Running is attractive to the obsessive-compulsive person because it provides a rigidly defined goal (such as running an ultramarathon) that justifies a constant, routine activity (i.e, training) and preoccupation with detail (e.g, training methods, diet, shoes, and reading this blog). Signs that suggest an obsessive-compulsive attitude to running include a need to run-every day (the “training streak”) and a need to run every race on the calendar.
Narcissism/Masochism. An interesting observation made by Arnold Cooper (1981), professor of psychiatry at Cornell University, New York, is that you “scratch marathoners once, and they tell you how wonderful they feel. Scratch them twice and they tell you about their latest injuries” (p. 267). This made Cooper consider the masochistic needs of runners.
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Cooper stated that narcissism refers to behaviors derived from interest, concern, and satisfaction with oneself. Healthy narcissism is reflected by the selfconfidence that enables one to pursue goals with pleasure and by the high selfesteem that follows achievement of those goals. Pathological narcissism, on the other hand, involves an endless series of maneuvers designed to disguise a shaky self-esteem and feelings of lack of self-worth.
Cooper contended that the body is central to narcissism, so that the more narcissistic an individual is because of low feelings of self-worth, the more likely he or she is to demonstrate a bodily preoccupation expressed either as a need for maintaining strength and beauty or by endless hypochondriacal complaints.
Masochism, the ability to extract pleasure from pain is, according to Cooper, linked to narcissistic needs developed early in the child’s development. Cooper stated that growing children are faced with two tasks: developing healthy narcissism about their self-images, their bodies, and their needs and developing autonomy from their mothers. By their nature, these two processes cannot fail to produce a conflict that is typically expressed with childhood tears. Forced to realize that they are not omnipotent and that painful realities cannot be avoided, children engage in certain mental maneuvers to protect their fantasies. They begin by constructing a black-and-white world in which everything good that happens to them is their own doing; everything bad is the fault of someone else, usually their mothers. Gradually, however, they realize that their mothers are not all bad; thus the children must find other ways to explain their failures at omnipotence. Cooper suggested that children do this by using the following logic (or illogic): They conclude that if they are experiencing frustration, this is neither because they lack the power to control it nor because their mothers are unremittingly bad, but because they (the children) actually enjoy this frustration. It is, as Cooper noted, a classic example of “If you can’t beat them, then join them!”
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