Am i sadist
why do humans harm the harmless?
Why are some humans cruel to people who don’t even pose a threat to them – sometimes even their own children? Where does this behaviour come from and what purpose does it serve? Ruth, 45, London.
Humans are the glory and the scum of the universe, concluded the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, in 1658. Little has changed. We love and we loathe; we help and we harm; we reach out a hand and we stick in the knife.
We understand if someone lashes out in retaliation or self-defence. But when someone harms the harmless, we ask: “How could you?”
Humans typically do things to get pleasure or avoid pain. For most of us, hurting others causes us to feel their pain. And we don’t like this feeling. This suggests two reasons people may harm the harmless - either they don’t feel the others’ pain or they enjoy feeling the others’ pain.
Another reason people harm the harmless is because they nonetheless see a threat. Someone who doesn’t imperil your body or wallet can still threaten your social status. This helps explain otherwise puzzling actions, such as when people harm others who help them financially.
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Liberal societies assume causing others to suffer means we have harmed them. Yet some philosophers reject this idea. In the 21st century, can we still conceive of being cruel to be kind?
Sadists and psychopaths
Someone who gets pleasure from hurting or humiliating others is a sadist. Sadists feel other people’s pain more than is normal. And they enjoy it. At least, they do until it is over, when they may feel bad.
The popular imagination associates sadism with torturers and murderers. Yet there is also the less extreme, but more widespread, phenomenon of everyday sadism.
Everyday sadists get pleasure from hurting others or watching their suffering. They are likely to enjoy gory films, find fights exciting and torture interesting. They are rare, but not rare enough. Around 6% of undergraduate students admit getting pleasure from hurting others.On-line trolls may be everyday sadists. Sander van der Werf/Shutterstock
The everyday sadist may be an internet troll or a school bully. In online role-playing games, they are likely to be the “griefer” who spoils the game for others. Everyday sadists are drawn to violent computer games. And the more they play, the more sadistic they become.
Read more: Donald Trump's use of humiliation could have catastrophic consequences – a psychologist explains why
Unlike sadists, psychopaths don’t harm the harmless simply because they get pleasure from it (though they may). Psychopaths want things. If harming others helps them get what they want, so be it.
They can act this way because they are less likely to feel pity or remorse or fear. They can also work out what others are feeling but not get infected by such feelings themselves.
This is a seriously dangerous set of skills. Over millennia, humanity has domesticated itself. This has made it difficult for many of us to harm others. Many who harm, torture or kill will be haunted by the experience. Yet psychopathy is a powerful predictor of someone inflicting unprovoked violence.
We need to know if we encounter a psychopath. We can make a good guess from simply looking at someone’s face or briefly interacting with them. Unfortunately, psychopaths know we know this. They fight back by working hard on their clothing and grooming to try and make a good first impression.Not all psychopaths are criminals. Billion Photos/shutterstock
Thankfully, most people have no psychopathic traits. Only 0.5% of people could be deemed psychopaths. Yet around 8% of male and 2% of female prisoners are psychopaths.
But not all psychopaths are dangerous. Anti-social psychopaths may seek thrills from drugs or dangerous activities. However, prosocial psychopaths seek their thrills in the fearless pursuit of novel ideas. As innovations shape our societies, prosocial psychopaths can change the world for all of us. Yet this still can be for both good and for ill.
Where do these traits come from?
No one really knows why some people are sadistic. Some speculate sadism is an adaptation that helped us slaughter animals when hunting. Others propose it helped people gain power.
Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli once suggested that “the times, not men, create disorder”. Consistent with this, neuroscience suggests sadism could be a survival tactic triggered by times becoming tough. When certain foods become scarce, our levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, fall. This fall makes us more willing to harm others because harming becomes more pleasurable.
Psychopathy may also be an adaptation. Some studies have linked higher levels of psychopathy to greater fertility. Yet others have found the opposite. The reason for this may be that psychopaths have a reproductive advantage specifically in harsh environments.
Indeed, psychopathy can thrive in unstable, competitive worlds. Psychopaths’ abilities make them master manipulators. Their impulsivity and lack of fear help them take risks and grab short-term gains. In the film Wall Street, the psychopathic Gordon Gekko makes millions. Yet although psychopathy may be an advantage in the corporate world, it only offers men a slim leadership edge.
Psychopathy’s link to creativity may also explain its survival. The mathematician Eric Weinstein argues, more generally, that disagreeable people drive innovation. Yet, if your environment supports creative thinking, disagreeableness is less strongly linked to creativity. The nice can be novel.
Sadism and psychopathy are associated with other traits, such as narcissism and machiavellianism. Such traits, taken together, are called the “dark factor of personality” or D-factor for short.
There is a moderate to large hereditary component to these traits. So some people may just be born this way. Alternatively, high D-factor parents could pass these traits onto their children by behaving abusively towards them. Similarly, seeing others behave in high D-factor ways may teach us to act this way. We all have a role to play in reducing cruelty.
Fear and dehumanisation
Sadism involves enjoying another person’s humiliation and hurt. Yet it is often said that dehumanising people is what allows us to be cruel. Potential victims are labelled as dogs, lice or cockroaches, allegedly making it easier for others to hurt them.
There is something to this. Research shows that if someone breaks a social norm, our brains treat their faces as less human. This makes it easier for us to punish people who violate norms of behaviour.
It is a sweet sentiment to think that if we see someone as human then we won’t hurt them. It is also a dangerous delusion. The psychologist Paul Bloom argues our worst cruelties may rest on not dehumanising people. People may hurt others precisely because they recognise them as human beings who don’t want to suffer pain, humiliation or degradation.
For example, the Nazi Party dehumanised Jewish people by calling them vermin and lice. Yet the Nazis also humiliated, tortured and murdered Jews precisely because they saw them as humans who would be degraded and suffer from such treatment.
