Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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

An Illustration of the Relentless Cycles of Everyday Life
Attraction & Disappointment
Hope & Despair
Excitement, Arousal & Grief

Dr. Phillips, from his clinical studies of gay men raised in social environments influenced by varying degrees of antigay social and religious norms, he describes how the normal stages of sexual development of children are then disrupted for children who grow up to be gay. A heterosexual child will experience the normal developmental stages of sexual arousal in early childhood years. However, because these developmental stages of sexual arousal fit with the socially accepted norms they are supported and understood by the adults in this child’s social environment. Most importantly, this child knowingly experiences this social sense of approval and affirmation. It helps to build this child's sense of well-being, sense of self and a healthy sense of self pride.

Early Childhood

In social environments influenced by varying degrees of antigay social and religious norms, these normal developmental stages of sexual arousal in early childhood years are seriously disrupted for a child who grows up to be gay. These disruptions depending on the severity that a gay child experiences them tend to have life long detrimental ramifications. The reason for this is that any child in early childhood years are solely dependent on the constant and consist love and approval of the child’s parents. The withholding of this love and approval for any child during these ages depending on degree can be traumatizing to the child (Henry Krystal, M.D, (1988) In tegration & Self-Healing, Affect, Trauma, Alexithymia (p. 167). It is here where the

dissociative process begins, because the child feels so threatened and will do anything to regain the parent’s love and approval. Dr. Krystal best explains this process using an example of what happens when a girl of 3 ½ years of age is misbehaving “whining and making noises” in a car with her mother, who driving through “a swampy, desolate area… The mother, enraged, stopped the car and yelled, “Get out!”, whereupon the child became frightened and promised to behave. At this point, the child “demonstrated evidence of having been traumatized. She immediately allowed herself to be strapped into the front seat of the car and became a good frozen child. She was dramatically inhibited. Her over whelming fears of abandonment … were from the time of the marshland incident repeatedly played out in thinly disguised ways in the analytic treatment” … Krystal continues,

I said earlier that the child showed the adult type of trauma response because she was able to respond by blocking her affective response and one may assume, recognition. What would have happened if the mother had actually left the child in the desolate area and driven away? The blocking of affects might have continued for a while and become even more severe. It is more likely, however, that the child would immediately have started to call desperately for her mother and pleaded for forgiveness and rescue and perhaps promised to be good from then on. If she had not been rescued right away, her emotional expression would have become more and more violent, in the process the affects would have become mostly somatic and varied, and overwhelmed her with sheer pain. After a while she might have become exhausted, or stuporous, or slept for a while, only to wake up started, to resume her frantic affective pattern until the next point of exhaustion. (Henry Krystal, M.D, (1988) Integration & Self-Healing, Affect, Trauma, Alexithymia (p. 167).

A social environment influenced by varying degrees of antigay social and religious norms becomes disruptive of what are the normal developmental stages of sexuality for a gay child. Unlike the heterosexual child, who expressing normal age appropriate sexual arousal and then experiences a social sense of approval and affirmation from adults. This is not what happens for the gay child. The gay child expressing normal age appropriate sexual arousal is likely to experience in varying degrees forms of disapproval explicitly and or implicitly. This gay child will often feel a sense of overwhelming disconnect from a parent, and depending on degree, it will be similar to the what the 3 ½ year old girl described above, experienced. And so the gay child will promise to do anything to regain the love and approval of the parent. However, the important difference for the gay child is that the gay child did not do any wrong, except express what is the nature of this child’s sexual orientation. This gay child will be taught to go against what is this child’s true human nature. In essence this gay child will be taught not to trust his or her natural instincts of fondness for another human being. This form of child abuse is in ways similar to the Chinese foot binding of young girls' feet, but in ways it is worst.

