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Differences between Love, Sadism, Masochism and Sadomasochism

Differences between Love, Sadism, Masochism and Sadomasochism

May 19, 2024

Masochism is defined as the sexual perversion of those who enjoy being humiliated or mistreated by another person (Of L. von Sacher-Masoch, 1836-1895, Austrian novelist). Sadism is defined as the sexual perversion of those who provoke their own excitement committing acts of cruelty in another person (From D. A. François, Marquis de Sade, 1740-1814, French writer).

Differentiating between Sadism, Masochism and Sadomasochism

These behaviors that we have always related as something unhealthy and related to sexual perversion, are that they have a psychological basis, which is not very different from the basis that unites the couple relationships, which are supposed to be based on emotional factors.


Psychological profile

Erich Fromm (1900), German psychoanalyst, considered that people in pairs, emotionally dependent on others, they tend to have masochistic and sadistic impulses towards their partner , as a result of the fear of being left alone, he explains it in the following way:

The goal of the masochist is to abandon his own individual identity, which is free, since he considers that the condition of freedom of the individual means loneliness, something that terrifies him, that is why he seeks something or someone to whom to chain his self. Sadism shares with masochism that fear of being found only when it loses its object of subjection. So the masochist and the sadist, create the union of an individual self with another, capable of making each one lose the integrity of their personality, making them reciprocally dependent, with a common goal, not to be alone.

It is therefore possible to differentiate between sadomasochism, sadism and masochism. For Fromm, in his book The fear to the freedom [ 1], masochistic character traits such as sadists tend to help the individual escape from their unbearable feeling of loneliness and impotence. And that fear is manifested in the three possible ways.


Masochistic behaviors

  • The person feels small and helpless : the person tries to submit to another, to which he grants an overwhelming force on her, is able to convince himself that he can not do anything to avoid it, since he recognizes himself as smaller and helpless.
  • Let yourself be overwhelmed by pain and agony , people think you have to pay a cost of suffering, but in the end will come inner peace and tranquility, we think it is the price you have to pay for not being alone, even knowing that the end of happiness usually does not come .
  • Abandon to the effect of intoxication z: the person prefers to renounce his own self, his own personality, giving it to another individual who will make decisions for her, will assume responsibilities for her, but as part of a person, she will not feel alone and will not have to assume doubts in the decision making

Sadistic behaviors

The person tries to dominate and have power over another , but not to destroy it but to keep it by its side.


In people both masochistic and sadistic behaviors oscillate in time, these masochistic behaviors are present in relationships and are considered as expressions of love, sadistic behaviors are considered expressions of jealousy and obsession with the couple.

So now, we can reflect on ourselves and question whether we prefer individual freedom and face loneliness or we prefer to submit to someone or manipulate a third party just to not find ourselves alone.

If you think you are in a situation of abuse, we recommend reading this post: "The 30 signs of psychological abuse in a relationship"

Bibliographic references:

  • Fromm, E. (1993). the fear to the freedom. Masterpieces of Contemporary Thought. Barcelona. Planeta-Agostini

Understanding Sadomasochism (May 2024).


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