Sometimes people will even harm the helpful. Imagine you are playing an economic game in which you and other players have the chance to invest in a group fund. The more money is paid into it, the more it pays out. And the fund will pay out money to all players, whether they have invested or not.
At the end of the game, you can pay to punish other players for how much they chose to invest. To do so, you give up some of your earnings and money is taken away from the player of your choice. In short, you can be spiteful.
Some players chose to punish others who invested little or nothing in the group fund. Yet some will pay to punish players who invested more in the group fund than they did. Such acts seem to make no sense. Generous players give you a greater pay-out - why would you dissuade them?
This phenomenon is called “do-gooder derogation”. It can be found around the world. In hunter-gatherer societies, successful hunters are criticised for catching a big animal even though their catch means everyone gets more meat. Hillary Clinton may have suffered do-gooder derogation as a result of her rights-based 2016 US Presidential Election campaign.Some people struggle to be grateful. fizkes/Shutterstock
Do-gooder derogation exists because of our counter-dominant tendencies. A less generous player in the economic game above may feel that a more generous player will be seen by others as a preferable collaborator. The more generous person is threatening to become dominant. As the French writer Voltaire put it, the best is the enemy of the good.
Yet there is a hidden upside of do-gooder derogation. Once we have pulled down the do-gooder, we are more open to their message. One study found that allowing people to express a dislike of vegetarians led them to become less supportive of eating meat. Shooting, crucifying or failing to elect the messenger may encourage their message to be accepted.
The future of cruelty
In the film Whiplash, a music teacher uses cruelty to encourage greatness in one of his students. We may recoil at such tactics. Yet the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche thought we had become too averse to such cruelty.
For Nietzsche, cruelty allowed a teacher to burn a critique into another, for the other person’s own good. People could also be cruel to themselves to help become the person they wanted to be. Nietzsche felt suffering cruelty could help develop courage, endurance and creativity. Should we be more willing to make both others and ourselves suffer to develop virtue?
Arguably not. We now know the potentially appalling long-term effects of suffering cruelty from others, including damage to both physical and mental health. The benefits of being compassionate towards oneself, rather than treating oneself cruelly, are also increasingly recognised.
And the idea that we must suffer to grow is questionable. Positive life events, such as falling in love, having children and achieving cherished goals can lead to growth.
Teaching through cruelty invites abuses of power and selfish sadism. Yet Buddhism offers an alternative - wrathful compassion. Here, we act from love to confront others to protect them from their greed, hatred and fear. Life can be cruel, truth can be cruel, but we can choose not to be.
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Philosopher in Italian coronavirus lockdown on how to think positively about isolation
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Free thought: can you ever be a truly independent thinker?
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6 Minute Sadism Test
Sadism is the tendency to act aggressively towards and/or humiliate others as a means of self-enhancement. People who are high in sadistic traits take pleasure in controlling others and exerting power over them. Though sadism is no longer recognized as a personality disorder, sadistic personality traits are still discussed by psychologists and may come up as a theme in psychotherapy.
Instructions: Below is a list of questions that relate to life experiences common among people who have been found to have sadistic tendencies. Please read each question carefully and indicate whether it applies to you or not.
The IDRlabs 6 Minute Sadism Test (IDR-6MSPT) was developed by IDRlabs. The IDR-6MSPT is based on the work of Dr. Rachel Plouffe, Dr. Don Saklofske, and Dr. Martin Smith, who created the Assessment of Sadistic Personality. The IDR-6MSPT is not associated with any specific researchers in the field of psychopathology or any affiliated research institutions.
The IDRlabs 6 Minute Sadism Test was informed by the Assessment of Sadistic Personality’s criteria for SP, as published in Plouffe, R. A., Smith, M. M., & Saklofske, D. H. (2019). A psychometric investigation of the Assessment of Sadistic Personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 140, 57–60. Plouffe, R. A., Smith, M. M., & Saklofske, D. H. (2016). The assessment of sadistic personality: Preliminary psychometric evidence for a new measure. Personality and Individual Differences.
The work of Dr. Plouffe, Dr. Smith, and Dr. Saklofske has also informed some of the diagnostic criteria in the form of the widely used psychological instrument, the Assessment of Sadistic Personality for clinical use, especially by qualified mental health professionals. The present test is intended for educational purposes only. IDRlabs and the present IDRlabs 6 Minute Sadism Test are independent of the above researchers, organizations, or their affiliated institutions.
The 6 Minute Sadism Quiz is based on a famous and well-regarded inventory for the assessment of the clinical concept of sadistic personality. However, free online tests and quizzes such as this one are solely first takes and cannot provide accurate assessments of your potential personality disorder. Hence, the test is intended to be used for educational purposes only. A definitive mental health assessment can be made only by a qualified mental health professional.
As the publishers of this free online 6 Minute Sadism test, which allows you to screen yourself for the signs of this personality, we have strived to make the test as reliable and valid as possible by subjecting this test to statistical controls and validation. However, free online quizzes such as the present 6 Minute Sadism Test do not provide professional assessments or recommendations of any kind; the test is provided entirely “as-is.” For more information about any of our online tests and quizzes, please consult our Terms of Service.
what is it. Causes and symptoms of psychological sadism
Is sadism a character trait or a mental disorder? Why is it dangerous for the sadist himself, the objects of his influence and the social environment. Kinds of sadism. How to get rid of sadism, in what ways? Is compulsory treatment applied and in what cases? We touched on all these topics in an interview with the Chief Physician of the Health Harmony Medical Center, a leading psychiatrist, psychiatrist-narcologist and psychotherapist Vladislav Sipovich.
What is sadism, its types, degree of distribution and who is more predisposed to it - men or women?
Sadism is a craving for violence that brings pleasure and / or sexual satisfaction with physical torment, torture, psychological humiliation, and even more radical actions on other people or animals. Accordingly, a sadist is a person with sadistic inclinations.
