A Nation of Masochists?
In Bioenergetics, an intuitive science that combines both psychoanalysis and energy healing, opposites tend to attract for a potent electric alchemy. This modality focuses on energy defense structures that we create to protect ourselves from early childhood trauma. If romantic partners with polar defense structures can find common ground and learn to love and accept their opposite “mirrors,” they will undergo an amorous fusion of chakra energies, embarking on an intimate healing journey. But if they refuse to venture beyond their everyday friction and polarizing perspectives, their relationship will become an ever-increasing pattern of negative intentions and volatile emotions.
According to my mentor, Barry Gordon of The Connecticut Healing Institute, the five Bioenergetic defenses generally gravitate in the following ways: “the rigid” goes with “the oral,” “the psychopath” goes with “the masochist,” and “the schizoid” goes with God (click here for more on these defense structures). For example, rigid types will be attracted to the more sentimental orals in an unconscious effort to connect with their emotional side, while the oral gravitates to the rigid’s more structured and organized way of life.
After writing a Reality Sandwich article discussing the psychopathic defenses of United State's power structures, it hit me that our mass population may have a reactionary personality type to our nation’s overarching one. If so, according to Bioenergetic therapy, millions of Americans might suffer from a masochist worldview.
I was thinking about this possibility when Katie, one of my teachers at the Connecticut Healing Institute, picked me up at the New Haven train station for one of my last weekends of energy training. As we passed by quaint colonial houses on the way up to Meriden, Connecticut, Katie told me, “Jonathan, I was researching psychopathic defense structures online and while I was expecting to read Alexander Lowen or Barbara Ann Brennan, the first thing that came up was a guy named Jonathan Talat Phillips on a website called Reality Sandwich. I thought that was strange until I realized it was you! Anyway, I was reading your article about America’s psychopathic structure and it got me thinking that the general public must be masochists, since those two most often interact with each other.”
“It’s funny you say that, Katie. I’ve been thinking about writing an article on that exact topic.”
Katie went on to discuss how the domineering, psychopathic behavior of America’s corporations and government institutions enforce the workaholic nature of our fellow citizens. Many of us endure long commutes and work eight-to-twelve-hour days, even double shifts, just to get by. People had less free time to spend with their families; they could rarely vacation anymore, but they’d suck it up, push down their despair, feeling trapped by the circumstances of their lives. In fact, American masochism is so endemic and systemic, that we treat it as a virtue (“the Puritan work ethic”) rather than a cause for “dis-ease.”
I shared with Katie an experience I had several years ago when returning from living in Prague. I had just spent two years luxuriating in the Czech lifestyle, where -- even as poor as they were -- they still had plenty of time for friends, family, hobbies, weekend adventures at their chalupas (cabins in the country), mid-afternoon coffees, and long evenings in the hospodas (local pubs). They just weren’t workaholics like us; it wasn’t their nature.
My father picked me up at the Kansas City airport in his beat-up Ram Charger. On the radio, Rush Limbaugh was railing against “welfare mothers” and how they were bankrupting the nation. “That’s the problem with America,” my father told me. “People just don’t work hard enough anymore. They’re lazy and everything is falling apart.” These words came from a man who had worked long nightshifts as a taxi driver most of his life just to scrape by. I had rarely seen him during my adolescence because he was always on the clock, thinking if he just worked a little harder, things would get better. And now he was unable to retire in his golden years, subbing at the local school district to pay the bills each month. Still, here he was, listening to the radio, willingly taking in the “psychopathic” (in the Bioenergetic sense) ravings of a rich man from far away.
Although my father was a quiet and gentle person, like most masochist personality types, the pent up emotions would sometimes get the best of him and he’d lash out in occasional flashes of rage. Katie argued that this suppressed anger boiled over in our educational systems, which were corrupted by the psychopathic defense. I still remember the first time I explained to my shocked Czech students about cliques and popularity contests. They just didn’t understand, because those divisive structures didn’t exist in their academic system (although they had other defenses in place – mostly the “oral”). They didn’t even compete over grades. Katie believed that the recent slew of campus and office shootings were a direct release of masochistic rage against aggressive power structures.
