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Sunday, November 20, 2005

 

Reparative therapy for females

This excerpt from a recent NARTH newsletter seems to be a pretty wild claim:

When I ask women who do not struggle with same-sex attraction the question, "What were your hopes and dreams as a little girl?" they quickly describes fantasies or hopes about escaping from their sadness or loneliness. In contrast, women with same-sex attraction struggle to remember any hopes or dreams. As little girls they didn't or couldn't project themselves beyond the pressent moment. Perhaps they were tied to the present because they still needed to build their most foundational piece, a self. Life cannot progress without a self." - August, 2005, Janelle Hallman, p. 13.

Much reparative therapy literature is about men. As I understand it, men work with men and women with women in therapy. So here is some reparative "wisdom" about women. Lesbians don't have selves? The claim is the same as on the male side. Lesbians did not bond with mom and thus failed to develop a secure feminine sense of self. They then look for it in another woman. I guess that makes lesbians selfless. Isn't that a good thing? Any selfless women out there want to take this on?

Comments:
In contrast, women with same-sex attraction struggle to remember any hopes or dreams. As little girls they didn't or couldn't project themselves beyond the present moment.

I dreamt about being
- an astronaut
- a Navy Pilot
- a doctor
- an engineer
- an architect
- a superhero
- an explorer
... among other dreams.

I did bond with my mother. I've been told that my problem was fear of my father, leading to fear/hatred of men. I guess I have too masculine a sense of self, perhaps?

What a "feminine sense of self" is needs to be explained further, since if we're talking stereotyped sex roles, based on my dreams above, I certainly didn't have it. But I don't consider myself male--I went to see Loren Cameron present his work on transgendered persons on Friday, and knew, despite all of my previous struggles, that it is not about wanting to be a man. (I often fantasized about that since it would make my desires 'OK'--but I don't think the fantasies were out of a sense of disconnect with my gender. At least not since I've met and heard the stories of FTM and MTF people.)

The stuff about not projecting beyond the present moment--I'm not sure how that would connect with same-sex desire. Further, I know many lesbians, myself included, who would argue that we have a "feminine" sense of selves, but simply one which doesn't fit the stereotyping about "feminine." (I also know some lesbians who would--and you'd never pick them out in a crowd).

Some rambling Monday morning thoughts...
 
I've been told that my problem was fear of my father, leading to fear/hatred of men. I guess I have too masculine a sense of self, perhaps?

This highlights one of many problem with psychodynamic interpretations in general: the fixation a patient has depends on the analysts view of dynamics. The reparative therapists say its the mother's fault, other analysts would say its the father's fault.

My problem with reparative therapy is that the therapist goes into it with a preset view of what the history will be.
 
I want a pony!

But I only want it in the present moment!!! Live in the now baby!!!
 
How selfless!
 
This highlights one of many problem with psychodynamic interpretations in general: the fixation a patient has depends on the analysts view of dynamics

And not to pick on psychology in general, but that's my question about the field as a whole (I have read only bits and pieces here and there, so this question will probably show my ignorance!) ...

How is a psychological theory falsifiable? I mean, if you assert that "Homosexuality is caused by a combination of x, y, and z" when x, y, and z are going to be based on self-reporting history and the therapist's views (i.e., subjective), how can one prove a theory false? Obviously, I'm just regurgitating Popper's critique of Freud and Adler...but it's stuck with me.

Can you give me some pointers to what are marks of potentially falsifiable psych theories? (Or resources that would help with that?)

Oh, and a pony would be nice, too. As long as you're giving them out.
 
It would be interesting to see what the efficacy is of psychoanalytic treatment in general (and not just with respect to sexual reorientation).

My feeling is that it's not all that great. In fact, other forms of psychotherapy have been shown to work better, particularly those of the cognitive or constructivist persuasion. A lot of psychoanalytic theories and explanations come across as abstract, and unveriable (untestable).
What are your thoughts on this?

It seems like a hardcore reparative therapist can almost brain-wash a lesbian patient into thinking her father was bad, in order to fit the pre-fabricated narrative regarding the etiology of lesbianism, when in reality, there was never a problem in the relationship to be begin with.

U.M.
 
Yeah, the 11 year old says she want a pony too. I hope you'll cover the shipping and quarantine costs...

And both CK and UM have touched on a very raw point with any psych. therapies -- do they actually work, and by how much?

Most of the work of therapists seem to follow from a client concern with what are fairly normal (and necessary) reactions to life's stumbling blocks. I dubbed this the "California mindset" once -- a belief that everyone should be happy at all times. And if you're not... you need to fix that.

Well, why???

Aren't joy and grief both an expected part of (non-abusive) relationships? The joy in the companionship will, surely, be some day be followed by grief at death. The giving is equalled by the taking. The laughter mirrored by dispute. The warmth of a gentle caress, the cold-shoulder "I'm not talking about this".

Psychoanalysis I don't, frankly, have much respect for. Freud provided a useful framework for thinking of the concepts, but as for what followed... who the heck can spend 3 years on a couch twice a week anyway? (or even want to!).

Most "conditions" self-correct. People absorb and move on. Some need a bit of a guided push.

I do see therapy as very useful in helping someone process what's going on, particularly if they are stuck in a hole. It can inform, give perspective, prompt. A glass of chilled reisling and the calm advice of an intelligent friend should work just as well.

There are also certain behavioural techniques you can be taught to use, and they can be a very practical way of getting through. (You just need to watch that the behavioural technique is not more controlling that the original complaint!)

For those "conditions" with an organic basis -- schizophrenia for example -- all the talking in the World will do very little. Drugs do all the heavy lifting (typically, 80-90%).

Apart from that, I'm quite forgiving of people's little eccentricities. It makes life interesting, and it's a sheer impossibility for everyone to be "above average" in any case.

(And that reminds me of the shock expressed by Eisenhower when an advisor informed him that "half of all American's have below average intelligence." Well, durh -- that's what an average is.)
 
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