Archive for the ‘Psychology’ 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
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
An especially common view of self is that of the wronged, rejected, “poor me”. Homosexuals therefore are easily insulted; they “collect injustice”, as psychiatrist Bergler has so well put it, and are liable to see themselves as victims. This explains the overt self-dramatization of the militants, who adroitly exploit their neurosis to gain public support. Attached to self-pity, they are inner (or manifest) complainers, often chronic complainers. Slef-pity and protest are not far apart. A certain inner (or overt) rebelliousness and hostility to others who do them wrong and to “society” and a determinate cynicism, are typical of many homosexuals.
This bears directly on the homosexual’s difficulty in loving. His complex directs his attention to himself; he seeks attention and love, recognition and admiration for himself, like a child. His self-centeredness thwarts his capacity to love, to be really interested in others, to take responsibility for others, to give and to serve (some kinds of serving, in fact, are means of getting attention and approval). But “how… it is possible for the child to grow up if the child is not loved?” homosexual author Baldwin wonders (Siering 1988, 16). Yet stating the problem that way only confuses the issue. For while a boy who longed for his father’s love might indeed have been healed had he encountered an affectionate father-substitute, his remaining immature, however, is the consequence of the self-comforting reactions to a perceived lack of love, not the consequence of a lack of love in itself. An adolescent who succeeded in accepting his sufferings, forgiving those who did him wrong — for the most part without being aware of it — would suffer without becoming attached to self-centered self-pity and protest, and, in that case, his sufferings would make him mature. As human nature is ego-centered, such an emotional development is not likely to take place spontaneously, but there are exceptions, notably when an emotionally troubled adolescent meets a parent-substitute who encourages him in this direction. The way Baldwin presents the impossibility for the unloved child to grow up — he seems, in fact, to describe his own case — is too fatalistic and overlooks the fact that even a child (and certainly a young adult) possesses a degree of freedom and can learn to love. Many neurotics cling to this self-dramatizing attitude of “never having been loved” and incessantly demand love and compensation from others — from their marriage partners, friends, children, from society. The situation of many neurotic criminals is analogous. They may have, in fact, suffered from a lack of love at home, even from abandonment, injury; yet their impulses to revenge themselves, from their lack of mercy on the world that has been hard on them are egotistical reactions to a lack of love. Being ego-centered, a young person is in danger of becoming a seemingly incorrigible self-seeker — and sometimes one who hates others — when he is the prey of his self-pity. Baldwin was correct only insofar his homosexual feelings were concerned, for they did not amount to real loving, but narcissistic longing for warmth, and envy.
Aardweg, G. (1997). The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
The homosexual’s personality is in part that of a child (or an adolescent). This phenomenon is known as the “inner complaining child”. Some have emotionally remained teenagers in nearly all areas of behavior; in most, the “child” alternates with the adult in them, depending on place and circumstances.
The ways of thinking, feeling and behaving typical of an adolescent who feels inferior are observable in the adult homosexual. He remains — in part — the defenseless poor loner he was in puberty; the shy, nervous, clinging, “abandoned”, socially “difficult” boy who feels rejected by his father and peers because of his ugliness (squint-eyed, hare lipped, or small, for example, he sees himself as the opposite of manly beauty); the pampered, self-admiring boy; the effeminate, arrogant, vainglorious boy; or the obtrusive, demanding, yet cowardly boy; and so on. The total boyhood (or girlhood) personality is preserved. This explains behavioral traits like the childish talkativeness of some homosexual men, their habits of weakness, the naivete, the narcissistic way they take care of their bodies, their way of speaking, and so on. The lesbian may remain the easily hurt, rebellious girl; the tomboy; the bossy girl driven by imitated masculine self-assertion habits; or the eternally wronged, sulking girl whose mother “had no interest in her”; and so on. The adolescent explains the adult. And everything is still there: views of oneself, one’s parents, and others.
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”.
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
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.