Katie then mentioned a recent episode of Oprah, where the daytime TV icon visited Denmark after it was voted one of “the happiest countries on earth.” Katie marveled at their quality of life – how they had smaller homes, cars, and refrigerators, but where happier than most Americans she knew. The Danes had shorter work hours, longer vacations, and time and space to enjoy their friends and families. They generally weren’t fearful of murders, rapes, and all the other awful things we see in the evening news. As Katie said, “The Danes just don’t do those kind of things. It’s like a national agreement. What is it about America?” she asked. “Why are we so psychopathic and masochist? Why are we so violent and why do we go to these extremes?”
Katie believed that this Bioenergetic relationship might be a result of our immigrant heritage, that there was a certain mentality, and energetic defense system, that comes with that type of background. Her theory didn’t seem like a far stretch. After all, we were the rebellious offspring of Western Civilization, the ones who’d strayed far away from our roots. Our psychopathic (and conversely masochist) defense structures were allowed to run amuck, creating deeper and deeper energetic grooves throughout the centuries, as we sank further into our own unconscious, addictive behaviors. In the US, we were playing out an ancient trauma at an exponential level.
In “Treating America’s Psychopathy,” I suggest that our primary defense structure of domination and destruction likely stems from our culture’s mythological underpinnings. Many scholars argue that “The Fall from Eden” in the Book of Genesis marks the beginnings of the agricultural revolution, since the story unfolds in the Fertile Crescent. Falling out of God’s favor, humans move away from a tribal model of living off the abundance of nature. Immediately after the exile from Eden, we find Cain and Abel toiling with the new agricultural technologies of their time – Abel with domesticated animals, Cain with crops. The domination over nature and each other begins with Cain engaging in the first act of psychopathic violence in Western history – the murder of his brother. Individualism, greed, and fierce competition within communities drive the new economic model. The simple act of planting seeds eventually leads to the development of city-states, nations, empires, and finally the multinational corporations we see today, resulting in a ruling class and its masochistic employees, who hold up the dominant structures by the sweat of their backs.
My suspicions about the Eden story came up again later that night at healing school. One of the assistant teachers was giving a Power-Point presentation on the masochist defense structure when she explained how her own Catholic upbringing had brought about masochism in her life. The church fathers had been using the concept of original sin to control her and her congregation since she was very young. They had convinced her that she was a bad person, a sinner at her core, who needed to work hard and submit herself to the church in order to prove herself worthy of God’s love. But this shame/blame power-move wasn’t restricted to the Catholic Church, or even the whole of Christianity. This was the mythological root of the world’s three major religions and the resulting energetic virus had most likely infiltrated the societal Logos (or operating structure) of our Western culture.
As is the case, the psychopath and the masochist deal with different sides of the same coin. They both feel shame and blame, but the psychopath expresses this externally, while the masochist internalizes this anger, causing self-harm, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. One of the most powerful ways I’ve found to release these corrupted energies is to go right into the wounding (your body knows how far is enough), connect with these destroyer vibrations, and release them. There are very few modalities that work better for this than anger work. In honor of our “masochist weekend” at school, my mentor Barry took our class through a harrowing journey into our own rage. We stomped our feet, yelling “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO,” as if we were kids having a temper tantrum, then we did pelvic thrusts, shouting, “IT’S MINE! IT’S MINE! IT’S MINE! IT’S MINE!” which is a practice that is especially helpful for those releasing sexual trauma in the second chakra. We threw back our left shoulder, then our right, hollering, “GET OFF MY BACK! GET OFF MY BACK! GET OFF MY BACK!” Barry then had us roar out an anger anthem I used to sing back in high school. Like Rage Against the Machine, we told the psychopathic systems of this country, “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!”
The key to this therapy is to really get into the anger, to growl, to feel those corrupted vibrations and release them from the body. A miracle happens when these energies are set free in a therapeutic setting -- the hooks and daggers of their frequencies transform into healing light. Often I’ll work with my clients to transmute these energies into beautiful gold and white frequencies that we then send as healing prayers for those they were angry at. Forgiveness plays a key role in releasing the karmic bonds. (Given the importance of anger work, I intend to write an article specifically addressing this modality).
Often masochists feel guilty about their anger, as they do about many things. If we want to heal our national masochism (and conversely psychopathy), we’ll need to directly address these feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and pain. One way to start is to simply love ourselves, and as we do that, to share that ability with others, so that they might do the same. I was dumbfounded when I finally realized that most of my pain and suffering came from the fact that nobody trained me how to love myself – not family, not teachers, not clergy.
