16 thoughts on “15 Signs of Emotional Masochism

  • March 24, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    The psychologist Eric Berne wrote a book which I believe explains the above actions in a much more thorough way, describing each as one of several “Games People Play”, including marriage behaviors, career behaviors, party behaviors, many forms of self-sabotage and positioning others to be blamed or used as an excuse for many things.

    The games he describes have names and actions that we’ve all seen play out in our families and workplaces. Everything from the rules of the game “Ain’t it Awful” , which usually consists of two or more bitter people commiserating as a means to connect. The rules of the game is that shared negativity must be a part of nearly every statement. Another game is “See What You Made Me Do”, where typically a resentful husband might seem overly focused on a task, like a repair or some careful drawing. The wife asks a casual question, and the husband, resenting the disturbance, pretends to slip and ruin either the drawing or the repair. “See What You Made Me Do?” he cries, positioning himself in a way to justify his anger at her for the interruption, and a way for him to effectively say “I wish you’d leave me alone” without having to actually admit that, and jeopardize the emotional connection of the relationship.

    It’s games like the above , and many others, that are being played out when you see people overeat or overdrink, or start arguments. In almost every case, the reasoning for these games is very clearly and obviously explained.

    Worth checking out. I might give you more ability to interact and sidestep these games than merely dismissing them as “emotional masochism”

    BTW, if it’s not obvious, the name of the book I reference is “Games People Play”.

  • March 25, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Wouldn’t avoiding pain, struggle, effort or awkwardness in the short term be a less convoluted explanation for most of those behaviours? The future is uncertain and if the present is uncomfortable… You might do something you regret later.

  • March 25, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I do this. In fact my whole family does this, and for every reason you listed. Do you have more information on the subject? A book to read etc? Is it your own term, or something common in the psychiatric feild?

    • August 24, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      The author offers training and life coaching on his site which is linked in the bio on this post. The first step is recognizing you’re doing it and then you have to stop yourself and choose a different behavior.

    • November 15, 2016 at 12:26 am

      Hi Marie, did you ever get assistance with this? I was having a discussion with someone close to me who does this also. Honestly I think we all do, to a small degree anyway.


  • March 25, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    The staying with people who hurt you needs to go. It could imply the relationships involved in domestic violence and in that case the dynamics are far too complex. Why not discuss the shame and guilt of staying with someone you hurt!

  • March 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

    I don’t think everything of this is masochism. Some of this points are basicly sadistic. To argue with someone is to show them you know better. It is to project your percived self as a stupid if not knowing something to the others, and you can’t believe how can they not know this. It is the basicly the masochism vs. sadism game or better said “inferiority complex” vs “superiority complex” game. The inferior thinks he is worthless so it doesn’t matter to try anyway, and the superior thinks he is worth more to cover the same worthlessness issue. Maybe masochistic people are percived better, but still, it is the same worthless issues that are behind this “persona” … just different solution we worked out to cover this.

    I was thinking about how “repressed anger” (or let’s say unaknowledge anger at the one who we’re actualy angry at (from childhood)) is connected to this … I think that if we are just angry, then we’re angry at others, and we have more “superiority complex”, but if we turn that anger against ourselves, then we have “inferiority complex”. This also means we can switch between this two poles, and not be on the same for the whole life …

    But sadly we still don’t know (FEEL to be exact) the anger on the one we were originaly angry at. If we can remember this feeling than and only then it will go away automaticly – because if you see in the present who are you angry at without lying to yourself, it goes away, because you aknowledge it because no lies are told. You may be angry for a while, but it passes. But you must be angry at the right persons, as for as long as you are not, you are LYING to yourself and acting out the anger on others or at yourself, while you have no idea what’s the origin of it …

    Thank you for the reading, if you manage to read a whole thing.


  • April 5, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Well as someone who struggles with anything related to my brain….im suprised I managed to relate & understand this post. I love it when ppl write like this ‘ it feels almost personal ‘the author truly knows how to express their thoughts into relatable knowledge/advice. Not every one is blessed with this skill ….but u my friend …..blessed indeed hehe.
    Even though ‘I got it ‘ …..my brain will deny further process….after all…..I am fluent in self sabotage.

  • April 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I’m disappointed to see that my initial payment seemed to an enrollment FEE, as the courses I thought I paid for are an additional price. 🙁
    I feel mislead.

    • May 19, 2015 at 5:00 am

      Miriam, I recently enrolled, and paid the fee, but couldn’t see the courses – I sent a message and Hope responded. Apparently they hadn’t downloaded properly, so she rectified this, and now I have full access to the course. Sounds like this may have happened with you.

    • May 19, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      Miriam – please contact us at 951-225-4475 so we can fix this, make sure you get your courses, or refund your fee. Thanks, Mike.

  • April 8, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    I didn’t know what “Controlling” was at first. It took me a long time to figure it out–too long! But now I know what it is, acknowledge it and the controller, and walk on by. Don’t want it. Don’t need it!

    Being self-critical is difficult, but I’m learning to be less critical of me.

    There are other things on the list that I will work on, but not tonight! 🙂

  • October 13, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I entirely agree with this post.
    Emotional masochism is very rampant in human nature, under the surface.
    I do fit in as one of those who fit into the one’s who realize it’s in my nature.
    But it’s so hard to control…my tendency to secretly wish anything that goes wrong in my emotional life goes as bad as it can so i victimize myself to a maximum.

  • November 8, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Great article! I was abused from the time I was a baby until I aged out of foster care. Pain, dysfunction and abuse are all I know. I don’t like it but I know it, I know what to expect from it, there are no surprises. I know I can handle the kind of hurt it brings. I seek it out, I seek out men who I know don’t care. I seek out men who will hurt me. As soon as a man treats me as a human being I walk away. I am scared to death of loving and being loved. I am scared of the unknown.

  • October 15, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I enjoyed the article, and the comments equally. Comments are sometimes amazing because it can draw the power of the group together.

    I want to be helpful and elaborate on a point. The author says we have a finite amount of willpower to spend. I think yes and no.

    I think instead that willpower is akin to weight lifting. If we say “my body has a finite amount of weight it can curl”, maybe a say this at a time when I can only curl 10 pounds. But after a year of deliberate training, I can do sets of curls with 45 pounds. This is a more than modest improvement. Similarly, I think the deliberate exercise of willpower, and the management of the emotions that result, can have an even more exponential effect on our total volume of willpower over time. For more information on this, read “Can’t Hurt Me”, by David Goggins.


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