Archive for the ‘Counselling / Therapy’ Category
Repeatedly, researchers have found the classic triadic (three-way) relationship in the family backgrounds of homosexual men. In this situation, the mother often has a poor or limited relationship with her husband, so she shifts her emotional needs to her son. The father is usually nonexpressive and detached and often is critical as well. So in the triadic family pattern we have the detached father, the overinvolved mother, and the temperamentally sensitive, emotionally attuned boy who fills in for the father where the father falls short.
The close emotional bond is between mother and son. She feels bad for her son: “I’m his only safe haven, and everyone else makes fun of him. His peers reject him; his father seems to have forgotten him; so I’m the only one who understands and accepts him exactly as he is.” That last is the killer phrase: “as he is.” It is as if “who the boy is” could include his androgynous fantasies, fear of other males, rejection of his own body, and discomfort with his masculine nature.
At this point, education is necessary. Mothers need to understand that they can actively discourage distortion about gender without rejecting the boy himself. In fact, it is not a matter of rejection at all, but instead of offering adult guidance to prepare the boy for life in a gendered world — the world to which his anatomy has destined him — and of refusing to participate in his distortions about males and masculinity.
On the other hand, many of the mothers who come to our counselling office are very concerned about their sons’ poor gender esteem or effeminacy, and they want to help them reach normal gender maturity, no matter how challenging that work may become. They intuitively understand the problem their sons are having, and they are at a loss to know how to help their child and to enlist their husbands in the process. They are grateful for whatever direction and advice I am able to provide for them.
A few mothers (particularly, narcissistic mothers) establish a relationship with such a profound blurring of boundaries that the boy is not able to clarify his own individual identity. Mothers who create such an intimate, symbiotic relationship will allow nothing to interrupt the mother-son bond. The longer the profound symbiotic relationship continues, the more feminine the boy. Of course, a mother who is upset by a boy’s normal, rowdy behavior — and who reacts by encouraging him to be more passive and dependent (even though the boy’s real need is for independence) — is putting her own needs before those of her son.
The authors of Someone I Love Is Gay describe this maternal pattern:
Sometimes the relationship is so close that it becomes unhealthy, even bordering on a state of “emotional adultery.” Typically, the son is his mother’s confidante. She talks about her marital problems with him, rather than working them out with her husband. She looks to her son for emotional support and comfort when things go wrong.
In some cases, the mother’s behavior crosses the line into sensuality… Single mothers and women with abusive or emotionally distant husbands are particularly vulnerable to becoming overly dependent on their son.
In some rare cases, mothers of homosexual boys wanted to be men themselves, and they sabotaged their sons’ masculinity by putting themselves in competition with them.
All in all, there is considerable research showing that families of gender-disturbed boys tend to be in turmoil. One study of 610 Gender Identity Disorder (GID) boys found a high level of family conflicts. Many clinicians have observed a higher rate of parental divorce, separation, and marital unhappiness in their homosexual clients’ families, and many parents of GID children had undergone counseling before their child’s gender-identity disorder came to clinical attention.
Psychologist Gregory Dickson points out a paradox regarding the intense mother-son relationship. The gender-conflicted boy usually feels an ongoing need for mothering, but because the mother-son relationship represents a barrier between himself and the male world, the boy feels both angry and appreciative toward her. He also feels both misunderstood and most understood by her. His mother knows him very deeply on one level, but there is another level where she can never go and which she has not fully acknowledged as an integral part of who he is as a male. So there results a paradoxical love-hate, approach-avoidance conflict.
Hasn’t This Research About Parenting influences Been Disproved?
In spite of what you hear from gay activists, no literature disproves the classical theories describing the way homosexuality develops. In fact, a 1996 book, Freud Scientifically Reappraised: Testing the Theories and Therapy, evaluated the prominent psychoanalytic theories in the light of the data now available through modern research. The authors did find conflicting results on the maternal relationship, but the research on fathers was clear:
The reports concerning the male homosexual’s view of his father are overwhelmingly supportive of Freud’s hypothesis. With only a few exceptions, the male homosexual declares that father has been a negative influence in his life…
There is not a single even moderately well-controlled study that we have been able to locate in which male homosexuals refer to father positively or affectionately. On the contrary, they consistently regard him as an antagonist. He easily fills the unusually intense, competitive Oedipal role Freud ascribed to him.
It is important to emphasize here that the overinvolved mother is used repeatedly by us here in this book as the example of the mother of a gender-confused boy. Because the deeply involved mother is almost always the type to bring a child in for consultation — and to actively work for change — she is the type of mother we have used to illustrate case scenarios. Indeed, the intimately involved mother is most likely to unwittingly encourage a son’s gender nonconformity. But not all mothers are overinvolved. In fact, among adult homosexual clients, a smaller percentage of their mothers were actually disengaged.
This observation fits in with the findings of Freud Scientifically Reappraised, in which the researchers analyzed the available studies and found that there is some inconsistency in findings about mothers. But — as those researchers agree — the one virtually unchanging variable is the poor relationship with fathers.
Quite a wake-up call, we would say, for fathers who hope for heterosexuality for their sons!
Nicolosi, J., Nicolosi, L. (2002). A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press
Effeminate boys, even more than gender-normal boys, need from their dads what we call reparative therapists call “the three A’s”: affection, attention, and approval. When they fail to get what they need, they interpret their father’s behavior as personal disinterest in and rejection of them. They feel a deep and powerfully hurtful affront to their sense of self. In defense against further hurt, they diminish Dad in their minds, rendering him unimportant or even nonexistent. Their actions say, “If he doesn’t want me, then I don’t want him either.”
From that point on, they want little or nothing to do with their father. Most of all, they do not want to be like him. In effect, they are surrendering their natural masculine strivings. Then, when other boys shun the gender-confused boy (as indeed they will), they become more deeply mired in loneliness, and this loneliness and rejection only confirms their belief in their not being “good enough.” This leads to the problem of idolizing other boys’ maleness. As Richard Wyler explains:
Feeling deficient as males, we pined to be accepted and affirmed by others, especially those whose masculinity we admired most. We began to idolize the qualities in other males we judged to be lacking in ourselves. Idolizing them widened the gulf we imagined between ourselves and so-called “real men,” the Adonis-gods of our fantasies.
In idolizing them, we increased our sense of our own masculine deficiency. It also de-humanized the men we idolized, putting them on a pedestal that deified them and made them unapproachable. www.peoplecanchange.com
Normal boys actively and aggressively played with one another, while prehomosexual boys feel intimidated, so they sit on the curb and watch them. They wish they could join in, but they are held back by the sense that they are different and even “less than” other boys. They feel inadequate and ill equipped to join in.
All too often, the next step is a depressive reaction. Consequently, they often become loners and dreamers and withdraw into a world of fantasy. Quite a few become enthralled with theater and acting and the chance to play a role as someone else. Some overcompensate by pushing themselves to excel in academics; others find it hard to pay attention in class and do poorly despite their above-average aptitude.
Understandably, parents of such children are concerned when they see these signs. Simply using their own common sense, they know something is wrong. As I have said before, for parents these days, if they are unlucky enough to fall into the hands of psychologists who have accepted the premises of gay activism, they may find the experts telling them that what these boys are experiencing is inevitable and derives strictly from their “gay genes” or “gay brains.”
The bad news is that so many well-educated people in positions of influence do not understand the facts about gender-identity confusion in children. The good news is that you, as the parent of a boy or girl, can have an influence on your child’s future sexual orientation.
Don’t care if your child is straight or gay? There are no doubt thousands of other mental health practitioners who will support you in affirming your child’s prehomosexuality if you choose this path.
One such practitioner is psychiatrist Justin Richardson. There is nothing wrong or problematic as such with a boy’s effeminacy, Richardson says, and it is only society’s disapproval that causes the boy’s problems.
Dr. Richardson is an openly gay man. He believes a sensitive and artistic temperament is pivotal in laying the foundation for male homosexuality, but he also acknowledges (as does the American Psychological Association) that there are psychological and social influences that ultimately will solidify such a boy’s gender identity and future sexual orientation. How this boy becomes a “sissy” and a homosexual, Richardson acknowledges, also goes back to the personalities of the boy’s parents and how these personalities mesh or contrast with the boy’s own, thus influencing the depth and quality (or lack thereof) of the parent-child emotional bond. Another factor Richardson identifies is how the boy and his parents react to his developing male body. Still another factor is the ongoing influence of the boy’s playmates. All these are factors that Dr. Richardson identifies — just as we do — as influential in confirming or weakening the boy’s developing sense of masculine gender identification. But significantly, Richardson does not consider any of these influences pathological, because he does not view a homosexual outcome as pathological, In essence, he believes homosexuality “just is.”
Is feeling masculine and being detached from one’s same-sex parent and boyhood peers problematic? Not so to Richardson, because gender itself, he believes, is a matter of indifference. He suggests that parents should consider not only discouraging their son’s effeminacy as a mark of healthy nonconformity. In fact, Richardson goes as far as to say that an indifference to gender distinctions is a mark of intellectual superiority!
We, on the other hand, are rather backward. We are stuck in “concrete” notions of gender — we believe that a boy who likes to wear dresses does indeed have a problem.
There are other therapists, in contrast to Dr. Richardson, who believe that healthy development requires that a person’s interior sense of gender identity and his biology must correspond. Mind, body, and spirit must work together in harmony. The gender-nonconforming boy might be artistic, creative, and relational, but in order to grow into this potential, he must also be confident that he belongs to the world of men.
Once mothers and fathers recognize the real problems their gender-confused children face, agreee to work together to help resolve them, and seek the guidance and expertise of a psychotherapist who believes that change is possible, there is hope. Growth into a heterosexual identity is indeed possible.
Nicolosi, J., Nicolosi, L. (2002). A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press
Traditionalists (including most people of faith) believe that a natural order written into our bodies tells us who we are. For this reason, traditionalists cannot accept the view that a man who “feels like a woman inside” is justified in having his genitals amputated, breast implants inserted, and female hormones pumped into his bloodstream so that he can make his body conform to his interior sense of who he is. Traditionalists shiver with horror at the sight of this person, born a man, gesticulating in a caricatured femalelike manner, having artificial breasts that contrast with the faintest shadow of a beard and the telltale angularity of a man’s jaw. What that person did to force his body to conform to his desired biological sex does not in fact look noble; it looks like raw butchery. Reflecting on the same scenario, sexual liberationists applaud — this person exercised choice (the highest human good!) and made himself conform to who he believed he could be, with the help of modern medicine.
There is a vast, possibly irreconciliable difference between liberationists and traditionalists. While sexual liberationists applaud the married man who leaves his wife in order to come out as gay (they call this man brave, honest, and noble), traditionalists shudder. In spite of themselves, traditionalists wince at the mental images conjured by the thought of what homosexuals do in the act of intercourse. Almost feeling guilty about their visceral reaction, they still cannot help but see such acts as perverse and, in fact, unnatural.
Making the Decision: Who Am I?
Along with many of my colleagues, I am concerned that young men who involve themselves in same-sex experimentation may be too quick to label themselves as gay. Such a gravely significant decision should be made only in adulthood. Not all of these young people will necessarily continue to desire homosexual relationships. But with a school counselor cheering them on, they could become habituated into same-sex experiences and become hopelessly enmeshed in gay life.
For a young man experiencing painful peer-group rejection, immediate embrace by a countercultural group is intoxicating. A new (young) face will initiate welcome and celebration within the gay community, and along with flattering approval will come immediate sex. Sex can be found anonymously with very little effort in gay bars, bathhouses, and bookstores and through contacts made on the Internet in gay chat rooms.
