Emotional Masochism

Emotional Masochism January 11, 2016

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Over the last several years I have become much more emotionally healthy. I think a lot of us have issues with emotional health in our teens and twenties. Part of moving out of that is just time and experience. Part of it for me has been my relationship with my husband. It’s hard for my self-esteem to be low when he gushes over how great I am every day!

But last night I felt a familiar ache in my chest.

And, as is my habit, I leaned into the bad feeling. I enjoyed it. I was almost comforted by it as my mind fanned the flames, telling me how worthless and terrible I was. It got me wondering why I do this. There is some kind of pleasure that comes from beating up on myself mentally.

To explain a bit more about what was going on, there is a woman around my age who doesn’t like me and I don’t know why. This happens, of course. Sometimes people just don’t like you. But I’m a people-pleaser and it’s very painful to me when someone hates me. I can understand that not everyone “gets” me. I’m a fairly quirky person. But I hope that I’m still likable. This woman is a friend of my best friend. I grew up with my best friend and several years ago I moved to where she had moved. I joined her new group of friends, but this one person never accepted me. Six years later we awkwardly pretend the other doesn’t exist and we both see my best friend separately. I don’t often think of her. But hanging out with my friend this woman was mentioned off-hand and that night my mind started in on me.

Maybe, it said, you aren’t likable at all. Maybe no one likes you. Maybe she’s right about you. Maybe you’re a bad person.

I’m assuming most people have experienced this evil voice in your mind. It causes a deep ache in my chest. But the weird thing is that I seem to like that ache. I seem to, in some way, enjoy my mind berating me.

It used to happen a lot when I was in college, when I was in love with someone who didn’t love me back. And I kind of enjoyed the pain of unrequited love. I enjoyed telling myself that I didn’t deserve him, that I didn’t deserve love, that I wasn’t good enough.

So now as I think about it, I wonder if I do that because it reassures me that I’m not being arrogant. It’s like I’m afraid if I don’t do this, then the Gods won’t know that I recognize my flaws. Is this a way of being humble? Or a defense mechanism of “You can’t hurt me because I already know I’m bad”? Do I think I’m a better person if I hate myself? Or do I like to cast myself as a victim and use my mind as the oppressor I don’t have?

And whatever the reason, how messed up is that?!

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