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  • Without quite realising it, many of us are masochists..

  • The word derives, somewhat unfairly for him and his family, from the Austrian 19th century

  • aristocrat and writer, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. As a young man, Leopold made a conventional

  • marriage to a fellow member of the nobility, Aurora vonmelin, but he swiftly discovered

  • that his sexual tastes could not be accommodated within the relationship. When he was contacted

  • by an admiring reader, a Baroness Fanny Pistor, under the ostensible excuse of seeking help

  • with her writing style, he was able to discover a whole new side to his sexual identity. What

  • he wanted most of all was that Fanny would dress in a grand and imperious-looking fur

  • coat, flog him, dominate him and treat him with haughty cruelty. He wanted Fanny to call

  • him 'Gregor', at that time a popular servant's name - and when they travelled, despite being

  • far wealthier than her, insisted on being forced to sit in third class while she took

  • her place in first. Leopold's proclivities, which he wrote up in a lightly disguised novella

  • called Venus in Furs, caught the interests of the Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing,

  • who (despite Leopold's family's protestations) included them in his landmark compendium of

  • kinks, Psychopathology of Sex published in 1890 - which introduced the world to the term

  • 'masochist': a person sexually aroused by being on the receiving end of pain.

  • We now understand a sexual masochist as somebody who might want to be called obscenities, have

  • their hair pulled or their skin scratched or ordered to describe themselves in highly

  • derogatory and humiliating terms - albeit, it must be stressed, with explicit consent,

  • for anything else would be merely abusive.

  • The mystery is why this could prove so appealing and at points so necessary - to which psychotherapy

  • has a powerful answer. For the masochist, cruel treatment in sex play is experienced,

  • first and foremost, as a relief - a relief from the inauthenticity and alienating sentimentality

  • that can otherwise flow from being treated with generous respect. Masochists tend not

  • to think too highly of themselves; if others insist on handling them with kid gloves, they

  • cannot feel seen and understood. It only starts to seem properly real and hence properly exciting

  • when a special partner spots the very deep secret about them: that they are (at least

  • for a time and in a certain way) a stupid idiot who deserves a severe beating.

  • Though the phenomenon of masochism began with, and has remained most fully connected up to

  • sex, it exists no less powerfully in the emotional realm. There may indeed be many more emotional

  • masochists at large than there are sexual ones. As with sexual masochism, emotional

  • masochism is rooted in self-suspicion. Emotional masochists do not deep down feel as if they

  • are entirely loveable people worthy of careful appreciation and kindness. If someone treats

  • them well in love, an emotional masochist would soon enough need to dismiss them as

  • needy and deluded. Why - after all - would anyone feel better about them than they feel

  • about themselves?

  • In order to stop being an emotional masochist, it is vital to start to imagine that one might

  • be one; to start to see - perhaps for the first time - the ways in which one is engaged

  • in self-sabotage and has made an unconscious commitment to loneliness and frustration.

  • The task is also to see that the origins of all this lie, as ever, in early life, where

  • the masochist is liable to have relied on the affections of a parental figure who exhibited,

  • alongside love, a high degree of cruelty, neglect or violence - leading the child to

  • a conviction that their destiny must lie in suffering rather than fulfilment.

  • The most relevant difference between sexual and emotional masochism is that the former

  • activity will, in the right circumstances, be a lot of fun, whereas the latter one is

  • never anything other than slow bitter hell. We owe it to ourselves to start to see the

  • myriad of ways in which we may for far too long have been holding ourselves back from

  • healthy relationships, not out of any kink or necessity, just because our past has unfairly

  • imbued us with a sense that unfeeling treatment is all we deserve.

Without quite realising it, many of us are masochists..

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What Is Masochism?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/06
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