Masochism is not a trait of Western Culture that is immediately obvious. Yet if you try to tease it out, like the rag end of plastic I recently found in my veg patch, you might find yourself there all afternoon, digging, sweating, tugging. Mounds of earth everywhere.
Out of all the election fever, the rhetoric of politicians and the hype of the media, one anecdote in particular grabs my attention. Its the moment when Mr Trump asks an audience of Iowans, ‘How stupid are the people of Iowa?’
That in itself was remarkable. Its a novel strategy. Normally politicians try to woo their voter, make them feel good about themselves. Mr Trump does the opposite. He actively humiliates them. But the truly amazing thing was what happened next. His ratings improved in Iowa.
How is it possible?
What’s going on?
”Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were for their salvation?” Gilles Deleuze.
The answer is that there is a strong Masochistic trend in our collective consciousness, which, contrary to popular belief, has little to do with sex.
”Masochism is not a mere perversion, but a reflection of the soul in its tortured, most inarticulate moments.” L Cowan.
Mr Trump has unwittingly hit upon a Big Secret. His slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’, hinges upon the same principle as telling the Iowans how dumb they are. It mobilises the passion of having been done to, the lynch pin of Masochism. It says, ”you have been denied, robbed, bought low, subjected to the will of powerful others”. His message hooks in to how the West unconsciously feels about itself, that life has short-changed us somehow, a collective ‘truth’ which we are sorely tempted to reinforce by voting into power those who can then be guarenteed to abuse us.
We do the same in the dysfunctional relationships of our more private lives, staying on for years, putting up with the other’s behaviour, feeling hard done by, never stopping to ask, ‘what am I doing?’
The extent of Sado-Masochistic relating in the West as a dominant form of interaction was largely suppressed by the early schools of psychology who preferred to represent it as a flamboyant perversion so that it need not be recognised as something endemic or, for that matter, rife amongst those respectable gentlemen themselves.
Kraft-Ebing, big boss of the Neuro-Sciences in Vienna who first relegated Masochism to the ‘Perversions’ was the same chap who stonewalled Freud’s original and beautifully expressed, ‘Aetiology of Hysteria’, which clearly stated that neuroses were the result of childhood abuse.
Kraft-Ebing was horrified at the suggestion that children are harmed by their parents. He ostracised Freud until he changed his mind and substituted the drive-conflict theory which made the patient responsible for their own difficulties. He did the same with Sado-Masochism. Its the patient’s fault and its all about sex.
Curiously and for the record, the feted and popular Kraft-Ebing also thought of recreational sex as a perversion that required ‘treatment’, not to mention masturbation for which he had some cures of Inquisitional proportions, including the application of white hot irons to children’s privates, metal mittens, bed restraints and spiked cages to safely house your unmentionables.
Western Powers-that-Be, dissatisfied with projecting inferiority onto other nations and subsequently enslaving then to make the point, have also visited denied shadow onto the very young who are powerless to then resist what are in fact the unconsciously enacted fantasies of the Establishment.
And yet this still doesn’t explain the prevalence of Masochism in our society or why its so prolific in our cultural mind set as to swing voters in middle America, nor does it account for the emerging split between Empaths and Narcissists or the prervalence of addictions, alcohol consumption, gorging of all kinds, the endgame of which is invariably humiliation.
”I drink to drown the shame of being a drunk”. anon
Culturally endemic, ‘low self-esteem’ is the energy daily drained from us by the critisisms and judgements that we masochistically level at ourselves. Its the feeling of being a slave to the dollar, the sense that your esteem is measured by the affirmation of people you don’t actually respect, the wish as well as the fear that you’ll be ‘discovered’, found out, shamed.
A story that might help put all this in context comes from the Plains Indians, the story of the Jumping Mouse.
The Jumping Mouse was an adventurous sort. Alone amongst his brothers and sisters, he was determined to explore beyond the shade of the tree where they lived. The others begged him not to go, fearful of the black spots in the sky that wheeled above them.
But Jumping Mouse was brave and one day he set off. He scampered all day until he reached a pond occupied by a large wise looking frog.
‘Have I reached the edge of the world?’ he asked, panting.
The frog laughed kindly, ‘if you jump high enough, you will see a far off mountain. The top of the mountain is as close as you can get to the edge of the world.
Jumping Mouse jumped for all his worth and glimpsed the top of the mountain. He was determined to reach it. At the edge of the plain he asked Buffalo to carry him across. Buffalo agrees but for the price of one of his eyes. The Jumping Mouse plucks it out and climbs up. At the foot of the mountain he asks Fox to help him get to the summit. Fox agrees but at the price of his other eye. Jumping Mouse plucks it out and climbs up.
Delirious with excitement and pain, Jumping Mouse makes it to the top. He stands there for a moment, then hears the awful whirring of great wings above him. Mighty talons crush his body as he is whisked away. He prepares himself for a last final scream of agony when his blindness gives way to rushing sight and from his throat comes the call of Great Eagle.
Following your own star is not only full of suffering but demands sacrifices that will seriously impact you. The Gods invariably want something.
”The hallmark of the transpersonal is that it acts upon us.” S.B. Perrera.
The feeling of being subjected to the will of the Self is often an intrinsic part of spiritual awakening, being presented with a path that wasn’t part of your plan.
Contemporary Jungian analyst Lyn Cowan points to this commonality between Inner Revelation and Masochism, they share the experience of being subject to the will of the Other. She asks whether its not likely that if this aspect of our spiritual life is denied by Structures not too keen on folk having their own experience, then its bound to come out somewhere else in your life.
”It is not a matter of indifference if you serve a mania or a God. To serve a mania is detestable but to serve a God is meaningful (because) it is an act of submission to a higher spiritual being. When the god is not acknowledged, mania develops and out of this mania comes sickness.” C. G. Jung
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was of the opinion that the Soviet people needed to have Stalin as their leader because they had not suffered enough. The senseless anguished purging of the people enabling them better to see themselves in one another’s eyes, to realise their common humanity and hold it sacred.
The Oligarchs oblige us. Everyone knows perfectly well that Oligarchs prefer to stay that way and can only do so at your expense. In Orwellian fashion Free Trade Economy becomes the means to make the rich richer, the poor both poorer and less free until some mega-plague comes along and concentrates lines of inheritance for a while.
So while everyone argues for one candidate or another I would like to step back and ask, ‘what is it in us that gives such tacit approval to a two horse race between the uber-rich whose primary purpose is to shore up their interests whilst we’re so busy being done to as a trade off for staying at home under the tree where the black spots wont get us?