Who is sadist?

The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.

--Bertrand Russell

Who is sadist?

It is peculiar to sadistic relationships of this kind that keeping a hold over the victim is of more absorbing interest than the person's own life. He will neglect his career, forego the pleasures or advantages of meeting other persons rather than grant the partner any independence.

The partner is subjected, directly and indirectly, to even mounting demands, and is made to feel guilty or humiliated if he does not fulfill them. The sadistic person can always find a justification for feeling discontented of unfairly treated, and for demanding still more on that account. Ibsen's Hedda Gabler illustrates how the fulfilling of such demands never evokes gratitude, and how the demands themselves are often prompted by the desire to hurt the other person and put him in his place. They may have to do with material things or sexual needs or aid in establishing a career; they may be demands for special consideration, exclusive devotion, boundless tolerance. There is nothing specifically sadistic in their content: what does point to sadism is the expectation that the partner should, by whatever means are available, fill out a life that is emotionally empty. This, too, is well illustrated by Hedda Gabler in her constant complaints of feeling bored and wanting stimulation and excitement. The need to feed, vampirelike, on the emotional vitality of another person is as a rule completely unconscious. But it is probably that it is at the bottom of the craving to exploit and that it is the soil from which the expressed demands draw their sustenance.

What is typical of sadism is not a niggardliness in the sense of withholding but a much more active, though unconscious, impulse to thwart others - to kill their joy and to disappoint their expectations.

"What an exquisite refinement of the will to power, what an elegant cruelty! And what an amazing gift for that contagious gloom which damps even the highest spirits and stifles the very possibility of joy."

He is remarkably keen at seeing shortcomings, at discovering the weak spots in others and pointing them out. He knows intuitively where others are sensitive and can be hurt. And he tends to use his intuition mercilessly for derogatory criticism. This may be rationalized as honesty or as a wish to be helpful; he may believe himself to be sincerely troubled by doubts in regard to the other person's competence or integrity - but he will become panicky if the sincerity of his doubts is questioned.

His self-loathing reaches such dimensions that he cannot take a look at himself. He must fortify himself against it by reinforcing and already existing armor of righteousness. The slightest criticism, neglect, or absence of special recognition can mobilize his self-contempt and so must be rejected as unfair. He is compelled, therefore, to externalize his self-contempt, to blame, berate, humiliate others. This, however, throws him into the toils of a vicious circle.

Since he himself cannot measure up to his idealized image, the partner must do so; and the merciless rage he feels toward himself is vented on the partner for any failure in this direction.

He usually rationalizes the pressure he exerts on the partner as "love" or interest in the partner's "development." … In reality he tries to enforce upon the partner the impossible task of realizing his - the sadist's - idealized image. The righteousness which he had to develop as a shield against self-contempt permits him to do so with smug assurance.

When he molds the lives of others he not only gains a stimulating feeling of power over them but also finds a substitute meaning for his life. When he exploits others emotionally he provides a vicarious emotional life for himself that lessens his own sense of barrenness. When he defeats others he wins a triumphant elation which obscures his own hopeless defeat. This craving for vindictive triumph is probably his most intense motivating force. All his pursuits serve as well to gratify his hunger for thrills and excitement.

What maltreatment gives him is an opportunity to live out his sadistic impulses through someone else, without having to face his own sadism. He can feel innocent and morally indignant - while hoping at the same time that some day he will get the better of the sadistic partner and triumph over him.

--Karen Horney

Who is sadist?

The sadist needs the person over whom he rules, he needs him badly, since his own feeling of strength is rooted in the fact that he is the master over someone.

He actually "loves" them because he dominates them. He bribes them with material things, with praise, assurances of love, the display of wit and brilliance, or by showing concern.He may give them everything - everything except one thing: the right to be free and independent.

All the different forms of sadism which we can observe go back to one essential impulse, namely, you have complete mastery over another person, to make of him a helpless object of our will, to become the absolute ruler over him, to become his God, to do with him as one pleases. To humiliate him, to enslave him, are means to this end and the most radical aim is to make him suffer, since there is no greater power over another person than that of inflicting pain on him, to force him to undergo suffering without his being able to defend himself. The pleasure in the complete domination over another person (or other animate objects) is the very essence of the sadistic drive.

The sadistic person needs his object just as much as the masochistic needs his. Only instead of seeking security by being swallowed, he gains it by swallowing somebody else. In both cases the integrity of the individual self is lost. In one case I dissolve myself in an outside power; I lose myself. In the other case I enlarge myself by making another being part of myself and thereby I gain strength I lack as an independent self.

For the authoritarian character there exist, so to speak, two sexes: the powerful ones and the powerless ones. His love, admiration and readiness for submission are automatically aroused by power, whether of a person or of an institution. Power fascinates him not for any values for which a specific power may stand, but just because it is power. Just as his "love" is automatically aroused by power, so powerless people or institutions automatically arouse his contempt. The very sight of a powerless person makes him want to attack, dominate, humiliate him. Whereas a different kind of character is appalled by the idea of attacking one who is helpless, the authoritarian character feels the more aroused the more helpless his object has become.

The authoritarian character worships the past. What has been, will eternally be. To wish or to work for something that has not yet been before is crime or madness. The miracle of creation - and creation is always a miracle - is outside of his range of emotional experience.

Sadism aims at incorporation of the object; destructiveness at its removal. Sadism tends to strengthen the atomized individual by the domination over others; destructiveness by the absence of any threat from the outside.

The love for the powerful and the hatred for the powerless which is so typical for the sado-masochistic character explains a great deal of Hitler's and his followers' political actions.

With regards to single concepts we have shown that for the sado-masochistic character, for example, love means symbiotic dependence, not mutual affirmation and union on the basis of equality; sacrifice means the utmost subordination of the individual self to something higher, not assertion of one's mental and moral self; difference means difference in power, not the realization of individuality on the basis of equality; justice means that everybody should get what he deserves, not that the individual has an unconditional claim to the realization of inherent and inalienable rights; courage is the readiness to submit and to endure suffering, not the utmost assertion of individuality against power.

(See also Who is masochist?)

--Erich Fromm