The term and concept of sadism was introduced into psychiatric science by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Kraft-Ebing in 1886, and this phenomenon was named after the Marquis de Sade, who described it in detail in his works. By the way, von Ebing introduced the term masochism into scientific vocabulary, which, it would seem, is the opposite of sadism and is manifested by violence directed at oneself. In fact, these mental states are two sides of the same coin, they can flow into each other and even combine in one person in a sexual disorder called sadomasochism. I will tell about it separately.
As for the classification of sadism, there are such types of sadism as:
• Sexual , representing a form of sexual behavior in which sexual arousal, achieving orgasm and the highest pleasure are associated with causing suffering to a sexual partner, causing him physical pain, humiliating and offensive actions. In fact, sadism involves the combination of aggression with sexual desires. Sexual sadism is also known by such terms as sexual abuse, erotic tyranny, and active algolagnia.
• Sadomasochism . From a scientific point of view, it is a concept of combining sadism with masochism based on a common dynamic. And although the American official psychiatry in the DSM-5 classification nevertheless distinguishes these conditions, considering them separate diagnoses, in ICD-10 sadomasochism is diagnosed as a separate heading, which also includes sexual sadism. The very phenomenon of sadomasochism is quite relevant and requires further serious scientific reflection and research. It is quite common, for example, sadomasochism is known to occur in 5% of men and 2% of women, i.e. in fact, one in 20 men is a sadist.
• Psychological sadism , otherwise referred to as moral or psi-sadism. It is a kind of sadism, also associated with actions that cause suffering to the victim, but of a psychological and moral nature. It can be humiliation, insults, threats, abuse of dignity, etc. In fact, it gives a sense of power over the other person, whom the sadist can make feel humiliated and insulted. Some extreme manifestations of psy-sadism can drive the victim to suicide, and especially sophisticated manipulative tormentors can even provoke conflicts and proxy killings of their chosen victim. Remember at least the work of Agatha Christie "The Last Case of Poirot", which describes the psi-killer Norton, who could not stand the sight of blood, but nevertheless committed his ideal murders, skillfully manipulating the feelings of others and arousing in them a desire to deal with imaginary enemies. At the same time, he himself quietly enjoyed his “talent” and power over people.
• Sadistic personality disorder is characterized by a constant aggressive desire to humiliate another person, which actually determines the thinking and behavior of the sadist. Like masochistic, sadistic personality disorder, although it was proposed by psychiatrists for inclusion in the International Classification of Diseases, it never got into it as an official diagnosis. The same thing happened with the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. It remains to be hoped that reaching a scientific consensus on this issue is yet to come. Usually, the first signs of this disorder appear in the older adolescence in the form of physical abuse in order to dominate others, addiction to the topics of violence and humiliation, abuse of dependent people, enjoying the torture of animals, crying babies, resentment at home, etc. Many parents attribute all of these abuses to the difficulties of adolescence and think that their child will outgrow this period. But in reality, you need to ring all the bells, go for a consultation with a specialist and seriously deal with this issue, otherwise, in a few years you will get an inveterate sadist, which will inevitably affect the fate of the whole family.
• Sadism associated with organic brain damage (GM). Studies of patients with sadistic tendencies showed that 40% of sadists had a pathology of the temporal lobe of the GM.
In addition, sadism can be a consequence and a symptom of mental illness.
What is the nature and causes of sexual and other forms of sadism?
As I have already said, sexual sadism is one of the types of paraphilia, which is characterized by an increase in sexual pleasure while causing suffering to a partner. Manifested by coercion to have sex, abuse, torture, torture and beatings against the backdrop of verbal abuse. The more the partner resists and suffers, the stronger the pleasure received by the sadist. Often he loses control of himself and can cause serious injury to his partner and even kill him.
Factors that predispose to the development of a tendency to sadism may include the following personality characteristics:
• Short temper and irritability.
• Self-doubt, low self-esteem and poor communication skills.
• A history of psychotrauma associated with experiences of violence and humiliation.
The most common clinically confirmed causes of sadism are:
• Mental disorders, namely emotional and behavioral deviations in certain types of psychopathy, for example, epileptoid, unstable, etc.
• Genetic burden of similar disorders.
• Biological factors, such as organic lesions of the temporal lobe of the GM.
• Too harsh and even cruel methods of education - pain punishment, humiliation of the child, the inability to beg for forgiveness. Many parents, relying on the inevitability of punishment as the best educational method, can often overdo it in their desire to literally “train” their child into unconditional obedience. In the future, the child transfers this pattern to his environment, trying to act tyrannically and cruelly suppressing any self-will and disobedience. Such a little tyrant can enter adulthood already with obvious sadistic inclinations.
• Suppression of aggression accumulated as a result of sexual failures, the development of various complexes, dissatisfaction with desires and motives, internal tension will sooner or later come down with bullying, humiliation and torment on a more mentally and physically weak person, sensitive to sadistic tricks. This applies equally to both sexual and psychological sadism.
As for the nature of sadism, it is inherent in a person as a way of survival. Being an omnivore, a person nevertheless experiences a biological need for the intake of animal protein as a source of essential amino acids. It can be obtained only by a predatory method of nutrition, i.e. hunting animals. Primitive tribes constantly and fiercely fought for the habitats of the animals that fed them. The victors destroyed the men of the hostile tribe, and took the women for themselves. There was practically no place for pity here - violence became the basis not only for survival, but also for replenishing the genetic fund.
By the way, the hunting instinct is developed even in modern man, although he does not have the need to kill - everything you need can be bought at the nearest supermarket. But if earlier a person hunted for food, now the craving for murder has received the “noble” name of sport hunting. The sight of the convulsing victim gives the entertaining "hunter" a real pleasure, and not only from a successful and well-aimed shot. Actually, this is how the desire for violence is satisfied. Perhaps the only benefit from such a "sport" is the psychological exhaust of hidden and accumulated aggression, directed not at humans, but at animals.
