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ere are several examples of the common consequences of living in the closet. A person may experience some or none of these things. It is important to discuss them, to be able to identify them, to assist you if they do apply to your situation, or so you can recognize them to assist someone else who is experiencing them.
If you were like me, one form of denial is to never put yourself into the position where you have to look at the issue. I avoided anything that might hint at my sexual orientation. I avoided showering in gym class, telling myself I was ashamed of my skinny body. In reality, I avoided showering in gym class because I would have gotten sexually aroused. I didn't date anyone in school, telling myself no one would go out with me. If I had, I would have discovered a woman was not what I desired.
Perhaps you've isolated yourself, withdrawn into a world of your own creation. You say you prefer to spend time alone with yourself. The confirmed single person, you never develop friendships or relationships, devoted to your career, home, hobbies, and pets. If you do venture out, you find fault in people, confirming being alone is the best policy, relationships don't work, people can't be trusted, it's too much work and trouble, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, justifying your false beliefs.
Perhaps false shame has driven you to desire change, to try to change yourself into someone else. Perhaps you've tried to bargain with God, ask God to change you, or to give you the strength to resist yourself, or you've tried to plead with God, ask him to take away your desires. Or maybe shame has driven you to avoidance, hiding behind drugs or alcohol, trying to numb the inner struggle. Lastly, maybe you've tried to blame everyone, life, or God for the way you are, that it really isn't you, but because of what other people or life has done to you. You think it isn't your fault, so you have no need to take responsibility for your life or your own actions.
Maybe you've tried to be the perfect person. You become an overachiever, try to be loved and accepted by everyone through performance. You may even set aside your own goals, hopes and dreams to embrace those of your parents, peers, or society so you can feel accepted and normal. This is an exhausting life, and often leads to burnout. I did it for years, and I burned out. It took a direct intervention from God, to get me back on the road to recovery.
Or maybe you are someone who denied your sexual orientation through pretending to be straight. Hello? I've been there, done that, too. You've done a good job of building a false straight life, happy on the outside, but inside not. Perhaps you've been able to avoid anything that would cause you to confront your real sexual orientation. You tell yourself, "If I don't act on it then I am not it." But, thinking is the same as doing; Jesus said to think is the same as to do. What you are inside is the real you. Maybe your fear of being rejected by society is more tolerable than the fear of being your real self. You've gotten so used to living the straight life, even though unhappy inside, you're willing to put up with less than God's best, instead of taking the choice to move outwards into an unknown future. I put off divorcing for years because I was afraid of the results, forgetting that God doesn't close one door without opening another, and "...all things work together for the good of those who Love the Lord."
Repression makes you one person on the outside, but another person on the inside. Fueled by false shame, it feeds a never ending spiral downward into self-loathing, self-hatred, and the use and abuse of self and other people. Hating yourself, you may even begin to hate in others what you see in yourself; you lash out at others for the very thing you hate within yourself. Or hating yourself, you may become what you hate in its most exaggerated form, thereby confirming to yourself your lack of worth.
Or maybe you've done such a good job at pretending to be straight you've been able to compartmentalize yourself, split yourself into the outward straight person, and the inward gay person. You fragment, placing your whole sexual self into a world of falsehood and fantasy. Unable to be intimate with someone, you're sexual expressions are shallow, empty, and anonymous. You justify your thinking, your actions. "I am not cheating on my wife because I am not having sex with a woman but a man." "I am not gay, I am just bisexual, or maybe it's just a phase, or I'm confused." "My work, my career is too important, I would lose it if anyone found out I was gay." "My family would reject me, I would lose my friends." I briefly tasted such a life, but thankfully I saw through the smoke and mirrors, and determined to grasp reality, a healthy life.
Compartmentalization leads to the disintegration of self, isolating feelings and emotions, views and values from the rest of self. Falsely believing your true sexual orientation is wrong, you isolate it, or detach yourself from it. You tell yourself you have it under control, and as long as you have it under control it isn't a problem. But, cutting yourself off from yourself is not being your full self, nor what God desires for you.
Compartmentalization also includes those who try to rationalize it is acceptable to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but not if you act on it. This, again, is in direct conflict with Jesus, who said thought is equal to action. Matthew 5:27-28
Compartmentalization can lead to a complete break down of ethics, safety and responsibility. It can lead you to disassociate yourself from your feelings, or feeling connected to other people, or reducing people from being humans to things for selfish use. Sexual encounters may begin to need heightened excitement to achieve the same thrill, you begin to engage in behaviors which put your health, career, and family, at risk. Or it may make you withdraw from all human contact and relationship.
