Saturday, March 09, 2013

The courage to change?



Over the course of the last couple of months, I have been discussing my life's choices and situations and dilemmas before me with a dear, close friend (who has been using me as a practice for his new career as a therapist). I have shared with him my inner most thoughts and desires, my dreams and wishes for the future. We have played the "what if" of the various choices before me, and he has pushed me to study more about Freud, the ID, EGO and SUPEREGO and trying to help me to find a balance in my life... seeking ways to free up some of my subconscious with the conscious life, and calm down my oversensitive or over reaching superego.

It has been a fascinating adventure together. He has given me much to ponder and contemplate and, in turn, I have given him, I hope, an atypical client to work with.

He has pushed me to think about other possibilities than just my current situation. Recognizing that my current situation and my commitment to my marriage and family runs counter to most of my inner desires to be free of the burdens of hiding my homosexuality, my friend has attempted to get me to envision or investigate the possibilities of life outside of marriage and what that would be like, or life outside the church and what that would entail. Would I need to move from Utah? Would I need to change jobs and / or careers? Would I find life more free and tranquil? Would it "get better"? To do thse things, would I need to let go of my faith?

I've tried to oblige and be honest with myself, seeking to see another way out of my situation... I can see life without my marriage, and I have envisioned finding someone else, especially another man who can completely love me - all of me. But it's hard to see that vision clearly as I still am in love with my wife and our life together has beautiful moments and there still exists some magic between us that it is still worth the effort to keep it going. Until such time that that scenario changes, I find the vision of leaving her somewhat foggy and confusing, and more wishful thinking than reality. Why unncessarily create a void in my life where there is still some marital happiness?

I've tried to envision life outside the confines of the church and the tremendous power it has over me and the choices I make daily in how I live my life. I can envision that day when I am so personally disconnected that there is no more hold over me with its teachings and principles of how to live as a gay man, that like some, my faith changes into myth. I can see that happening... But it's hard to see that vision clearly as well, for despite my doubts and fears and disconnections in my faith, I still have faith! Enough faith that I can't let go, or it won't let me go. Am I so entrenched in my thinking and belief structure that I can't imagine being outside that belief structure? How do I let go of something that still brings me satisfaction and joy, and a certain peace. I keep thinking that without my faith in God and in His purpose for me, what replaces it? Why again create a void in my life where there is still some sense of goodness I receive from faith-promoting service and worship?

My friend thinks my life has made me severely emotionally disturbed and I need a professional to help me find the courage to let go of those things that are holding me back, to forget what others think of me, and to venture out as a new man, a new gay man, proud and ready to face a new world with new opportunities and new purposes. Maybe he's right. Maybe I do lack the courage necessary to step out and leave behind the chains that have held me down, under intense pressure and stress, unable to express the inner self I've learned to hide so well. Maybe I fear the future of such choices too much. Maybe I won't allow myself the opportunity to be "free" of it all and enable myself to finally live the life I'm "supposed to live". And maybe I won't allow it because I'm still homophobic of myself. Maybe the pain of my desires is not sufficient to counter the perceived pain such choices will cause others to endure.

I tried to counter that I thought it took courage to stay on this path, to fight the good fight, to give up my inner ID desires for something of possible perceived greater value. He didn't like that response. He feels I am stifling my growth. I am stunted, and will never be able to learn and grow beyond this point without being courageous enough to step out and change the formula. Like any good chemical experiment, there needs to be a catalyst that is added to the formula mix to make the change, to create a new element, to be free of the past. Where is my catalyst for change? Some of you have come to that point of change and face it head on and have conquered your fears and allowed yourselves to move on. I have witnessed this time and time again from many in this community and I know it to be possible intellectually, and I honor you brave souls for being able to change, to step beyond your fears and embrace your desires and allow those desires to take you to a brave new world of possibilities.

I think I have frustrated him to the point that he doesn't know what to say or do with me without me being willing to try to experiment a bit. Is this the answer? Is there no other way? Is my path really for the stunted and cowards, too fearful to face reality and permit oneself to grow? Does inner peace only come at the sacrifice of family and faith and fear of the outcomes of such sacrifices?

15 comments:

Philip said...

Beck,

I feel somewhat the same about my wife.

There are two hearts involved here.

I would be willing to break my heart because I am pretty sure that given time I would be fine.

But I am not willing to break my wife's heart because deep down I believe she will never recover; her heart will always be broken.

I don't want to be that guy; the one that put that hurt on her.

I don't want to ever, ever be that bad man.

So I chose to be the good guy over the happy guy.

And so I go round and round because I am incapable to letting go of either Morality or Happiness.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

Thanks for your comment, Philip. I am sorry for you and me both, but it somehow feels better knowing there is another in this situation, incapable of letting fo of either "morality or happiness". For what it's worth, I do understand!

naturgesetz said...

You've frustrated HIM??? Who's supposed to be practicing helping whom here? So what if he's frustrated?

Sean said...

It sounds like your friend isn't a very good counselor. It seems like he is pushing an agenda on you; an agenda that doesn't necessarily agree with your core beliefs and values. If I were you, I would stop going to him. If you feel the need to go to counseling, find another person who has many years of experience and credentials.

