HOMOSEXUALITY AND NARCISSISM

Another element germane to the homosexual picture is that of narcissism. Freud once commented that the homosexual is often so intensely narcissistic that he cannot love a being that is other than himself, that is, a being without a penis (in the case of the male). The narcissistic wish often expresses itself as the substitute for oedipal strivings, that is, once the homosexual has identified himself with his mother, he begins to behave as he had once wished his mother to behave toward him. This leads to a choice of libidinal objects such as men or boys who are quite similar to the individual himself and toward whom he then expresses the same sort of tenderness and affection that he had once desired from his mother. While he acts out the maternal identification in this way, emotionally the narcissism plays itself out insofar as the love object is like himself and the psychic situation is equivalent to one in which he is able to enjoy being loved by himself. This particular dynamic may prevail when male religious are in charge of young boys, or females in charge of young girls. This is particularly noteworthy for young adolescents in whom the resolution of gender identity has not been completed and the titre of homosexual impulses runs high.

Often when such narcissistic elements are predominant in the genesis of homosexuality, the character structure tends to be more primitive and pathological. It should be noted that similar mechanisms can be found in heterosexual individuals as well, when narcissistic men fall in love with a woman whom they see as a reincarnation of their own feminine wishes and yearnings. This relates to their own wish to be treated as a little girl by their mothers with results similar to those found in homosexuals, that they then treat these women as they themselves would have wished to have been treated by their own mothers. Consequently, the love relationship is not based on an objective love of the feminine partner as a separate entity in her own right, but rather as a reflection of the repressed feminine parts of the man’s own ego.

Certain types of character organization show a tendency or a need to give to others what they did not get themselves and are able to gain the satisfaction of «getting» through an identification to the one to whom they are giving. This is a form of «altruism» in which certain pleasures that the individuals cannot have themselves may be given to others and relished through an identification with these others. But the wish to give and the affection for the other is often intensely ambivalent and mixed with extreme degrees of envy, which may turn into rage and resentment if the one given to is not as pleased as the giver expects him to be.

The identification with the mother may also be mixed with other pre-genital components, including an anal fixation. The oedipal wish for sexual gratification from the mother is transformed through the identification into a wish to enjoy it in the same way that the mother does. This dynamic makes father the object of the child’s love and leads to a masochistic striving to submit himself to the father in the way that the mother does, in a passive and submissive way. The anal fixation in these cases combines with a maternal identification in the wish for anal intercourse. While patients of this sort may behave in a feminine way with passivity and tenderness, these aspects of their behavior may mask unconscious hostility toward the very father figures to whom they are submitting. In such cases the passive submission to the father or father-substitute replaces a more unconscious intention of stripping the father of his masculinity so that homosexual intercourse can begin to signify active castration.

In this sense, these apparently feminine and passive men have not at all given up their unconscious striving to be masculine and to replace their father. By becoming the feminine part to a more masculine man, they thus can gain the strength and masculine power of the partner. Thus, the retreat from castration anxiety in the feminine identification does not completely replace the wishes for identification with the father. The wish to be like the father, to learn from him, to gain strength and resourcefulness and power by being more like him is always ambivalent, since its ultimate aim is in the oedipal context to replace the father. Once the child places his father in such a position of power and omnipotence, he may try to regain some sense of strength by sharing in the father’s power. The tension remains between the extremes of killing and getting rid of the father in order to take his place, and total obedience and ingratiating submission so that the father will grant the son a share in his power and strength.

It should be remembered that narcissistic and passive-anal fixations may occur in the same individual and may express themselves in various combinations in different forms of homosexuality. It should also be remembered that the same dynamics may exist in apparent forms of heterosexuality. Not uncommonly the excessive involvement in heterosexual activity serves as a defense against passive and narcissistic homosexual longings. In situations in which these homosexual inclinations are excessively stimulated, such individuals may be severely threatened and may experience an overwhelming anxiety which has been described as «homosexual panic.»

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