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Anatomy of masochism

Rathbone, Junc Alice; (1999) Anatomy of masochism. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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A survey of the previous literature on masochism is undertaken in Section 1. Papers taking a purely psychological approach are reviewed first, then empirical studies. Freud's writings on masochism, or more accurately, sadomasochism, are given special consideration, together with the critical response they have evoked over time. An integrated psychodynamic model is proposed and hypotheses are formulated for testing in the present study. Section 2 reports on the interviews conducted with 48 self-declared sadomasochists (43 male, 5 female) and with 35 controls (26 male, 9 female). These interviews probed early family relationships and revealed that, in terms of attachment theory, the index group as a whole suffered greater insecurity of emotional attachment than the control group. Coherence was significantly diminished in the index group and this was irrespective of depression, which was measured in both groups. The overlap between sadomasochism and depression is discussed. A computer-driven variant of the classic Stroop colour-naming task provided evidence for a sadomasochistic mind-set, which was confirmed by free recall of words composing the presentation. Details concerning chronicity, practice and motivation of sadomasochism were obtained by questionnaires, direct discussion and correspondence. What emerged as a major feature, distinguishing index subjects from controls, was an early background which afforded little opportunity for the development of a theory of mind, and which resulted in a preoccupation with the physical. In many cases, as anticipated, there was evidence for a physiological addiction which began with prolonged pain or stress in childhood. Helplessness in childhood makes control a key issue for the sadomasochist. This is discussed in Section 3, together with the differences in attitude, in mental processing and in behaviour which are likely to separate those who acknowledge their sadomasochism from those who do not. Finally, the wider effects of this form of sexuality are considered.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Anatomy of masochism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Masochism
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099243
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