I'm honestly surprised that it seems like he was only using Freud's psychoanalysis techniques. Many of his theories have turned out wrong or have been replaced and changed.

Again, please stop going to him and go get the proper help if you need it.

Beck said...

NATURGESETZ: Be assured that I am doing this as a favor to him. I did not seek him out for help. He sought me out. I assure you that I am not frustrated with the process... it's been good to defend myself while at the same time be challenged by him.

SEAN: See above. He is a friend, not my counselor. Though he is trying to help me, it is odd that he throws Freud at me as the basis of his analysis for me. I thought that was fun to explore with him, though I'm not consumed by the 100 year old theories.

What is intriguing is the way my friend was challenging me to challenge myself, to think out of the box, to explore other possibiltiies and to understand why such choices would or would not be good for my circumstance. I like that effort.

It just came down to him saying that if the church weren't in my life, and if I weren't married, then what? Would I be willing to live a life free of these obligations or values or what have you? Would I be courageous enough to step out?

It's given me a lot to ponder... and for now, my values, my faith (though somewhat unsettled, but not sinking), and my marriage (shaky as well but still relatively sound), give me enough of an anchor to my core self to keep going with this challenge of life not exactly aligned with some of my other desires.

Bravone said...

I think it's healthy to seriously question our beliefs because it can cause growth, but I agree with Sean about this counselor pushing an agenda. If you were a paying client, I would say he is way out of line.

I understand your feelings Beck. I live them as well. The allure of having a man in my life whom I love and to whom I am sexually attracted is sometimes tempting, but I too love my wife and the life I now have. I'm not at all confident I would be bettering myself by destroying the life I now enjoy.

Trev said...

Everyone's already saying this, but I'm going to chime in, too: be careful with that guy; he doesn't sound very professional. I remember a previous post where you mention him and what he's telling me and it worries me for you.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think the exchange with your friend sounds fruitful. While I don't see it as a precursor to huge life changes, I do see it as helping you process the pain you hold inside. If you told me that the "options" you are discussing openly with your friend are things you haven't already thought to yourself in your more desperate moments, I wouldn't believe you. Saying these scary things out loud to someone else is a great way to reduce their power. Examine them until you've gone over every permutation and possibility. Talk about them until you're both bored to tears. That's how to drive a stake through the heart of your internal conflict. (IMO)

What your friend has to figure out is how not to take inappropriate responsibility for your issues and decisions. Nonetheless, his frustration with your imagined lack of progress is in an odd way an indication that he cares about you.

You could do worse. : -)

Miguel said...

You have no idea the number of times I asked myself these questions:

"Is there no other way? Is my path really for the stunted and cowards, too fearful to face reality and permit oneself to grow? Does inner peace only come at the sacrifice of family and faith and fear of the outcomes of such sacrifices?"

Those are questions that you can answer for yourself and no one else. Personally the last answer for me came when I thought of the price I was paying and the price I was willing to allow my ex-wife and children by doing-or not doing the things I needed to drag us all out of our unhappy stages, even if they didn't necessarily want to be dragged or knew how to fix it. I've heard lots of gay men in our same situation say that even if they never find someone to love and ride in a unicorn into the sunset--they're 100's of times better off for living their lives the way they always envisioned as a proud gay man--I feel the same way and felt that it was a risk worth taking in my coming out process--there are no guarantees of anything in life (but you already know that).

As for your friend, the only thing I can suggest is that you get what you pay for...who knows what his agenda is, but I'm glad that you're at least able to talk about these things with a human being, face to face instead of typing them on the screen.

Hugs,Miguel

Beck said...

BRAVONE: I think it is healthy to question my beliefs and choices. It is in those times of serious questioning that something happens to trigger a memory or a feeling or an assurance or a confirmation, that keeps me going. The question is - what happens when that feeling or assurance or confirmation of my chosen path doesn't come - then what?

When does faith turn into myth? When does marital satisfaction not override internal pain?

Then what?

Beck said...

TREV: My friend is not a professional, at least, not yet. He's working on his second degree and changing careers. I'm sort of a "practice" for him. I'm hoping that he can learn that his textbook thinking isn't necessarily applicable to cases such as mine that are not classic cases.

I appreciate your warning to be careful, and I need to hear this cautionary voice to not take in everything as absolute.

However, it is good for him to help me to question myself.

MOHOH: Yes, it is good to extend my thinking into the "what if" and do it with a friend who truly cares for my wellbeing. There is something in doing this with another instead of just in my head.

His frustration is minimal compared to his desire to help.

MIGUEL: I appreciate you pointing out that the answers to these questions are very unique and personal. And maybe at some point in the future the answers may be different for me than they are today.

As for his agenda, it really is for me to find inner peace. He may be biased against the church and sees the church as suppressing me and causing much of my hesitancy to move forward in my life toward inner tranquility. I don't like that he makes that judgment call. Though the church's influence over my personal decisions may keep me "down" or "closeted", I still find joy in my service there. And until such joy is diminished to be of no value, I would hope he can see my desire to stay verses go.

naturgesetz said...

