Ever Heard of Masochism?
‘Masochism’ is an eponym, a term named for a certain kind of person. The term ‘masochist’ is used for a person who enjoys inflicting pain on him/her. Such people seem to derive pleasure in pain. They enjoy hurting themselves. An Austrian writer from the nineteenth century named Leopold von Sacher-Masoch described a sense of gratification that he received from his own humiliation and pain. Masochists are different from sadists.
The latter derive pleasure in inflicting on others while a masochist enjoying inflicting pain on their own selves. These people enjoy receiving punishment and degradation. This trait is popularly linked to BDSM. Sexual masochists like pain as a part of sexual activities. This kink could be empowering and healthy up to a certain extent. Masochism comes in some different, less healthy types, which manifest in people’s professional and personal lives. A psychological masochist would look for ways of tormenting themselves in their mundane lives.
Are you a Masochist?
Are you tough on yourself at times? Do you want to take revenge from people who have hurt you, yet you end up holding on to resentment instead of getting anything done about it? Do you often exhaust yourself with a heavy workload? Such traits fall under typical masochistic behaviours in one’s personality. Masochistic doesn’t always mean sexual sadomasochism. When it comes to sexual sadomasochism, one is dominant while the other is submissive. From a psychological viewpoint, a masochist endures self-defeating traits, which they often do by themselves to themselves. To put it simply, such people inflict humiliation and pain on themselves.
The Origins of The Masochistic Personality Structure
Also known as a ‘self-defeating personality, the masochistic personality structure has its roots in the war of will’ between a growing child and his/her over-controlling parents. These kinds of parents always try to retain control at every cost. They demand compliance and obedience at all times. The child has no room for expressing his/her needs and opinions. To get love, the child has to be good always. If parents take it to an extreme level, they may humiliate, chastise, and even abuse their child. S/he may also be threatened by punishment or abandonment if the child fails at toeing the line.
Growing up in such a household can have a deep impact on the child’s psyche. Kids may end up holding onto their hurts while wishing to get back at the parents, but with no power of doing so. They start making passive-aggressive or furtive attempts at seeking revenge. The critical or intrusive behaviour of their parents can turn into an internal voice of an extremely bullying inner critic. When these critics grow up into masochistic adults, they become very compliant, opting for demanding yet dull jobs and losing contact with their creative sides.
Masochists Cannot Say No.
The key sign of someone being a masochist is their inability to refuse. They think saying no would make them sound selfish or arrogant. They need to realize that saying no is not unkind or selfish. In fact, it is a radical act of self-care. It is a way of communicating that you cannot say yes without causing metaphorical or literal harm to yourself. If you are unsure of saying yes or no, rake a deep breath and pause. Do your inclination of saying yes roots from a will to seek approval or please people? Keep a check on your motivations and allow yourself to be gentle to yourself. Don’t forget, “no” is a complete sentence in itself, and you can always say it with utter tenderness and compassion.
Masochists are Very Invested to Push Themselves to be “Good”
Masochistic people are very particular about their morning yoga session; they try to work out every day, even if they are sick, and if they miss it, they feel terrible. They are very strict with their diets, even on trips and birthdays. They beat themselves up when they drink too much, gain few extra pounds, or miss going to the gym for two consecutive days. They can turn into self-berating exercise tyrants in no time. While being disciplined and intentional is good, our mistakes, triumphs, eccentricities, and quirks make us imperfectly perfect. We need to be a little easy on ourselves from time to time.
Masochists are Always Up for Rescuing
Be it fellow humans, animals, or even the planet, and masochists are always up for saving everyone. The perpetrator, the martyr, and the victim form the three pillars of a toxic psychological cycle which many of us feed into. All you need to do to unhook yourself from this pattern is simply opting out. Whenever you are asked for a favour, make sure you check your motivations at first. If you feel you are unworthy or are in a constant fearing of hurting someone, and that makes you overcompensate, go inward. Rescue yourself at first by soothing the part within you which craves to rescue.
Masochists Resist Getting Compliments
Masochistic people often resist getting blessings and compliments when someone tries to give them. Many of us, especially those with the healer archetype, feel uncomfortable when many compliments are showered on them. For turning this around, one must start practicing “bench pressing” their receiving muscles.
Similar to the biceps, our receiving muscles also need exercise. Go for a “beauty bath” by treating yourself with beauty in every form- aromatherapy oils, beautiful music, heartwarming poetry, plants, and a symphony. Don’t be scared of overdoing it. Practice absorbing all the beauty and not resisting it. All of us deserve compliments and blessings.
Masochists are Attracted to Narcissists
Narcissists can be compelling, magnetic, charismatic, as well as hard to avoid. However, if you keep falling prey to their trap, again and again, you are either an echo or a masochist. Save yourself the disappointment and heartbreak by breaking the pattern. Stop being the Echo to the Narcissus of someone else.
