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The “Search for Love and Affection”

“Male affect starvation”, Green (1987, 377) believes, “may motivate the later search for love and affection from males.” Many modern homosexuality investigators have made this point. It is true provided one takes themasculinity inferiority complex with its self-pity into account. The boy may indeed have painfully missed the esteem and interest of his father, in other cases of his brother(s), or of his male peers, which made him feel inferior to other males. The ensuing urge for love is in fact the urge to belong to the men’s world, to receive the recognition and friendship of those to whom he feels inferior.

At this point, we must avoid a common misunderstanding: There is a popular idea that people who did not receive (enough) love in childhood and who were psychologically affected by it will be cured if they now receive the lacking quantity of affection. Several therapeutic approaches have been based on this premise. But it is not that simple. First, it is not the objective lack of love that counts so much as the child’s perception of it — and that by definition remains subjective. Children may misinterpret their parents’ behavior and, with their tendency to dramatize themselves, may imagine they are not wanted, that their parents are terrible, and so. Beware of taking the adolescent’s view of his parents’ treatment of him as an objective report!

Moreover, the “void of love” is not filled simply by pouring love into it. To be sure, that would be the solution the adolescent who feels lonely or inferior himself seeks and believes in“If I receive the love I missed so much, I shall be happy,” he imagines. But in accepting this theory one overlooks an essential psychological fact: the existence of the attachment to self-pity. Before the young person has become wont to experience himself as pitiable, affection indeed can help overcome his frustration. But once the “poor me” attitude has taken root, his love-seeking is no longer a functional, remedial drive, objectively aimed at reparation. It has become part of his self-dramatizing attitude: “I shall never get the love I want!” It is insatiable longing, never to be fulfilled. The search for same-sex love of the homosexual is a yearning that will not stop so long as the “poor me” attitude from which it flows remains alive. It was Oscar Wilde who complained, “I have always sought love and all I could find were lovers.” The mother of a lesbian daughter who committed suicide observed: “All her life, Helen was looking for love,” but of course she never found it (Hanson 1965, 189). Why not? Because she was addicted to her adolescent self-pity about not being loved by other women. Put otherwise, she was a “tragic adolescent.” Homosexual love stories are dramas, not only frequently but by their essence. The more lovers, the less the sufferer will be satisfied.

This mechanism of pseudo-reparation that operates likewise in other affection-seeking people, and many neurotics recognize in themselves. For example, a young woman had a series of male lovers, all of whom were comforting father figures to her. She felt badly treated by each of them in his turn, for she constantlypitied herself about not being loved (her relationship with father had been the starting point of her complex). How can affection cure one who is obsessed with the tragic idea of being “the rejected one?”

Seeking love as a means of comforting one’s hurts may be passive and ego-centered. The other person is there only to love the “poor me.” This is begging for love, not really mature loving. A homosexual may feel that he is the affectionate, loving and protecting one, but in effect this isa game to attract the other to himself. It is all embedded in sentimentality and is profoundly narcissistic.

 

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

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