The Meaning of Same-Sex Attraction
by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.
During twenty years of clinical work with ego-dystonic homosexually oriented men, I have come to see homosexual enactment as a form of "reparation." The concept of reparative drive has been well-established within the psychoanalytic literature; in our application, the person is attempting to "repair" unmet same-sex affective needs (attention, affection and approval) as well as gender-identification deficits (Nicolosi, 1991, 1993) through homoerotic behavior.
Homosexual enactment temporarily relieves the stressful self-states that we repeatedly find in our SSA clients: most particularly, shame, conflicted assertion, the depressive mood that I call the "Grey Zone," and the social posture of the False Self.
For my clients, homosexual enactment does not represent their personal intentions, will or self-identity, and it is in violation of their aspirations and life goals. Gay life is unsatisfying to them, so they enter therapy in the hope of reducing their unwanted attractions and developing their heterosexual potential.
Homosexual acting-out, for these men, is an attempt at restoring psychic equilibrium in order to maintain the integrity of the self-structure. Through homosexual enactment, they unconsciously seek to attain a self-state of authenticity, assertion, autonomy, and gender-relatedness, but they have found that it eventually brings them none of those things-only a nagging feeling of inauthenticity, and still deeper discouragement.
A Lifestyle of Hiding
Many same-sex attracted men live in a state of vigilance against the possibility of feeling shamed. This creates a lifestyle of hiding, avoidance, withdrawal, and passivity.
In clinical settings we have seen that anticipatory shame can become so intense as to approximate paranoia, with the frightening conviction that another person has the power to turn everybody against him. Past associations to this frightening anticipation often go back to early adolescence, when a bully turned the other boys against him. Perhaps the shame originated earlier yet, with the "omnipotent" (in the child’s eyes) mother who, he feared, could turn family members against him.
Central to reparative therapy is assisting the client's transition from the shamed state that creates the restrictions of the False Self, into the assertive state that fosters the True Self.
Here are some guidelines:
|TRUE SELF||FALSE SELF|
|Feels masculine||Feels unmasculine|
|Adequate, on par||Feels inferior, inadequate|
|Secure, confident, capable||Insecure, lacking confidence, incapable|
|Experiencing authentic emotions||Emotionally dead or alternatively, hyperactive|
|At home in body||Body is object, not self|
|Physical confidence||Anxious clumsiness|
|Feeling empowered, autonomous||Feeling controlled by others|
|Accepting of imperfections||Perfectionistic|
|Spontaneous||Over-controlled, inhibited, "frozen"|
|Forgiving, accepting||Retaliatory, resentful|
|Genuine, authentic||Role playing, Theatrical|
|Seeks out others||Avoidant|
|Aware of others||Constricted awareness|
|Assertive, expressive||Nonassertive, inhibited|
|Mature in relationships||Immature in relationship|
|Respectful of others' power||Resentful of others in power|
|Integrated; open||Double life; secretive|
|Rapport with opposite gender||Misunderstanding of opposite gender|
|Sees other men as like self||Pulled by mystique of other men|
"Homosexuality rarely comes up for me. I can willfully visualize it - but it doesn't have that compelling quality."
"I'm in that whole gay mindset... Sexual attraction to guys preoccupies and dominates my entire outlook."
Nicolosi, J. (1991) Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.
Nicolosi, J. (1993) Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.