The Meaning of Same-Sex Attraction

by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.

During twenty years of clinical work with ego-dystonic homosexually oriented men, I have come to see homosexual enactment as a form of "reparation." The concept of reparative drive has been well-established within the psychoanalytic literature; in our application, the person is attempting to "repair" unmet same-sex affective needs (attention, affection and approval) as well as gender-identification deficits (Nicolosi, 1991, 1993) through homoerotic behavior.

Homosexual enactment temporarily relieves the stressful self-states that we repeatedly find in our SSA clients: most particularly, shame, conflicted assertion, the depressive mood that I call the "Grey Zone," and the social posture of the False Self.

For my clients, homosexual enactment does not represent their personal intentions, will or self-identity, and it is in violation of their aspirations and life goals. Gay life is unsatisfying to them, so they enter therapy in the hope of reducing their unwanted attractions and developing their heterosexual potential.

Homosexual acting-out, for these men, is an attempt at restoring psychic equilibrium in order to maintain the integrity of the self-structure. Through homosexual enactment, they unconsciously seek to attain a self-state of authenticity, assertion, autonomy, and gender-relatedness, but they have found that it eventually brings them none of those things-only a nagging feeling of inauthenticity, and still deeper discouragement.

A Lifestyle of Hiding

Many same-sex attracted men live in a state of vigilance against the possibility of feeling shamed. This creates a lifestyle of hiding, avoidance, withdrawal, and passivity.

In clinical settings we have seen that anticipatory shame can become so intense as to approximate paranoia, with the frightening conviction that another person has the power to turn everybody against him. Past associations to this frightening anticipation often go back to early adolescence, when a bully turned the other boys against him. Perhaps the shame originated earlier yet, with the "omnipotent" (in the child’s eyes) mother who, he feared, could turn family members against him.

Central to reparative therapy is assisting the client's transition from the shamed state that creates the restrictions of the False Self, into the assertive state that fosters the True Self.

Here are some guidelines:

Feels masculine Feels unmasculine
Adequate, on par Feels inferior, inadequate
Secure, confident, capable Insecure, lacking confidence, incapable
Experiencing authentic emotions Emotionally dead or alternatively, hyperactive
Energized Depleted
At home in body Body is object, not self
Physical confidence Anxious clumsiness
Feeling empowered, autonomous Feeling controlled by others
Accepting of imperfections Perfectionistic
Active, decisive Passive
Trusting Defensive posture

With Others

Attached Detached
Outgoing Withdrawn
Spontaneous Over-controlled, inhibited, "frozen"
Forgiving, accepting Retaliatory, resentful
Genuine, authentic Role playing, Theatrical
Seeks out others Avoidant
Humility Self-dramatization
Aware of others Constricted awareness
Assertive, expressive Nonassertive, inhibited
Mature in relationships Immature in relationship
Respectful of others' power Resentful of others in power
Empowered A victim
Integrated; open Double life; secretive
Rapport with opposite gender Misunderstanding of opposite gender
Sees other men as like self Pulled by mystique of other men
"Homosexuality rarely comes up for me. I can willfully visualize it - but it doesn't have that compelling quality."
"I'm in that whole gay mindset... Sexual attraction to guys preoccupies and dominates my entire outlook."




Nicolosi, J. (1991) Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.

Nicolosi, J. (1993) Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.


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