Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Homosexuality: Coming out of the confusion --- by Sidney H. Phillips, M.D. --- Part 4 of 5

Cause of Inability to Form A Close Relationship

Dr. Phillips describes a case about a man who is 32 years old, who he calls Mr. E. Mr. E is successful in his occupation, openly gay, however, even though he was aware of his sexual gay feelings, as young as, 4 and 5 years of age, he was unable to have a relationship with another gay man. Mr. E had relationships like the ones, as described by Dr. Phillips in Part 3 (on this blog), falling in love with heterosexual men “and pined away for them.” This pattern of Mr. E’s behavior regarding his inability to form a relationship with another gay man had its beginnings in his early childhood years. At a very young age, when he and his younger brother by 2 years, slept in the same bed, until Mr. E left for college.

Dissociative Efforts Buried Deep

In treatment, whenever Mr. E became aware of his sexual feelings, he was unable to talk about them. He would continuously respond that he has “gone blank.” Efforts to explore his reactions were met with more of the same, which lead to a trancelike quality of speech that one has just before falling asleep. As Mr. E’s treatment moved forward, it was discovered that his behavior was an enactment. Mr. E was repeating his experience; beginning at a very young age, feeling the “sexual arousal he had once felt in bed” sleeping with his younger brother and his immediate “dissociative efforts not to think about what he was experiencing.” In treatment, it was identified that Mr. E whenever he felt any sexual arousal towards his analyst he would repeat this same “autohypnotic, trancelike prelude to falling asleep… of conscious but disavowed feelings and sensations of sexual arousal” as he did sleeping with his younger brother.

This work opened up to analytic scrutiny the oedipal longings rivalry, and disappointment that lay behind the overstimulated relationship with is brother, freed him to engage more deeply and passionately in his relationship with his partner, and made possible a planned and successful termination of analysis.

By the overstimulation of everyday life, then, I referred to the frequent experiences, for example, of homosexually inclined children and adolescents who are placed again and again in the company of the same gender parents, sibling, and peers in various degrees of undress or nakedness and the internal, subjective states generated by those experiences. It is a wholly different experience for a homosexually inclined boy to take a shower with his father or to sleep in the same bed with his brother than it is for a heterosexually inclined boy to do so. The homosexually inclined child or adolescents may be repeatedly oversimulated by gender pairings that paradoxically were meant to protect against just such a risk (Sidney H. Phillips, M.D., 2002, The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: II Male Homosexuality, Countertransference, and Psychoanalytic Treatment. Ann Psychoanal 30:131-45, pp. 133-135).


Dr. Phillips describes in his paper, The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: I, what it is like for homosexually inclined children growing up, like Mr. E, at a young age experiencing feeling sexually aroused. It causes a double sense of intense shame, and which happens repeatedly, for them, because of being placed in situations that are overstimulating for them (Sidney H. Phillips, 2001, The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: I. New Aspects of Male Homosexuality. J. Amer. Psyoanal. Assn., 49:1235-1267).

“For homosexual inclined children, this everyday overstimulation creates a double vulnerability to shame: They not only fear exposure of their sexual arousal, but they also dread exposure of the homoerotic source of their sexual arousal ... the ‘usual horror’ for the homosexual adolescent boy who lives in daily fear of exposure of his sexually aroused state in same-gender athletic locker rooms… the example of the homosexual boy contending with the psychology of the locker room illustrates Yorke’s (1990) point that the ‘awareness of an observer is a reflection of the link between shame, pride, and exhibitionism/voyeurism and the defense against them that underlie the need to hide (p.381).” (Clifford Yorke, MD, 1990, The Development and Functioning of the Sense of Shame. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 45: Pp. 377-409, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Relentless Cycles of Everyday Life

Attraction & Disappointment
Hope & Despair
Excitement, Arousal & Grief

Dr. Phillips continues to elaborate, “on the inner, subjective states of homosexuals boys subjected to everyday overstimulation.
Their internal landscape is best described as a tantalized inner world of longing. Relentless cycles of attraction, hope, excitement, and arousal alternating with states of disappointment, loss despair, and grief give their inner world a unique form and content.

Dr. Phillips describes the complexities of this kind of sexual longing and desire that involves the use of defenses within the continuum of dissociation. This longing and desire oscillates between not being met in reality and then being played out in fantasy. He identifies this process as “ a closed emotional loop of failed grief and unintegrated loss,” a new psychoanalytic definition of longing.

…an affective state that stems from a repudiation, disavowal, and magical undoing of the loss of the unavailable object and the lack of integration of the pain, disappointment, and sadness accompanying that loss, resulting in a repetitive but derailed and incomplete process of grief. The defenses of magical undoing and disavowal operate against the integration of the pain of the loss. (Sidney H. Phillips, M.D., 2002, The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: II Male Homosexuality, Countertransference, and Psychoanalytic Treatment. Ann Psychoanal 30:131-45, pp. 135-136).

Dr. Phillips points to Mr. E, as an example of this affective state, in Mr. E's attempts to avoid acknowledging his sexual feelings, he experienced towards his analyst during his treatment sessions. Mr. E was repeating in treatment, his response to the sexual arousal he once felt in bed with his brother, which was his dissociative efforts not to think about his sexual feelings, an"autohypnotic trancelike prelude to falling asleep." When this same behavior was repeated in treatment it signaled his "disavowed feelings and sensations of his sexual arousal toward the analyst." It demonstrated the effects of the relentless cycles of everyday overstimulation.

Please note:
The psychological material presented here regarding the work and writings of Dr. Sidney H. Phillips and others is a simplification of complex processes not easily explained in a few postings on this blog. For this reason, we supply an extensive list of references, as well as, links to national and international professional medical and mental health associations.

If after searching through a number of these resources, you still have questions for the sake of clarification, please ask your questions in the comments section at the bottom of each posting. Please, be patient for replies, as our entire professional staff is on a volunteer basis. However, occasionally other identified professionals in these fields of study may answer your question more promptly, which we encourage and appreciate their participation.

Also, our staff encourages people, if they would like, to tell their personal stories as related to the material presented. Again, this can be done on this blog for others to read by clicking on the link of the comments section at the bottom of each posting. Personal stories are helpful to researchers, as well as, to many other individuals to read.

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