Supporters of the cognitive-behavioral concept believe that the formation of sadistic inclinations is due to the fact that cruelty in the treatment of people, which led to the achievement of a positive result, success, recognition, praise, etc., is fixed and becomes a stable mental dominant. Violence, as a way to achieve one's goal, begins to bring pleasure and the strongest pleasure.
Followers of psychoanalysis believe that sadism develops as a result of a conflict between desires and possibilities, which leads to constant tension, fear and anxiety.
Tension is relieved and relief sets in if a person, identifying himself with the aggressor, begins to behave cruelly, commit violent acts, torture and mock the victim, including his sexual partner. Such behavior allows the sadist to satisfy his sexual desire, to get the highest pleasure and the sweet feeling of power over another person. Own phobias and anxiety disappear or decrease with the complete humiliation and submission of a partner.
How to recognize a sexual sadist?
The first symptoms of sadism become apparent at puberty during the formation of secondary sexual characteristics. These are, first of all, such manifestations as:
• Aggressiveness and cruelty.
• Readiness to jump into a fight at any opportunity, but only if the victim is clearly weaker.
• Cynical, openly disrespectful attitude towards persons of the opposite sex.
• Primitive sexual behavior, demonstrating the absence of a positive emotional attitude towards the chosen sexually significant object - sympathy, courtship, dating, etc. The emerging sadist will never "fly in the clouds" from love. On the contrary, he will try to humiliate, force sexual intercourse with the help of physical force and beatings. Moreover, the stronger the resistance, the more active the violence.
In the future, an already formed sexual sadist is not able to reach the peak of sexual satisfaction without cruel treatment of a partner, inflicting moral and physical pain on him. Moreover, the set of sophisticated painful tortures is extremely diverse. It may include torture such as:
• Beatings with a whip (“lashing”), a whip, a belt, or even a bat.
• Injections, especially in sensitive areas.
• Burns by cigarette or brand.
• Cuts and large painful scratches.
• Restriction of freedom of movement, etc.
In a severe course of sadism, such executions can take on a form that is dangerous to the health and life of a partner. Moreover, the highest degree of pleasure is achieved by the sadist not from the sexual contact itself, but from the satisfaction of his sadistic aspirations. Trying to reach the climax of his sensations, a sadist in ecstasy can lose control over his actions and bring his partner to death.
Another important point - sexual sadism can manifest itself not only in relation to persons of the opposite sex, but also in children in combination with pedophilia, the elderly in combination with gerontophilia, and even in animals with zoosadism.
Based on the foregoing, it can be argued that without timely diagnosis and treatment, sexual sadism can lead to murders, severe injuries and mental disorders of the victim of violence. Society fears and eschews sadists, they are often forced to be recluses, hiding from law enforcement officers. They are not always able to find a masochist partner, most often the situation is complicated by the fact that in a married couple the partner is not always inclined to satisfy the needs of a sadist. A sadistic man in the family is trying to completely subjugate a woman to his influence, rebuild her psyche, achieve the unconditional fulfillment of all his desires and he absolutely does not give a damn about her needs. In fact, the sadist is not able to perceive his victim as a person; for him, she is only an object for self-affirmation. The desire to dominate her knows no limits, and disobedience can lead to rather sad consequences. In addition, ill-treatment can also be transferred to children, in this case educational moments serve as an excuse, and the punishment is greatly exaggerated compared to the offense. Any minor disobedience or reckless act can cause "righteous anger" and a severe beating.
An inveterate sadist, even fully aware of his inclinations, rarely turns to psychiatrists, psychotherapists and sexologists for help. But in severe forms of sadism, antisocial and dangerous to others, by court order, compulsory treatment and imprisonment are possible. Especially if sadism is combined with drug addiction, alcoholism and aggressive behavior. By the way, the share of sadists in the "society" of serial killers and sexual maniacs accounts for 10%.
The diagnosis of sadism is carried out when the patient voluntarily seeks help or as a result of a forensic medical examination. Diagnosis is carried out by a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or sexologist. The diagnosis is based on the following criteria:
• Necessity and persistent need for sadistic activities for orgasm and sexual gratification.
Is it possible to get rid of sexual sadism?
It is rather difficult to answer this question in the affirmative. Therapy of sexual sadism is complex and is carried out in the following areas:
• Identification and overcoming of the internal psychological conflict that caused the connection of aggression with sexual arousal. This is the scope of such methods of psychotherapy as psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy. Unfortunately, they are effective only in the early stages of the development of sadism and with the voluntary treatment of a patient who has a strong motivation for a cure.
• Medical treatment of sadistic manifestations that can lead to serious consequences for others, often with the help of drugs that reduce sexual desire, block aggression, instability of behavior and outbursts of anger. To do this, prescribe psychotropic drugs, antidepressants, sedatives and hormonal drugs that reduce testosterone production.
Only such a comprehensive and purely individual approach can lead to a positive result in the absence of concomitant mental disorders.
As for the prevention of sadism, it should be started from childhood. Love and respect, a calm and favorable psychological environment in the family will not allow the child to develop self-doubt and anxiety. It is important not to suppress aggression in a child, but to encourage its open manifestation, directing it in a different direction - not on people, but on competitive sports. The desire to dominate and command can be realized in a more acceptable form - for example, martial arts under the guidance of an experienced coach who adheres to the basic principles not to apply the acquired knowledge and skills for aggression and attack. It will be interesting for the child to prove himself in intellectual, war games and even in the most ordinary things - organizing house cleaning, caring for the local area, buying important things, planning the family budget. Do not suppress the initiative in the child, take into account his opinion, recognize the rationality of his proposals - in this way you will satisfy his desire for self-affirmation and will not allow an inferiority complex to form.
What are the characteristics of sadomachism?
The term "sado-masochism" was proposed in 1913 by a follower of Freud, a psychoanalyst from Austria, Isidor Zadger. The latter developed and gave a name to Freud's teaching about the desire to inflict pain on others or experience pain yourself, as a way of sexual satisfaction based on relations of dominance or submission. As I have already said, in psychoanalysis, sadism and masochism are considered as a single mental phenomenon, and masochism is considered autosadism, i. e. self-directed sadism.
