The Sadomasochism of Everyday Life: Why We Hurt Ourselves-And Others-And How to Stop

John Munder Ross, Author Simon & Schuster $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-81049-2
Drawing on hit movies like Basic Instinct and pop icons like the ""funky and hard-edged"" pre-maternal Madonna, Ross (What Men Want) describes the way we as a culture have come to eroticize suffering. Ross, a psychoanalyst, draws on clinical cases to explain how some people learn in the earliest stages of development to act out conflicted and forbidden desires through an insidious form of self-torture that, years later, makes life hell for their partners. More acceptable than overt forms of sadomasochistic role playing, this ""moral masochism"" is an especially virulent strain of guilt that masquerades as a drive to be blameless and decent, all the while turning relationships into vicious circles of victimization and debasement. Ross sounds a bit cranky in his generalizations about trends, comparing our depraved times to a more innocent and idealistic 1950s and '60s. Many readers will balk at his insistence on the incomparable value of working on the couch with a qualified analyst. Still, Ross makes facing up to the guilt that flows from the Oedipus complex sound like a dramatic and new challenge. He provides a richly detailed yet accessible portrayal of the way the mind defends itself against unpalatable truths and desires, and he brings the psychoanalytic process to life. Ultimately, he offers an illuminating and potentially liberating book for those who feel they may be helplessly sabotaging their lives and their loves. (July)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1941
Genre: Nonfiction
Discover what to read next