Such experiences can quickly become addictive, as Richard Wyler explains:
Idolization of men turned easily to eroticism. Unable to feel “man enough” on the inside, we craved another male to “complete” us from the outside. Looking at or touching another male’s body allowed us to literally “feel” masculinity in a way we could never seem to feel on our own, inside ourselves.
But indulging the lust through pornography, fantasy or voyeurism only intensified it. It further de-humanized the men we lusted after and isolated us from them, widening the growing gulf between us and “real men” that made them seem like the “opposite” sex. Lust also opened the door for us to the quicksand of sexual addiction. www.peoplecanchange.com
There is, of course, the possibility of a better outcome. With counselling, both the gender-identity confusion and the accompanying same-sex fantasies may diminish when the sexually confused teenager recognizes the importance of growing fully into his own gender.
Dr. Elaine Siegel discovered that gender-confused girls in therapy with her “knew they were girls, but were not at all certain that being a girl was desirable, possible, or useful to them.” When successfully treated, not only were these girls’ gender-identity problems significantly resolved, but previous educational blocks at school were overcome, and they were able to make a healthier general adjustment.
“Indifference” or “Deficiency”?
It has been said by some gay activists that the homosexually oriented person is born with an “indifference to gender,” and the reason for his suffering is that we live in a gender-polarized world — a world that must change. But if gays really consider gender unimportant, then why are gay men not bisexual? Why is masculinity so highly valued in the gay world? Why do gay “Personals” ads commonly seek a partner who is “straight acting?” And why do we see such compulsive and dangerous sexual behavior in a quest for the masculine?
We think this is because homosexuality represents not an indifference to gender but a deficit in gender. Deficit-based behavior comes from a heightened sensitivity to what one feels one lacks, and it is characterized by compulsivitiy and drivenness — where the person will persist in the behavior despire social disadvantage and grave medical risk. Deficit-based behaviors also have a quality of caricature, seen vividly in “leather” bars, where men are dressed up as soldiers and policemen, wearing studded belts and carrying instruments of torture. Such exaggerated behavior actually represents a heightened awareness and pursuit of the internally deficient gender — that is, maleness — but in caricatured ways.
Nicolosi, J., Nicolosi, L. (2002). A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press
Primitive cultures exhibit an intuitive understanding that boys need special help and encouragement to grow into their masculine identity. These cultures do not allow their young men to grow up without putting them through an elaborate set of male initiation rites. For them, becoming a man is understood to require a struggle; true manhood does not come automatically.
Young tribal men often go through a series of trials that help them “prove” or “discover” their masculinity. They hunt and kill prey and tribal enemies. They go through painful and exhausting physical regimens. They are subjected to rituals, in the company of male elders, that diasavow their boyhood and declare them to be adult males. And when they come out of the other side of the gauntlet they have to run, the tribe is there to celebrate their victory. Now they are men. Now they will no longer play around their mothers’ campfires in the company of their grandmothers and sisters. Now, instead, they will go out hunting and fishing with other men.
Today, in our society, it is not quite easy to help young men solidify their male identity. Young boys are not generally expected to go through initiation rites. Instead, with today’s confused approach to gender issues, their teachers may tell them to embrace their “feminine side” or “androgynous nature,” or worse, their school counselors may encourage them to identify themselves as “gay.” Students of all grade levels may be encouraged by public school educators to try on various sexual identities. Some school gay-affirming programs even encourage them to experiment with same-sex relationships or to consider bisexuality as an option.
In fact, some psychologists now believe that limiting ourselves to heterosexuality places an unnecessary constriction on human potential: when we overcome our fears of bisexuality, it is said, we will discover rich, creative new possibilities. When a psychologist made this statement of scientific fact (that people are capable of a wide range of sexual responsiveness) in a scientific journal recently, she then slipped directly into an area that is within the realm of ethics (implying that sexual diversity is good). Science cannot, of course, tell us whether limiting ourselves to heterosexuality — or celebrating all forms of sexual diversity — is right or wrong.
Ironically, had this psychologist instead called for celebrating a mongamous, heterosexual ethic, she would have been dismissed as a “heterosexist” whose opinions should be limited to Sunday sermons. But when a psychologist’s moral prescription calls for celebration of sexual diversity, her work is considered uncontroversial and is assumed to be a pronouncement of science! One cannot help but be taken by the irony.
“But maybe my son was born gay?” some parents ask me. “Is it possible that homosexual is just ‘who he is’?”
Science is often said to have “proved” that a homosexual orientation is a natural, inborn part of who a person really is. According to the “born that way” argument, a sexual orientation is a part of a person’s core identity, so such a homosexually oriented person must be accepted as expressing his or her own true, created nature.
But there are problems that undermine this argument even if a “gay gene” were discovered tomorrow. Science — in spite of what many people assume — is inherently limited in what it can tell us. Science describes the world and tell us “what it is,” but it cannot tell us “what it ought to be.” Let me illustrate with an example.
Your son Jack is born with a gene that makes it likely he will gain weight. You really love to cook for him, and so he grows up loving desserts and fried foods. At school, he is teased, excluded and called names, and so he goes home and comforts himself the way he knows best — by eating. (Maybe they’re right, Jack decides. Maybe this is who I am.) Pretty soon Jack is so overweight that his doctor gives him a note excluding him from physical education class.
Is fat “who he really is”? He got that way through a combination of biological factors, parental influence, social influence from peers, and behavioral choice. (Just as with homosexuality.)
Yet as much as overeating may be understandable for Jack (and indeed feel perfectly normal to him), we still recognise that obesity is not normal and healthy — for Jack or for anyone else. This is because human beings simply were not designed to burden their bodies with obesity.
Your son’s teacher sees Jack’s unhappiness and the teasing and exclusion he suffers. Her heart breaks. Naturally, she wants to protect him. As part of our program to “make schools safe” for children who are teased and ocstracized, should we — prompted by understandable feelings of compassion — teach that “obesity is normal for some people”? Furthermore, should the teacher say that the only problem with obesity is society’s discrimination against it?
The truly compassionate answer is no. This may be a painful course to take in the short run, but the farsighted response — taking these kids’ future lives into account — will require an accurate understanding of obesity. We are not designed to be seriously overweight. School administrators should affirm such a child as a person, and should have great sympathy for his struggle, yet they should not affirm his problem as an integral part of his identity.
The same goes for a sexually confused teenager.
Alan Medinger, who has counseled hundreds of men coming out of homosexuality and who was himself homosexually active for seventeen years, explains that true freedom is not to be found in coming out as gay but in choosing to live according to one’s true nature — as he says, ‘resuming the journey” to manhood from which “some men have gone AWOL”:
The road to manhood is a long one. it is a road of learning, trying, failing, trying again, a journey of victories and defeats. Most boys are not even conscious that they are on the road, and few realize when they have reached its primary destination, but the great majority do reach it…
Some boys, however, do not reach this destination. At some point the striving became too much, the defeats and failures too painful, so they opted out. They got off the main road; they took a detour… I was one of those boys… As with so many boys, my detour took me into the world of homosexuality… I came to see that my homosexual problem was largely a problem of undeveloped manhood.
Are Overweight People “Born That Way”?
As we mentioned previously, we see a good analogy to homosexuality in the problem of obesity. Researchers know that a gene predisposes some people to put on weight. But it would make no sense to say that being overweight is normal and healthy, just “because fat people are (sometimes) born that way.” Our genes provide only one influence — a predisposition, in some people, to gain weight. There is also family influence (“Did Mom put Coca-Cola instead of milk in your baby bottle?”), cultural influence (“Did your extended family celebrate get-togethers with marathons of fried sausage and pasta?”), situational stressors (“Are you under a lot of pressure at work, causing you to drink beer and snack in front of the TV all night?”), and, of course, your own choice to exercise self-control (“Do you choose to diet, or do you simply give in to the comfort and pleasure of eating?”).
Many people who are overweight undoubtedly have little or no genetic tendency to be fat. Their obesity is due to some combination of the above-mentioned environmental factors.
The situation with homosexuality is very much the same. As Dr. Whitehead has said, biological factors do not force us into particular behaviors; they only make those responses more likely.
Richard Wyler explains the needs he and the other strugglers felt as children — particularly, longings and loneliness like so many other gender-disidentified boys:
Unknowingly, unintentionally, we had constructed a psychological gulf between ourselves and the heterosexual male world. Yet, as males, we needed to belong to the world of men. To be mentioned by them. To be affirmed by other men. To love and be loved by them. Although we feared men, we pined for their acceptance. We envied the confidence and masculinity that appeared to come so easily to them. And as we grew, envy turned to lust. Watching men from afar, wanting to be like them, wanting to be included, they became the objects of our desire.
From the far side of the gulf we had constructed, we could never grow out of homosexuality. Gay activists and gay-affirmative therapists would tell us that our true place was in fact on this side of the gulf, that it was a good place to be. If that is true for others, it certainly wasn’t for us. We wanted something more. We wanted to face our fears, heal our underlying problems, and become the men we felt God wanted us to be. We didn’t want to be affirmed as gay. We wanted to be affirmed as men… We wanted to heal the hidden problems that our inner voice was calling us to heal. www.peoplecanchange.com
As Wyler explains, the normal process of gender identification has gone awry. Instead of identifying with their gender, such boys have defensively detached themselves from the world of men. To protect themselves from hurt, they have closed themselves off from male bonding and identification.
Much of this detachment began with a weak relationship with the father. Some fathers fnid a way to get involved in everything but their sons. They lose themselves in their careers, in travel, in golf, or in any number of activities that become so all-important to them that they have no time for their boys. Or they fail to see that this particular son interprets criticism as personal rejection.
Or the problem may be rooted in a temperamental mismatch — that “one particular son” was much harder for Dad to reach because of the child’s own sensitive temperament. His father found him hard to relate to, because they did not share common interests (perhaps the activities this particular son enjoys are more social and artistic and less typically masculine). And in the busyness and rush of life, this harder-to-reach boy was somehow put aside and neglected.
For a variety of reasons, some mothers also have a tendency to prolong their sons’ dependence. A mother’s intimacy with her son is primal, complete, exclusive, and this powerful bond can easily deepen into what psychiatrist Robert Stoller calls a “blissful symbiosis.” But the mother may be inclined to hold on to her son in what becomes an unhealthy mutual dependency, especially if she does not have a satisfiying, intimate relationship with the boy’s father. In such cases she can put too much energy into the boy, using him to fulfill her needs for love and companionship in a way that is not good for him.
A “salient” (that is, strong and benevolent) father will interrupt the mother-son “blissful symbiosis,” which he instinctively senses is unhealthy. If a father wants his son to grow up straight, he has to break the mother-son bond that is proper to infancy but not in the boy’s best interest afterward. In this way, the father has to be a model, demonstrating that it is possible for his son to maintain a loving relationship with this woman, his mom, while still maintaining his own independence. In this sense, the father should function as a healthy buffer between mother and son.
Sometimes Mom might work against the father-son bond by keeping her husband away from the boy (“it’s too cold out for him,” “That might hurt him,” “He’s busy doing things with me today”) in order to satisfy her own needs for male intimacy. Her son is a “safe” male with whom she can have an intimate emotional relationship without the conflicts she may have to confront in her relationship with her husband. She might be too quick to “rescue” her son from Dad. She may cuddle and console the boy when his father disciplines or ignores him. Her excessive sympathy can discourage the little boy from making the all-important maternal separation.
Futhermore, exaggerated maternal sympathy fosters self-pity — a feature that is often observed in both prehomosexual boys and homosexual men. Such exaggerated sympathy from the mother may encourage the boy to stay isolated from his male peers when he is hurt by their teasing or their excluding him. As Richard Wyler tells us:
Almost all of us had an innate sensitivity and emotional intensity that we learned could be both a blessing and a cure. (To whatever extent biology may contribute to homosexuality, this is probably where biology most affected our homosexual struggle.)