Aberrant means straying from the right or normal (natural) way, or deviating from the usual or natural type. The word is from the Latin, ab + errare meaning “to wander, to go astray.” For the purposes of our discussion, from a Biblical standpoint what is normal and natural is (1) that which is according to creation, and (2) that which is consistent with the revelation of truth as given to us by God in the Bible. In a fallen world, it is not safe to say that what is common or popular is “normal.” A moral consensus by experts in society is invalid if it contradicts the Bible. But we can not take our guidelines from “mother nature” either. Violence is found in nature, and sexual perversion among some of the animals—but these are not features of the creation as God intended it from the beginning. Nature has become corrupted by evil as has man (Rom. 8:19-23). When the Apostle Paul speaks of sexual activity that is contrary to nature, he is referring to behavior that has departed from the Creator’s intentions when He made us. (Note: The specific term “contrary to nature” occurs in Romans 1:26 referring to lesbian conduct, and in the following verse to refer to male homosexual activity.)
There are two different approaches to morality and ethics in society. Both give valid insights and both are helpful. The first approach deals with outward behavior, with conduct that is observable by others. Wrong behavior is behavior which damages God, oneself, or others. A wide variety of forms of harmful conduct are restrained by government, by law, by punishment, and by education. It is well known that these efforts do not solve the problem at the source. Restraint of human evil does make life bearable in a society that would otherwise revert to anarchy and lawlessness in short order. The courts of the land, are supposed to measure outward behavior against fixed moral guidelines and to determine guilt or innocence largely on the basis of objective evidence. Objective evidence does not always deal fairly with motivations for behavior, with mitigating circumstances, with the nuances connected with crimes of passion. Man made laws in today’s world typically have little to do God’s Law and the lack of justice in today’s courts is legend.
The second approach in dealing with harmful or dysfunctional behavior in individuals or in society is to treat wrong or harmful behavior as disease. The cure for such inappropriate behavior is supposed by many today to be therapy or education or re-training of the offender. The liberal minded who reject the Biblical revelation of man’s total depravity assume that man is basically good and can be improved by dispelling man’s ignorance or by ministering to him understanding and tolerance. From a Biblical point of view it is true that wrong behavior is indeed the fruit on the plant whose root is man’s depraved nature and sinfulness. Jeremiah is quite clear about this when he says,
“The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who is able to understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)
The words of Jesus,
“Jesus called the people to him again, and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.’ And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, ‘Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.’” (Mark 7:14-23)
The cure for sin prescribed in the Bible is spiritual regeneration and a cleansed interior life. Only out of a renewed spirit comes truly changed behavior that is acceptable in the sight of a Holy God. External fixes are no better than band-aides on cancer. Hopefully, diseases of the soul and spirit can be mollified, corrected or healed by physicians of the soul and by the priests of the Living God.
This author assumes that the first premise is valid. The Bible gives us the absolute moral standard which reflects the very character of God. God is our Creator and Jesus is our judge. Government, courts or law, schools and human institutions need constant reformation as these, too, will be judged by God. Though justice is long-delayed or even subverted during this present life, absolute justice comes eventually to all men. Solomon states this in Ecclesiastes:
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13,14).
This essay emphasizes that the deepest healing of sin and morally dysfunctional behavior takes place when men and women receive the grace of God and avail themselves of the inner cleansing and healing offered by the risen Lord Jesus. Broken sinful men and women can and do become whole persons by the grace of God. Our emphasis is on the second method of dealing with human evil-outlined above—in what ways are we broken people and how is that we can become whole?
Genetic Factors and Sexual Orientation
From time to time scientific papers have claimed to show evidence for genetic factors that account for adultery, prostitution, promiscuity or homosexuality. Should such factors be discovered human beings are not thereby excused for their behavior by any means. God always makes full provision for any individual to live a fulfilling life, pleasing to Him, regardless of inborn predispositions, family life, handicaps or faulty environment. Once we agree that man is totally depraved in the sight of God we may as well begin also to look for defective genes that lead to gossip, pride, irresponsibility, laziness, or a violent temper. Eventually all behavior will then be excusable on biological grounds alone. It is characteristic of modern man not only to deny God but to attempt by all means possible to rationalize or excuse behavior that is clearly wrong-harmful to society and repugnant to God.
It is certainly possible that some personality types are more predisposed to homosexuality, for example. Genetic defects affecting the sexual organs or hormone imbalances are rare. There is no evidence that homosexuality is due to hormonal imbalance, and homosexuality is quite a different condition than transsexuality for instance. A good deal of sexual behavior is clearly learned behavior and governed by habit patterns and associated “brain wiring.” Behavioral malfunctions can be transmitted, but not genetically, as far as is known. Dysfunctional, illegal, inappropriate, or immoral sexual behavior must be explained on some other basis than appealing to bad genes.
