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The Riddle of Masochism

The Riddle of Masochism

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Published by Christof Wahner
This summary of Léon Wurmser's book based on depth psychology is about a non-judgemental view on masochist phenomena, about connections with guilt and shame, about traumatizations, about according changes in perceiving and constructing reality, and about the significance of outer and inner conflicts.
This summary of Léon Wurmser's book based on depth psychology is about a non-judgemental view on masochist phenomena, about connections with guilt and shame, about traumatizations, about according changes in perceiving and constructing reality, and about the significance of outer and inner conflicts.

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Published by: Christof Wahner on May 16, 2011
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06/14/2013

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Léon Wurmser (1993):
The Riddle of Masochism
– uncommittedly summarized by Christof Wahner 
 
K.K. Novick & J. Novick bring a general, functional definition: "Masochism is the active pursuit of psychological or physiological pain, trouble or humiliation for the purpose of adaptation, defense or drive satisfaction."However, clinical masochism is the
unconscious
need to seek for pain, trouble and humiliation and to sabotage the chances of own success,in the hope that mercy & attention (distorted, inferior forms of love & respect) can be thus achieved. [p. 38]Masochistic pathology arises from the
compulsive imagination
of being entitled to gain lust, contentment, happiness and success only for the frightfulprice of trouble, whereas "normal" masochism is willing to put up with pain for 
conscious
and rational reasons aiming at a higher purpose,especially at love & respect.Generally, the four types of masochism together form a complex, but individually they appear with different emphasis [p. 41]:- relational masochism (outer masochism): sacrificism, self-abasement, search for tormenting partners & circumstances in life, slave mentality- moral masochism (inner masochism): addiction to pain & trouble, moral contraint, mystical experience of redemption through pain- sexual masochism: sexual satisfaction linked to symbolic or actual pain & humiliation- narcisstist facade: inside out converted masochism in form of cruelty & egoism, in delusional dreams such as:"Lay down your love onto the floor, so I can walk on her while she penetrates me like knives." [p. 144]Logically speaking,"pathology in superego" (moral masochism) comes
 prior 
to the "pathology in object relations" (relational masochism).R. Stoller 1991: Broady spoken,
 perversion
is "the erotic expression of hate". Equally perverse is the eroticization of 
might 
&
violence
respectivelyhelplessness & submissiveness. Masochists are afraid of their own might including the might of their feelings, needs, motives, fantasies, etc.After A. Cooper 1991, the core of masochistic perversion is: to become a passive, manipulated, dead, and deformed object of an evil-minded person,... in fact with intent, in this paradoxical manner to evade the
fear of infantile passivity & helplessness
.masochists' credo: "Only when being delivered and convicted as victim, and only when admitting defeat, I can experience lust and feelings of being loved.""Self-castration" in various respects puts the ideal of emotional inviolability & invulnerability into practice as well as the ban on love & mourning.After Kernberg 1991, love is thus utilized as a vicarious agent of aggression, namely of abasement.A. Cooper 1988 summarized S. Freud's hypotheses about masochism:1. Masochism bases on excessive stimulation of lust & pain.2. Sadism is its primary impulse, which turns against the Self under certain circumstances.3. Masochism is a fundamental component of the death drive.4. The masochistic need for punishment results from excessive strictness of superego.5. For masochists, trouble is the condition for lust, but not its source.6. There is an understanding of masochism related to feminine traits such as passive and reactive tendencies, pain tolerance etc.However, this masochism should be rather seen as a caricature of femininity.Loewenstein 1957: The masochistic perversions are modified repetitions of infantile situations and scenes, in which sexual fantasies, erotic plays or indirect sexual overtures towards forbidden objects (especially towards the mother) have met with disapproval and rejection.
 
 
Léon Wurmser (1993):
The Riddle of Masochism
 – uncommittedly summarized by Christof Wahner 
.
page
1
 
 
The "seduction of the aggressor" which can be found in all children, already contains the elements of a later, actually masochistic behavior:the exploration of situations causing danger, fear and pain, and their mitigation through a loving, erotic complicity with the threatening personwhose attention is bought through suffering. Often it is even the same wether the attention is of positive or negative character.Masochists deny their 
drive-related needs
by overemphasizing the importance of their 
object relations
. Accordingly, the opposite applies to sadists.Both in the cases of sexual and moral masochism, the own desire is too weak and blocked by the superego, so that it needs external force.In this context, the motto is "Dear policeman, help me to lose control and make me a criminal!"p. 60:In the <Studies on Hysteria>, Freud speaks of the "
counter-will 
" in terms of a "possession" thwarting the intentions of the conscious personality.F. Nietzsche (<Human, All Too Human>): "There is a
defiance
against oneself, and to its manifestations belong some forms of 
asceticism
.Certain people have, indeed, such a high need for exercising their power and domination, so that – in the absence of other objects or because of continuous lack of success otherwise – they finally enjoy bullying certain parts of their own being ..."B. Berliner 1947: "In the history of every masochistic patient we find an unhappy childhood, and frequently to such an extreme degree, so that we have toask ourselves, to what extent the development of a masochistic character means a protection against a schizophrenic or depressive psychosis."After L. Shengold, the circle of experience in overwhelming overstimulation by
traumatization
is experienced as absorbing, devouring, cannibalistic.J. Chassegnet-Smirgel deems appropriate for trauma patients to convert the narcissistic wound (that can not be removed) into sexual arousal which canbe discharged, while the self-esteem is protected by the accompanying fantasies of revenge, hatred and self-assertion.In general, pathological masochism is causally linked to severe traumatization in terms of the experience "to live better with pain than to lose one's object".Vicious circle of 
separation
from primary caregivers in the view of masochistic dynamics [p. 88]:separation →
guilt 
, fear of punishment → search for love & closeness → self-abandonment → loss of self →
shame
→ alienation → separationFrancis Bronček mentioned as sources of 
shame
:1. personal experiences of ineffectiveness, especially when trying to develop mutually satisfactory intersubjectivity and common sense2. self-objectification and self-alienation (primary dissociation) by ignoring, disdaining and denying one's own status as subjectCritical to this objectification is the denial of individuality under the dominion of an inhumanly inflated sense of duty.3. episodic or chronic experience of being treated loveless, of being discarded or used as a scapegoat by primary caregiversW. Grossmann 1991: Traumatizations often affect the capacity of imagination and sabotage the transformation of traumatic experience through productivemental activity. Instead, traumatizations establish situation reruns and obsession with images that repeat and undo the traumatic experience at thesame time. Additionally or alternatively, inhibition, avoidance, and withdrawal serve as attempts to avoid painful repetition of a traumatic condition.Conscience represents two opposing pillars of moral evaluation, in other words "sense of justice":
 justice
→ subordination as a member of a community→ to protect bounds & needs of other peopleViolation of this elementary value causes
guilt 
.preventive inversion through resentment
reputation
self-assertion and self-affirmation to protect bounds & needs of one's ownViolation of this elementary value causes
shame
*.preventive inversion through contempt & derision* usually accompanied by resentment and revenge, in order to compensate the oppressive feeling of helplessness
Léon Wurmser (1993):
The Riddle of Masochism
 – uncommittedly summarized by Christof Wahner 
.
page
2
 

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