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Self-Dramatization and the Formation of an Inferiority Complex

Homosexuality is not adequately explained by a disturbed or detached relationship with the same-sex parent, and/or an overattachment to the opposite-sex parent, no matter how frequently these are associated with it. For one thing, such relationships are often seen in pedophiliacs as well, and in other sexual neurotics (Mohr et al. 1964, 61, 140). Moreover, there are normal heterosexuals with similar parent-child interactions. Secondly, as remarked above, neither do cross-gender behavior and interests necessarily lead to homosexuality.

Even a gender inferiority complex, however, may take various forms, and erotic fantasies flowing from it may not only be directed to young or more mature adults of the same sex, but also to children of the same sex (homosexual pedophilia), or possibly to persons of the opposite sex. The woman-chaser, for instance, often suffers from a variant of the masculinity inferiority complex. The decisive factor for homosexuality is the fantasyAnd fantasy is shaped by self-image, the view of others — with regard to one’s gender qualities — and chance events, such as determinative social contacts and experiences in puberty. The gender inferiority complex is the stepping-stone to a variety of frustration-borne sexual fantasies.

Feeling less masculine or feminine as compared to same-sex peers is tantamount to the feeling of not belonging. Many prehomosexual boys had the feeling of “not belonging” with their fathers, brothers, or other boys, and prelesbian girls with their mothers, sisters or other girls. To illustrate the importance of “belonging” for gender identity and gender-conforming behavior, an observation by Green (1987) may serve. Of a pair of identical twin brothers, one became homosexual, the other heterosexual; the heterosexual was the one who bore his father’s name.

“Not belonging”, inferiority feelings, and loneliness inter-connect. Now the question is, how do these feelings lead to homosexual desires? To see through this, the notion of “inferiority complex” must be clarified.

The child and the adolescent automatically react to feelings of inferiority and “not belonging” with self-pity or self-dramatization. They inwardly perceive themselves as pathetic, pitiable, poor creatures. The word “self-dramatization” is correct, for it describes the child’s tendency to view himself as the tragic center of the world. “Nobody understands me”; “nobody loves me”; “everybody is against me”; “my life is all misery” — the young ego does not and for the most part cannot accept his sorrow, much less perceive its relativity or view it as something that will pass. The self-pity reaction is very strong, and it is easy to give way to it. For self-pity, to a degree, has a comforting effect, as does the pity one receives from other people in times of grief. Self-pity provides warmth; it consoles because there is something sweet in it. Est quaedam flere voluptus, there is a certain lust in crying, according to the ancient poet Ovid (Tristia). The child or adolescent who feels himself to be a “poor me” can become attached to this attitude, especially when he withdraws into himself and has no one to help him work through his problems with understanding, encouragement, and firmness. Self-dramatization is particularly typical in adolescence, when the young person easily feels a hero, special, unique, even in his sufferings. If the attachment to self-pity remains, then the complex proper, that is, the inferiority complex, comes into existence. In the mind, the habit of feeling like a “poor inferiority me” is fixated. It is this “poor me” within who feels unmasculine, unfeminine, alone, and “not belonging” to the peer group.

Initially, self-pity works like good medicine. Rather soon, however, it works more like a drug that enslaves. At that point, it has become — unconsciously — a habit of self-comforting, of concentrated self-love. The emotional life has become neurotic essentially: addicted to self-pity. With the child’s or adolescent’s instinctive, strong egocenteredness this proceeds automatically, unless there are affectionate and strengthening interventions from the outside world. The ego will forever remain the hurt, poor one who pities himself; it remains the same child-ego. All views, efforts, and desires of the “child of old” have been preserved in this “poor me.”

The “complex” is therefore fed by a lasting self-pity, by an inner complaining about oneself. Without this infantile (adolescent) self-pity, there is no complex. Inferiority feelings can exist temporarily, but if enduring self-pity takes root, they stay alive, often as fresh and strong when the person is fifty years old as when he was fifteen. “Complex” means that the inferiority feelings have become autonomous, recurring, always active, though more intense at some times than at others. Psychologically, the person in part remains the child or adolescent he was and no longer matures, or hardly, in the areas where the inferiority feelings reign. In homosexuals, this is the area of self-image in terms of gender characteristics and gender-related behavior.

As bearers of an inferiority complex, homosexuals are unconsciously self-pitying “adolescents.” Complaining about their psychical or physical condition, about being wrongly treated by others, about their life, fate, and environment, is typical with many of them, as well as with those who play the role of being always happy. They are as a rule not aware of their self-pity addiction. They see their complaints as justified, not as coming from a need to complain and to feel sorry for themselves. This need for misery and self-torment is peculiar. Psychologically, it is a so-called quasi-need (“QuasiBedurfnis), an attachment to the pleasure of complaining and self-pity, to playing the part of the tragic one.

Acquiring insight into the central neurotic drive of complaining and inner self-pity is sometimes difficult for therapists and others seeking to help homosexual persons. More often than not, those who have heard about the self-pity concept think it a little far-fetched to assume that unconscious infantile self-pity could be that basic to homosexuality. What is generally remembered and agreed on concerning this explanation is the notion of “feelings of inferiority”, not that of “self-pity.” The perception of the paramount role of infantile self-pity in neurosis and homosexuality is indeed new; perhaps strange at first glance. but if thought over and checked against personal observations it proves extremely enlightening.


The Battle for Normality (1997) Ignatius Press: San Francisco

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