On the one hand, our sensitivity caused us to be more loving, gentle, kind and oftentimes spiritually inclined than average. On the other hand, these were some of the very traits that caused girls to welcome us into their inner circles, Moms to hold onto us more protectively, Dads to distance themselves from us, and our rough-and-tumble peers to reject us.
Perhaps even more problematic, it created within us a thin-skinned susceptibility to feeling hurt and rejected, thus magnifying many times over whatever actual rejection and offense we might have received at the hands of others. Our perception became our reality. www.peoplecanchange.com
In infancy, both boys and girls are emotionally attached to the mother. In psychodynamic language, mother is the first love object. She meets all her child’s primary needs. Girls can continue to develop in their feminine identification through the relationship with their mothers. On the other hand, a boy has an additional developmental task — to disidentify from his mother and identify with his father.
While learning language (“he and she,” “his and hers”), the child discovers that the world is divided into natural opposites of boys and girls, men and women. At this point, a little boy will not only begun to observe the difference, but also he must now decide where he himself fits in this gender-divided world. The girl has the easier task; her primary attachment is already to the mother, and thus she does not need to go through the additional developmental task of disidentifying from the person closest to her in the world — Mom — to identify with the father. But the boy is different: he must separate from the mother and grow in his differentness from his primary love object if he is ever to be a heterosexual man.
This may explain why there are fewer female homosexuals than there are male homosexuals. Some studies report a 2 to 1 ratio. Others say 5 to 1 or even 11 to 1. We do not really know for sure, except that it is clear that there are more male homosexuals than there are lesbians.
“The first order of business in being a man,” according to psychoanalyst Robert Stoller, “is don’t be a woman.”
In Search of Masculinity
Meanwhile, the boy’s father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son’s maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son — games that are decidedly different from those he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach the toddler how to pound a wooden peg into a hole in a pegboard, or he can take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help noticing that Dad has a male body, just like he has.
As a result, the son will learn more of what it means to be a male. And he will accept his body as a representation of his maleness. This, he will think, is the way boys — and men — are made. And it is the way I am made. I am a boy, and that means I have a penis. Psychologists call this process “incorporating masculinity into a sense of self” (or “masculine introjection”), and it is an essential part of growing up straight.
The penis is the essential symbol of masculinity — the unmistakable difference between male and female. This undeniable anatomical difference should be emphasized to the boy in therapy. As psychoanalyst Richard Green has noted, the effeminate boy (whom he bluntly calls the “sissy boy”) views his own penis as an alien, mysterious object. If he does not succeed in “owning” his own penis, he will grow into an adult who will find continuing fascination in the penises of other men.
The boy who makes the unconscious decision to detach himself from his own male body is well on his way to developing a homosexual orientation. Such a boy will sometimes be obviously effeminate, but more often he — like most prehomosexual boys — is what we call “gender-nonconforming.” That is, he will be somewhat different, with no close male buddies at that developmental stage when other boys are breaking away from close friendships with little girls (about age six to eleven) in order to develop a secure masculine identity. Such a boy also usually has a poor or distant relationship with his father.
Listen to the words of Richard Wyler, who sponsors an online support group for strugglers. Wyler has assembled the stories of a group of ex-gay men and published them on his dynamic and insightful website www.peoplecanchange.com . He describes their shared feeling of alienation from their own masculine natures:
Our fear and hurt at feeling rejected by the male world often led us to disassociate ourselves from the masculine — the very thing we desired most… Some of us began to distance ourselves from other males, male interests and masculinity by consciously or subconsciously taking on more feminine traits, interests or mannerisms. (We often saw this in the gay community as deliberate effeminacy and “camp,” where gays sometimes took it to such an extreme they even referred to each other as “she” or “girlfriend.”)
But where did that leave us, as males ourselves? It left us in a Never-Never Land of gender confusion, not fully masculine but not really feminine either. We had disassociated not just from individual men we feared would hurt us, but from the entire htereosexual male world. Some of us even detached from our very masculinity as something shameful and inferior. www.peoplecanchange.com
This means that homosexual men, as psychiatrist Charles Socarides explains, are still searching for the masculine sense of self that should have been established in early childhood and then solidified through adolescence. But the dynamics involved are completely unconscious. And this why Dr. Socarides uses psychoanalysis (and some of the tools of psychoanalysis, such as dream work) to help his adult homosexual patients understand and resolve their unconscious strivings.
A woman is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from a woman, and it is confirmed only by other men.
Camille Paglia, Lesbian Activist
As the president of NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, I often give lectures on homosexuality. For the past fifteen years, I have treated many adult men dissatisfied with their homosexuality at my office in Encino, outside Los Angeles.
Most of my adult homosexual clients had never played with dolls. But almost all of these clients did display a characteristic gender nonconformity from early childhood that had set them painfully apart from other boys.
Most of these men remembered themselves in boyhood as unathletic, somewhat passive, lonely (except for female friends), unaggressive, and uninterested in rough-and-tumble play, and fearful of other boys, whom they found both intimidating and attractive. Many of them also had traits that could be considered gifts: they were bright, precocious, social and relational, and artistically talented. Because most of these men had not been exactly feminine as boys, their parents had not suspected anything amiss. Thus they had made no efforts at seeking therapy.
But on the inside, these men had, as boys, been highly ambivalent about their own gender. Many had been born sensitive and gentle, and they just were not sure that maleness could be part of “who they were.” Some writers have aptly referred to this condition as “gender emptiness.” Gender emptiness arises from a combination of a sensitive inborn temperament and a social environment that does not meet this child’s special needs. This temperamentally at-risk boy needs (but does not get) particular affirmation from parents and peers to develop a secure masculine identity.
Such a boy will then, for reasons of both temperament and family dynamics, retreat from the challenge of identifying with his dad and the masculinity he represents. So instead of incorporating a masculine sense of self, the prehomosexual boy is doing the opposite — rejecting his emerging maleness and thus developing a defensive position against it.
Later, though, he will fall in love with what he has lost by seeking out someone who seems to possess what is missing within himself. This is because what we fall in love with is not the familiar, but the “other than me.”
It’s An Identity Problem
At the root of almost every case of homosexuality is some distortion of the fundamental concept of gender. We see this distortion in the case of the lesbian activist who wants Scripture rewritten with God called “She.” Or when someone says, with obvious pride, ” I don’t fall in love with any particular gender, because gender doesn’t mater. I fall in love with the person — it can be either a man or a woman.” Or when a psychologist says that bisexuality is a superior orientation because it opens up creative new possibilities for sexual expression. Or when a high school boy insists he be allowed to wear a dress and high heels to school — and a judge orders the school to support the boy’s illusion that he is a female.
Self-deception about gender is at the heart of the homosexual condition. A child who imagines that he or she can be the opposite sex — or be both sexes — is holding on to a fantasy solution to his or her confusion. This is a revolt against reality and a rebellion against the limits built into our created human natures.
Today’s mass media convey the message that men ought to be encouraged to dicover a homosexual or bisexual identity. “Isn’t sexual diversity wonderful?” they ask. A number of TV and movie producers (some of them whom are gay themselves) try to persuade us with idealized coming-out-of-the-closet stories. We believe their efforts are misguided attempts to encourage what is actually the unfortunate situation in which too many of our young people find themselves.
Of course, in taking this view, I am often at odds with members of my own profession. Those who oppose me say the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) has settled the issue: homosexuality is normal. But that 1973 decision was made (as even some gay activists have noted) under heavy political pressure from gay activism.
The removal of homosexuality from the DSM had the effect of discouraging treatment and research. When it became “common knowledge” that homosexuality was “not a problem,” clinicians were discouraged — and in many cases, prevented — from expressing opinions to the contrary or presenting papers at professional meetings. Soon scientific journals became largely silent on homosexuality as a developmental problem.
In fact, as of this writing, the American Psychological Association refuses to cooperate in any way with the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) because they disagree with NARTH’s view that the condition is a developmental disorder. Furthermore, they believe that a scientific position of this sort “contributes to the climate of prejudice and discrimination to which gay, lesbian and bisexual people are subject.” In effect, the APA has placed a moratorium on debate about this subject.
This silence among researchers was not brought about by scientific evidence showing homosexuality to be a healthy variant of human sexuality. Rather, it became fashionable simply not to discuss the condition anymore as a problem. Homosexuality was reported and discussed the way one reports the evening news — as something that “just is,” like the next day’s weather.
Ronald Bayer, a researcher from the Hastings Center for Ethics in New York, summarized the entire process. “The American Psychiatric Association,” wrote Bayer, “had fallen victim to the disorder of a tumultuous era, when disruptive elements threatened to politicize every aspect of American social life. A furious egalitarianism… compelled psychiatric experts to negotiate the pathological status of homosexuality with homosexuals themselves.”
The result — homosexuality’s removal from the psychiatric manual of disorderss — came about not through a rational process of scientific reasoning, “but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times.”
We cannot go along with people who — many of them within the mental health profession — say that each of us can “be whatever we want to be,” in terms of gender identity or sexual orientation. They speak as if being gay or lesbian did not have the deepest consequences for us as individuals, for our culture, and for the human race. They speak as if our anatomy was in no way our destiny. They imply that when we help our children to grow more fully into the maleness or femaleness that is their created destiny. we are merely perpetuating outdated gender stereotypes.
But the human race was designed male and female; there is no third gender. Furthermore, civilization has shown us that the natural human family (father, mother and children), with all its faults, is the best possible environment for the nurturing of future generations. Have we really gotten it all wrong for so many hundreds of centuries? Are we going to cast all of history aside, in favor of the latest TV show about the glories of gender bending?
As one prominent psychoanalyst, Dr. Charles Socarides, says, “Nowhere do parents say, ‘It makes no difference to me if my child is homosexual or heterosexual.’” Given a choice, most parents would prefer that their children not find themselves in homosexual behavior.
It is fashionable in intellectual circles to believe that we human beings have no innate “human nature” and that the essence of being human is the freedom to redefine ourselves as we wish. But what good can freedom bring us, if it is used in defiance of who we are?
Some things, we would argue, are not redefinable. If indeed normality is “that which functions according to its design’ — and we believe that to be true — then nature calls upon us to fulfill our destinies as male and female.
In this book we will use the following terms interchangeably: prehomosxual, gender-conflicted, gender-confused, and gender-disturbed. All of those conditions have the potential to lead to a homosexual outcome. Gender-identity disorder (GID) refers to a psychiatric condition that is an extreme example of this same problem of internal gender conflict. In GID the child is unhappy with his or her biological sex. Many of the children we describe — in the course of their development toward homosexuality — fell short of the strict criteria for a clinicla diagnosis of GID, but the warning signs of gender conflict and homosexuality were there nonetheless.
The infantilism of the homosexual complex generally stems from adolescence, to a lesser degree from earlier childhood. These are the periods to which the homosexual person is fixated. It is not during early childhood, however, that the homosexual’s fate is sealed, as if often contended by, among others, emancipatory homosexuals. This theory helps to justify such indoctrination of children in sex education as: “A number of you are this way and must live according to your nature.” Early fixation of sexual orientation is also a favourite concept in older psychoanalytic theories. These contend that, by the age of three or four, one’s basic personality is firmly formed, once and for all.