Masochists Cannot Stand Up for Themselves
It is all good to be accommodating, compassionate, and kind. However, a problem arises when you start letting yourself be a doormat. You can be yielding and soft while being strong and fierce at the same time. You can be multifaceted and embrace every side of yours. This includes even that side that will not be misused or taken advantage of. By doing this, you are sure to transform your masochism into self-respect and self-love.
Masochists are Obsessed with Perfectionism
Life is chaotic and messy. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the fear of being portrayed as imperfect. It is like fascism of one’s soul. Take a deep breath and allow your soul to be imperfect. Your soul needs rooms for experimenting, screwing up, learning the hard way before finally rising above and beyond all this.
Masochists Judge Themselves for Negative Emotions
There is no way of avoiding feelings of sadness, disappointments, rage or being scared and/or at times. We are always bitten by spiritual bypassing that masks feeling by moving our energy or monitoring what we think. Even though it helps avoid painful feelings for a short while, suppressing oneself is a soul-splintering kind of masochism. It would help if you tried to feel whatever you are feeling without any judgement or holding back emotions that you think are “wrong”. Do not resist anything. It will surprise you how fast most painful feelings pass by when you ease into them.
Masochists are Attracted to Drama
Drama works like a magnet for the masochists. They sense it and run right into it. If you are a sucker for drama, try asking yourself why. Are you not hurt by it? Don’t you want the hurting to stop? Let yourself choose situations and people which cultivate the calm and stillness within you.
Masochists Shy Away from Feeling Good
While transforming into overindulgent hedonists is definitely wrong, not easing into simplest joys is an obvious trait of masochism. If you are bored when your life is flowing with ease if you hold onto a tale that narrates all good in life comes with pain, you need to rewrite that story. Permit yourself to experience all sorts of pleasures and blessings with no undue pain.
Putting it Into a Nutshell
To sum all the traits up, masochists work to the point where they are exhausted. Overworking to meet the targets is toxic to oneself as you are constantly pushing yourself beyond your limits. Masochists feel insulted within. They need to remember that we are all the same. Do not take extra steps in hiding from others what your real feelings are. As masochists are usually children who grew up working extra hard to feel accepted by the people around them, they think their efforts are never enough, and they feel unloved.
Masochists are constantly attacked by their inner critic in whatever they do. This pushes them towards further extremes in proving their worth. Their bodies might be solid, representing the defences to intrusiveness or abuse they experienced in childhood. Masochists have a hard time asserting themselves or saying no. They try their best in pleasing others even if they are overcome with resentment within. These people complain a lot about life but do not do anything to change things for the better.
They would also refuse to get help from a friend or professional. They are magnetized to abusive or toxic relationships where they continue to feel ashamed and humiliated. Masochists endure the pain and do not show that they are hurting to maintain a sense of self-pride. These people often feel encaged in an endless cycle of self-defeat. They can’t enjoy pleasures without shame or guilt accompanying them. They feel hopeless about their future.
How to Help a Masochist?
If you see someone showing masochistic traits, it is time to help them. Advise them to visit a therapist. Offer to tag along with them to their therapy sessions. It can help them in understanding the patterns from their past, which may be destructive and self-defeating. By awareness of their past, they can start making conscious choices to become aware of the triggers. The second thing you can do is help them in managing anxiety. Making changes in life can be terrifying at first. After living a life of no risks, when one starts doing something for themselves, anxiety is bound to kick in. A therapist can help form strategies for the masochist’s anxiety while giving a safe space where they are not punished/humiliated for speaking their truth.
Things You Should Do if You are a Masochist
A masochistic person needs to deal with their inner critic in the right manner. Find out what does the inner critic want, what triggers it, and whose voice is. When you start to understand your inner critic, it can be the first step at managing it while stopping it from destroying your life. Also, do not shy away from taking personal responsibility. One can be in charge of their feelings, emotions, and actions without blaming somebody else for them. It would also include you to get in touch with the rage you have within for all that happened to you as a kid. Find constructive ways of expressing your anger.
Again, you can take the help of your therapist in finding a way for this. Allow yourself to grieve for the past you have lived. You may feel miserable for the love you never got from your parents when you were a child. It is immensely painful and downright atrocious to work through childhood traumas and wounds while letting them heal. However, with your strength and support from the right people, grieving the past can actually set you free from the wounds on your soul while letting you live your life the way you want.
The Bottom Line
If you have made it till the end, make sure not to kick yourself if certain traits mentioned above describe you. It is completely fine that you are not perfect. Nobody is. We are all flawed. Just utilize this time in looking inward while working on yourself. We all have tendencies that lead to some self-sabotage. Now that you have identified some of yours pat yourself for being brave enough to accept these tendencies as your own. Now, get up, take up some proactive measures, be gentle on yourself and pamper yourself, you courageous soldier! (See How to Stop Back Pain Fast?)