It should be said that there is still no consensus on the classification of sadomasochism. In the ICD-10, such a diagnosis was introduced, but already during the eleventh revision in 2018, it disappeared again and now, starting from 2022, the diagnosis of sadomasochism is not officially recognized in the ICD-11.
As for the phenomenon itself, regardless of recognition or non-recognition in the ICD, it takes place, and it is considered the most common deviation of sexual behavior and this must be taken into account when conducting therapy. The foundations of sadomasochism are laid in early childhood, when the sadomasochistic inclinations of one or both parents are perceived by the child as a stereotype of behavior. By the way, many experts consider sadomasochism a phenomenon inherent in any person, the whole point is its severity and influence on social adaptation and the formation of family relationships. If in a couple the sadism of one partner satisfies the masochistic needs of the other and is under control, then this even helps to establish closer psychological contact. Sadism in love ecstasy merges with its antipode and turns into sadomasochism. In this case, partners can change roles.
But quite often, sadomasochism takes on such a form that it becomes dominant in all areas of relationships and has negative consequences not only for partners, but also for society. The sophistication of sadomasochists sometimes resemble torture in the dungeons of the Gestapo. The destructive manifestations of sadomasochism in this case are manifested by antisocial behavior, violent sexual acts up to the death of the victim, child abuse, torture, torture and killing of animals.
In conclusion, I want to say that the modern ideas of some researchers of cruelty, sadism, hatred, anger and egocentrism received their hypothetical justification in the form of the concept of the dark core of the personality psyche, the so-called D-factor. When the "dark" core in the human psyche grows to an incredible size, it maximizes all negative and evil aspirations, including sadism. By the way, almost all elements of the black triad are present in sadism:
• Narcissism as extreme egocentrism.
• Machiavellianism, as the belief that the end justifies the means.
• Psychopathy - complete lack of empathy (sympathy and compassion).
The D-factor is defined as the tendency to seek one's own benefit at any cost, ignoring the needs of others and not paying attention to moral concepts and social attitudes. The dominant tendency is to put one's own interests, desires and needs higher than those of other people. At the same time, the very process of creating inconvenience, humiliation and violence for them begins to bring pleasure.
That is why sadism, as a special type of human-to-human connection based on domination, requires early diagnosis and timely treatment in order to prevent its development into a socially dangerous and destructive form for the individual. If you find signs of sadism or masochism in yourself or your loved ones, contact a specialist immediately, otherwise the consequences can be the most unpredictable and extremely undesirable.
Portrait of a sadistic person
Based on the materials of E. Emelyanova's book "Crisis in co-dependent relations".
The main thing in sadistic inclinations is the desire for absolute power. The usual understanding of sadism as the infliction of physical suffering on someone is just one of the ways to achieve this power. To become an absolute master, it is necessary to make another person absolutely helpless, submissive, that is, turn into your living thing, breaking his spirit.
There are three ways to achieve absolute power.
The first way is to make other people dependent on yourself and acquire complete and unlimited power over them, allowing them to “sculpt like clay”, suggesting: “I am your creator”, “You will become what I want to see you ”, “You are the one who was created by me, you are the brainchild of my talent, my labors. You are nothing without me."
The second way is not only to have absolute power over others, but also to exploit them, use them. This aspiration can refer not only to the material world, but also to to the moral qualities that another person possesses.
The third way is to cause other people suffering and watch them suffer. Suffering can be physical, but more often it is about inflicting mental suffering . There is no greater power over a person than the power to inflict pain and suffering on someone who is unable to protect himself.
Karen Horney lists typical sadistic attitudes, the presence of which can determine that a person has some degree of sadistic inclinations. Here we provide a brief overview of them.
1. "Education" of the victim. A sadistic person wants to enslave other people. He needs a partner, who does not have his own desires, feelings, goals and any initiative. Accordingly, he cannot have claims against his "master". The relationship between such a “master” and his victim is reduced, in fact, to “education”: “Your parents did not take care of your real upbringing. They pampered you, dismissed you. Now I will educate you properly.” Relations with your own child are built even more rigidly - he is an absolute slave. Sometimes he is allowed to rejoice, but only when the "ruler" himself is the source of joy. "Education", whether it's a partner or a child, takes place on the principle of "the more criticism, the better." To praise means to make another feel that he has somehow come closer to the “ruler”. Therefore, praise is completely excluded from educational measures. Even if this happens, then even more derogatory criticism follows, so that the victim does not imagine that she is really worth something.
The more a subordinate person is endowed with some valuable qualities, the more obvious they are, the more severe the criticism will be. The sadist always feels what exactly his victim is not sure about, what exactly is especially dear to her. Therefore, it is precisely these properties, features, skills and traits that are subjected to criticism.
Indeed, the sadist is not at all concerned about the fate of the other. And his own fate is not as dear to him as the feeling of power. “He will neglect his career, refuse pleasures or many encounters with other people, but will not allow the slightest manifestation of his partner’s independence”
2. Playing on the feelings of the victim. What can testify to power more than the ability to influence feelings, that is, deep processes that a person himself cannot always control? People of the sadistic type are extremely sensitive to the reaction of a partner and therefore tend to call out those who want to see at the moment. They are capable by their actions to give rise to stormy joy or plunge into despair, to cause erotic desires or cooling. Such a person knows how to achieve such reactions and enjoys his power. At the same time, he is vigilant that his partner experiences exactly the reactions that he causes. It is unacceptable for a partner to experience pleasure or joy from the actions of other people. This self-will will be immediately stopped: either the source of joy will be discredited in one way or another, or the partner will no longer be happy, because they will try to plunge him into the abyss of suffering.
