and that I’m not so favorable to this theory, but in the area of sado-masochism we don’t have too much knowledge in the present apart from this…

First idea: sado-masochism is very frequent in our life, but remains mostly unseen by the untrained eye.
Second idea: you are highly sado-masochistic in your heart; the masochism took part in the creation of the core of your personality during your childhood and it’s a natural part of you. During hard times, when you come closer to yourself, you come closer to your very own masochism and it sometimes becomes obvious to you. When you suffer, you’re closest to yourself, hence the title of this article.
Third idea: if you aren’t masochistic, you can’t learn, you can’t go to school, you can’t train yourself in anything and you don’t have patience to do anything. You are the person you know today because you were masochistic enough not to kill yourself at the smallest sign of discomfort. You accepted to frustrate yourself so as to get what you have today or become who you are today. Masochism saved your life and continues to guard your life… if used properly…

Now I urge you to have a look at the image above. You can see a formula of pleasure. What you call pleasure in life is in fact a mix of 2 aspects: pleasure and displeasure. When pleasure goes up, displeasure goes down and vice-versa, but the value of what you call pleasure in life remains constant. Freud said that pleasure is linked to catharsis, while any form of excitation causes discomfort. Think about sex: being aroused might be nice, but it’s the relaxation after the act that everyone is pursuing. Otherwise, you get frustrated. So, after understanding this formula, you shouldn’t consider masochism and pleasure as opposed terms, and pleasure should become a more complex thing…

Freud said that we have 2 main drives: the drive to live/create (Eros) and the drive to die/destroy (Thanathos). It’s a dualistic theory. And it’s being criticized by some. Sado-masochism is deeply linked to the drive of death.

Imagine this drive and imagine that we must manage it. All we can do is to deviate it into 2 directions: aggression towards the exterior, towards the others, towards both real persons/objects/situations and inner structures (breaking the rules, rebelling against our education, etc.), and aggression towards ourselves. While outer-focused aggression is easy to be seen, self-focused aggression remains coiled deep inside our personality core, and can be rarely glimpsed directly. We hide our original masochism so that we don’t kill ourselves. But it is there, inside.

Now, if you continue looking at the image above, you can see that there aren’t only 2 forms – sadism and masochism – but there is another one – self-directed-sadism. You are sadistic when you have power over somebody that you see as an object (not a person or a living being) and you torture it. In this case, you’re active. However, after some time you might experience, alongside satisfaction (discharge), an inner conflict that will result in guilt. Some people feel guilty for causing harm to others, other don’t. Those who do, will begin to direct their aggression (you can use the term hate here) towards themselves, as a form of punishment. They will begin to torture themselves and, consequently, they will feel satisfaction because they punished themselves and justice has been done. I know it’s peculiar to be satisfied when you’re punishing yourself like this, but the logic of the unconscious mind is like that. So, while self-harming yourself, you’re actually experience… satisfaction… Have you seen people cutting their arms repeatedly? Or burning themselves with cigarettes? Or staying next to a husband they don’t love for half of century, torturing themselves? Or living with an alcoholic spouse? These are examples of this peculiar kind of satisfaction. If you ask them, they wouldn’t say they feel pleasure, but at a certain inner level they do.

Self-inflicted harm lasts until you find a sadistic person to take the responsibility of torturing you. At that moment you shift from torturing yourself to letting the other to torture you (you become passive), provided they accept the role. And there are many people readily available to enter the role, because they have their own sadistic needs to torture. That’s how we help each other to… torture each other… And in masochism rises a certain type of erotized guilt… a perverted feeling, if you like, when guilt equals satisfaction. You are using the other to do harm to yourself, so you have mixed feelings: you aggress the other (by giving him/her a sadistic role) and you let him/her to aggress yourself. There is some sort of sensuality in here; it’s one of the few moments when you can experience your true masochistic nature from your personality core.

When you hear “I suffer” you likely think about sadness and depression. When losing something/someone, people experience grief. Some move on, others become stuck. Normally, when you lose something, you accept the loss, you take the memory with you and move on. But in pathological cases, things don’t happen like that.

In our nowadays’ society, we learned that we are defined by what we have, by what we possess. “To have” becomes “To be”. Losing something, an object or even a person (seen as an object) equals to losing a part of our identity, of our own self. This is a narcissistic process and I won’t go into technical terms or extra explanations. But the idea is that, when our egos rely on what we own, losing what we own results into losing ourselves. If we esteem ourselves for what we have (job, intelligence, family, various objects, etc.), when we lose any of them we experience a decrease in self-esteem, because it seems like those objects take parts of our personality with them when they’re gone. “You left – love of my life – and you took my love with you; I won’t be able to love someone else again! Now I am empty, partial, dismantled. That was the “Great Love Of My Life” and I lost it forever!” Sounds familiar?!

Bad news: if it sounds familiar to you, if you ever experienced prolonged mourning and had feelings of low self-esteem in similar circumstances, you are a narcissistic structure and you will never be able to genuinely love someone. You are destined to go through long and deep periods of grief, feel abandoned, devalued, even cheated, finally retracting all the qualities you invested in the lost object/person, then reinvest them in another object/person, until that one is gone again. Since “I have” has turned into “I am”, every time you blame the other you blame myself, every time you hate the other you hate yourself, and every time you devalue the other (hoping to finally lose it and end your grief), you devalue yourself. The process of bereavement means turning against yourself, means all-time low self-esteem, means depression and… self-directed-sadism. And here we can see how, at the bottom of depression, lies our auto-sadism, and continuing to be depressed adds that specific flavor of masochism – when the others begin to blame us for not getting out of our deep black hole and we seem to continue to perversely enjoy it…


3 thoughts on “I suffer

  1. georgielizabeth

    Interesting post. But, “if you ever experienced prolonged mourning and had feelings of low self-esteem in similar circumstances, you are a narcissistic structure and you will never be able to genuinely love someone.” Hmm, not sure about that part.


    1. Thanks! Well, I read it in the book and the author was pretty sure love is not possible for a narcissistic structure. I was told the same thing during my psy training. It is hard to accept it though and, as I said in the article, I’m not completely in favor of this theory. One of my main assumptions is that people can change. I guess it’s a lot of work to be able to love again, and not everyone is willing to spend years in therapy… Quite similar to the alcoholics: addiction can be cured, in theory, but in reality 90% don’t make it…


  2. Pingback: Masochism – Setting Up To Fail | Cezar Danilevici

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