Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leggo My Micronarrative

I got two different things in my mail-box yesterday dealing with my animosity towards psychological models of homosexuality. One of them is posted in the comments on "The Straight Story," the other is a private e-mail from an old friend of mine. I'd like to try to disambiguate.

I'm not going to deny that there is animosity, but the animosity is not towards the model. I don't really have a problem with the idea that some gay men may have deep-seated problems which stem from their relationships with their fathers, and I see no reason why men in that situation wouldn't have recourse to psychological healing. Dan in Michigan is absolutely right when he says that just because something is subjective, that doesn't mean that it's made up. When I say that the psychological narratives are subjective, and that they are constructed, I don't mean that they bear no relationship to reality -- to be perfectly honest, I think that subjective reality is more real than objective reality because the objective material universe is transient, it is that which will pass away, whereas the heart of the human subject is eternal. The narratives that shape a human life are absolutely real and legitimate, they are the works of art which we make out of our experiences and which we will humbly submit to the Creator at the end of time in the hopes that He will accept our little stories for inclusion in His masterwork. They are, however, works in process: people constantly edit and revise these narratives, and rightly so, in order to polish and improve them. In that sense, they are less reliable, less "real" than say, a tree, which God has produced once and for all in its final form. In any case, my claim that narratives are subjective and constructed is not intended to be dismissive or belittling; it comes within the context of a general belief that the Enlightenment's idolatry of Objective Truth(TM) is hubristic and absurd.

That said, I also agree that there are real variations in parenting styles, that some mothers really do behave in ways which almost any child would perceive as smothering, and that some fathers really are absent a lot of the time. The emotional experiences in such cases are just reasonable reactions to the facts. So far, there is no narrative. Where this turns into a narrative is when the gay man says "My mother's overinvolvement during childhood has made me come to perceive the love of women as cloying and controlling, while my father's absence left me without adequate male role-models and damaged my male self-confidence. That's why I'm gay." The facts are objectively true, the emotional reaction to the facts is legitimate, the narrative, however, is a much more complicated beast: it's a story that weaves together these facts and interrelates them with the present in order to provide meaning and significance in an archetypally satisfying way. All of this is absolutely legitimate. It is not only the right, but also the obligation of every human person to order his or her experience towards goodness, beauty and truth, and this includes imbuing it with both rational and aesthetic value. If the smothering mother/distant father narrative has deep emotional meaning for a particular homosexual person, if it resonates with his experience, seems to be supported by the facts, and provides a rubric within which he can forgive and heal, then it is True. It corresponds to the kind of Truth which is also Beauty, and the embrace of this narrative, and of the demands which it makes on him as a person, will lead to Goodness.

So far, so good. Where the animosity comes in, is when people try to aggressively project such narratives onto others. It's one thing to say "My mother really was smothering, my father really was absent, and that really did leave me in a headspace where I feel driven to have sex with men in order to reconnect with my damaged masculinity," it's another thing to say, "That guy over there is just saying that he had a perfectly normal childhood because he's unwilling to confront the pain of the deep wounds which his parents left on his psyche." That guy over there has an absolute and inalienable right, for as long as he is alive, to wrestle with his own experience in his own way, to seek the Truth of it within himself, and to construct whatever narratives he requires to provide for his own spiritual and psychological needs. When he dies, God will have the right to judge the narratives that he's created, but until then that little square of headspace is his own, it is his most intimate and private property, and nobody has the right to tell him that he's narcissistic and immature because he refuses to accept the narratives that they want to impose on him.

2 comments:

  1. YES! This is what I have been wanting to say for months, years, and not been able to phrase so lucidly and concisely. Thank you!

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  2. ♥InsaneOphelia♥April 2, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    I agree wholeheartedly. While, some homosexuals do fit in the cookie cutter mold that the way they were reared up or experiences they've endured could have possibly made them more prone to identifying as a homosexual, there are some that were brought up by loving parents and had no premature or inappropriate sexual encounters or other experiences that could have been detrimental to their mental health. Take my friend, for example, who has a very loving family (except his dad with a bit of a strict conservative outlook, which I agree with to some extent) has no childhood trauma that could have aided in his sexuality. I do agree that some homosexuals do seem to have psychological problems that are repairable and can in turn change the way they look at things, but some seem to be perfectly psychologically healthy and happy. I love your blog, by the way. I love that you rejected the heinous idea that sexuality is fixed and immutable. I believe we are constantly changing; our brains, our bodies, our likes and dislikes. Thank you for your blog.

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