Jesus Christ gave his life as a sacrifice for all men and for all their sins. The theological statement that Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice means that He took my place and yours and that He identified 100% with our condition in such a way that “he who knew no sin was made sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
“The Sins Of The Fathers”
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:5-7).
In some manner (exactly how we do not know) certain moral weaknesses in one generation tend to propagate into subsequent generations. The influence Noah’s drunkenness (Gen. 9:20-27) had on his grandson Canaan is an example. Probably it is maladjusted behavior in dysfunctional families which communicates information (mostly unconsciously) causing a particular form of aberrant behavior (such as alcoholism or homosexuality) to spring up one or more generations later. It is well known that involvement in the occult can cause demonic obsession and related moral problems such as incest, for several generations. Unclean demonic spirits can plague those who are promiscuous or involved in pornography, and so on.
Childhood Response Patterns to Life
New born infants are helpless, totally dependent, and do not at first think of themselves as differentiated from their total environment, especially from their mothers. Their emotional tape recorders are running even before they are born. At first a baby does not see itself as separate from even its environment. He or she is an extension of Mother and one with the environment. It is not long until it discovers, however, that it has some control over its immediate environment. Children learn how to avoid pain by modifying their behavior one way or another, and they learn how to get their needs met also. We might even say that some children soon learn to be clever and diabolical. Since all parents treat their kids differently, spoiling them, over-indulging them, losing patience with them, disciplining inconsistently and so on—the principle of avoiding pain and maximizing pleasure plays a part in early childhood experience. It is during this time of life that children learn to “choreograph the flesh.” When, as Christian adults, we revert to behaving “in the flesh” we usually lapse into patterns of behavior that have worked for us in the past by trial and error. These are by nature selfish patterns designed to serve our own best interests as we perceive them.
The term “flesh” refers to our sinful inheritance from Adam—it is deceitful, manipulative and contriving. The spirit of the Christian has been redeemed and regenerated, his soul (mind, emotions, and will) is being renewed, however the body has not yet been redeemed and is the seat of many of these desires and passions of the flesh, (Romans 8:10,11).
A commonly quoted verse in Proverbs has been misunderstood by some: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Many parents have assumed this verse meant that if children were given lessons in the Bible when they were young, they would come to God eventually, later on in life if not sooner. The passage actually teaches that parents are to understand each child as he or she is—that is to figure out who they are as person—and then train each one of them according to that child’s own way. It is such personalized knowing of one’s offspring that helps insure against the child’s developing a detrimental fleshly response to life early on.
Research in recent years places emphasis on bonding of parent and child. A child should learn experientially at the earliest possible stage that he or she is loved unconditionally, and wanted, and valued. Nothing is more devastating than rejection, real or imagined, especially when we are young and most vulnerable. However in view of the total depravity of mankind resulting from the fall, we ought not to be surprised at the many different ways in which evil can surface in any one of us, regardless of the quality of our upbringing. Though fallen, we bear the image of God our Creator, and we are the supreme objects of His love for us because His Son, our Lord Jesus, has died in our place.
Mothers usually instinctively love, care for, nourish and pay constant attention to their children. This is (sadly) not universally so in our world. Baby boys and baby girls certainly need to sense that mother loves them and treasures them and always will. The Apostle Paul writes, “…woman will find her fulfillment in bearing children, if they (the children) continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty” (1 Timothy 2:15.). If a son ends up in jail, or drunk on skid row, a mother carries this as not only sorrow but as a possible indicator of her own personal failure. If on the other hand, children do well in life, this is a mother’s joy and reward. Ideally the father should also begin to show affection for his child as soon as possible after birth and spend much quality time with his son or daughter thereafter. In this way the father gives affirmation from a man’s point of view. He also provides a secure male role model of accepting, caring love.