I can see the value in self-understanding, in knowing the reasons for what you are doing and examining their validity. But among the things you might want to question is what I'd call the "therapeutic assumption:" the notion the the goal is always to feel as good as possible. When you write, "I still find joy in my service there. And until such joy is diminished to be of no value, I would hope he can see my desire to stay verses go," it sounds as if you are buying into that assumption.

When it comes to your marriage, you don't seem to feel that way. You recognize the importance of living up to your commitments.

At any rate, at our Lenten discussion group this morning, we considered, among others, this passage from a book by Cardinal Timothy Dolan: "The one thing Our Lord can never be accused of is false advertising. How blunt can you get? 'Unless you take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.' Hardship, sacrifice, suffering, adversity, struggle — it's necessarily going to be part of the life of the disciple." This comes from a chapter which begins by pointing out the Jesus called Peter "Satan" when Peter tried to discourage him from speaking of the cross. It continues with the theme that Satan is always trying to get us to abandon our cross(es).

So, if something is not giving you joy in the sense of the contentment that comes from knowing that you are doing God's will, as best you understand it, then maybe the thing to do is walk away. But if the joy that is lacking is more in the nature of enjoyment, then maybe you should stick with it.

Forgive me if I'm hectoring you on points you already agree with. I hope you can take it as encouragement to do the right thing, as you understand it, even if it doesn't bring maximum present satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Hey Beck – I’m still here and reading, I just don’t post so often anymore.

I wanted to comment on this post for a couple of reasons. In the spirit of full transparency I have will say that I have faced the fears of which you speak, I have chosen to live my life as a gay man. I didn’t have a wife or family to consider in my choices and perhaps that made it easier for me. The comments I make below come only from what I have observed about my own experience.

I am no longer active in Church, but do not encourage or discourage others to follow my path. I believe we all have the right to make our own decisions and likewise get to reap both the benefits and the sorrows of our choices. And let’s be clear all the choices have both.

When I started living honestly about who I was, a homosexual man, it freed me in a way I could not have imagined or expected. I realized that I had been living with a certain amount of internalized homophobia due to the very act of hiding who I was. Regardless of my reasons for hiding my sexual identity, which did change over time, there is an amount of self-hate that in inherent to hiding your sexuality.

Being honest about my attractions allowed me to respect myself, to fully love myself and improved my self-esteem and perceived self-worth. I can mark this change as a turning point in my life, when things truly did get better. My personal life improved. I learned which friends and family members really did love me regardless of my attractions…I also learned who wouldn’t. Though there were some hard and sad separations, there was also a great amount of security that came from knowing how much I was loved by those who surrounded me.

My professional life improved as well. My newly cultivated self-esteem and worth led me to strive for improvement, to pursue better positions and loftier goals. And this idea was true both professionally and personally. I wanted a better quality of life for myself and for the first time, I believe I deserved it and could get it.

I think when your friend tried to get you to think about the “what if’s “of your life, I hope you’ve thought to consider some of these aspects as well.

Lastly, I wanted to pose a couple of what if’s to you. These weighed heavily on my mind as I made some of the important decisions in my life. I’d like you to imagine the eternities. Do you imagine that you’ll still be a gay man after this life? The Church teaches that you will not, that you’ll be changed whether immediately upon death or during the resurrection it is not clear…but you will be changed. Yet, are we not taught that after this life we go into the next with the same desires and cravings that we have in this life? If this is the case why would any of our desires change regarding our sexual orientation?


Loving members of my family pointed to the comments of modern-day General Authorities who promise of such change after this life. Yet, there were those today and in the past, who promised a similar change to worthy members who would just marry in the Temple and remain faithful. That counsel ended with disastrous results. So much so that the Church no longer encourages such counsel.

Beck, what if your sexuality is eternal in the same way it is for our straight Brothers and Sisters? What then?

~Damon in CO

Beck said...

DAMON:

First of all, it is so good to see you still around and willing to read my ramblings. Thank you for still being out there!

I have wondered and seriously pondered A LOT about the eternities and where this gay-gig fits into things, both pre-mortal and post-mortal existence. I have come to some personal conclusions of thought that I will most likely share in another post (thanks for the stimuli to do so), but suffice it to say that I don't believe or buy in at all to the "imeediate change" at death or at the resurrection. Some may think I misunderstand the infinite reach of the Atonement. I think differently, and so it does give me reason to pause.

As for the "what ifs" , yeah I'm enjoying the process of pushing myself to think differently, which ultimately is what my friend wanted me to do. But what I can't get my head around is the disruption it will cause my wife, my family and my life as it is now, even if the promise of a better life after is out there waiting for me. I can't get past the idea that it just isn't that easy! Not saying it would be easy, but still, it's complicated, and maybe it's complicated because despite it all, for the most part, things are doing okay.

I go through cycles, like most of us I'm sure, where the gay is a bigger deal than other aspects of my life, and then in other times, it's not as big a deal. Am I less gay than others? Maybe... but all said, it still remains a part of me and I believe it always has been and always will be!

Beck said...
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