My Reaction to The Brothers Karamazov–Part 7: Lacerations

Just in time for Valentine’s Day…

…But there is a grief that breaks out, and from the minute it bursts into tears and finds vent in wailing. This is particularly common with women. But it is no lighter a grief than the silent. Lamentations comfort only by lacerating the heart still more. Such grief does not desire consolation. It feeds on the sense of its hopelessness. Lamentations spring only from the constant craving to re-open the wound.

In Book IV, Chapter 5, Katerina declares that she will continue to love Dmitri no matter what he does, and we learn that her love for Dmitri is based strictly on self-laceration.

I must confess that in this regard I am like Katerina. Over the last few years I have had a couple of what I guess would be called crushes on women (although in one instance I truly believed that I had a realistic chance of winning the love of the woman in question). In each of these there was an element of self-laceration. Part of the attraction that I felt in each case was rooted in the belief that the woman in question was better than me in some regard. In each case I wanted, through my love for the woman in question, to acknowledge her superiority over me, to punish myself for what I am not by bowing down before what I ought to be.

For example: Several years ago I had a crush on someone who was actively involved in leadership at my church. She was very attractive and desirable, and very well-respected by all who knew her. When I looked at her, I saw where she was in life in terms of her level of professional success and her level of involvement in church leadership. I saw her excellent social skills and the esteem in which she was held by all who knew her. I looked at where I was by comparison, and I found myself to be beneath her in all of these regards. This was a large part of the driving force for my attraction to her–the recognition of her superiority over me and the desire to bow down to that superiority.