Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bruce's Lecture


When pain and pleasure become fused in the furnace of profound shame, they often yield the sexual perversion of sadomasochism, which is an acting-out behavior that has at it core in shame-existence bind.

Richard von Krafft-Ebing coined the term masochism after it had become a prevalent literary motif in early nineteenth-century literature. The era was marked by a family system in which the father was often the punishing lord and master, the grandiose and severe inflicter of painful discipline. The literary work in which nineteenth-century masochism was most notoriously dramatized was non Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in Furs (1870). Krafft-Ebing defines masochism as:

... a peculiar perversion of the psychical sexual life in which the individual affected, in sexual feelings and thought, is controlled by the idea of being completely and unconditionally subject to the will of a person of the opposite sex: of being treated by this person as master, humiliated and abused. This idea is colored by lustful feelings; masochist lives in fantasies, in which he creates situations of this kind and often attempts to realize them.

Here the individual's destructive attitude turns inward on himself instead of outward on the original abuser, often the caregiver against whom he could not retaliate when he was a child. He is involved in a perverse and self-destructive attempt to gain power and control he lacked a an abused child. By investing pain and erotic pleasure, he mocks the threats that his original painful discipline was intended to achieve, this "undoing the abuse." The masochist, by accepting self-punishment, secretly repudiates his parental abuser, because the beating/disciplines is subliminally directed at him.

These shame-based people are challenging to treat because just talking about and stirring the embers of memory is often too painful to bear, but not impossible. Some come to treatment fully aware.

They immediately experience a sense of self-loathing so intolerable that they crawl behind a wall in order to survive the unbearable feelings. Often the shame is so deep they experience what Pia Mellody calls the "shame-existence bind," wherein the person doesn't think that he or she is worthy even to take up space on the planet. He does not think that he is worthy of the act of healing. But he is wrong.

People whose shame-existence bind leads them to self-destructive, sexual acting-out behaviors are dramatic examples of how sexual deviancy seeks to 'undo' the original abuse by taking power and control. There is no better example of the operation of the furnace of  "carried shame" than that exemplified masochism. The shame the child carried for the abusive caretaker has fused so completely with his own identity that he takes revenge on himself in order to take revenge on his shamer.

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