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What Is A Masochistic Person? 10 Traits & Behaviors Of A Masochist

Lissa Rankin, M.D.
Physician and New York Times bestselling author
By Lissa Rankin, M.D.
Physician and New York Times bestselling author
Lissa Rankin, M.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of "Mind Over Medicine," "The Fear Cure," and "The Anatomy of a Calling." She is a physician, speaker, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and mystic. Lissa has starred in two National Public Television specials and also leads workshops, both online and at retreat centers like Esalen and Kripalu.
Last updated on September 12, 2022

A masochistic person is someone who finds gratification through pain, degradation, or self-denial.

Masochism is popularly associated with BDSM (also known as Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadochism and Masochism); a sexual masochist is someone who likes pain as part of sexual activity, which can be a healthy and empowering kink.

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But there are also less healthy types of masochism that manifest in people's personal and professional lives.

The psychological masochist is someone who looks for ways to torment themselves in their day-to-day.

To know if someone is a masochist, we've broken down some common masochistic behaviors, traits, and tendencies.

1.

You can't say no

The No. 1 sign that someone is a masochist is that they are unable to say no.

Saying no is not selfish or unkind—it's an act of radical self-care. It's a way to communicate that you’re not able to say yes without inflicting literal or metaphorical pain upon yourself.

If you're not sure whether to say yes or no, pause and take a breather. Does your inclination to say yes come from a desire to please someone or seek approval?

Check your motivations and give yourself permission to be kind to yourself.

Remember, "No" is a complete sentence, and it's possible to say it with infinite compassion and tenderness.

2.

You're very invested in pushing yourself to be "good"

You're religious about your morning meditation practice. You try to do yoga every day, even when you're sick, and if you miss it, you feel awful.

You won't let yourself "cheat" on your diet, even when it's your birthday. You beat yourself up when you have too much to drink, and gaining five pounds turns you into a self-berating exercise tyrant.

Ease up. While there's nothing wrong with discipline and good intentions, our quirks, eccentricities, triumphs, and mistakes are what make us so beautifully human.

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3.

You get off on sacrificing yourself for others

A masochist sees personal pain and sacrifice as a means to gain validation.

Check your motivations any time you're called on for a favor, especially those that require you to sacrifice a lot of yourself.

If you're driven by feelings of unworthiness that lead you to overcompensate, or by a fear of disappointing someone, go inward. Soothe the part of you that yearns to rescue, and rescue yourself this time instead.

4.

You resist receiving blessings when others try to give them to you

Many people, especially those with the healer archetype, tend to get uncomfortable when too many blessings flow their way. In order to turn this around, you'll have to practice "bench pressing" your receiving muscles.

Just like biceps, your receiving muscles need exercise. Try giving yourself what psychologist Anne Davin, Ph.D., calls a "beauty bath."

Treat yourself to beauty in all forms—beautiful music, aromatherapy oils, a Rumi poem, fresh flowers, a symphony. Overdo it. Practice drinking in all the beauty instead of resisting it. We all deserve blessings—you do too.

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5.

You are attracted to narcissists

Narcissists can be charismatic, compelling, magnetic, and hard to avoid. But if you keep walking straight into that trap over and over, you may very well be a masochist—and an echoist, aka the opposite of a narcissist who's always falling for them.

Break the pattern now, and choose to spare yourself the heartbreak and disappointment you'll inevitably feel when you keep choosing to be the Echo to someone's Narcissus.

6.

You fail to stand up for yourself

It's one thing to be kind, compassionate, and accommodating. It's a whole other thing to let yourself become a doormat. The latter falls into masochistic territory.

Be soft and yielding but also fierce and strong. It's possible to be multifaceted and embrace all sides of you—and that includes a side that won't be taken advantage of. It's a surefire way to turn masochism into self-love and self-respect.

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7.

You're hooked on perfectionism

Many masochistic behaviors actually stem from perfectionism. Life is messy. It's easy to become overwhelmed by a fear of being perceived as imperfect—a sort of fascism of the soul.

Give your soul permission to be imperfect. It needs room to experiment, screw up, learn the hard way, and ultimately rise above it.

8.

You judge yourself for negative emotions

There's no way to avoid feeling sad, lost, disappointed, scared, or angry sometimes.

Spiritual bypassing—masking emotions by shifting your energy or monitoring your thoughts—always comes back to bite you.

While it may help you avoid painful emotions in the short term, suppressing yourself is a soul-splintering sort of masochism.

Try to feel what you feel without holding back or judging any emotion as "wrong." Resist nothing. You'll be surprised by how quickly most painful emotions pass when you relax into them.

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9.

You're magnetized to drama

Masochists see drama and run right into the heart of it. If you're a drama junkie, ask yourself why. Doesn't it hurt? Do you want to keep hurting?

Give yourself permission to prioritize the people and situations that cultivate the stillness in you.

10.

You run the other way if anything feels too good

While I'm not suggesting that we should all turn into overindulgent hedonists, the inability to relax into simple pleasures is an obvious sign of masochism.

Do you find yourself bored when life flows with ease? Do you have a story that says that everything good in life comes alongside pain? Well, it's time to rewrite the story. Allow yourself to experience infinite blessings without undue pain.

The takeaway

Make sure you're not kicking yourself if some points on this list describe you. Again, it's OK that you're not perfect.

Just think of this as a time to look inward and work on yourself—most of us have tendencies that result in some form of self-sabotage, and now you've identified a few of yours.

Now all you need to do is take some proactive steps and show yourself a little love.

Lissa Rankin, M.D.
Lissa Rankin, M.D.

Lissa Rankin, M.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine, The Fear Cure, and The Anatomy of a Calling. She is a physician, speaker, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and mystic. Passionate about what makes people optimally healthy and what predisposes them to illness, she is on a mission to merge science and spirituality in a way that not only facilitates the health of the individual, but also uplifts the health of the collective. Bridging between seemingly disparate worlds, Lissa is a connector, collaborator, curator, and amplifier, broadcasting not only her unique visionary ideas, but also those of cutting edge visionaries she discerns and trusts, especially in the field of her latest research into "Sacred Medicine." Lissa has starred in two National Public Television specials and also leads workshops, both online and at retreat centers like Esalen and Kripalu. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her daughter. She blogs at LissaRankin.com and posts regularly on Facebook.

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