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the addiction to burning desires is too much dominant in us



commentary • 15.04.05

I wondered why in a sexual context some people got pleasure from pain - sadomasochism and all that deviant stuff. For me sex seemed such a positive, almost spiritual experience, that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to defile it by bringing pain into the picture. Of course people do. I would learn, for example, about powerful men running corporations, high court judges, politicians and the likes going down back streets to have women lash their bare arses with leather. I found that amusing - and confusing. It seemed part of the ridiculous contradictory nature of humans.

I understand better now and can see all kinds of subtler manifestations in there. I guess it comes from a reaction to the need to conform, from the perpetual need to adapt to the ways of the world and have the right responses to infinite situations. On any given day most aren’t able to respond or act consistent with their feelings. They have to suppress impulses and act in accordance with what’s expected. This is what Freud was identifying in the ‘super-ego’, the part of the psyche that picks up on the rules of society imposed from above acting like a gigantic authority figure. The more this happens the more it becomes part of ingrained nature not to respond to how you feel and instead to go along with conformity. It’s a legitimate enough phenomenon because without it societies couldn't function. However in extreme cases you lose touch with how you really feel to the point that you can’t access the more tender and sensitive feelings when required. The feelings have been so blocked off by adherence to convention and adaption. There is then the need to seek out potency in some other way to cut through all that repression. A big hit is required and that might come from sex, drink, drugs or the various addictions that are common-place. Obsessive relationships could do it by taking the emotions to a level of intensity and thus breaking down this great wall of resistance.

I can associate this with my own experience in subtler ways. Most of my intimate relationships were lived at fever pitch. I seemed to need this. I noticed too that some of my partners responded with more tenderness when being treated badly, almost compliant, as if driven by a powerful unconscious force. This seemed necessary for them in order that a connection be made. I saw other forms of the same thing in people who had a taste for the dark and dangerous in their aesthetic choices. They might prefer subversive and rebellious music for example when every other part of their life was ordered and conformed. A minor outlet could be found in music with a message tinged with iniquity.

I guess there are limitless examples of this and although it is for the most part considered essential to the rich tapestry I reckon overall it is not so good a thing and that a far more developed quality of life is to be had from its examination and analysis. It would be put right in an emotional maturity and an evolved psychological attitude. Likely? Not yet. The addiction to burning desires and treacherous, often potentially ruinous pursuits is still too much dominant in us.