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Changing Patterns of Thought and Behavior II

Fighting the Infantile Ego

So this is the immature, ego-centered “self”. Now growing to emotional maturity does not proceed automatically; one must wage the battle with the infantile ego (and take the time for it).

The homosexually inclined person will do well to focus on his “his inner child’s” seeking attention and sympathy. Its variants are trying to be important, respected, esteemed, loved, pitied, or admired. Its numerous ramifications must be detected in everyday life and in one’s contacts with others, and its enjoyments of this kind must be denied. More and more, it will become clear how many acts, thoughts, and motives spring from the infantile need for self-affirmation (which is different from a healthy joy in functioning and self-realization). The infantile ego strives after exclusive attention from other people. Its need for love and sympathy may be tyrannical; it is easily hurt, jealous when others get the attention. The “inner child’s” drive for love and attention must be distinguished from the normal human need for love. The latter, is at least partially, subordinated to the need to love other persons. For example, mature love that is rejected responds with sadness, not so much with indignation and infantile self-pity.

Any kind of infantile self-affirmation should be “frustrated”; in this way, swift progress can be made. Don’t forget attempts to be “great” in one’s own eyes, to excel, to be admirable. In a sense, infantile self-affirmation seems “reparative”, particularly to inferiority complaints. In effect, however, it merely nourishes such complaints as it strengthens one’s ego-centeredness (all infantile urges and emotions interconnect like communicating vessels; feeding one automatically strengthens the others). Mature self-affirmation, which provides a different kind of joy, is contentment with being able to achieve something, not, however, because “I am so special”; partly, it is gratefulness. The mature adult is aware of the relativity of his achievements.

To be no longer a child psychologically is the goal of any neurosis therapy. Negatively put, this implies that one tries not to live exclusively for oneself, for the glory of the infantile ego, or for its pleasures. Insofar as one succeeds with that, homosexual interests will diminish. The crucial thing, however, is first to see one’s behavior and motives under the light of childishness and being directed to self. “I seem to care only for myself”, an otherwise sincere homosexual man concluded, “I do not know what loving is.” Infantile selfishness appears to be the essence of the homosexual liaison as well: wanting a friend for oneself. “That is why I am always domineering and demanding in a relation with a girl”, a lesbian woman acknowledged. “She must be fully mine.” Many homosexuals feign warmth and love for their partners and delude themselves into believing these sentiments are real, but in effect they cherish a self-serving sentimentality and play a game. Time and again it turns out that they can be hard on their partners and basically disinterested in them. This love is self-deception.

A man who was very generous to his many friends, buying them extravagan presents, helping them with money when they were in need, actually did not give away anything. He bought their sympathy. Another realized that he was constantly preoccupied with his physical appearance, spending practically all the money he earned on clothes, hairstylists, colognes. (Of course) he felt physically inferior and unattractive, and as a result inwardly pitied himself, but his overcompensatory narcissism was pseudo-reparative selfishness. A teenager may be expected to be preoccupied with styling his hair for some time, but then, when he grows up, he will accept it the way it is, and the subject is no longer of much relevance to him. Not so for many homosexual men: they cling to their childish, wishful thinking about their imagined beauty, contemplate themselves a long time in the mirror or watch themselves in their imagination as they walk in the street or deal with other people. Self-humor is a good antidote for such behavior (e.g. “Boy, do you look wonderful!”)

Many homosexuals are arrogant, occasionally or chronically, in their demeanor; others chiefly in their thoughts (e.g., “I am better than you”). Such thoughts must be caught the moment they cross the mind and then cut off, satirized, made humorous. As the “inner child’s” self-importance diminishes, some narcissistic satisfactions disappear, such as subconscious ideas of being special, a genius, superior, Nietzschean superman illusions are childish thinking; what is the reverse? A healthy recognition of one’s not being better than others; an ability to laugh at oneself.

Jealousy is childish as well. “He has this or that, I don’t! And I can’t stand it! Poor me!” He is more beautiful, stronger, more boyish, more athletic, more popular, he has more flair; she is prettier, more charming, more girlish, more radiant, or a more graceful build, gets more attention from the boys. In looking thus at others of the same sex, the infantile ego’s admiration and longing for contact is mixed up with jealousy. Neutralizing the voice of the “child” is the right action to take: “Okay, let him be much more perfect; I will try to be fully content with everything I am, physically and psychologically, even if I were the least, the more inferior, of my sex.” Hyperdramatization of or satirizing the infantile ego’s alleged inferior manly or feminine qualities may thereafter reinforce the attempt to view members of one’s own sex in a less ego-centered way.

 

GERARD J.M. VAN DEN AARDWEG, PH.D.
The Battle for Normality (1997) Ignatius Press: San Francisco

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