“Depressive-masochists see clearly the tragic existential realities of life. Their way of being in the world bears this sensibility forward, witnesses to it, and
invites others into their sense of the ethos required to survive in the face of it. Our concern about the way this gets articulated, however, is usually that this sensibility is set within a particular emotional, ethical, and aesthetic framework which establishes a self- and other-punishing cycle which impoverishes their life and the lives of those with whom they are in relation.
But, then, of course, we are always confronted with the possibility that this is in fact simply the way the world is. Perhaps the depressive-masochist sees something of which we all ought to be convinced: that, in the final analysis, the depths of life really are punishing and unforgiving, that the particular kinds of interpersonal ethics that mark the depressive-masochist’s life really are the best accommodation to a world so characterized, and that the emotional dynamics, while harsh, are nonetheless appropriate and, perhaps even, unavoidable for such a world.
In other words, the witness borne through our parishioners and clients to us calls up from us, and calls into question for us, the witness of our own communities, the witness borne through us to them. As pastoral caregivers, our offering care at all to depressive-masochists, care that is something more than attempting to assuage their discontent in the face of a self-other-Other relation they correctly
perceive as exhausting their life possibilities, rests on our intuition that the above conclusions need not be drawn and that, indeed, the depths of life are not adequately portrayed in such a way. Yet, to take the witness of the other seriously here is to take our own witness seriously again as well: to be called into a mutually critical conversation between the witness of self and other.”
From: Mystical Communion with an Unforgiving God
by K. Brynolf Lyon
Associate Professor of Practical Theology & Pastoral Care, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana
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Encounter 59.1-2 (1998)