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Masochism: A Jungian View [Paperback]

Lyn Cowan
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 1 1998
Here is a new edition of a readable book on the psychology of masochism and how it is connected to religious feeling and depth. What are the true spiritual and psychological pleasures of shame, pain, humiliation, and submission? Are the secrets of these pleasures contained in the clinical literature—Krafft-Ebing, Freud, Jung, or Murray? Are the pathologies of masochism inherent in the religious belief in Dionysus, Lord of Souls, Lord of the Dead, and Jesus Christ? Cowan presents answers to these questions in a book as surprising, profound, and pleasurable.

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1.0 out of 5 stars Psychobabble June 1 2004
By A Customer
I thought this would be a scholarly study of the connection between religion and masochism, but all this is is meaningless psychobabble, such as the following gem: "The necessity and desirability of submission--the chief characteristic of masochism--is a submission to Necessity herself, the Goddess Ananke."
I strongly suspect this book was self-published since no respectable publishing house would publish such nonsense.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublimation is not psychobabble. Good Book for some. Nov. 21 2006
By M - Published on Amazon.com
I feel I must review this book considering there is only one other review that's exceptionally negative. I've seen this book assist those struggling with questions of the "why" of who they are as it relates to their masochism. Certianly it does not purport to have an answer but rather to be a "View" of the question at hand.

For the person who identifies as a submissive (or) fetishistic masochist and participates in alternative sexuality, this book can be a very useful and eye opening reference. Certainly there is "psychobabble", it is the Jungian View, after all!

This book has the potential to be enlightening for those who find themselves attracted to more than the ideas of suffering and chooses to act upon these desires in consensual adult scenarios. There can be very little informatino available in terms of acceptance, understanding, or even writing about one's attraction to such feelings and experiences. For the submimssively minded masochist, this can be a rather large key to opening the hasp on some very heavy personal baggage they've been carrying around for years. The question of "Why" or "What does it mean" or "How is it I have these desires/feelings" or even the dreaded "What is wrong with me" Cowan's book may just be the perfect fit. If not, it will certainly open one's eyes to a larger possibility behind their proclivities.

One of the useful elements of Jungian and/or mythic and metaphoric musings is to allow unfocused ideas and images that can swirl in the mind to form more clearly, especially in relation to subject matter that finds limited information or acceptance in the average structures of our society.

Sublimation is often necessary for the masochist to maintain a healthy ego which allows them a more comfortable place in day to day life and this book can point the way.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A much needed psycho-spiritual approach to a forbidden topic April 17 2007
By Robert D. Onsted - Published on Amazon.com
Lyn Cowan's book, a quarter century old, yet remarkable fresh and current, is one of the very best expliques of a much misunderstood and therefore mailigned topic. True to her Jungian orientation, Ms. Cowan champions-- often in the most poetic and elloquent ways -- Carl Jung's position that mental (and thus spiritual) health comes NOT from avoiding or denying the role of the shadow side of the human psyche, but rather from acknowledging its exixtence, if not actually learning to embrace it. Jung posited that neuroses (psychosomatic ailments)occur as the natural result of denial of the self, leaving the Whole unexplored, often because of the rigors of mainstream religion that favor only the bright side of the soul. By not acknowledging and/or accepting the shadow side of the psyche, we become stilted, less than whole, and therefore emotionally crippled as we try to limp through life on one 'good' leg, as it were. Jung once said, in essence, that "... the trouble with churches is that they stress being holy instead of being whole." Just as there is no stick that has but one end, so too must the soul recognize, in its totality, the equal and opposite potential to do harm as well as good; to experience pain as well as pleasure, for every light source casts a shadow, and the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. One cannot exist without the other, as up cannot exist without down, nor convex without concave.

But Cowan goes much deeper than a superficial philosophical recognition that the two opposing-- or rather, completing-- halves do exist within us. She, in fact, encourages acceptance of this totality as necessary to balance and heal the crippled soul. But even from a philosophical or logical point of view, the masochist 'receives' while the sadist gives, thus forming the yin/yang relationship of give-and-take, up-and-down, which once again completes the whole. Without the sadist, the masochist remains sadly un-fulfilled, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, however, the word 'masochism' is rarely used without some sense of judgment, condenmation or rejection implicit within the seemingly paradoxical context of the pain vs pleasure paradigm. The truth, however, is that masochism does connote the experience of pleasure, however vastly different from mainstream enjoyment that pleasure might be. Ask any masochist to describe what they experience while in their throes of passion, and-- perhaps surprisingly-- the response will contain the same words normally paired with religious experiences: intensity, ecstacy, soaring, out-of-body, transcendant, etc. Yet strangely enough, the masochistic experience is enjoyable beyond the realm of orgasm; aptly described by some as a spiritual high induced by physical endurance. Physically explained, the increased production of endorphins, the body's own natural opiates, may be responsible for this perception. But also to be considered is the admittedly rare person whose nervous system is physically hard-wired to perceive pain as pleasure, which most people would find mystifying. But however one chooses to explain or conceptualize this, it is indeed an emotional, mental, psycho-spiritual experience par excellance.

From yet another perspective, Cowan compares the state of religious ecstacy with what is experienced by the masochist while in the throes of passion, and even beyond. The word "pain" no longer seems appropriate, because the gestalt of the true masochistic experience greatly transcends the perception of pain, bordering on pure bliss, which any religious supplicant knows all too well.

Also to be considered in the world of sado-masochism is the overall interpersonal or sacramental nature of the experience of performing penance; "inflicted" by the giver as necessary for atonement for ones transgressions, while willingly endured by the recipient to comply with those directives. The reward or pleasure is further described as experiencing the satisfaction of having been pleasing to the giver, compounded by a feeling of deliverance or peace, as might be described by some practitioners of these arts, as well as a profound and psychologically blissful exhaustion from the intensity of the exchange of power between sadist and masochist.

Lyn Cowan masterfully examines all aspects of these phenomena from a clinical yet spiritual perspective, removing much of the onus of shame and/or embarrassment, while allowing her readers to openmindedly explore them, sans guilt, shame or awkwardness so that a truer understanding and acceptance of its validity may emerge. Each paragraph is indeed worthy of deep reflection or meditation as new vistas, previously not conceived, open before the reader. I heartily recommend this book to all psychic travelers as a roadmap for their journey. Be prepared for a possible change of heart, and... Bon Voyage !
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommend Jan. 25 2010
By M. Nelson - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is truly an exceptional work. Can not recommend enough especially if you are at all interested in Jung. Great Work.
15 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Psychobabble June 1 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I thought this would be a scholarly study of the connection between religion and masochism, but all this is is meaningless psychobabble, such as the following gem: "The necessity and desirability of submission--the chief characteristic of masochism--is a submission to Necessity herself, the Goddess Ananke."
I strongly suspect this book was self-published since no respectable publishing house would publish such nonsense.
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