However, suffering because of other people or on one's own initiative is unacceptable. If this happens, the sadist will try to ensure that the new suffering caused by himself distracts his victim from "extraneous" feelings. Although a sadist may well console a victim suffering for an "extraneous" reason. Moreover, he will spare neither the strength nor the means for this. And in most cases, he will achieve his goal: a person will gratefully accept his help and, perhaps, having felt such powerful support, will stop suffering. But in this, too, the sadist will see a manifestation of his absolute power. After all, he needs not so much the suffering itself, he needs to rule over the human soul.
Most often, such a game with feelings occurs unconsciously. A person with sadistic tendencies feels an irresistible irritation or an irresistible desire to behave in one way or another. It is unlikely that he himself could explain the true reason for his feelings and actions. He's probably just rationalizing them. However, as K. Horney said, any neurotic, out of the corner of his consciousness, guesses what he is really doing. He guesses, but cannot refuse a destructive style of behavior, because the Other is unknown to him or seems too dangerous.
3. Victim exploitation. In itself, exploitation may not be associated with sadistic inclinations, but only for the sake of profit. In sadistic exploitation, however, the greatest benefit is the feeling of power, whether or not there is any other gain involved.
Requirements for a partner are constantly increasing, but no matter what he does, no matter how hard he tries, he will not achieve gratitude. Not only that, any effort he makes will be criticized and he will be charged with mistreatment. Of course, the partner must atone for such “bad” treatment by even greater effort to please. And, of course, he will never succeed. The most important thing for a sadist is to show a partner that he will never be worthy of him. And what lies even deeper is a desperate desire for a partner to fill his life with everything necessary (meeting basic needs, securing a career, receiving love and care, unlimited devotion and unlimited patience, sexual satisfaction, comfort, prestige, etc.) .), because the sadist himself does not feel capable of it . But just the latter is carefully hidden both from the partner and from oneself. The sadist sees only one way to get satisfaction from life through a partner - is the absolute possession of it, not for its own sake, but as a means to achieve the necessary.
4. Frustrating the victim. Another characteristic feature is the desire to destroy plans, hopes, to prevent the fulfillment of the desires of other people. The main thing for a person with sadistic inclinations is to act contrary to others in everything: kill their joy and disappoint their hopes. He is ready to harm himself, just to prevent his partner from rejoicing when he achieves success. He will derail the partner's luck, even if it is beneficial to himself. Everything that gives pleasure to another person should be immediately eliminated. “If a partner is looking forward to meeting him, he tends to be surly. If a partner wants sexual intimacy, he will be cold. For this, he does not even need to do anything special. He acts depressingly simply by exuding a gloomy mood. If someone likes the very process of labor, then something is immediately introduced into it that will make it unpleasant.
5. Treating and humiliating the victim. A sadistic person always feels the most sensitive strings of other people. He is quick to point out flaws. But most importantly, he sees which of them are the most painful or extremely carefully hidden by their carrier. It is they who are subjected to the most severe and painful criticism. But even those qualities that the sadist secretly recognizes as positive will be immediately devalued in order for the partner:
a) did not dare to equal him in merit;
b) could not become better neither in his own nor in his eyes.
For example, an open person will be accused of cunning, deceit and manipulative behavior; a person who can analyze a situation from a distance will turn out to be a soulless and mechanistic egoist, etc.
A sadist often projects his own shortcomings and slanders other people. H For example, to a person upset by his own actions, he can sympathetically express concerns about emotional instability and recommend to see a doctor.
A person with sadistic inclinations always transfers responsibility for his actions to a partner-victim: he “drives”, “forces” to act harshly; if not for a partner, the sadist might look white and fluffy. The sadist believes in these explanations, and he has one more reason to punish the victim - for the fact that, due to the provocative behavior of the partner, the sadist cannot look calm and balanced, kind, admirable. He has to take on the dirty work of establishing justice and re-educating his partner.
6. Vengeance. A person with sadistic inclinations at the level of consciousness is sure of his infallibility. But all his relationships with people are based on projections. He sees other people exactly as he sees himself. However, the sharply negative attitude attributed to them, the feeling of being an absolute insignificance, is completely ousted from consciousness. Aggressive feelings, combined with self-contempt, would simply not allow such a person to survive. That is why he sees only that he is surrounded by people worthy of contempt, but at the same time still hostile, ready at any moment to humiliate him, deprive him of his will, take away everything. The only thing that can protect him is his own strength, determination and absolute power.
That's why a sadist lacks any sympathy. People around deserve only contempt and punishment. Anticipating possible aggression is the aim of the sadist. And the sadist is sure that any person harbors hostile goals. Therefore, he needs to take revenge. Own revenge only slightly touches the consciousness of the sadist. What he is doing seems to him the only true way to achieve justice.
On the path of a person with sadistic inclinations, there are many people who oppose his desire for absolute power. They show their independence, independence. They can be bold or they can be freed from the power of a sadist in a manipulative way. Disobedience infuriates the sadist. Behind this fury is a powerful fear: to let such a person “free” is the same as admitting oneself defeated. But then it will mean that he is not an absolute ruler, that he, too, can be manipulated, humiliated, trampled into the dirt. And it is so familiar, so intolerable, that the sadist is capable of desperate steps of revenge.
These are the main features of a person with sadistic inclinations. To this it must be added that any manifestation of sadism is accompanied by an emotional "unwinding" of the situation. Nervous shakes are obligatory for a sadist. The thirst for nervous excitement and excitement makes him make "stories" from the most ordinary situations. “A balanced person does not need nervous shocks of this kind. The more mature a person, the less he strives for them. But the emotional life of a sadistic person is empty. Almost all of his feelings are stifled except for anger and triumph. He is so dead that he needs powerful drugs to feel alive." Losing power over people, he feels miserable and helpless.
People with sadistic tendencies are not uncommon in our society. The features described may look intimidating, but such a direct and sharp expression of them can only be seen with strong neuroticism. In most cases, sadistic tendencies are veiled in accordance with the type of person.
