Who is masochist?

The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.

The masochistic person, whether his master is an authority outside of himself or whether he has internalized the master as conscience or a psychic compulsion, is saved from making decisions, saved from the final responsibility for the fate of his self, and thereby saved from the doubt of what decision to make. He is also saved from the doubt of what the meaning of his life is or who "he" is. These questions are answered by the relationship to the power to which he has attached himself. The meaning of his life and the identity of his self are determined by the greater whole into which the self has submerged.

There is nothing they do, feel, or think which is not somehow related to this power. They expect protection from "him," wish to be taken care of by "him," make "him" also responsible for whatever may be the outcome of their own actions. Often the fact of his dependence is something that the person is not aware of at all. Even if there is a dim awareness of some dependency, the person or power on whom he is dependent often remains nebulous. There is no definite image linked up with that power. Its essential quality is to represent a certain function, namely to protect, help, and develop the individual, to be with him and never leave him alone. The "X" which has these qualities may be called the magic helper. Frequently, of course, the "magic helper" is personified: he is conceived of as God, as a principle, or as real persons such as one's parent, husband, wife, or superior. It is important to recognize that when real persons assume the role of the magic helper they are endowed with magic qualities, and the significance they have results from their being the personification of the magic helper. This process of personification of the magic helper seeks to find him in flesh and blood, For some reason or other - often supported by sexual desires - a certain other person assumes for him those magic qualities, and he makes that person into the being to whom and on whom his whole life becomes related and dependent. The fact that the other person frequently does the same with the first one does not alter the picture. It only helps to strengthen the impression that this relationship is on of "real love."

(See also Who is sadist?)

--Erich Fromm