François Ladame

Are We All Masochists? Publication date : March 16, 2022

François Ladame is a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist practicing in Geneva. He was professor in the Department of Medicine and head of the units for adolescents and young adults at the Hôpitaux universitaires de Genève. Former president of the Swiss Society of Psychoanalysis, he participates in many forums of the European Federation of Psychoanalysis and the International Association of Psychoanalysis.

We all have an inner “judge” –psychoanalysts call it our superego – which knows everything about us, both in our conscious and unconscious lives, and which has the power to suppress our desires and curb our actions. It is that which dictates the law we are forced to obey and to which we submit a little, a lot, or much too much…

This inner constraint that weighs on each of us induces multiple and varied forms of masochism, either normal or pathological. Without a certain masochism, would there be doctors, nurses, teachers, or even parents ready to devote themselves to their child, regardless of the pleasures that might be enjoyed by being a parent? But, without extreme masochism, how can we explain the way some people routinely put themselves in situations doomed for failure and allow themselves to be walked all over, are constantly punishing themselves, or even fall into addictions or develop eating disorders?

And so, how can we not cross the red line, the one on the other side of which is the masochism which is transformed into an incessant and destructive mental self-torture? And how can we avoid that terrifying trap in which the suffering inherent in masochism transforms into a reason to exist?