All human beings have certain experiences in common. In the world around us we observe rooted patterns of human behavior that are more than one generation deep. They are more than mere human customs or traditions, they are universal responses to instincts and to the world. Carl Jung called these deep seated response patterns to life, “archetypes.” The Greek word tupos (type) means a blow or imprint, such as the impression made by a seal, a stamp, or a die. Arche means beginning. Although the word archetype is not in the New Testament, in psychology it has come to mean strong patterns of response or behavior ingrained in man from of old. Faced we a given stimulus, human beings tend to be influenced in their behavior by archetypes that lie in the subconscious. In Jungian psychology archetypes are given great importance. Jung believed the archetypes had positive and negative aspects, that is, they could be helpful or harmful to us. The archetypes are said to be “numinous” that is, invested with great power, like magnets or force-fields. When as person draws too near to a particular archetype he can be overwhelmed or captured by its field. Some of the contents of an archetype can be brought into consciousness (for example, by coming to understand a variety of mothers and fathers in the real world, and by observing good marriages and bad). In this way our understanding of human behavior patterns and culture does not remain at the primitive stage of childhood where myths and imaginary beings inhabit the world as we first suppose it to be. The goal of Christian discipleship is to know God and thereby to know ourselves. We can not hope to relate to others with a greater depth or wisdom than we have attained first in our intimate knowing of God. This fact is summarized by the two Great Commandments which Jesus taught were at the heart of all of the Law and the Prophets. Carl Jung never gave a clear statement to let us know whether or not he ever became a true Christian. Much of his teaching is gnostic. We must use Jung’s insights into the unconscious with care.
A small child may not see its father’s importance or role in the home as being of the same subjective weight as that of its mother. A major deficiency in the family today is surely the “missing” American father. Fathers who are truly never there (as in the case of single moms raising kids with no man around the house) probably do less harm than fathers who are at home every day but passive, recessive, detached and uninvolved (at least in the perception of the child). This is especially serious on three counts. First, God is a Father—our first dim notions and ideas of what God is like are modeled after the father image, the father archetype we acquired in earliest childhood. It is a father’s responsibility to show love, compassion, touching, caring concern for his children from the day they are born, if the child is to find it easy to know the Father-heart of God. It is the father’s job not only to provide for his family, but to lead and protect, to set limits and safe boundaries.
At first mother is the most important person in the child’s world upon whom the child is most dependent. But the child’s psyche is also recording impressions about father, about marriage, and about siblings and other persons in and around the family circle. The most important of these factors: mother, father, and marriage, are imprinted in the child’s mind as archetypes. They will be deeply rooted in the child’s way of viewing the world, and they are in all of us.
Children need to see from actual experience that mothers and fathers do not have the same, identical priorities in life. They are not carbon copies of one another—men and women are different in emotional priorities as well as in their physical features. Early in life a child realizes that adults come in two sexes. The child then begins to integrate into himself or herself the total masculine/feminine inheritance received from his parents. Ideally a child of either sex should not be afraid to being like his father as well as like his mother while still becoming a distinctively his or her own male or female person.
Women do their best when they are given strong, steady, regular encouragement and loving leadership by their husbands. Women who do not receive this regular assurance from their husbands (or from God if there is no husband present), tend to become insecure, over-protective of their children, and often live their lives unfulfilled and anxious. In such cases, the child may not receive as much affirmation as he or should ought to receive from either a father or a mother. In this way deep-seated needs to be loved and accepted, fears and anxieties of all sorts, even a sense of inadequacy may be transmitted to the child. He or she then may grow up with a great deal of unfulfilment. Persons who grow up starved for love and affection are more vulnerable to exploitation and seduction. Or they may be given to excess striving for approval which they never find.
In the terms popularized by John Bradshaw, we could say that numerous people in today’s society live “shame-based” lives. “Toxic shame” is generated in a child when his or her needs are not being met by parents and the child assumes this indicates the child (not the parents) are no good, flawed, damaged and worthless. Some parents are strict in their discipline. They put well-defined boundaries in and around the child, usually to keep the child from ranging too far from principles for wholesome living in later life. Consistent discipline, lovingly applied produces security in a child. Undisciplined children are often insecure and of course may find themselves without any built-in moral restraints later in life.
Too much discipline, or discipline for the wrong reasons is not the right approach anymore than too permissive an upbringing. Our purpose here is only to call attention to discipline as one of the factors that influences our early development for good or for ill.
Some recent psychological studies have shown that lack of adequate early-childhood affirmation from the parent of the opposite sex tends to set the stage for heterosexual promiscuity in later life, or the inability to develop and keep a stable marriage. Until a few years ago it was believed that male homosexuality was predisposed by over-protective mothers who held back their sons or controlled them, preventing them from entering the rough and tumble world of boyhood. Newer studies by Elizabeth Moberly (Ref. 1) , an English psychiatrist, and Leanne Payne (Ref. 2), an American Christian leader and scholar, have shown that the primary predisposing factor in homosexuality is a lack of same-sex affirmation. Leanne Payne points out that both boys and girls need to be “called forth” from identification with their mothers, by their fathers, in order to see themselves as whole, independent men or women.