Confrontation And Exaggeration
To look good, to look acceptable, you prove to yourself and the world you are not gay by rejecting, hating, persecuting, or ridiculing gays and lesbians. Hating yourself, you hate anyone that is gay. If you are sexually active, you may use or abuse the other person, hating or resenting in the person what you see in yourself. If you identify with the "haters" then you falsely think you are not one of the "hatees."
You may try to prove to the world you are not gay by trying to follow all of the "straight stereotypes," throwing yourself into pursuits or interests in which only "straight" people would be involved, misunderstanding and over-emphasizing masculinity or femininity. Or, maybe you do the exact opposite, decide to throw being gay into people's faces, make them uncomfortable, get back at them or society, by becoming all that is stereotypical of gays, wearing your difference for all the world to see, thumbing your nose at everyone... commonly called "flaming," or "being a screaming queen."
If you see yourself negatively, you will act negatively. If you are shamed or feel guilty in your sexuality, you will most likely find your sexuality hollow and empty. You seek meaning through your sexuality, but instead you find shallowness. You desire feeling and intimacy, but you feel numb and detached. You want and desire to express yourself, desire and want relationship, but you don't know how to go about finding it. Ever trying to find it, searching, longing, desiring for meaning in your sexuality, you continually abuse self and other people, you risk more and more to hold on to anything, to feel something.
You cannot negatively deny an integral part of yourself without that part suffering in the process. You can't keep cutting off that which is a part of you without affecting it and the rest of you in the process. If you warp it, weaken, pervert, wound, hide, or deny it, then the rest of you will suffer in the process, too. If you want your sexuality to be positive, integrated into the rest of you, balanced with the rest of yourself, and find its good and proper expression, then you've got to be willing to try and attempt acceptance. This means to dare see your sexual orientation as not just normal, but natural and healthy.
This includes not just addiction to illegal drugs and the abuse of alcohol, but also addiction to legal drugs, or even to chemicals your body produces.
Many people turn to chemical addictions as a way of masking the pains of real life, instead of learning, coping, and managing skills for dealing with real life. Drugs and alcohol are an easy escape from dealing with the reality of being gay. Many gays and lesbians are addicted to substances, like drugs, alcohol, smoking, sugar, caffeine, or even the chemicals their bodies produce through sex or exercise.
You may use these substances to try to numb, to ward off feelings you don't want or don't know how to handle. You may try to use these substances to escape, to hide, or to bury your emotions or feelings. It is a quick fix, but it always wears off, and you are forced to either return to the high, or deal with life; sadly, it's so much easier to escape again. Your body develops tolerances to levels of substances, and you take more and more to get the same effect. You use the substances to mask symptoms, and not deal with the real issues.
Such substances can become addictive; the original reason for turning to substances may change, but the emotional or physical need or desire for them remains. Then you are not only dealing with the issue of life, but the further physical and emotional addiction to chemicals.
Substance addiction will make you risk everything in life. You may engage in sex in unhealthy ways, or in risky places to get an adrenaline rush of excitement. You're willing to risk everything to be nothing, to get high to be brought low. You're willing to just numb your life and remain in is present cycles. Why? Would it not be better to learn to live openly and honestly in life? Life is always going to send you difficulties, but wouldn't it be better to learn how to deal with them, instead of running from them?
There is a high percentage of drug and alcohol use within the gay and lesbian community. There are a high percentage of gays and lesbians on anti-depressants. What does this tell us? That being gay is wrong? No, it tells us the majority of gays and lesbians do not have good and healthy self-images, have not been given the tools or opportunities in life to develop such. When gays and lesbians are allowed to develop normal and positive self-images, the need for addictive substances decline.
Love yourself through learning the reasons behind your turning to substance addictions. Turn instead to your Savior, Jesus Christ, and the good counsel of professionals who can help you learn how to deal with life.
Compulsive behaviors are not the same as additions. You can live without drugs or alcohol, for example, but it's often difficult to live without clothes, food, and many other things. Another word for compulsive behaviors is idols. An idol is not just something you worship instead of God, or which you value more than God. It is anything you value beyond its true worth, and that interferes with life.