So I began to teach myself to love. I felt like a toddler, learning this most basic step of being human. Often, I’d look into the mirror for long periods of time, expressing gratitude for who I was, including all the lovely flaws that make me uniquely me. At first, the criticisms would come in like artillery fire (criticism is a cutting energy that runs endemic in our society), but eventually those thoughts would calm down as loving, rose-colored energy filled my field. I took these experiences and began to meditate on the energy of love itself, bringing it into my body and all the wounded parts that needed healing. I did the same for my psyche, the same for the fractured little parts of my life, and as this progressed I began to uncover a core power source, almost like an internal star, that was available to me whenever I took the time to remember it.
It’s also critical for masochists to express their needs, and realize that they are deserving of having them met. Simple improvements like eating healthy food and engaging in physical exercise can do wonders to shift their energy field and what they magnetize into their lives. The country’s obesity epidemic, and its resulting medical costs, highlights our masochistic tendencies, as we eat Big Macs, candy bars, and frozen foods that fill us up, but don’t really nourish our bodies. Taking time for personal development, whether it be meditation, yoga, counseling, massage, or other healing modalities, helps the masochist discover their own self worth and inner power so that they can create better energetic boundaries for themselves. Play can also serve an important role in reminding those with this defense structure about the freedom and abundance of the universe. Scheduled trips to the water park, outings into nature, vacations, and joyful adventures reinvigorate their auric field and act as training for a different way of holding oneself in the world.
These days it’s more important than ever for the masochist personality types to remember self-love and self-care. We’re coming to a head with psychopathic energy structures that have ruled Western Civilization over the last several thousand years. As the systems of domination seem to be tottering around us, they also dig their claws in deeper in a last gasp effort to hold onto power. While we undergo economic uncertainty, masochists might buy into the idea that they have to work two, maybe even three jobs, just to keep up with the bills. We may believe we can stop nourishing ourselves with healthy food, free time, joy, or play, as these soul-necessities are considered mere luxuries in our material society. Many may despair and become disempowered as multinational structures push us further into debt. But the more we fall into that trap, the bigger the psychopath defenses get. As we heal our own masochist wounding, and that of the larger society, we conversely begin to transmute the energies that trigger the psychopath, which helps them in their healing process. Admittedly, this makes for a challenging dance of polarity, where by transforming our rage and suffering, we can create a broader union of contrasting energies, which empower everyone.
This is one reason why I believe we need to come together to build a worldwide network of conscious people. The masochist is only disempowered when he or she is isolated. When we come together, we can move mountains. One of the reasons many European countries have more vacation time, health care, public services, and safety nets is that whenever governments or corporations threaten to cut these programs, the populace rises up with protests, strikes, and nation-wide work stoppages, showing those in power who actually has the power. They demand to have their needs met. These countries have generally learned to channel and transform their anger for positive change in their societies (a shadow version of this would be workers “going postal,” as the America expression goes).
With a global consciousness movement, we might one day be able to step in each time a corporate entity wanted to pollute a rainforest, mine the Red Rock desert, or engage in atrocious labor practices. We could hold energy companies accountable for spilling oil in the Gulf, while demanding governments and corporations take on a space-race type initiative to switch to alternative energy. In the end, we wouldn’t just say “Fuck you, we won’t do what you tell me!” but rather “Here’s how we’d like it done.”
A rising transformational network could create much-needed way stations for those deprogramming from society’s predominant psychopathic/masochist energy addiction. Together, we could facilitate safe spaces and build visionary institutions that teach us how to love one another, and ourselves. We could learn to drop the disharmony and fierce competition of contemporary society, as we joyfully share and honor our individual gifts, talents, and resources, which could keep us nourished even as resources become more scarce. “Emergent cultures” like this create a mysterious abundance where the energetic sum of the whole is much greater than its parts. When we all come together with a shared desire for healing, compassion, pleasure, and play, the results become manifold. Energetic resonance happens, synchronicities come to life, and miracles begin to emerge.
And ultimately, I believe we are going to need these miracles. Most of the indicators around global warming, the international economy, pollution of the biosphere, and species extinction give little hope for our near future. Surprisingly, the masochist may play a key role in helping us traverse this shadow territory. On their positive side, they are known as “the endurers.” They are masters of persistence, who keep going after others give up. As global systems come into jeopardy, the endurers would continue through thick and thin, never giving up, until we collectively have built a better, more beautiful world.