My Dear Readers,
There are those times when we grant too much power to others. In seeking to be accepted, we deny the true value of ourselves and seek validation from others– validation that can only come from within.
It is human nature to create super heroes. It can also be disastrous to learn that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren’t real and that unconditional love, in reality, comes with “expectations.”
However, one can uncover, discover and recover the empowerment that lies within the psychological self by learning what is true and what is not.
Below is such a story.
Dear Visible Man,
I hope you can help me. I am an African-American gay male, and I live in a conservative community. I am completely out—my family and my church know that I am gay.
Growing up, I remember being bullied and called offensive names. I never developed any close friendships. When I was 15 years old, I told my mother about my sexual identity. She responded by calling me a “faggot.” She apologized later, and I accepted it. She said that although it is difficult for her to understand, she accepts my “choice” to be gay and will always love me. We have moved on to where we have a positive relationship.
I am now 29 years old. After high school, I went to college, got my degree, and I now have a good job. I have finally found a man that loves me. I know that I am loved, but I still don’t feel accepted. I have a ton of anger going on within me.
I now realize that deep inside, I have always felt angry, sad and betrayed by what my mother said to me, and that anger and hurt is not going away. I thought that by finding my true love I would be happy, but I realize now that I am not. I do not feel accepted by my mother. If a mother would betray her son, what stops my true love from doing the same to me?
I have spoken to my pastor, and he told me to pray for forgiveness. Forgiveness? What have I done wrong? I feel like I am at my wit’s end. What can I do?
Searching For Answers, Tacoma, WA
Dear Young Man,
Your pain comes through loud and clear. I caution you to listen and work towards feeling the words I want to share with you. In my 25 years of practice, I have lost two patients due to suicide. The common threads that they share were they were gay, were ethnic minorities, and have given up hope.
Stay in the room with me. Allow me to provide more information for consideration as you now stand at the crossroads.
First, let us engage in a calming down period. Your safety is paramount. Begin by following the Five Rs of Relief.
- Respite– Be willing to take a moment before you address the situation. Breathe deeply. Allow yourself to step away from the situation for a moment.
- Reaction– Own your reactions. No one but you can fully understand how you feel at this time of your life.
- Reflection—Balance your thoughts with your feelings. Let go of the desire to control what you think and feel.
- Response– Combine your balanced thoughts and feelings and prepare to speak to the external world.
- Reevaluate– Take another look at the choices before you, decisions you have made, and the actions you have taken. Have the willingness to review, revise and reframe.
Instead of viewing this as being “at my wit’s end”, I ask that you view this as standing at the crossroads. In doing so, please be willing to take in as much information as you can to decide the direction of your next journey.
To be clear, your sexuality is not the issue at hand. The issues instead lay in the reactions of your conservative community.
Remember, ignorance is defined as the lack of knowledge. Let’s say that knowledge is food sitting on the table. There will always be those who choose not to nourish themselves, even when food is plentiful. Some people would prefer to stare, starve and hold to the darkness of their beliefs.
As my grandmother would say: “an old dog won’t run… it will just limp along until its time comes.” Have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you seek acceptance from those who have chosen darkness?
- Are you choosing to limp along in darkness instead of grasping for the light in front of you?
- In your desire to be accepted, are you granting them power over your happiness? Do they deserve more where you deserve less?
As you search for the answers consider the following:
- If you look within and accept the self as the person that you are, you will have your value and validation.
- If they do not see you, it is because they have chosen to do so. Nothing you do, including full capitulation, will change how they feel or view you.
- You can lessen their power over you by “loving the self” and in doing so… loving me more.
As children, we create super heroes and heroines out of our parents. They become our solid rocks. We give unconditional love and expect to receive the same from them. They can do no wrong.
Until that one day when we are forced to grasp what is really before us. We learn that instead of super heroes and heroines, our parents are merely mortal human beings. Instead of rock, we understand that our parents are just like us; humans made of blood, flesh and bone.
With this cruel awakening comes the knowledge that unconditional love comes with “expectations.” Strong African-American families do not birth weak gay sons and daughters. It is expected that they will go on and bring forth more children.
After all, the Bible speaks of Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve, right? So if my child is gay, it must be because he chose this lifestyle. He came from my body! I am not a lesbian; his father certainty wasn’t gay. It must be a choice. Right?
Regarding acceptance, have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you accept that your mother is simply a human being who has chosen to live within the boundaries of her faith and her belief that your actions are by choice of lifestyle and not of identity at birth?
- Understanding that in her esteem you may have “fallen,” can you let go of her expectations and begin to create—and more importantly, accept—your own?
- Can you cease proving yourself to others and just simply walk your journey… being you?
As you search for the answers, consider the following:
- You will have the desire to distract yourself from or ignore what has now been revealed to you about your parent. Struggle to stay with this moment.
- As you realize your mother’s failings, you have earned the pain that comes from the revelation. This isn’t a bad thing.
- You have the opportunity to view your mother as different and more human as you strip away the untruths that you have created in her image.
- You can accept your inner self and in doing so, choose to model the behavior and actions which you seek.
The Wounds of Betrayal
In my research, I have identified eight distinctive categories of trauma. Of the eight categories, betrayal is the most impactful and psychologically wounding on the human experience.
It is common for the wounded individual to take such deeply wounded feelings into future relationships. Because of its insidious nature, betrayal trauma requires an intense program of recovery.
I want to be clear—I am not trying to ignore your pain. However, as hurtful as your mother’s actions have been, this was not a betrayal.
The act of betrayal requires a “thread of actions”. For the betrayal to be initiated and completed, five stages must occur: premeditation, planning, process, performance and “the punch”
The actions of your mother do not meet the standards of betrayal that I laid out above. The act of betrayal cannot occur by accident—nor can it result from an impulse or mistake. There must be a specific intent to carry out the act of betrayal.
Be willing to ask yourself the following questions:
- As there is no intent, why then do I feel betrayed?
- Why do I suspect that my true love may do the same to me?
- Do I want to continue with the journey feeling the way that I do?
As you search for the answers, consider the following:
- Consider the possibility that the betrayal that you feel is actually the fall from the pedestal upon which you placed your mother.
- Consider that you can avoid the same error by not placing your true love on a similar pedestal.
- Allow your true love to be what he truly is: In doing so, insist on the same status for yourself.
In speaking to your pastor, the response you received was to seek forgiveness. In the framework as it is presented, it remains unclear as to exactly what reason or who you are to direct forgiveness towards.
Please consider this: In the work of Self Discovery, not only is forgiveness is a gift that one can receive from another it is also a gift that you can provide to yourself.
Have the willingness to seek forgiveness from the psychological self for the many years of pain and suffering it has carried for you. Have the willingness to let go of this pain and suffering.
As you stand at the crossroads, have the willingness to reach out, seek therapeutic assistance, and commit to do the work that will assist you during this difficult time.
As you indicated the following: “I feel like I am at my wit’s end. What can I do?” Please contact the crisis hotline within your local community. The National Suicide Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is also available 24 hours a day.
Grasp onto life… Walk the Journey of Self Discovery.
The Visible Man