Idols are another form of avoidance. Instead of dealing with the real, it's an escape to the unreal. Instead of dealing with the real, idols cover them up, give a false sense of security. This false sense of security doesn't last. You have to worship these idols more and more to keep the same feelings going.
Idols may take the form of many compulsive behaviors, including but not limited to: eating disorders or overeating; shopping or spending money; work-a-holics, overachievers; becoming a perfectionist; obsessive about personal appearance, body shape or body building; pack-rat, never throwing away anything, dependent on material things; addiction to romance; the need for excitement in life; the need to stay busy all the time, never spend any time alone, always needing people around; becoming possessive of people or things; or, never satisfied, always needing to change things.
The strongest, most common compulsive behavior, or idol within the gay and lesbian community is: Sex.
Just as the misuse of substances is common in the gay and lesbian community, so too is the misuse of sex. Does this then give support to the belief that being gay is wrong? All gays think about is sex? No, again, sexual orientation is not the problem. The problem is the inability for most gays or lesbians to have developed through the normal stages of life, and to develop a healthy self-image, and self-esteem. Those gays and lesbians who have developed good and healthy self-images usually experience few, if any, sexual and relationship problems.
Compulsions are normal things taken out of context, exaggerated importance, and used to temporarily mask or cover up deeper emotional emptiness or need. Sexual compulsion has several sources.
One of the most common is sexual repression. This is common if you came from a home or family where sex is never discussed, it is considered dirty, and sexual feelings are to be resisted and repressed. Such teachings cause the gay youth to feel ashamed, bad, or wrong. If you feel this way, you may engage in sexual compulsions to reinforce to yourself that you are worthless.
Another form takes on the image of abuse. If you were sexually or verbally abused, you may believe you did something to deserve it, and continue to punish yourself by seeking it again and again. You associate sex with shame, you use sex as reinforcement for shame, and you are spun into a vortex of shame begetting shame.
Another form of abuse is the desire to be controlled or used sexually. This is the false belief that you find acceptance in being used sexually. This often stems from childhood, a home and family that was out of control. You may falsely believe that through being controlled by another person you are being cared for, loved. Having sex with someone may give you a temporary feeling comfort and security, but afterwards the feelings of being out of control emerge again.
Or, you may have found false acceptance while having sex. You only feel loved and accepted when you have sex with someone. You have difficulty finding worth in yourself outside of your body, outside of having sex. You need to be needed, and if you don't find someone to have sex with you feel empty, worthless. The feeling of value is fleeting, it wears off quickly and you need another episode of intimacy again and again.
Then there's the need for acceptance I call the "dance syndrome." You could ask someone on a date, but you need to feel desired, or needed, or to have someone make the first move, instead of you. So, you sit, alone, miserable, unwilling to reach out, make friends by being a friend first.
Or you're just bored. You seek excitement, thrills, something new and different, or even daring. You engage in risky sexual behaviors and activities, unsafe sex, or sex mixed with the use of chemical substances.
Or you are just lonely and don't like being alone with yourself; you want to be around other people so you don't have to be around yourself. If you were alone with yourself, you might actually have to deal with issues you'd rather avoid.
Or, you're trapped, in what I call, the "next syndrome." You look for the ultimate fantasy man or woman, the ultimate sexual encounter of your life. You see someone you think might be the "right" person. But, you are afraid to commit, because the next person who comes by will be the person you've been looking for all your life, and you won't be there to meet him or her. So, you never commit to someone.
Then there is the pornography issue. Art and pictures of the naked body, in and of itself, are not dirty or wrong. However, if twisted for the wrong reasons, then they can take on unhealthy forms. This is when it does not elevate self, nor elevates the other person, sees people for your self-gratification. If pornography is needed for sexual stimulus, and you cannot function sexually without it, then it has become an addiction. If you are obsessed with it, devote all your free time to downloading porn off the INTERNET, or spend all your money on videotapes and magazines, then get a hint! Warning bells! Dysfunction.
Or, you may confuse sex with Love. You desire to feel connected to someone, to express yourself, and to receive similar back from someone. You fall into the trap where sex gives you quick intimacy, but without the effort to really get to know someone. You don't have to risk revealing your true self, what you are really like as a person. Since you don't have a good image of yourself, you don't dare risk revealing yourself, lest you be rejected all the more. A fear of failure may cause you to never attempt real intimacy, really get to know someone, for fear of being rejected and losing, and so quick and easy sex is an easy substitute.
