Within the past month or so, I have had a number of interactions with people who were curious about emotional masochism and the possibility of incorporating it into their experiences, play, or dynamics. A couple of the people were looking specifically at using it as a means to heal from past or accumulated psychological damage.
The knee-jerk reaction I had to their interest was: Don’t.
I’ve had a bit more time to process my feelings on it and I’m realizing that it isn’t really as clear cut as I thought it was.
When you look at long-standing psychological wounds or insecurities that have bothered someone (probably for years), there are really two routes that can be traveled that can make someone feel better about it.
- Owning it – Finding a way to accept that this is the way that you are and that is okay.
- Healing from it – Knowing that what you are is not what you are afraid of or hurt by.
To make this example as clear as possible, I am going to choose the simple scenario of calling someone a slut. If this effects someone who is an emotional masochist, in most cases, the following are probably true:
- They are afraid of being a slut.
- They don’t want to think of themselves as being a slut.
- A dark part of them is convinced that they are a slut.
When called a slut, there is emotional turmoil as the darkness gets pulled to the surface, and the fear of being a slut and their desire to not be a slut gets overwhelmed by the knowledge that they are in fact, a slut.
In essence, delving into emotional masochism is a means of owning it. They are a slut, it is okay to be a slut, the partner is okay with them being a slut, and so on. The inner-balance is accomplished by coming to terms with and accepting that which is feared.
However, this is not very conducive to healing. Returning to the example, if someone is afraid of being a slut, then the process of healing for them is to know that they are not a slut and to be confident with that belief.
A comfortable equilibrium can be found through either path, but they are very different routes. Whether or not delving into emotional masochism is appropriate really comes down to if you want to own it or heal and overcome it.