Wednesday, August 26, 2009

About masochistic suffering

I am just beginning reading Adam Swenson’s talk on what’s bad about masochistic pain, and already I am thinking of a theory.

I have not great personal experience of sexual or spiritual masochism, but I imagine it goes basically like this, generally speaking. The person happens to be feeling pleasure from sexual stimulation (or from thinking of God, or Jesus, or another spiritual object). Then a small or moderate pain happens, by chance or otherwise. Then the person realizes that her pleasure is not abolished by the happening of that pain, but on the contrary her pleasure is enhanced, is given more intensity, probably because her physiological and emotional arousal as a whole is heightened by the pain. Then the person may start to ‘play’ with the process that is occurring: a bit more pain brings a bit more pleasure. Psychologically, the person may think she is gaining a strange new power over pain, that she, among the privileged ones, is blessed with being involved in the solution of the great terrible mystery of pain: what a powerful feeling of happiness! Next comes ultimately the sexual orgasm or the spiritual ecstasy.

As an instance in spirituality, I remember Francis of Assisi who claimed that the perfect joy was to be insulted and beaten up when asking for charity: in effect, Jesus Christ the perfectly lovable almighty savior asked us to be charitable and was crucified, so what a joy to be like him ‘for better or for worse’…

Masochistic pain is perhaps not very bad, it might even have some evolutionary usefulness. However, it is certainly bad inasmuch as it leaves an individual or a collectivity with a false believe in the goodness of pain, when only ‘certain’ pains are 'tolerable' and without bad consequences.

Let's continue reading Adam's text.


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