A fear of success may cause you to choose quick easy sex, too, for if someone did get to know you a little bit and actually like you, it might mean you'd have to open up even more. It's just so much easier to stay stuck in neutral than make the effort to move anywhere in life.
Another potential source of sexual compulsion is romance. This seems odd because we think of romance as something good, sweet and sentimental. But like many other things in life, romance can be abused. Often people fall into the trap of falling in Love with falling in Love, they aren't in Love with the person but the feelings they experience. You float from one Love affair to another, fall in and out of Love at the drop of a hat. Real life isn't continual romance. Real life isn't a date every day with your lover. Real life with your lover is watching TV, mowing the grass, cooking dinner, spending time with family, doing laundry, and watching paint dry. We need romance in relationships, but relationships are not all romance.
A warped side to romance is the need to control other people. Many people try to "win" others, and in winning they believe they find value or worth in the process. If you win, then you must be worthy of winning. Or by controlling someone sexually or in relationship, you can control your own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. The only problem is you have to keep winning, keep controlling, and so you float from one conquest to another, or you need bigger and bigger trophies.
Another odd sexual compulsion is the complete lack of any sexuality at all. Rather than just running wild, you swing the pendulum the opposite extreme, and become some kind of sexual hermit. Out of self-shame, you believe you are not capable of being sexual with anyone, or believe that no one would ever desire you sexually. You believe yourself unlovable, and your desire for love shameful. You spend energy trying to keep your body, mind, and life in control. The source of this behavior is feeling unworthy or undeserving of love and attention, or the belief you are incapable of knowing how to love. Often, this takes on compulsive masturbation behaviors, and then you feel shame from that behavior, which drives the cycle even further.
Or there are people who swing the sexual pendulum to the other extreme and become the poster-child for every stereotype about gay and lesbian people. You are totally out of control, can't refuse any sexual offer, and if it isn't offered, then you go looking for it. You don't know who you had sex with last week or last night, the most common name of the people you have sex with is "anonymous." You have cut yourself off from yourself and any feelings; you numb yourself with sex like a drug, and cripple your ability to be intimate, or really real with someone. Your slogan is "whatever feels good do it," but in the process you've lost your sense of feeling. Sex has become your idol, your God. In your worship, you've lost yourself.
Still another form of sexual compulsion is rejection. You deliberately subject yourself to sex or a relationship with someone who will reject you. Perhaps rejected by your parents as a child or an adolescent, you now relive this through your sexuality. You get involved with people who will not commit to a relationship with you, or that you know will "dump you." Or, you find fault with the person, so you can break off the relationship, you "dump the other person." You float from person to person, always finding fault with self or the other person, or always setting a standard too high for you or anyone to meet. In the end, you are always alone.
Some people try to fill in gaps in their development through sex. If you feel you never had a good or proper relationship with your parent, you may be sexually attracted to a person very much older than you, subconsciously trying to heal your relationship with your parent. If you felt vulnerable as a child, you may find yourself attracted to someone younger than you, so you can take care of him or her, and thereby find love in your own lost childhood. If you feel a certain quality lacking in your life you may be sexually attracted to someone within a profession or cultural icon which emulates that need, such as a policeman, fireman, cowboy, nurse, doctor, etc. If you feel like you need to be punished for being what you are, you may be attracted sexually to the dysfunction of sadomasochism.
No matter what the form of sexual compulsion, the same feelings remains after the sex is over, and they usually aren't good. Rather than seek out good and healthy sexuality and a proper sexual relationship within the guidelines God desires for you, you float from one dysfunctional sexual experience to another. You search for intimacy, love and meaning, even relationship, and thinking you find it in sex, you fail.
Here's the bottom line, I think, about sexual compulsion: Professionals say a successful life, and even a relationship, is only ten percent dependent on what goes on in the bedroom, and ninety percent dependent on what goes on outside of the bedroom. If you are sexually compulsive, you live your life as if ninety percent of your life is dependent on what goes on in the bedroom, and ten percent on what goes on outside of the bedroom.
God has a plan for your sexual orientation, and that plan is holy, pure, right, centered, balanced, and Love. As you draw closer to God, you will find the proper place for your sexuality.