Compliant type enslaves a partner under the guise of love. He hides behind helplessness, illness, forcing his partner to do everything for him. Since he cannot stand loneliness, the partner must be with him all the time. He expresses his reproaches indirectly, demonstrating how people make him suffer.
Aggressive type expresses his inclinations openly. He demonstrates dissatisfaction, contempt and his demands, but at the same time he considers his behavior completely justified. The alienated person does not show his sadistic tendencies openly. He disturbs others by his willingness to leave, pretending that they are embarrassing or disturbing him, and secretly enjoying the fact that because of him they put themselves in a stupid position.
But there are also cases when sadistic impulses are completely unconscious. They turn out to be completely hidden layers of super-kindness and super-caring.
C. Horney gives the following description of "hidden sadism" : "He will do everything in his power to prevent anything from hurting their feelings. He will intuitively find words to say something nice, such as a complimentary remark that will boost his self-confidence. He tends to automatically blame himself for everything. If he has to make a critical remark, he will make it as mild as possible. Even if he is clearly insulted, he will express his "understanding" of the human condition. But at the same time, he remains hypersensitive to humiliation and suffers painfully from it. He will avoid anything that resembles self-affirmation, aggression or hostile manifestations. He may go to the extreme, the opposite of enslaving other people, and be unable to give any command. He is overcautious in influencing or giving advice. But he gets headaches, or stomach cramps, or some other painful symptom, when things don't go the way he wants. He develops self-deprecating tendencies, he dares not express any desire, he tends to consider other people's expectations or demands more justified and important than his own. But at the same time, he despises himself for being unassertive. And when they begin to exploit him, he finds himself in the grip of an insoluble internal conflict and may react with depression or another painful symptom.
Sadistic play on feelings with deep repression and prohibition gives way to the feeling that a person is powerless to attract anyone to himself. He may simply be convinced that he is unattractive to the opposite sex, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
The resulting picture of personality is misleading and difficult to assess. Her resemblance to a compliant type prone to striving for love, self-abasement, masochism is amazing...
...However, there are certain elements in this picture that will indicate to an experienced observer the presence of sadistic inclinations.
There is usually a noticeable, though unconscious contempt for other people, outwardly attributed to their not very high moral principles.
The same person may put up with sadistic behavior directed at him with apparently limitless patience, and at other times he will show extreme sensitivity to the slightest sign of pressure, exploitation and humiliation.
Such a person sees an insult and an insult in every little thing.
Since he is pissed off by his own weakness, he is indeed often attracted to people of an openly sadistic type, causing him both admiration and disgust, just as those, in turn, feeling in him a voluntary victim, are drawn to him. So he gets into a situation of exploitation, suppression of hopes and humiliation. However, he does not derive any pleasure from mistreatment, but suffers from it. This makes it possible for him to experience his own sadistic impulses with the help of someone else, without having to face his own sadism. He may feel innocent and a victim, but at the same time hope that someday he will get the better of a sadistic partner and experience the triumph of victory over him. In the meantime, he quietly and imperceptibly provokes situations in which his partner does not look his best.
What contributes to the development of sadistic inclinations?
The sadistic character can be transmitted as a model of life from the mother or from the father, if they had sadistic inclinations, or it can be formed in the process of education. But in any case, it is the result of deep spiritual loneliness and a sense of insecurity in a world that is perceived as hostile and dangerous.
Conditions that create prerequisites for the development of sadistic inclinations:
1. Feeling of emotional abandonment, born in a child at a very early age. It doesn't matter what the reasons are for the parents failing to provide the child with a sense of emotional belonging. They may have worked hard, or been sick a lot, or been incarcerated, or simply alienated from the child. However, the feeling of abandonment by itself is not enough to develop a tendency to sadistic tendencies. This requires the second component - insults and manifestations of cruelty towards the child.
2. Emotional or physical abuse, punishment or abuse. Moreover, the punishment should be much more severe than the child deserves for his misconduct. Such punishment is more like reprisal. Sometimes a child is punished for something he did not do, and sometimes for no reason - he just got caught by the arm. Punishment may be physical, but often it is subtle bullying and humiliation aimed at causing mental pain.
3. Mental disorders of one of the parents, as a result of which the child receives both components: emotional abandonment and abuse.
4. Alcoholism and drug addiction of parents, whose behavior in a state of drug intoxication often has the character of unmotivated aggression.
5. Atmosphere of unpredictability, impossibility to understand what one can get punished for and how to avoid it.
6. Emotional imbalance of parents. For the same act, a child in one case can be severely punished, in another case it can cause a surge of tenderness and tenderness, in the third - indifference.
“You are nobody and nothing. You are my property, which I pay attention to when I want, and do not care when I do not need it.
"You are my property and I do whatever I want with you."
"I gave birth to you, I have the right to your life. " About "Your business is not to understand, but to obey."
"You are the one who is to blame for everything."
"I am so bad that it is impossible to love me."
"I'm so bad that I should be punished no matter what I do."
“I can't control my life. Life is dangerous and unpredictable."
“The only thing I can accurately predict is that punishment is imminent. It's the only constant thing in life."
“They pay attention to me only when they want to punish me. Doing things that get punished is the only way to get attention.”
"The people around me are a source of danger."
"People are not worth respect and love."
"I am being punished, and I can punish."
"Insults, humiliation and abuse do not need special reasons."
"To survive, you have to fight."
"To survive, you must control the actions, thoughts and feelings of other people."
"In order to survive, you must make yourself afraid. "
"In order to avoid pain and aggression from others, it is necessary to get ahead of them so that they are afraid of me."
"We must make other people obey me, then they will not be able to cause me suffering."
"Violence is the only way to exist."
“I understand the state of people well only when they suffer. If I make others suffer, they will become clear to me.”
"Life is cheap."
Of course, such conclusions are made unconsciously and not in the language of logic, but rather at the level of feelings, sensations. But they begin to influence a person's life, like a programmed program.