A homosexual man imagined, after hearing such a theory, that his inclinations had already been imprinted in the embryonic stage, because his mother was wishing for a girl and therefore at that tender age would have rejected him, a boy. Irrespective of the fact that an embryo’s perception is still restricted to sensations more primitive than the awareness of not being wanted, such a theory has a fatalistic flaw and reinforces the person’s self-dramatization. Besides, if one relied on the memories of his youth, the period of neurotization of this man had rather clearly been adolescence. There is an element of truth in early-childhood theories, though. It is likely, for instance, that this man’s mother had seen him, from his first year onward, more as a girl than a boy and that she unconsciously was influenced by that wish in how she treated him. While character traits and attitudes may indeed take shape even in the first years of life, this is not so for the homosexual inclination itself, not the specific gender inferiority complex from which it springs.
That sexual interests are not unshakably anchored in early childhood may be illustrated by the findings of Gundlach and Riess (1967): in a large group of lesbians, these women were found to be significantly less often the eldest from families with five or more children, as compared to heterosexual women. This suggests that the decisive turn in the lesbian development does not take place before, say, six or seven years of age at its earliest, and probably later, because it is only then that a firstborn girl finds herself in the position that her chance of becoming a lesbian is enhanced (in case she has fewer than five siblings) or lowered (if five or more younger brothers and sisters are born). Similarly, a sudy on homosexual men from families with more than four children reported that they ranked more often than to be expected among the younger half of the children (Van Lennep et al. 1954).
Moreover, even of extraordinarily feminine boys — perhaps the group with the highet risk of becoming homosexual because of their liability to contract a masculine inferiority complex — more than 30 percent did not develop homosexual fantasies in adolescene (Green 1985), while 20 percent moved back and forth on the sexuual-interest continuuum during that phase of development (Green 1987). Looking back on their early childhood, some homosexuals — not all, to be sure — can see the signs (cross-gender dressing, cross-gender games or preferences) that indicated their later orientation, but that does not imply that from these signs one can predict homosexuality in an individual child. They inidicate a higher than normal chance, but not irreversible fate.
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
There are two major stumbling blocks to repentance that you will have to fight: the love of the familiar and the fear of the unknown. Jesus makes an interesting reference to the love of the familiar when He refers to Himself as the “light which came into the world.” People, He said, were in darkness and unable to comprehend the light when it came to them. That at least partially explains the rejection of Christ by His own people (John 1: 11). But He takes it a step further and says that people were not only in darkness but that they actually loved it! (John 3: 19). Their deeds were evil, and they had no desire to change. The comfort of their present state made them unwilling to consider any other way of life.
Never underestimate the power of the familiar. It has kept countless people from change, even when change would save their very lives. The familiar, after all, may be unhealthy, but at least we know it. We relate to it. And we are all too prone to cling to familiar territory.
When that “familiar territory” is sexual activity, it becomes perversely dear to us. Even though we admit it’s wrong, we also come to see it as an old friend. It’s reliable and available, and it works. It eases our pain and temporarily satisfies us. To repent of habitual sexual behavior can be like abandoning a trustworthy buddy.
Compare this to drug addiction. A person just doesn’t fall into it. Somewhere along the line he discovers satisfaction through a chemical. It temporarily eases pain, helps him forget troubles, comforts him. It becomes his anesthetic, deadening his anxieties like a nurturing parent. Of course there are other ways he could deal with his problems, but this drug is familiar and has a good track record. Why give up something that works?
Meanwhile he is becoming addicted. What began as a comfort is now a necessity, emotionally and physically. To give it up means to go through physical withdrawal, which is hard enough. But it would also mean finding another way to cope with the inner conflicts which remain long after withdrawal. In fact, without the familiar coping mechanism formerly provided, those conflicts will be stronger and more painful than ever. The truth is, he must find other coping mechanisms, because the one he uses now will eventually destroy him.
God is the Author of legitimate need. He created us with the need for intimacy, bonding, love. If we, for whatever reason, do not get these needs met in the normal way, we will develop abnormal ways of satisfying them. Once these abnormal methods are part of our makeup, we’re frightened to abandon them. Like faithful old friends, we rely on them and cannot imagine doing without them. In that sense we all love the familiar dark, not necessarily for its darkness, but for its familiarity.
Fear of the unknown is just as tough to beat. When we give up the familiar, we turn toward the unfamiliar. It may be to our benefit to do so, but it still threatens us. The unknown, no matter how good, is still the unknown. We have never been there, so we’re not sure what to expect, nor are we certain what to do once we get there. At that point we long again for the comfort of the familiar.
Look at the Jewish people’s journey out of Egypt. They had been in a terrible situation, cruelly driven to slave labor by their taskmasters. They lived in bondage and prayed for deliverance, and God intervened. He brought them out of Egypt miraculously and promised them a new start in a good land. And for a while that sounded great.
Then the exodus and the problems began. When faced with difficult situations in the wilderness, they were prone to long for the familiarity of Egypt and to dread the unknown Promised Land. Think about the power the familiar held for them! They had treated worse than animals in Egypt, yet at times they would remember it fondly, saying, “At least we were fed regularly and had our basic needs taken care of it!” The unknown frightened them, making them turn toward the bondage that they could at least relate to. And when they finally approached the Promised Land, the terror of its giant inhabitants overshadowed all the benefits that would go along with their new location. In Egypt at least they had survived. How could they be sure they would fare as well in new territory?
If you have met your primary emotional needs through homosexual behavior in the past, you may also wonder how you will fare in new territory. “If I could know that someday I’ll feel as turned on to a woman as I do to a man,” a client once told me, “this would be easier. Then it wouldn’t be so hard to make all these changes, because I’d know someday it’s all going to pay off. But when I look at straight couples and their kids, and think about me living that way and really enjoying it, I can’t relate to it. I know where I want to be, but I can’t even think of what it would be like to actually be there. And even if I do get there, how am I going to handle it?”
Your love of the familiar (homosexual practices) and fear of the unknown (repentance and a new life) will be alleviated when you consider the joy that the unknown holds for you. Sure, it’s tough at times. But it also opens up a way of freedom, new relationships, and peace of mind. The good outweighs the bad immeasurably.
When the Israelites were finally ready to enter the land that God promised to bring them to, they sent out spies to see exactly what their new home would be like. Imagine the anticipation they were feeling! They didn’t know much about this place — only that, whatever it was like, it had to be better than Egypt where they had been slaves, or the wilderness where they had wandered for so long. So they waited for the spies to return, having told them to bring back a sample of the fruit the land was bearing and a report on the kind of people who were already living there.
The spies returned with good news and bad news. The good news was that the fruit was abundant, a sure sign of healthy land. In fact, the grapes they brought back as a sample were so large that they had to be carried on a staff between two men! There was cause for real optimism and good reason to charge right in and take over.
The bad news was that there were also huge, intimidating giants dwelling in this unknown territory. The children of Israel appeared to be no match for these guys, who were so big that, according to the spies, they made the average man look like a grasshopper (Numbers 13: 17-33). So the unknown held both promise and foreboding. It was wonderful and frightening at the same time. But in the end, the fear of the unknown was finally conquered by the conviction that the land could be — must be — entered into.
Fruits and giants — they’re part and parcel of the unknown. The fruit of leaving sexual sin is a new and better way of living. The giants scowl in the background. Loneliness, sexual temptation, misunderstanding from friends, and uncertainty about the future all loom large enough to make you chirp away like a grasshopper. The question is this: Are you going to cling to familiar, destructive ways simply because you can relate to them, or are you willing to abandon them in favor of a new way of living which is better, even though at this point you can’t relate to it?
I trust that you’re ready and willing to try something better, which means that you’re ready and willing to repent.
Dallas, J. (2003). Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual Identity. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers
The “inner child” views not only members of his own sex through the glasses of his gender inferiority complex, but also the opposite sex. “Half of mankind — the female half — did not exist for me, until recently”, a homosexual client once said. He had viewed women as caring mother figures, as married homosexuals sometimes do, or as rivals in his hunt for male affection. Being too close to a woman his age can be threatening to a male homosexual, because he feels like a little boy who is not up to the male role in relation to adult women. This is true apart from the sexual element in the male-female relationship. Lesbian women may view men as their rivals too: they may want a world without men; men make them feel insecure and take their prospective woman friends from them. Homosexuals often view marriage and the male-female relationship without understanding, with envy and sometimes even hatred, because the “role” of manliness or womanliness itself annoys them; this is, in short, the view of an outsider who feels inferior.
In social respects, homosexuals (especially male) are sometimes addicted to collecting sympathy. Some make a veritable cult of their many, shallow friendships and have developed a skill for charming other people. They appear “extroverted”. They want to be the most adored, the most loved boy of the group: an overcompensatory habit. They seldom feel on an equal footing with others, however: either inferior or superior (overcompensation). Overcompensatory self-affirmation bears the mark of childish thinking and childish emotionality.
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
Two emancipatory homosexuals, a psychologist and a psychiatrist, David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison (1984), studied 156 male couples, the most partner-stable segment of the homosexual population. They concluded: “Though most gay couples begin their relationship with an implicit or explicit commitment to sexual exclusivity, only seven couples in this study had been consistently sexually monogamous.” That is 4 percent. But notice what is meant with “consistently sexually monogamous”: these men said they had had no other partners for a period of less than five years. Notice the authors’ distorted use of language: “commitment to sexual exclusivity” is morally neutral and, in fact, a poor substitute for “fidelity”. As for the 4 percent, we may safely predict that, even if they did not lie, the consistency of their behavior ended sometime soon afterward. Because that is the fixed rule. Homosexual restlessness cannot be appeased, much less so by having one partner, because these persons are propelled by an insatiable pining for the unattainable fantasy figure. Essentially, the homosexual is a yearning child, not a satisfied one.
The term neurotic describes such relationships well. It suggests the ego-centeredness of the relationship; the attention-seeking instead of loving; the continuous tensions, generally stemming from the recurrent complaint, “You don’t love me”; the jealousy which so often suspects, “He is more interested in someone else.” Neurotic, in short, suggests all kinds of drama and childish conflicts as well as the basic disinterestedness in the partner, notwithstanding the shallow pretensions of “love”. Nowhere is there more self-deception in the homosexual than in his representation of himself as a lover. One partner is important to the other only insofar as he satisfies the other’s needs. Real, unselfish love for a desired partner, would, in fact, end up destroying homosexual “love”! Homosexual “unions” are clinging relationships of two essentially self-absorbed “poor me’s”.
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
When the therapist makes it clear that the adolescent boy “had no choice” other than to rely upon homosexual fantasy for emotional relief, he helps his patient take a big step toward self-acceptance. From this point, the therapist can help the patient approach the fantasies not as the “enemy” but the little boy’s safe haven.
Yet some men are threatened by this premise because it dramatically departs from the negative view they have held for so long. In most cases, these men have tried in vain to suppress the fantasies, especially during masturbation. They may be convinced that they must overcome the fantasies, because only then will they be able to comfortably pursue heterosexual relationships. Some men go so far as to set this as a precondition and thereby enforce an intractable resistance to growth.
The therapist’s success in addressing this resistance plays a pivotal role in determining the course of therapy. By referring back to the little boy’s dilemma of craving fatherly affection, he can enlist the patient’s acceptance of how unmet needs seek relief. It is important to stress the notion that his “boy” inside should not be blamed for what he could not control, and he cannot be expected to just abandon his dependency upon fantasy because the adult on the outside dictates it.
Such a demand only echoes the harsh treatment the boy received as a child when others demanded that he “measure up.”
Rather, the boy should be allowed to indulge in his fantasies during the times his needs require it, while the adult provides gentle encouragement to grow up. This encouragement comes in the form of goals and newly formed masculine attitudes that begin to exist side by side with the older child-based homosexual fantasy life. Essentially, the patient is told that the therapy aims for the evolution of a masculine self, not just a substitution to take the place of the old homosexual feelings and images.