The disruption that happens when a gay child feels what is a normal age appropriate developmental stage of sexual arousal has a twofold effect. This child out of sheer fear, will not only dissociate from the overwhelming experience of the event of losing parental love and approval but more seriously this child will dissociate from the very essence of his or her own human nature. Backwards clock
Worst this gay child will be taught that this severe inhuman behavior, that the child deny forever his or her core essence of expression of human love for another human being, to love and to be loved by another is socially, religiously and parentally sanctioned and praised. This is barbaric treatment of another human being, especially of a child. What happens to a child who is taught to deny loving and being loved from early childhood on? Can this cause this child to be intensive of having human compassion for others, as well as, for himself? Would this child treat others in the same inhuman and barbaric way he was treated all his life? Would this child even know what is the meaning of love? Would this child even be aware that his treatment of others is barbaric and inhuman, because from early childhood on, this child was taught that this kind of treament is love? This inhuman process of dissociation becomes automatic over time, as this child grows up, however, not without the harmful effects to this child and to others. Harry Stack Sullivan describes the details and effects of dissociative processes. It helps to explain how some prominent public figures who publicly condemn homosexuality and are then caught having sex with men in public restrooms (Clinical Studies in Psychiatry, 1956, p. 174).

A gay child out of fear over time will effectively internalize the antigay social and religious norms as expressed by his or her parents and other adults. However, this internalization will not stop, what is the normal human nature of this child. As a gay child matures and experiences normal sexual arousal, which, at first, can be unsettling for any child, but in addition, the gay child will immediately experience feelings of shame, because his or her feelings are the wrong kind. The gay child in order to stop these feelings of shame and their memories incorporates a number of defenses of dissociation. However, because the gay child’s sexual feelings are natural and normal, they cannot be effectively changed or forgotten, efforts to do so only cause relentless cycles of feeling arousal and shame, hope and despair.

Relentless Cycles of Disruption

Dr. Phillips describes how these relentless cycles are disruptive for some gay adult men. He describes how a young gay man in his early twenties that even though he is able to come out to his parents, who eventually were accepting and supportive of their son, however, this gay man remained conflicted about his sexual orientation.

…he found himself unable to tolerate his own romantic and sexual yearnings of gay peers, several of whom had expressed explicit affectionate and sexual interest in him. Gradually, he describes his inhibitions and conflicts about initiating and sustaining sexually intimate relationships with other men. He felt ashamed of his sexual desire for other men and had chosen instead to surround himself with heterosexual male friends from high school and college for whom he secretly pined away. He recognized this pattern himself and thought it was related to his being afraid of his family discovering that he was gay. He hoped that he could “cure it” by “coming out” to his family. Their warm reaction had pleased him but failed to relieve his inhibitions and conflicts… Though he was aware of his attraction to and arousal by other boys and men since early childhood, he had been more troubled by this attraction since puberty. That other boys were starting to show an interest in girls made him feel threatened “that my friends would figure me out.” The furtive pleasure he took in masturbatory fantasies about male sport figures was staunchly in conflict with his Catholic upbringing and religious training. (Sidney H. Phillips, M.D., 2002, The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: II Male Homosexuality, Countertransference, and Psychoanalytic Treatment. Ann Psychoanal 30:131-45, pp. 137)

Dr. Phillips describes how this young gay man’s conflictual nature has deeper roots that began as a young boy idolizing his two-year older brother who he shared the same bedroom growing up. As a very young child he found himself ‘’curious about and aroused by his brother’s athletic body. He recalled when they were both in school how painful it had been that his brother had “spurned” him for male peers.” He recalls how rejected and hurt he felt by his brother leaving him. He begins to reveal what has been buried deep his unspeakable feelings he had for his older brother, as a very young child growing up sharing the same bedroom...

“But how could I be turned on by my own brother? It’s almost incest, for God’s sake, but worse," he exclaimed. The reference to God, I soon discovered, had been not trivial expletive. He began to quote verses from the Book of Leviticus and from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans which condemned homosexuality as an abomination that deserved the death penalty. Homoerotic incestuous desire, in his mind, was a “deadlier" sin than the heterosexual version (Sidney H. Phillips, M.D., 2002, The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: II Male Homosexuality, Countertransference, and Psychoanalytic Treatment.

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