Men especially can not live out their inner sufficiency of love and affirmation unless they have first received this reservoir from Another. A boyhood situation in which dad is a recessive or non-existent influence may leave a young boy without a positive role model and an innate feeling that if God exists He is hostile and non-affirming. Homosexual males are frequently troubled by same-sex envy or sexual covetousness—because they feel incomplete and are seeking their missing qualities in other males. Joseph Nicolosi’s (Ref. 3) research has shown that boys usually begin to bond with their fathers between ages 3 to 5. This bonding requires that the boy sees himself as different in kind from his mother and by nature more like his father. Young girls do not need to make this radical transition—breaking a close bond with mother in order to identify with the world of father and the priorities of masculinity. This is not to argue that father’s are unimportant in the raising of girls, there is ample evidence that this is definitely not the case. The whole idea is that masculinity is fragile and is born out a background “sea” of femininity. Hormonally this is the case in fetal development. It is also true in childhood when it becomes time for a boy to move away from mother towards father-an often risky step.
The “mother” is an important archetype as well that real woman who was physical mother to us. The archetype of the “great mother” formed an important plank in Jung’s model of human sexuality and of the unconscious. Mother earth, mother nature, the great mother goddess, the virgin mother and the great harlot of the Bible are all positive or negative of this deep influence in life in Jungian theory. It is not our purpose to lend credence to all that Jung believed by any means, in fact we urge caution is attempting to integrating many of his ideas into a Christian world-view. But most of us can think of examples of boys or even men we know who remain under mother’s influence and unconscious control well beyond a appropriate age for separation from mother, if there is no father, if father is unapproachable, cold, or indifferent, and/or if mother is controlling, manipulative or possessive.
Human father’s are our first models in life of what God is like! The absence of a warm, loving, caring father in the home leaves a vacuum in the child’s heart and makes it difficult for the child to establish a close, intimate, trusting relationship with God as Father.
In our discussion of man as created in the image of God, and man as conscious/unconscious we alluded to the possibility that unpleasant, traumatic experiences in life can be repressed into the unconscious where they may lay dormant possibly for years.
In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, these traumas cause fractional portions of the life-energy (called libido) to flow backwards into the conscious and into these “complexes” which become “energy laden” or as Jung would say, “numinous.” When blocks, inhibitions and barriers are removed, these complexes tend to surface, like volleyballs submerged in a swimming pool. This is desirable become the previously unavailable repressed energy necessary to maintain the complex now becomes available to consciousness. The content of the “neurosis” can be integrated into one’s view of self in a health manner, by God’s grace, and this speeds along the individual towards the wholeness which is God’s goal for him or for her. Though we are not aware of the existence of these complexes until they are near the surface, their existence means we have less available creative energy available for living real life and the influence of the complexes will make themselves felt in our unconscious behavior patterns, usually in a detrimental way.
The Latency Period and Adolescent Influences
Complex and varied emotional factors of early childhood enter into the equations of a child’s emerging sexual identity. Most psychologists claim these influences are most important during the first three to six years of life. During the latency period, prior to puberty peer influences (especially in today’s world) begin to strongly influence a child’s ideas of what it will be like to grow up. Television apparently now puts far more into the brain of the average child than he or she will ever learn in school. Our adult behavior patterns will be the inevitable result of the kind and quality of information we programmed into the computers of our minds—according to the principle of computers, “garbage in equals garbage out.” Because of readily available pornography, movies and TV shows full of explicit or at least inferred sexual immorality, because of antichristian sex education programs in the public schools, many youngsters begin to act out aberrant sexuality even before puberty imitating what they suppose “normal” adult behavior will be like.
Puberty varies in age of onset in different parts of the world. Girls usually begin to sexually mature earlier than boys. Biological clocks turn on the increased production of male and female sex hormones at puberty which produce the physical developmental changes in the bodies of young men and women. Freudian psychoanalytic theory believes that children during adolescence pass through an auto-erotic stage of development, followed by perhaps a short season of homo-erotic experimentation. Unless development is arrested, or regresses due to trauma, the third stage of normal psycho-sexual development is the emergence of sexual interest in and attraction for the opposite sex. Rights of passage, such as the Jewish Bar Mitzvah are valuable traditions in marking the transition to adult responsibilities and challenges.