The demystification of the fantasies can effectively remove any preconditions that the patient’s resistances put into place. In so doing, the patient is freed up to develop a strong masculine self-image at whatever pace his fears allow.
When confronted by skepticism and complaints that these ideas make it sound like I am suggesting it is acceptable to fantasize about homosexuality, I have used the following metaphor: “If we go back to the boy’s experience and remember how many times he had the door slammed before him when he wanted to join the other boys, to feel accepted as a boy, or just receive some affection for making his father proud of him, we get a picture of a shaky, insecure kid locked out of masculinity. His fantasies were the emotional band aids that helped him succeed in the other areas of his life. And now you’re telling him to strip off the band aids and get ready to be kicked out of the house? I think it’s better to first prepare him for what it’s like out there and keep the door open when he ventures out so he knows he can still return if he finds it necessary. In time, he’ll get a firmer feel under his feet for what masculinity is all about and build his own house. But there still may be times when he returns to visit the old house for one reason or another.”
In closing, I would like to stress that this paper presents many interventions that I have had hours to ponder over during the writing process. The written words are at best, only approximations of what I really said in sessions when I had only seconds to produce a response. Still, the gist of my approach is presented here. Yet during those occasions when my therapeutic attunement failed me and my words were insensitive or, at worst, hurtful, I looked for signs of that in my patients and tried to elicit their feelings. When I was able to elicit those hurt feelings, and they expressed their anger at me and requests for an apology, I humbly offered it and returned to gauging their progress on their own “measuring stick.”
Richfield, S. A. (8 February 2008). The Treatment of Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality: The Development of a Masculine Self-Image., from http://narth.com/docs/richfield.html
Finally, the patient needs to be permitted to “come up short” sometimes due to the realistic constraints of his life. For instance, “I know it feels good when you achieve both goals on a daily basis but there’s more to life than these goals: there are other demands, the need to reward yourself from time to time, and there are limitations upon your energy level. When you fall short of the goals, it’s important to remind yourself that there are other successes that day and another chance tomorrow to work on them.” These interventions attempt to instill in the patient a broader perspective for judging his masculinity.
No discussion of these problems would be complete without adequately addressing how homosexual fantasies disturb the lives of these men. The experience has taught me to treat such fantasies as very distinct from the behavior patterns and goal-setting that I have outlined thus far. My rationale is based upon the view that these fantasies grow out of the deep frustrations and unmet needs for masculine affection that occur during early childhood. Initially, these fantasies are attempts to compensate for this deprivation, and in time, other determinants reinforce their continued presence. Therefore these fantasies cannot be overcome in the same manner that these men overcome passivity and avoidance–that is, through assertiveness.
The reliance upon the fantasies subsides as the patient passes through the phallic-narcissistic phase of therapy and is rewarded by the therapists’ admiring comments and a fuller sense of masculinity. Yet even with the most ideal outcomes, it is my belief that residual homosexual fantasies will emerge from time to time through the lives of these men. Therefore I believe that it is critical not to over-focus upon the presence of the fantasies in order to allow the evolution of the masculine self to take place.
By ascribing great importance to the presence or frequency of the fantasies, the therapist may inadvertently sabotage that process by communicating to the patient that no matter how masculine he behaves on the outside, he remains homosexual inside. One man who I had been treating for a few years made the following observation about he importance of realistic expectations: “I’ve come to accept that there is a homosexual part inside that I may never be able to get rid of. But maybe I can learn to live with it. The other day I was at the swim club with my wife and sons. A man in a very tight bathing suit walked by and I caught myself staring and beginning to have fantasies. But just as quickly, I stopped myself, told myself it was not such a big deal, and dove in the water. And it didn’t ruin my day.”
This man’s experience captures what I see as the most realistic goal of psychotherapy of ego-dystonic homosexuality: the growth of a strong masculine self-image that provides for a satisfying heterosexual adaptation which is not jeopardized when there is a periodic intrusion of homosexual fantasies.
Yet I am aware that many men will have great difficulty embracing a goal that falls short of the total eradication of homosexuality from their inner and outer lives. In fact, I am often confronted by much disillusionment when I present this view at the beginning of therapy. Still, I believe it is a critical intervention in this type of work because it anticipates the fantasies, and attempts to demystify their meaning. If this is not accomplished, patients may easily give up hope even if they are progressing, due to the significance they have placed upon the lingering remnants of homosexual fantasy life.
Demystification begins by providing a new meaning to understand the fantasies. These men have felt stigmatized by their fantasies and have often understood them to signify their homosexuality. Yet they are typically relieved when I supply an alternate construction that weaves together the theories of early childhood development in boys, the circumstances of their early childhood, and the subsequent impact of internal and external forces.
For instance, the man most recently referred to recounted how his fantasies originated from the images of fathers and sons portrayed by such shows as “Lassie” in the early 1960′s. He recalled having been five or six years old and soothing himself to sleep by imagining that he was the little boy receiving the paternal affection depicted on the TV program. Although these memories were recalled by him with great sadness and emptiness, he accepted his earlier dependency upon those fantasies due to the coldness and detachment of his father.
From this point of departure, I attempted to demystify the later homosexual fantasies through clarifications such as the following: “Deep down your fantasies serve as a security blanket in the same way they did when you were five. At that age your heart ached for your father’s strong arms to hold you, but sensing his rejection, you turned away and inward in an attempt to create your own good father image. This helped you to endure his emotional detachment but laid the groundwork for your dependence upon fantasies for soothing your pain. With the onset of adolescence, you feelings of masculine inadequacy were intermixed with sexual urges, and once again you turned to your fantasies for soothing your pain. But this time, you had no choice other than to construct them in a blatantly sexual style due to the phase of life you were in. Heterosexual fantasies would not provide any type of relief and refueling, since you were still stuck in the arms of the good father, not ready to let go and too scared that you would not make it as a man.”
Richfield, S. A. (8 February 2008). The Treatment of Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality: The Development of a Masculine Self-Image., from http://narth.com/docs/richfield.html
The therapist’s ability to soothe some of the patient’s fears often produces an interest in goal-setting on the part of the patient. Dynamically, the patient is now ready to risk further disappointment in return for the prospect of self-satisfaction because he knows the therapist will be there to offer solace if he should stumble. In essence, the therapist’s empathic attunement provides a “safety net” to ensure that when the patient is let down, his feelings can be contained rather than subjected to a downward spiral.
Goal-setting must be handled with much caution and delicacy since it spurs action in one director or another. First it must be understood as both a catalyst for growth, and a potential resistance to growth. From a positive standpoint, defined and measurable goals are critical at certain points because men often need to see themselves as moving forward and “acquiring the masculinity” inherent in attaining each benchmark on their own “measuring stick.” But from a negative standpoint, goal-setting can function as fertile ground for self-defeating patterns and provide further evidence of not “measuring up.” Therefore, the therapist must anticipate how failure to meet one’s goal at any given point will be experienced as a general failure in the man’s quest for a masculine self.
For instance, one man with a history of childhood obesity recalled many painful memories of being teased for his ineptitude in sports and his weight. Food became a ready source of comfort when he was beleaguered by self-hatred and peer ridicule. Although he was no longer obese when he began therapy, the symbolic value of food remained the same: it comforted him when he felt unmanly. Due to his childhood experiences he saw a soft, uncontoured body and self-indulgent eating habits as less than manly.
In positing goals, he placed weight lifting/working out and maintaining disciplined nutrition as especially important for his sense of masculinity. His attainment of these goals brought enhanced self-esteem due to their masculine value to him. He soon expected himself to fulfill both goals on a daily basis, and as a further condition, he allowed no “cheating” in his diet and he implicitly instituted minimums upon his workout times. This eventually led to his daily moods becoming tied to his ability to satisfy the goals. When he was unable to satisfy one he became disillusioned, depressed, and disinterested in the goals. Clearly, his sense of masculinity became dictated by meeting the goals without any consideration to his circumstances, energy level, rewards, and other issues that impacted upon goal achievement.
When goals become subverted as they did in this case, the therapist must offer comfort, interpretation, and objectivity. First, the patient needs to know that his feelings count even if they arise out of unrealistic expectations. For example, “I see how weak you feel when you eat something rich in calories or don’t make it to the gym.” Next, the therapist needs to make clear that the patient is doing to himself what others did to him as a boy: imposing arbitrary conditions for masculinity. For instance, “When you judge yourself so strictly you are only allowing another form of submission into your life, but this time, it’s in the form of inflexible rules for masculinity.”
Richfield, S. A. (8 February 2008). The Treatment of Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality: The Development of a Masculine Self-Image., from http://narth.com/docs/richfield.html
Sometimes a form of “phallic” action is required to bolster the masculine self so that further self-inflicted damage can be averted, i.e., sexual acting out. Yet strong resistance to such action is typical since there is fear that either the action will fail to produce desirable results, or at worst, the man will feel humiliated.
In the same patient referred to earlier, workplace scenarios regularly evoked feelings of submission that he felt powerless to overcome. Analysis of these situations led to identification of specific actions or comments that he had avoided making which could have stemmed the tide of his feelings. For example, he could have given a superior direct feedback about the tone of voice used when addressing him, informed a co-worker that he would no longer take responsibility for the other’s work, and he could have apologized after an overreaction as a way of providing closure to an awkward interaction. When this patient protested that such actions would have futile or humiliating, I suggested that many actions do not produce the “right” results but nevertheless would have restored his sense of masculine dignity in the situation.
I have suggested that a man’s masculinity is judged via the means he uses to interact with the world, rather than the outcome of those means. This intervention attempts to alter the “yardstick” of masculinity from a child’s focus upon the external results, to an adult’s internal set of standards and priorities. Although the boy had no choice other than to measure himself by the arbitrary standards and circumstances around him, as a man, he is free to develop his own “measuring stick.”
The patient’s passage through these masculine rites offers the therapist an opportunity to demonstrate visible pride and satisfaction at his phallic conquests. The therapist must feel free to offer admiring comments balanced by sensitivity to the fragile state of his patient’s masculinity. This gentle affirming or mirroring of the patient’s phallic assertiveness promotes internalization of the therapist’s pride, and thereby, the patient’s confidence that his masculinity is enhanced. In may respects, these therapeutic exchanges parallel the normal developmental dance between a proud and attuned father and an idealizing and vulnerable boy passing through the phallic-narcissistic phase.
The therapist’s reinforcement of the patient’ phallic assertiveness inevitably triggers some core childhood fears that stand in the way of sustained progress. For example, it is typical for these men to feel paralyzed by the fear of disappointing the therapist. They may become overwhelmed with shame and confusion about “what really is expected,” as if a secret agenda is being used to measure them. They may angrily insist upon the unfairness of it all, since so much is upon them to do, or they may simply find one “logical” reason or another to avoid taking such risks.
These resistances must be viewed as windows of opportunity to speak directly to the boy within, and to provide the emotional supplies so scarce during childhood. The therapist’s ability to empathically immerse himself in the patient’s experience, much the way a “good enough” father can recall his own fears and insecurities as a boy, will determine whether these core fears become roadblocks or simply way stations for refueling.
In the same way that a boy who is filled with disappointment in himself needs his father to make it better, the patient needs reassurance, affection and containment from the therapist. Initially, the therapist must put himself in the patient’s experience and communicate from there. Examples might include, “This is scary stuff…It probably looks pretty hopeless at this point…It is unfair that no one else is suffering but you…You’re worried that each step you take will be the wrong one…” Such understanding is essential but not sufficient, since the “good enough” father/therapist must do more.
