Tag Archives: Dr. Joseph Nicolosi

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Exuberant Joe

My good friend and colleague Dr. Joseph Nicolosi passed away yesterday from an unexpected, swift illness. I am in shock. He is the man who gave men like me courage to name the wounds related to our early gender identity, get on a healing track, and proceed onto all we were created for. As a devout Catholic, he held fast to our fruitfulness and eschewed the false solutions offered by the LGBT community; as an astute clinician, he persevered to ensure that the healing arts and sciences still applied to persons with same-sex attraction who knew that they were stuck and needed to get on with life.

He did it all with panache. He was a force of nature—youthful at 70-years-old, mouthy, colorful, an unflagging provocateur of truth. He never lost focus. The last time I saw him was a year ago at his home in Thousand Oaks home with wife Linda; he exuberantly rehearsed a new paper he was presenting at NARTH, which he co-founded and designed as the only enduring network offering clinical care for persons with unwanted SSA.

The sheer volume of his output in papers, books, and presentations around the globe is staggering and can be summed up in these words: humanity is created to realize its heterosexual potential and homosexual behavior is a symptomatic attempt to repair early wounds that left the boy alienated from that potential–the innate masculinity that he has failed to claim. Sound psychotherapy is thus one means through which we can welcome the confirmation that eluded us in our wounds and recover our dignity as men from the illusion of seeking ‘completion’ in homoeroticism. I would urge you all to secure any of his books or articles. My personal favorite: Shame and Attachment Loss, IVP.

Joe got it right. He never apologized for the light he shone. In 1980, he founded the Thomas Aquinas Counseling Center in Los Angeles the same year Desert Stream began in LA. He provided for me and my colleagues studying psychology a reasonable, clear direction amid irrational forces. Ever exuberant, he seemed to enjoy the challenges he faced. He was born to burn calories caused by his contention that humanity has a direction born of God, a track no activist can alter.

God made Joe fit for the fight and he did so brightly and boldly in the face of adversity. Some did not know what to do with him. We did know. We loved him. His gift freed us to embrace life. Exuberantly.

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Fighting fire with Fire

‘For you did not receive a spirit that enslaves you to fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, and by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’(Rom. 8: 15)

Have you ever consider the truth that many persons who face intense same-gender longings are actually motivated by fear: original experiences of rejection for personal and gender inadequacy–the threat that their offering to parents or peers may be rebuffed? Fear intermingles with shame, goes underground, then resurfaces in a kind of homosexual entrancement in which the rejected one plays out a kind of sensual reconciliation with his own gender.

The futility of this effort is obvious: the fearful one is compensating for a trauma, not complementing another person as a valuable counterpart. But bonds forged in fear and lust can be more binding and blinding than those conceived in wholeness. My friends and I agreed that our efforts at gay love only distorted what could have been good friendships with bright, searching guys.

We resonated at a recent seminar with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi as he described the early experiences of sensitive souls who in the face of early shaming experiences faced a ‘dropping, sinking and collapsing’ of body and spirit then retreated for years into a kind of ‘no man’s land’ until same-sex feelings emerged and became another reason for self-hatred.

Gay fantasy, identity, and relationships assuage the fear and shame and self-hatred temporarily but cannot dissolve the truth that something more basic is happening: an effort to resolve a wound that no amount of civil liberties can heal. Even therapy has its limits here. Through undoubtedly helpful, it cannot wholly answer the cry of body and spirit.

Only Jesus can unlock the dungeon of self-rejection and hatred. Only He can enter into our darkest memories and current temptations and grant us a way of escape (1COR 10:13). His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 JN 4:18) and gives us, perhaps for the first time, the fight we need to arise in our original dignity and resume the journey to wholeness.

After the seminar, I encountered a bulky guy to whom I might previously have abdicated my own masculinity—my chest sinking and collapsing–through a flash of homosexual lust. But not this time. Conscious of anxiety, I breathed deeply and practiced the Presence of the One ‘who has stooped down to make me great’ (PS 18: 35b).This David blessed the Goliath before me and walked on, unencumbered and grateful for the man I am and the God I worship.

‘We overcome the fire of lust by entering into an infinitely greater Fire, that of God’s Eros-Agape love.’ (Christopher West, The Heart of the Gospel)

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Downward Ascent 2: Good Grief

Downward Ascent 2: Good Grief

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ (Matt. 5:4)

Happy are the sad. Real joy comes from Christ, and Christ comes for the sorrowful. Not just any kind of sorrow: I mean the grief which results from poverty of spirit. To look inside and out and to know all is lost, except for the Savior who came to seek and save the lost (LK 19:10).

He waits for us to weary of our self-justifications, the hollow of our own laughter. He intercedes for us as our ‘fun’ digresses into dehumanizing others. We are exposed in the glare of Another’s nakedness.