In addition to loving our children and granting them unconditional love and periodic affirmation, all children require moral teaching, training, sex-education, and discipline. They need not understand, and indeed can not understand, why they are being disciplined in every instance. The important thing is for them to learn respect for authority, obedience, and acceptable social and societal behavior. In addition to unconditional love, conditional love is also important for all of us to learn in childhood, because many rewards in life are delayed and postponed, or they come only through hard work and patience. We live in a world where we must work to earn a living and pay our own way. God loves us unconditionally, but that is of little value to us if we do not take steps to grow and learn to please Him by re-ordering our actions and life-styles. Sex education surely is primarily the responsibility of parents and the church beginning at a very early age. By providing good role models, a good home life, and Biblical understanding, Christian parents should diligently seek to help their children find the Lord Jesus at an early age and to grow up to be balanced and whole citizens in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Unfortunately in today’s society most adolescents learn not from godly parents or from church, but from peers, magazines, television and non-family sources. Tragically, in the teen-age years nearly every young person in today’s society discovers sexual experience with another person, taking this to be healthy and normal. But, our first sexual experience seems to deeply imprint us, sometimes setting in concrete harmful patterns of sexual behavior that will last for a lifetime. Because sexual activity is pleasureful, it is re-enforced by experience (regardless of whether it is right or wrong-although a guilty conscience can be a deterrent).
Pastor Brian Morgan of Peninsula Bible Church South notes that homosexual behavior, for example, is safer in terms of person-to-person psychological risk, and less demanding compared to relating to the opposite sex. Adult wholeness requires much more self-giving and willingness to relate to another person whose ways of thinking and responding are not those of one’s own sex. Freud and others believed that homosexual behavior was a form of arrested development. Until the sexual revolution in the last half of our century, doctors and psychologists dealt with homosexuality as a form of pathological, neurotic behavior. When gay rights became politicized, lobbying efforts by the gay community pressured the American psychoanalytic community into changing its standards to reflect the secular view that homosexual lifestyles were normal. Similar pressures have resulted in many states dropping their old laws prohibiting homosexual acts, sodomy and such. California is among the states where a consenting adults law on the books removes penalties for sexual acts between two adults regardless of sex or type. Secular humanistic groups who deny the existence of God and moral absolutes have dominated the educational system in the past few decades. This situation reflects a widespread breakdown in Biblical values and a sad devaluation of the traditional family unit which as Christians know is the basis for a stable and healthy society. Incest and childhood sexual abuse can do horrendous damage to children. Often the trauma is repressed and even forgotten. The common occurrence of these problems, along with violence, promiscuity and wide-spread divorce shows that our society today is in an advanced stage of breakdown (see Rom. 1:18-32).
Psychological theories often call attention to repressed or buried memories and experiences which can generate neurotic and even psychotic behavior if not dealt with. In addition to sinning against others, we have all been victims. Sometimes victims even blame themselves for what has happened to them. Children may imagine that things went wrong in the family because they were born. Or, they attempt to take on the unresolved conflicts of their parents and make them their own. Carl Jung’s view of wholeness (which he called “individuation”) supposes that the unconscious is a friend not a foe, and that there is an innate striving for wholeness within man which attempts to resolve buried inner conflict and to reconcile outer reality with inward. Thus, in the right circumstance repressed libido and the emotional content of traumatized areas in the unconscious can surface, become integrated, and be healed in the light of day. Jung, though probably not a Christian, seems to go so far as to recognize that such healing is a work of God’s grace.
George Gilder is his classic book, Men and Masculinity points out that virtually all of the crime, violence, drug dealing, and numerous pressing social problems arise from unmarried adolescent young men. Marriage he notes, is often the only way such men ever learn to be responsible. They are irresponsible and reckless pagans until civilized by the demands of pressures of marriage.
Knowing and better understanding ourselves because of the Searchlight working of the Holy Spirit in us is more important than mere conformity to external rules or laws or traditions-even in a godly society. Appropriating the mercy and grace of our God depends upon seeing ourselves as we really are. We must not fail to accept the changes God wishes to work in us to make us over again into men and women who are re-modeled not after the First Adam, but the Second.
Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Dolphin, L. (9 May 1991). Aberrant Sexuality., from http://www.ldolphin.org/Aberrant.html