Broadening perspective, instilling objectivity, or offering concrete and specific handling of situations can build confidence where it is most needed. For instance, “You need to know that I’m proud that you’ve made it this far and that doesn’t disappoint me, but tells me that we need to put our heads together and prepare you better next time…Of course it seems like a foreign land because you’ve never really been settled there before, but I will help you learn the terrain and before long, you’ll feel like a native…The only thing expected is that you’ll keep telling me about your feelings and confusion so that I can help you manage them and guide you to where you want to go…It’s important to realize that your fear makes it easy for you to find excuses not to follow through, such as when you jump to conclusions about the entire female population based upon the experiences you’ve had with only a few…Now, let’s talk about what you can realistically expect to happen and how you might want to handle it so you feel better prepared…I think that you’ll feel less like you’re submitting if you made those conditions clear and explain why you neglected to tell them earlier…”
The treatment of ego-dystonic homosexuality in men poses many therapeutic challenges. From a technical standpoint, the patient typically presents with many conscious and unconscious resistances to growth. There are fears of heterosexual functioning that manifest themselves through sexual acting out, suicidal gestures, passivity, threatened premature termination, avoidance, rationalization, and so on.
The therapist must prepare for these and many other hurdles and readily ally himself with the side of the patient’s personality that strives for change. Such an alliance requires that the patient feel safe, understood, and hopeful that change is possible. If these conditions are not met, or if ruptures in the alliance are not sufficiently repaired, the patient will not experience the therapist as “being on his side” and the outcome will be seriously undermined.
In the several years that I have been treating men with this condition they have taught me a great deal about themselves –about their internal turmoil and their efforts to cover up their secret lives; about their interpersonal sensitivities; and especially, about their deep sense of masculine inadequacy.
In my way of thinking, masculine inadequacy is a feeling state arrived at after years and years of wounds to a boy’s developing masculine self-image. My experience has taught me that the overriding therapeutic aim in working with these men is to reverse this damage and ensure the integrity of masculine self-image. The evolution into this “phallic being” creates a safer context for these men to overcome their fears and feel more hopeful about growth because they can identify behavioral changes. Therapy provides the patient a second chance to receive the masculine mirroring via the therapist which is so vital to treatment outcome.
The patient’s success in this effort is directly related to his acceptance and recognition of the various factors that have interfered and continue to interfere with an adequate masculine self-image. Therefore, the therapist guides the patient in revisiting the significant situations of childhood, linking them up with past and present feeling states, and labeling the patterns. Once this is accomplished the groundwork is laid for leading the patient towards masculinization. Laying the groundwork involves using the patient’s personal history to demonstrate how childhood situations left him with a sense of exclusion from the “masculine club” and produced deep feelings of “not measuring up.”
The persistence of these scenarios led to strongly engrained patterns of submission and self-exclusion. Submissive behavior became a tool for temporary, albeit humiliating, entry into the male world, and self-exclusion was relied upon for protection from further wounding to the boy’s fragile sense of masculinity.
The reconstruction of this boyhood disenchantment with masculinity provides reference points for the therapist to refer back to when the patient discusses the failures and disappointments of life today. A common language that incorporates the terms used by the patient, the specific circumstances surrounding damage to the masculine self, and the therapist’s syncretizing comments provide the patient with verbal mechanisms to endure the surfacing of adverse feelings. In one case, a man’s easily evoked feelings of victimization were lessened by telling himself that he was not helpless in the face of bullying by his cruel older brother and that he retained certain powers and choices to change circumstances if he so desired.
Homosexuality is not adequately explained by a disturbed or detached relationship with the same-sex parent, and/or an overattachment to the opposite-sex parent, no matter how frequently these are associated with it. For one thing, such relationships are often seen in pedophiliacs as well, and in other sexual neurotics (Mohr et al. 1964, 61, 140). Moreover, there are normal heterosexuals with similar parent-child interactions. Secondly, as remarked above, neither do cross-gender behavior and interests necessarily lead to homosexuality.
Even a gender inferiority complex, however, may take various forms, and erotic fantasies flowing from it may not only be directed to young or more mature adults of the same sex, but also to children of the same sex (homosexual pedophilia), or possibly to persons of the opposite sex. The woman-chaser, for instance, often suffers from a variant of the masculinity inferiority complex. The decisive factor for homosexuality is the fantasy. And fantasy is shaped by self-image, the view of others — with regard to one’s gender qualities — and chance events, such as determinative social contacts and experiences in puberty. The gender inferiority complex is the stepping-stone to a variety of frustration-borne sexual fantasies.
Feeling less masculine or feminine as compared to same-sex peers is tantamount to the feeling of not belonging. Many prehomosexual boys had the feeling of “not belonging” with their fathers, brothers, or other boys, and prelesbian girls with their mothers, sisters or other girls. To illustrate the importance of “belonging” for gender identity and gender-conforming behavior, an observation by Green (1987) may serve. Of a pair of identical twin brothers, one became homosexual, the other heterosexual; the heterosexual was the one who bore his father’s name.
“Not belonging”, inferiority feelings, and loneliness inter-connect. Now the question is, how do these feelings lead to homosexual desires? To see through this, the notion of “inferiority complex” must be clarified.
The child and the adolescent automatically react to feelings of inferiority and “not belonging” with self-pity or self-dramatization. They inwardly perceive themselves as pathetic, pitiable, poor creatures. The word “self-dramatization” is correct, for it describes the child’s tendency to view himself as the tragic center of the world. “Nobody understands me”; “nobody loves me”; “everybody is against me”; “my life is all misery” — the young ego does not and for the most part cannot accept his sorrow, much less perceive its relativity or view it as something that will pass. The self-pity reaction is very strong, and it is easy to give way to it. For self-pity, to a degree, has a comforting effect, as does the pity one receives from other people in times of grief. Self-pity provides warmth; it consoles because there is something sweet in it. Est quaedam flere voluptus, there is a certain lust in crying, according to the ancient poet Ovid (Tristia). The child or adolescent who feels himself to be a “poor me” can become attached to this attitude, especially when he withdraws into himself and has no one to help him work through his problems with understanding, encouragement, and firmness. Self-dramatization is particularly typical in adolescence, when the young person easily feels a hero, special, unique, even in his sufferings. If the attachment to self-pity remains, then the complex proper, that is, the inferiority complex, comes into existence. In the mind, the habit of feeling like a “poor inferiority me” is fixated. It is this “poor me” within who feels unmasculine, unfeminine, alone, and “not belonging” to the peer group.
Initially, self-pity works like good medicine. Rather soon, however, it works more like a drug that enslaves. At that point, it has become — unconsciously — a habit of self-comforting, of concentrated self-love. The emotional life has become neurotic essentially: addicted to self-pity. With the child’s or adolescent’s instinctive, strong egocenteredness this proceeds automatically, unless there are affectionate and strengthening interventions from the outside world. The ego will forever remain the hurt, poor one who pities himself; it remains the same child-ego. All views, efforts, and desires of the “child of old” have been preserved in this “poor me.”
The “complex” is therefore fed by a lasting self-pity, by an inner complaining about oneself. Without this infantile (adolescent) self-pity, there is no complex. Inferiority feelings can exist temporarily, but if enduring self-pity takes root, they stay alive, often as fresh and strong when the person is fifty years old as when he was fifteen. “Complex” means that the inferiority feelings have become autonomous, recurring, always active, though more intense at some times than at others. Psychologically, the person in part remains the child or adolescent he was and no longer matures, or hardly, in the areas where the inferiority feelings reign. In homosexuals, this is the area of self-image in terms of gender characteristics and gender-related behavior.
As bearers of an inferiority complex, homosexuals are unconsciously self-pitying “adolescents.” Complaining about their psychical or physical condition, about being wrongly treated by others, about their life, fate, and environment, is typical with many of them, as well as with those who play the role of being always happy. They are as a rule not aware of their self-pity addiction. They see their complaints as justified, not as coming from a need to complain and to feel sorry for themselves. This need for misery and self-torment is peculiar. Psychologically, it is a so-called quasi-need (“Quasi-Bedurfnis“), an attachment to the pleasure of complaining and self-pity, to playing the part of the tragic one.
Acquiring insight into the central neurotic drive of complaining and inner self-pity is sometimes difficult for therapists and others seeking to help homosexual persons. More often than not, those who have heard about the self-pity concept think it a little far-fetched to assume that unconscious infantile self-pity could be that basic to homosexuality. What is generally remembered and agreed on concerning this explanation is the notion of “feelings of inferiority”, not that of “self-pity.” The perception of the paramount role of infantile self-pity in neurosis and homosexuality is indeed new; perhaps strange at first glance. but if thought over and checked against personal observations it proves extremely enlightening
It is widely agreed that many factors likely contribute to the formation of male homosexuality. One factor may be the predisposing biological influence of temperament (Byne and Parsons, l993). No scientific evidence, however, shows homosexuality to be directly inherited in the sense that eye color is inherited (Satinover, 1996).
Recent political pressure has resulted in a denial of the importance of the factor most strongly implicated by decades of previous clinical research–developmental factors, particularly the influence of parents. A review of the literature on male homosexuality reveals extensive reference to the prehomosexual boy’s relational problems with both parents (West 1959, Socarides 1978, Evans 1969); among some researchers, the father-son relationship has been particularly implicated (Bieber et al 1962, Moberly 1983).
One psychoanalytic hypothesis for the connection between poor early father-son relationship and homosexuality is that during the critical gender-identity phase of development, the boy perceives the father as rejecting. As a result, he grows up failing to fully identify with his father and the masculinity he represents.
Nonmasculine or feminine behavior in boyhood has been repeatedly shown to be correlated with later homosexuality (Green, l987, Zuger, l988); taken together with related factors–particularly the often-reported alienation from same-sex peers and poor relationship with father–this suggests a failure to fully gender-identify. In its more extreme form, this same syndrome (usually resulting in homosexuality) is diagnosed as Childhood Gender-Identity Deficit (Zucker and Bradley, 1996).
One likely cause for “failure to identify” is a narcissistic injury inflicted by the father onto the son (who is usually temperamentally sensitive) during the preoedipal stage of the boy’s development. This hurt appears to have been inflicted during the critical gender-identity phase when the boy must undertake the task of assuming a masculine identification. The hurt manifests itself as a defensive detachment from masculinity in the self, and in others. As an adult, the homosexual is often characterized by this complex which takes the form of “the hurt little boy” (Nicolosi, 1991).
During the course of my treatment of ego-dystonic male homosexuals, I have sometimes requested that fathers participate in their sons’ treatment. Thus I have been able to familiarize myself with some of the fathers’ most common personality traits. This discussion attempts to identify some clinical features common to those fathers of homosexuals.
For this report, I have focused on sixteen fathers who I consider typical in my practice–twelve fathers of homosexual sons (mid-teens to early 30′s), and four fathers of young, gender-disturbed, evidently prehomosexual boys (4- to 7- year-olds). The vast majority of these fathers appeared to be psychologically normal and, also like most fathers, well-intentioned with regard to their sons; in only one case was the father seriously disturbed, inflicting significant emotional cruelty upon his son.
However as a group, these fathers were characterized by the inability to counter their sons’ defensive detachment from them. They felt helpless to attract the boy into their own masculine sphere.
As a whole, these fathers could be characterized as emotionally avoidant. Exploration of their histories revealed that they had typically had poor relationships with their own fathers. They tended to defer to their wives in emotional matters and appeared particularly dependent on them to be their guides, interpreters and spokespersons.
While these men expressed sincere hope that their sons would transition to heterosexuality, nevertheless they proved incapable of living up to a long-term commitment to help them toward that goal. In his first conjoint session, one father cried openly as his 15-year-old son expressed his deep disappointment with him; yet for months afterward, he would drive his son to his appointment without saying a word to him in the car.
