" has many meanings, from a self-defeating way of behaving with others, to a sexual perversion.
Van der kolk speaks of compulsion to repeat a trauma, in people who have been violated or brutalized. The original trauma doesn't always have to be physical, but can be acted out that way. It can be a way of connecting with others, through suffering. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2664732.