He waits for us to admit that the ‘gay marriage’ we have championed has no real foundation and will not stand.

The law of gravity never fails: sin’s road goes down and down.

We can go a long way on our own happiness. Yet the ache of conscience can intensify too. Happy are the sad, good is the grief associated with genuine moral loss—the loss of innocence and core values that can only be reclaimed by divine help.

God dwells with the destitute but resists the ‘house-proud,’ those secure in their own defenses. While fools roost in the ‘house of pleasure, the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.’ (EC. 7:4) He enters the temple desecrated by sin and surrendered to Mercy. He gives real comfort to those who cry: ‘Jesus!’

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi writes of how the pursuit of sexy idols is no match for the authentic longings of the grief-stricken heart. Addictions fall away when one unites original injuries with trustworthy sources of comfort. Attachment to real love displaces counterfeits. Yet union with Love Himself necessitates real grief: I am wounded! I am alone! I need a Savior, the Advocate who will never fail me!

Divine comfort now is never complete. The promise is ‘will be comforted.’ We live between the ages: the Comforter has come and is coming again. In the meantime, we can mediate that comfort one to another, always directing our hearts to the time when we shall grieve no more. In the meantime, we agree with St. Paul who describes himself as ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing.’ (2COR. 6:10)

Happy are the sad. Our losses welcome holy love.

‘Come near to God and He will come near to you…Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.’ (James 4: 8, 9)

Prayer for Monday, March 10th: ‘Father, we welcome the reminder of our poverty, and the good grief that accompanies it. Teach us to make the Valley of Baca (weeping) a place of springs. (PS 84:6) ‘

Prayer for Tuesday, March 11th: ‘Father, we grieve over the unresponsive parts of our hearts: the weak and vulnerable areas that we hate and hide. Teach us to welcome Your love where we need it most.’

Prayer for Wednesday, March 12th: ‘Father, remind us of our original injuries and the ways You have shown Yourself faithful as the God of all comfort and understanding. This Lent, secure us in the Father/child bond that breaks fear and shame and frees us to rest in You.’

Prayer for Thursday, March 13th: ‘Father, we grieve over hearts unresponsive to Your mercy, especially our loved ones. We admit that we can hate those we love most due to how deeply they impact us. We are reactive creatures, poor in love: comfort us so that we might comfort those who need Your love through us.’

Prayer for Friday, March 14th: ‘Father, we grieve over the sexual immorality all around us. We cry out for repentance, beginning with ourselves, and ask that we might manifest holy comfort to sinners; hasten their turning back to You.’

Prayer for Saturday, March 15th: ‘Out of sorrow, let joy arise. Remind us of all the ways that You have comforted us in our afflictions.’

Prayer for Sunday, March 16th: ‘Help Your Church to be the site where we recognize sin and grieve over it. Let Your Church also be the juncture where we exchange our grave clothes for robes of righteousness.’

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Mercy 12: Mercy for the Deep Wounds

‘By calling God the “Father,” the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that He is at the same time goodness and loving care for all His children. God’s parental kindness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature.’ (CCC #239) Read more »

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What is at the Core of Same-Gender Attraction?

Facing well one’s same-sex attraction requires more than good theology. One must also understand how we develop into whole-enough men and women. Yes, we are born to become good gifts to the opposite gender and yes, we readily stall en route to the goal of such ‘gift-giving.’ Next to Leanne Payne, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has influenced me more than anyone else in his astute psychological understanding of how we become (or do not become) mature expressions of men and women for each other.

Check out Joe and his many fine books. As the Chair of Restored Hope Network, I am proud to say that Joe is on our new Board of Reference.

PaulkReflecting on John Paulk’s recent return to gay identity and culture, Nicolosi offers us these insights on the identity crisis at the core of those who claim ‘healing’ then falter and fall away. He writes:

“Recently, ex-gay spokesman John Paulk left his wife and three sons after more than 20 years of marriage and rejoined the gay community. He has renounced his former married life and is now discouraging others from attempting change.

Long ago, John emerged from a very troubled past. Prior to his Christian conversion, he assumed an identity as “Candi,” a cross-dressing and drug-using prostitute, immersing himself in the wilder and more anti-social aspects of the gay world.

But his Christian conversion led him into a stark change: marriage with Anne, a former lesbian and a committed Christian woman dedicated to an orthodox understanding of family and sexuality, with whom he raised three sons, now teenagers.

He also had a key position with Focus on the Family, where he became a well-known media figure testifying to his commitment to heterosexual family life and the traditional, Biblical understanding of sexuality, which holds that a gay identity is a false construct, not part of our human design. But now, all that life has crumbled.

As a reparative therapist who has worked with thousands of homosexually oriented men seeking change, and a friend of John’s for many years, I believe I am in a unique position to speculate on these recent events.

First, John’s story is a cautionary tale about ex-gay celebrity.  There is an inherent risk in the ex-gay movement’s reliance on any public spokesperson.