Further, while they often appeared to be gregarious and popular, these fathers tended not to have significant male friendships. The extent to which they lacked the ability for male emotional encounter was too consistent and pronounced to be dismissed as simply “typical of the American male.” Rather, my clinical impression of these fathers as a group was that there existed some significant limitation in their ability to engage emotionally with males.
From their sons’ earliest years, these fathers showed a considerable variation in their ability to recognize and respond to the boys’ emotional withdrawal from them. Some naively reported their perception of having had a “great” relationship with their sons, while their sons themselves described the relationship as having been “terrible.” Approximately half the fathers, however, sadly admitted that the relationship was always poor and, in retrospect, perceived their sons as rejecting them from early childhood. Why their sons rejected them remained for most fathers a mystery, and they could only express a helpless sense of resignation and confusion. When pushed, these men would go further to express hurt and deep sadness. Ironically, these sentiments–helplessness, hurt and confusion–seemed to be mutual; they are the same expressed by my clients in describing their own feelings in the relationship with their fathers.
The trait common to fathers of homosexuals seemed to be an incapacity to summon the ability to correct relational problems with their sons. All the men reported feeling “stuck” and helpless in the face of their sons’ indifference or explicit rejection of them. Rather than actively extending themselves, they seemed characteristically inclined to retreat, avoid and feel hurt. Preoccupied with self-protection and unwilling to risk the vulnerability required to give to their sons, they were unable to close the emotional breach. Some showed narcissistic personality features. Some fathers were severe and capable of harsh criticism; some were brittle and rigid; overall, most were soft, weak and placid, with a characteristic emotional inadequacy. The term that comes to mind is the classic psycholanalytic term “acquiescent” – the acquiescent father.
Homosexuality is almost certainly due to multiple factors and cannot be reduced soley to a faulty father-son relationship. Fathers of homosexual sons are usually also fathers of heterosexual sons–so the personality of the father is clearly not the sole cause of homosexuality. Other factors I have seen in the development of homosexuality include a hostile, feared older brother; a mother who is a very warm and attractive personality and proves more appealing to the boy than an emotionally removed father; a mother who is actively disdainful of masculinity; childhood seduction by another male; peer labelling of the boy due to poor athletic ability or timidity; in recent years, cultural factors encouraging a confused and uncertain youngster into an embracing gay community; and in the boy himself, a particularly sensitive, relatively fragile, often passive disposition.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the striking commonality of these fathers’ personalities.
In two cases, the fathers were very involved and deeply committed to the treatment of their sons, but conceded that they were not emotionally present during their sons’ early years. In both cases it was not personality, but circumstance that caused the fathers’ emotional distance. In one case the father was a surgeon from New Jersey who reported atteding medical school while trying to provide financial support for his young family of three children. The second father, an auto mechanic from Arizona, reported that when he was only 21 years old, he was forced to marry the boy’s mother because she was pregnant. He admitted never loving the boy’s mother, having been physically absent from the home, and essentially having abandoned both mother and boy. Both fathers, now more mature and committed to re-establishing contact with their sons, participated enthusiastically in their therapy. But in both cases, the sons had, by then, become resistant to establishing an emotional connection with their fathers.
Attempt at Therapeutic Dialogue.
My overall impression of fathers in conjoint sessions was of a sense of helplessness, discomfort and awkwardness when required to directly interact with their sons.
These men tended not to trust psychological concepts and communication techniques and often seemed confused and easily overwhelmed with the challenge to dialogue in depth. Instructions which I offered during consultation, when followed, were followed literally, mechanically and without spontaneity. A mutual antipathy, a stubborn resistance and a deep grievance on the part of both fathers and sons was clearly observable. At times I felt myself placed in the position of “mother interpreter,” a role encouraged by fathers and at times by sons. As “mother interpreter,” I found myself inferring feeling and intent from the father’s fragmented phrases and conveying that fuller meaning to the son, and vice versa from son to father.
Some fathers expressed concern with “saying the wrong thing,” while others seemed paralyzed by fear. During dialogue, fathers demonstrated great difficulty in getting past their own self-consciousness and their own reactions to what their sons were saying. This limited their empathetic attunement to the therapeutic situation, and to their sons’ position and feelings.
As their sons spoke to them, these fathers seemed blocked and unable to respond. Often they could only respond by saying that they were “too confused,” “too hurt,” or “too frustrated” to dialogue. One father said he was “too angry” to attend the sessions of his teenage son–a message conveyed to me by the mother. At the slightest sign of improvement in the father-son relationship, a few fathers seemed too ready to flee, concluding “Everything is okay – can I go now?”
Before conjoint father-son sessions begin, the client should be helped to gain a clear sense of what he wants from his father. To simply expose the father to a list of complaints is of no value. He should also decide on a clear, constructive way to ask for this. Such preparation shifts the son from a position of helpless complaining, to staying centered on his genuine needs and the effective expression of them.
The Deadly Dilemma.
Eventually, within the course of conjoint sessions a particular point will be reached which I call “the deadly dilemma.” This deadlock in dialogue–which seems to duplicate the earliest father-son rupture–occurs in two phases as follows:
Phase 1: With the therapist’s assistance, the son expresses his needs and wants to his father. Hearing his son, the father becomes emotionally affected, so much so that he cannot respond to his son’s disclosure. He is overwhelmed by his own reactions, becoming so “angered,” “hurt,” “upset,” or “confused” that he cannot attend to his son’s needs. Blocked by his own internal reactions, he is unable to give what his son asks of him.
Phase 2: In turn, the son is unable to tolerate his father’s insular emotional reaction in place of the affirmative response he seeks from him. To accept his father’s non-responses, the son feels he must abandon the needs he has expressed. The only recourse for the son is to retreat again to the defensive distancing which is already at the core of the father-son relationship. The son cannot empathize with the father’s non-responsiveness because to do so is painfully reminiscent of childhood patterns that are associated with his own deep hurt and anger: namely the imperative, “My father’s needs must always come before mine.” The son’s hurt and anger is in reaction to what appears to him to be “just more lame excuses” for Dad’s inability to give the attention, affection or approval he has so long desired from him. Indeed, to the son this seems like Dad’s old ploy, with all the associated historical pain.
This deadly dilemma originated, I believe, during the preverbal level of infancy. As one father’s recollections confirmed, “My son would never look at me. I would hold his face with my hands and force him to look at me, but he would always avert his eyes.” Other men have described an “unnatural indifference” to their fathers during their growing-up years.
During the course of therapy with these fathers, I began to see the deep hurt in them–a hurt that came from their sons’ indifference to their attempts (however meager) to improve the relationship.
Reflecting on his now-elderly father, one client sadly recalled:
I feel sorry for my father. He always had a certain insensitivity, an emotional incompetence. Many of the interactions at home simply went over his head. He was dense, inadequate. I feel a pity for him.
These fathers appeared unwilling or unable to be open and vulnerable to their sons; unable to reach out, to hear their sons’ pain and anger with respect to them, and unable to respond honestly. Their emotional availability was blocked and they were unable to turn the relational problem around. Rather they remained removed, seemingly dispassionate and helpless.
In conjoint sessions, none of the fathers were capable of taking the lead in dialogue. When dialogue became stagnant, they were unable to initiate communication. I believe the consistent inability of these fathers to get past their own blocks and reach out to their sons played a significant role in these boys’ inability to move forward into full, normal masculine identification and heterosexuality.
Bieber, I. et al (1962) Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals. New York: Basic Books.
Byne, W. and Parsons, B., “Human sexual orientation: the biologic theories reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 50:228-239, March l993.
Evans, R. (1969). Childhood parental relationships of homosexual men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 33:129-135.
Green, Richard (l987) “The Sissy Boy Syndrome” and the Development of Homosexuality. New Haven, Ct.: Yale U. Press.
Moberly, Elizabeth (1983) Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic. Greenwood, S.C.: Attic Press.
Nicolosi, Joseph (l991) Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality; A New Clinical Approach. Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1991.
Satinover, J. (1996). Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Socarides, Charles (1978). Homosexuality. New York: Jason Aronson.
West, D.J. (1959). Parental figures in the genesis of male homosexuality. International Journal of Social Psychiatry 5:85-97.
Zucker, K. and Bradley, S. (1995) Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents. N.Y.: The Guilford Press.
Zuger, Bernard (l988) Is Early Effeminate Behavior in Boys Early Homosexuality? Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 29, no. 5 (September/October) p. 509-519.
Nicolosi, J. (8 February 2008). Fathers of Male Homosexuals: A Collective Clinical Profile., from http://www.narth.com/docs/fathers.html
A recently completed doctoral dissertation by Gregory Dickson, Ph.D. found statistically significant differences between the childhood recollections of heterosexual and homosexual men. The dissertation was entitled, “An Empirical Study of the Mother-Son Dyad in Relation to the Development of Adult Male Homosexuality: An Object Relations Perspective.”
A total of 135 men were surveyed–57 egodystonic homosexuals; 34 egosyntonic homosexuals; and 44 heterosexuals from various parts of the U.S. Utilizing the ParentChild Relations Questionnaire (PCR-II; Siegelman & Roe, 1979), the study found that heterosexual males recalled a much better relationship with their mothers. These men reported a significantly more loving, less demanding, and less rejecting mother than did homosexual males.
The study further found that male homosexuals reported significantly higher levels of current depression, as well as significantly higher levels of childhood sexual abuse than their heterosexual peers.
Homosexual Men Experienced Their Mothers More Negatively
The study’s results supported previously published empirical research that homosexuals and heterosexuals have significantly different recollections of their childhood motherson relationships.
Going beyond the scope of previous research, the study found that egodystonic (dissatisfied with their orientation) homosexual males recalled having experienced a more demanding mother than egosyntonic (satisfied) homosexual men. Otherwise, no significant differences in the recollection of the childhood motherson relationships were found between the two subgroups of homosexual men.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Dickson stated, “A cursory review of research to date suggests a lack of uniform findings on the role of the mother-son relationship in the development of male homosexuality. Some authors have found a close, overly protective mother, while others have found the opposite a less loving, more demanding, and more rejecting mother. While these results are seemingly contradictory, further investigation reveals an underlying consistency, in that the homosexual male has repeatedly reported a significantly different relationship with his mother than that reported by his heterosexual peers. Whether he reported her as overly close or distant, a negative relational pattern is apparent.”
He added, “It is reasonable to assume that either type of relationship (overly close or distant) may negatively impact the developing boy’s ability to complete the necessary steps leading toward the accomplishment of the developmental tasks of individuation and separation. The overly close and binding relationship with the mother may prevent the young boy from “abandoning” her in order to join his father and his male peers. Likewise, the overly distant relationship may not allow him to feel secure enough in the mother’s love to leave it in order to explore peer relationships with other boys.”
The Homosexual Male Often Had to “Choose” One Parent Over Another
Findings of this study and of Dickson (1996) also support findings in the literature which suggest that the adult male homosexual has experienced a greater dissimilarity of relationships between his mother and father during his developmental years than did his heterosexual peers. The current study drew upon previous literature regarding the healthy early triangulation in which the boy is able to develop both a sense of connectedness to, and distance from, both parents. “A lack of this healthy triangulation,” stated Dr. Dickson, “may result in the developing boy finding himself ‘stuck’ between parents. He must choose one parent over the other. It appears that this phenomenon is present and much more extreme in homosexual development.”