- Disturbed understanding of the relationship between cause and effect.
- High anxiety.
- Projecting a negative self-attitude onto others.
- Impulsivity, inability to control one's actions.
- Emotional instability.
- Lack of firm guidelines, principles.
- The desire for dominance and total control.
- A combination of a high conscious assessment (and even overcompensatory reassessment) of oneself and a deep unconscious negative attitude towards oneself.
- High sensitivity to mental pain.
- Aggressiveness, propensity to commit violence.
- The desire to "absorb" a significant Other through severe coercion.
- The need to inflict suffering on loved ones in order to obtain evidence of their importance to them.
- Unconscious desire to "sculpt" from other people the idea of an unattainable own Ideal Self.
- Tendency to various abuses - drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, revelry, which are used as a means of reducing constant anxiety.
- Tendency to create co-dependent relationships.
- Tendency to a self-destructive lifestyle.
It should be noted that on a subconscious level, a tendency to violence is present in every person. There is nothing unnatural about this. For the vast majority of people, this subconscious readiness for destruction peacefully slumbers until it is awakened by some extreme conditions. A vivid example of this is the numerous cases of the appearance of sadistic inclinations among former participants in hostilities. *
The most suitable person for a sadistic person would probably be a self-deprecating partner. Such couples do meet, and with such a combination, the relationships that they build take on truly terrible forms.
The fact is that direct and complete submission is not enough to satisfy sadistic inclinations. It is by achieving such behavior of a partner that the sadist loses all interest in him. For him, the very process of destruction of any independence, any manifestation of independence and sovereignty of the individual is important. Indeed, it is in this process that he tests and confirms his absolute power and his ability to influence the feelings and thoughts of another. Only the mental suffering of a person who defended his desire for freedom and self-determination, but was already suppressed and defeated, gives rise in the sadist to an unusual surge of energy and a sense of his absolute power. He experiences pleasure and satisfaction, which can only be compared with the pleasure of orgasm. At the same time, he experiences tenderness for the defeated person as a source of such satisfaction. By the way, violent sexual intercourse filled with strong sensations is often the final action after the next process of suppression. It is the passionate experiences of love after suffering that are the “hook” on which the affection of his victims is firmly and for a long time.
However, a self-deprecating person does not offer proper resistance to a sadist, and the process of suppression does not bring the necessary satisfaction. To get it, the aggressively dominant partner increases the strength of his pressure and, dissatisfied with the psychological struggle, proceeds to measures of physical violence. ** Any person, even self-deprecating, seeks to preserve the integrity of his body and life itself, so he involuntarily begins to resist. And this is exactly what his ruler needs. Thus, the desire to yield and obey leads to an increase in suffering, on the one hand, and to extremely dangerous forms of influence, on the other.
Nevertheless, interaction with a self-deprecating person is only a special case of partnership with a sadist. Depending on the degree of development of the complex, the sadist can act as a direct aggressor and as a gentle, caring person, achieving his goals in a roundabout way.
In essence, any way to build a co-dependent relationship, taken to the extreme, comes down to the fact that the psychological territory of the partner is occupied, and the partner is emptied and submitted (unless, of course, he leaves the occupier at an earlier stage of the relationship). Accordingly, he can build relationships with people who are not at all inclined to self-abasement. The more satisfaction he can achieve by succeeding in his goals.
So the sadist is more attracted to people who are filled, having a living and elastic shell of the Self, which needs to be broken. However, only people whose self is broken can be in close relationship with such a person for a long enough time, and who can at least partially recognize the treatment of a sadist in accordance with what they think of themselves. And in this contradiction lies the reason for the sadist's constant dissatisfaction with love relationships and his need to find new victims.
Nevertheless, a sadistic person does not want to destroy the person to whom he is attached. He needs a partner that belongs to him, since his sense of his own power is based only on the fact that he is someone else's master. Therefore, as soon as he realizes that the victim is ready to “off the hook” and is close to leaving him, he steps back and expresses his love and care to his victim, trying to tie her to himself as tightly as possible. The tormentor is dependent on his victim, although this dependence may be completely unconscious. For example, a husband can mock his wife in the most sadistic way and at the same time repeat to her daily that she can leave at any moment, that he will only be happy about this. If she really is going to leave him, he will be desperate, depressed and will begin to beg her to stay, trying to convince him that he cannot live without her. But as soon as she stays, the game will start over, and so on without end.
In many thousands of personal relationships, this cycle repeats itself over and over again. A sadist buys the person he needs with gifts, praises, assurances of love, brilliance and wit in conversations, and a demonstration of his concern. He can give him everything except one thing: the right to freedom and independence.
Very often such relationships are observed between parents and children. Here, the relations of domination and possessiveness act, as a rule, under the guise of care and the desire of parents to protect their child. He can have whatever he wants, but only on the condition that he does not want to get out of the cage. As a result, the grown child often develops a deep fear of love, because for him love means slavery.
A sadistic person is vigilant that his victim is afraid to leave him. He inspires her with the idea of his superimportance for her in all spheres of life, says that all his actions are aimed at caring for her (here the pronouns “he” and “she” refer to the tormentor and the victim, whose roles are equally Both men and women can play).
We have already said that only a person who is afraid of being abandoned or feels helpless can endure such a relationship for a long time. Thus, mutual dependence arises on the basis of a predisposing readiness to build co-dependent relationships of both partners. The further deforming nature of their interaction only exacerbates this tendency.
I'll add a little.
* After a relationship with violence (abuse), the processing of trauma is necessary, since abuse is the very extreme situation that awakens aggressive impulses in an exhausted victim: in abuse, two conditions are met that contribute to the development of sadism - a) deepest emotional frustration b) accompanied by manifestation of cruelty towards the victim. It does not mean that sadism will develop. Develop - emotional deafness, outbursts of poorly controlled aggression, feelings are frozen. Abuse burns out all the lightest and warmest things inside a person.