Second, in his testimony, John advises against Reparative Therapy, but he himself has never been in Reparative or any other professional psychotherapy.  Rather, his sexual-identity change evolved as a result of his Christian conversion.

As John tells his own story, he is a man who always felt unloved and who always searched for identity and belonging. While I will not speculate about his own interior processes, I will, however, speak of psychological patterns I have seen in other SSA (same-sex attracted) men who describe similar feelings.

For many SSA men, the deepest problem they must wrestle with is not sexual identity, but core identity. The original source of this struggle is not the more obvious problem in bonding with the father, but a breach in the primary attachment with the mother.  For these men, their deepest-level problem is not about sexual orientation but about something more fundamental: identity, attachment and belonging.

Gender-identity conflict and attraction to men are only surface symptoms. This is the problem that the media chooses to ignore, and which both sides of the debate fail to acknowledge.  

As such a man’s identity evolves, there will be an excited “discovery of my True Self,” followed by disillusionment, then a new “real discovery of my True Self,” and then again, disillusionment.   At the base of this desperate search is the anguished grasp for a stable personhood, a profound emptiness and beneath it, a self-hatred.  That self-hatred is often expressed in deconstructing and condemning every previous aspect of the person’s own former life, including the influence of persons most near to him.

Radical shifts in “the discovery of my True Self” are associated, in some such people, with Borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and gender confusion, since gender identity is built upon an earlier foundation of self-identity. A fragile self-identity makes the later structuring of gender identity particularly perilous.

The restlessness such people feel is shown in a chronic state of dissatisfaction; in the narcissistic expectation that “if others really love me, they must take this pain away from me; and they [or what they stand for] are responsible for my pain.”

When others fail to do this, there is a deep sense of betrayal; betrayal that these individuals failed to take away the core emptiness, and so the person in conflict may become angry at the people that participated in his former life.  The pain of an identity search and the need for escape from the ordinariness of life can be alleviated for awhile by adulation.  The narcissistic inflation found in celebrity, for example, can be an intoxicating balm.

This periodic disillusionment leaves behind devastated individuals who have invested deeply in the person; in John’s case, Anne, his wife of 20 years; his three teenage sons; and even his former ministry employer, Focus on the Family, where John served as a role model for Christians seeking to live out the orthodox Biblical conviction about the nature of sexual wholeness; also, the young people who were inspired by his public example.

John and his supporters in the gay community want to frame the latest change in his story as proof that people who experience SSA were simply designed and created for homosexuality, but we would be deceived if we believed this simplistic paradigm.

Where core identity is the foundational problem, we suspect a breach in the primary attachment with the mother. From my clinical experience, there is a particular kind of client who, although he is deeply dissatisfied with gay life and does succeed in developing good heterosexual functioning, will, over time, struggle to muster the self-discipline and maturity to put in a hard day’s work, come home to wife and family, help the children with the homework, have dinner and settle down to a good conversation with his wife, and go to bed.

Such a life of day-to-day investment in one’s loved ones seems too confining: it is boring, lusterless, unexciting, “just not enough.” Underneath the boredom and restlessness remains this deep, chronic dissatisfaction.

It’s not just about needing to find a partner of a different gender; it’s about getting attention, flirting, being made to feel special,  distracting oneself from one’s chronic dissatisfaction with life through parties and other high-animation activities, such as the gay community offers on its well-known, drug-saturated party circuits.

I suspect that “excitement” was what John was looking for when he went to the gay bar in Washington, D.C. many years ago, just after speaking at a Love Won Out conference, when he created a public-relations crisis while working for Focus on the Family. I don’t believe John was there looking for sex. I suspect he was bored with the Christian community and its expectations—I believe he sought diversion, flirtation, adventure, and –a favored word in gay politics- “transgression.”

Of course, every shift the person makes from “I thought I was such-and-such…” to “Now I really know who I am,” will always have its cheering admirers. Even Randy Thomas of Exodus Ministries—a group which is supposed to support people in living a life of sexual purity according to Biblical standards– says of John: ” I told him that while I related to him more after his gay bar visit in 2000, I could relate to him even more now that he is genuinely questioning past actions and motivations… his apparent newfound depth of honesty made me happy for him.”

Does that mean that Mr. Thomas respected John less when he lived a Christian married life?  We are left to wonder if Exodus has now simply drowned in a sea of “cheap grace” and the Philosophy-of-Oprah about following one’s heart.

And so we have seen the many faces of John Paulk—the female impersonator/prostitute “Candi,” the  “Ex-Gay Poster Boy,” and now, the gay man.

Can John really believe that he’s going to find love and happiness walking away from his wife and three sons?   John says he never in his life felt loved.   However, I conjecture that no one has ever truly loved John more than his own wife, Anne.

 

 

 

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