While both heterosexual and homosexual groups reported a significantly higher sense of attachment to mother and a higher sense of love from mother, the study found that the dissimilarity experienced between parents among the two groups of men is most apparent in the areas of love, demand, and rejection. Dr. Dickson stated, “A further complicating factor appears in that while the mother-son relationship demonstrates a negative relational pattern, in comparison to the father-son relationship, the homosexual son feels, at the same time, relatively closer to mother than to father. In other words, compared to the father, the child may consciously feel closer to the mother, yet unconsciously feel unsafe with her. That unsafe sense may be triggered by either a closebinding impingement and/or a lessloving distance.“
He continued, “It appears the process of growing into a mature masculine identity may be impeded by any of these factors including the mother-son relationship, the fatherson relationship, the dissimilarity between the mother and father relationship, and/or a combination thereofand this conscious and unconscious organization may have resulted in the many seemingly contradictory retrospective findings reported in the literature.”
Gender-Identity Development is Thwarted by an Unbalanced Parent-Child Relational Pattern
These findings regarding the mother-son relationship, combined with those found by Dickson (1996) regarding the father-son relationship with the same group of participants are consistent with the object-relations theory of an unhealthy and unbalanced triangular parent-child relational pattern that may thwart the boy’s gender and identity development from both the mother’s and the father’s side, hindering the accomplishment of developmental tasks necessary in order to attain and sustain adult heterosexual relationships.
Furthermore, the study sheds light on the potential relationship of a history of sexual abuse and the development of adult male homosexuality. An alarming 49% of homosexual surveyed, compared to less than 2% of heterosexuals, reported sexual abuse.
Dr. Dickson also found results suggesting that homosexual men are significantly more depressed than heterosexual men. However, his findings do not support the experience of sexual abuse alone as an adequate explanation for the homosexuals’ level of current depression. Significant differences in the depression scores remained in the comparison of nonsexually abused homosexual and heterosexual participants for current levels of depression.
Childhood Sexual Abuse is Correlated with Male Homosexuality
Results of this study underscore the importance of a need for increased understanding of the effects of sexual abuse in the development of adult male homosexuality. Dr. Dickson’s findings are congruent with those of Finkelhor (1984) which found that boys victimized by older men were four times more likely to be currently involved in homosexuality than were nonvictims. All of the respondents in Dr. Dickson’s study reported their molestation as having occurred by a male perpetrator; none reported female abusers. This finding, perhaps one of the most significant of Dr. Dickson’s study, suggests that sexual abuse should be considered in evaluating etiologic factors contributing to the development of adult male homosexuality. He Dickson stated, “An experience of sexual abuse could possibly contribute to the sexualizing of the unmet needs for male affection, attention, and connection.”
The study’s findings do not support the experience of sexual abuse as an adequate explanation of the difference in the way adult males experienced their mothers during childhood. The differences in the recollection of parentchild relations reported by the two groups remained significant following the removal of all sexual abuse cases. Nonsexually abused homosexual males continued to report having a less loving, more demanding, and more rejecting mother than nonsexually abused heterosexuals.
The Relationally Deficient Child Is Vulnerable to Sexual Abuse
Commenting on the abuse factor, Dr. Dickson stated, “It is possible that the male child who experiences the negative relational pattern with his mother along with the less present and negatively perceived father becomes more susceptible to the perpetrator’s advances. Given the relational deficits experienced by the male child, it is also possible that the molestation, as devastating as it may have been emotionally, simultaneously may be experienced by some of the boys as their first form of adult male affection, as well as something relational that is not shared in common with his mother. The abuse could, theoretically, be perceived by the boy as a facilitation of some form of separationindividuation between himself and mother.”
Dr. Dickson continued, “It is also reasonable to assume that the sense of shame, secrecy, violation and anger which may result from childhood sexual abuse contributes to the development of a distorted paradigm through which the child views subsequent relationships with self and others. The duty of the parent to protect the child from all harm, as understood by the child, may be perceived as having been forsaken. If the abuse is left unresolved, subsequent parental behaviors may be experienced in a more negative way by the child and later, the adult. Additionally, the established negative relational pattern present in the family may impede the child’s ability to look to his parents for assistance in resolving the pain resulting from the molestation.”
The multifaceted approach of Dr. Dickson’s study helps to clarify some of the previous literature’s apparent contradictions about potential contributing factors in the development of male homosexuality. His study underscores the significance of the influence of multiple environmental factors in the development of adult male homosexuality. It further emphasizes the complex, often subliminal, yet powerful forces of not only the childhood mother-son and father-son relationships, but the childhood experience of sexual abuse as all of these factors relate to the development of the child’s sense of self, including gender identification and future relational choices.
Pop culture and political rhetoric suggest that it is society’s lack of acceptance which is solely responsible for pathology associated with homosexuality. Such a simplistic conclusion ignores homosexuals’ repeated reports in psychology literature of conflicted parental relationships, as well as other important issues such as sexual abuse.
Dr. Dickson stated, “The current study, in concert with past literature, suggests that the issues surrounding committed adult homosexual identification may be more core structural and relational, rather than sexual in nature.”
He concluded, “Recent investigation of homosexuality has been hindered by the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations’ philosophical shift, which fails to consider the role of environmental factors in the development of male homosexuality. The clearly complex nature of the issue should not be oversimplified, nor should scientific exploration be limited by politics.”
Copies of the complete dissertation, “An Empirical Study of the MotherSon Dyad in Relation to the Development of Adult Male Homosexuality” An Object Relations Perspective,” by Gregory L. Dickson, Ph.D., are available through UMI, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346, or by telephone at 800-521-3042.
NARTH. (8 February 2008). Mothers of Male Homosexuals: A Study., from http://www.narth.com/docs/mothersof.html
I do not wish to give the impression that in presenting the basic insights into homosexuality and its therapy, I am thereby invalidating other insights and methods. To my mind, the similarities in modern psychological theories and therapies are much greater than their differences. Notably, the basic insight that homosexuality is a problem of gender identification is shared by almost all of them.
Moreover, therapeutic methods may differ in practice less than it might seem if one merely looks at the textbooks. There certainly is a good deal of overlap in methods. This said, and with great respect for all my colleagues who work in this field who try to see through the riddles of homosexuality and to help the troubled find their true identity, I offer what I think is the best theoretical combination of the various theories and insights, leading to the most effective methods of (self-)treatment.
The more accurate our observations and conclusions are, the better the self-insight of the concerned homosexual person, and how far he can recover ultimately depends on his self-insight.
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide For (Self-)Therapy For Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
The growing “ex-gay” movement, consisting of many loosely organised groups and organisations of those with a homosexual inclination who want to change, can point to an increasing number of profoundly improved or even cured persons. They use a mixture of psychological and Christian ideas and “methods”, and in practice emphasize the element of interior struggle. The Christian believer may have an advantage in the therapy of homosexuality because his belief in the (undistorted) word of God gives him a firm orientation in life and strengthens his will to dispose of what he feels is his darker side and to long for moral purity.
The therapy of homosexuality is a psychological, spiritual and moral affair, even more so than the therapies of a number of other neuroses. Conscience is involved, as are man’s spiritual efforts, which teach him that giving in to homosexuality and to the homosexual lifestyle is irreconciliable with real peace of mind and being authentically religious. So many homosexuals try obsessively to reconcile the irreconcilable and imagine that they can be devout as well as homosexually active. The artificiality and self-deception of such attempts are apparent, however; they end up living as homosexuals and forgetting about Christianity or creating their own homosexuality-compatible version of Christianity to cover up their conscience. As for the therapy of homosexuality, the combination of spiritual-moral elements and psychological insights in all probability offers the most fruitful perspectives.
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide For (Self-)Therapy For Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
The case with homosexuality is, in short, as with other neuroses: phobias, obsessions, depressions, or other sexual anomalies. The most sensible thing is to try to do something about it, even if it costs energy and means giving up immediate pleasures and illusions. Most homosexuals surmise this, in fact, but because they do not want to see what is evident, some try to convince themselves that their orientation is normal and become furious if their dream, or escape from reality, is threatened. They like to exaggerate the difficulty of therapy and are certainly blind to the advantages of even slight changes for the better. But who would argue against therapies of rheumatoid diseases or cancer, even if these therapies still cannot definitively cure all categories of patients?
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide For (Self-)Therapy For Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
The majority of those who try to practise regularly the methods to be discussed here do improve, as measured after several (three to five on average) years of treatment. Their homosexual desires and fantasies become weak to nonexistent; heterosexuality comes into existence or is considerably strengthened; and their personalities become less neurotic. Some, not all, however suffer occasional relapses (under stress, for example) of their old homosexual imagery; but if they return to the struggle the relapse usually does not last for long.
This picture is much more optimistic than emancipatory homosexuals — who have a vested interest in the dogma of the irreversibility of homosexuality — would make us believe. On the other hand, success is not so simple as some enthusiastic people from the ex-gay movement have sometimes contended. In the first place, the change process usually takes at least three to five years, in spite of all the progress that can be made within a much shorter period of time. Moreover, such change requires a persistent will, one prepared to be satisfied with small steps, small victories in everyday life. rather than expecting sudden dramatic cures. The realities of the process of change are not disappointing if we realize that the person in (self-)therapy is actually restructuring or re-educating a misformed and immature personality. Neither should one take the view that, when the outcome is not the complete disappearance of all homosexual inclinations, therapeutic attempts are not worth the trouble. Quite the contrary. The homosexual can only gain by the process: his sexual obsessions almost always fade away, and he comes more happy and healthy in his outlook and, certainly, in his ways of life. Between complete cure and little or only temporary progress (which is the estimated outcome in about 20 percent of those who remain in treatment), there are many shades and grades of satisfactory improvement.
Without a strong determination, a “good will“, no change is possible. With it, improvement is certain in the majority of cases, and in a minority, even a cure — a deep inner change in overall neurotic emotionality and a beneficial reversal of sexual interests — is achievable.
But who possesses that “good will”? Most afflicted persons, including those who militantly profess their gayness, somehow still have the desire to be normal, repressed as it may be. Only a minority, however, really wants to change — and wants it with some constancy, rather than as a mere impulse that is perhaps recurring, but quickly fades away. Even among those with the best resolution to fight their homosexuality, there is a good deal of second thought, a hidden cherishing of the alluring homosexual desires. So a good will is for the most part still a weak will; and, of course, the will’s weakness is easily reinforced by all the social pressures to “accept one’s homosexuality.” To persist in the resolution to change one must cultivate in oneself such motivators as a clear view of homosexuality as something unnatural; a sound moral and/or religious conviction; and, where applicable, the will to make the best of an existing marriage relationship that is reasonable, apart from the sexual aspect. Being well-motivated is not the same as practising rigid self-bashing, self-hatred, or a fearful compliance with moral prescriptions simply because they are imposed by society or religion; rather, it is to have a quiet and strong feeling that homosexuality is incompatible with psychological maturity and/or moral purity, with the deepest stirring of one’s conscience, and with one’s responsibility before God. To strengthen regularly one’s moral resolution to fight the homosexual side of the personality is therefore crucial for a good outcome.
It is intended for homosexually inclined persons who want to do something about their “condition” themselves but do not have the opportunity to visit a therapist with healthy ideas on the matter. For, indeed, there are few of them. The chief reason for this is that the topic of homosexuality had been neglected or ignored at universities, and if mentioned at all, emphasis is placed on the “normality” ideology: homosexuality is just a natural sexual alternative. So there are far too few medical people, behavorial scientists, and psychotherapists who have even a rudimentary knowledge of this subject.
He who wants to overcome emotional problems needs a realistically understanding and encouraging guide to whom he can speak his mind, to help him discover important aspects of his emotional life and of his motivations, and to coach him in his struggle with himself. That guide need not necessarily be a professional therapist. Preferredly, he should be, but on the condition that he has healthy ideas about sexuality and morality; if not, he may do more harm than good. Occasionally, a physician or pastor with a balanced and normal personality and a capacity for realistic human insights can fill this role. If there is no one better qualified available, it may even be advisable to ask a sensible and psychologically healthy friend or relative to function as guide, as far as possible.