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Qualities to Cultivate I

Begining the Battle: Hope, Self-Discipline, Sincerity

Growing self-insight is the first step in any change. During the therapy process (which is  a battle), self-insight continues to grow, along with improvement. One may yet see a good many more things, but after some time insights will deepen.

Initial self-insight into the dynamics of one’s neurosis gives one one’s bearing, and this arouses hope. Hope is a positive and healthy, antineurotic mind-set. It can, in some cases, make problems much easier, even make them disappear for a while. The foundation of the habits that constitute the neurosis, however, is still there, so, in all likelihood, symptoms will reappear. Hope must be cherished throughout the process of change nevertheless. Hope is based on realism: however often neurotic — or, for that matter, homosexual — feelings may present themselves, however often one may give in to them, as long as there is a constant effort to improve, one will see positive achievements. Moods of despair are part of the game, at least in many cases, but one must curtail them, keep calm, and go on. Realistic hope is quiet optimism, not agitated euphoria.

The next step is indispensable: self-discipline. For the most part, this concerns trivial things: waking up on time; keeping regular habits in taking care of one’s body, in one’s meals, clothing, hair; putting a reasonable order into the small affairs of everyday life and work, not delaying works or business that deserve priority; planning (roughly, not meticulously or obsessively) the day, one’s amusement, social life. If there are points of shaky or absent self-discipline, note them and begin working on them. Many homosexually inclined people have difficulty with some form of self-discipline. To disregard these problems, hoping for an emotional cure that will solve everything else, is foolish. No (self-)therapy can satisfactorily success if this down-to-earth dimension of daily self-discipline is neglected. Invent simple methods for your characteristic weak spots. Start with one or two areas of failing self-discipline; when they improve, the rest will follow more easily.

It is only logical that sincerity is obligatory. Sincerity to oneself, in the first place. This means training oneself to pay unprejudiced attention to what is going on in one’s mind, to one’s motives and real intentions, including the promptings of one’s conscience. Sincerity means not arguing away the percetions or intuitions of one’s so-called “better self”, but trying to put them in straightforward, simply words so as to become maximally aware of them. (Make a habit of writing down important thoughts and self-perceptions.)

Sincerity, moreover, means taking courage to communicate one’s weaknesses and failures to another person, who, either as therapist or guide/coach, is there to help. Virtually everyone has the tendency to conceal certain aspects of his intentions and feelings, both from himself and from others, yet it is not only liberating to overcome this hurdle but also indispensable for progress.

To the requirements of sincerity, the Christian would add sincerity toward God, in one’s searching of conscience as well as in prayer and conversation with him. Insincerity toward him would be, for example, asking for help without at least trying to do what one can do oneself — irrespective of the outcome.

In view of the self-tragedizing tendency of the neurotic mind, it is important to warn that sincerity is not theatrical, but sober, simple, and straightforward.

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

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