Sunday, September 22, 2013
The Possibility of "Losing It"; more remarks on Narcissism, Upward Affiliation and Polairty
I’ve often used the term “upward affiliation” to characterize the way I experience male homosexuality. I believe that the term was coined by conservative author George Gilder with his 1980’s book “Men and Marriage” (Books blog, April 12, 2006). It refers to the enjoyment experienced with the belief that one’s partner or love object represents the achievement of some kind of “virtue”. That enjoyment may require the presence of visual “external trappings” (as NIH psychiatrists called then in 1962), which, given the risks and vicissitudes of life, present (again to quote my patient records) “the possibility of losing it.”
Indeed, a same-sex relationship, especially with males, may fail if the more “attractive” partner believes that the other person has unduly invested in superficial aspects of the relationship. That sounds like a bigger issue now than it ever was because same-sex marriage is becoming possible. “Loss” can occur for almost any conceivable reason: disease, accident, or violence at the hands of others. In the 1980’s, AIDS obviously presented this concept, but in the earlier years of the epidemic, people wouldn’t live long anyway. The Boston Marathon incident is particularly offensive partly because it was predicated on visibly maiming and disfiguring individual people in a crowd and presenting this issue for them and their partners.
“Upward affiliation” often invests a lot in fantasy that remains quasi-private, and that can be withdrawn on demand by the practitioner. It’s wonderful when it works. But when “you” get caught at it, or when something unfortunate really does happen to the other person, it’s over. The other person becomes exactly what you see, no excuses. I had opined about this back in 2002 with Chapter 8, “Narcissism, Affiliation and Polarity” in my Second “Do Ask Do Tell” book (“When Freedom Is Stressed”).
I mention this today because “upward affiliation” seemed to be a favorite psychological process of “people like me” a half century ago, and it seemed to draw particular ire of “the establishment” which saw it as a prototype for mooching, something that should be stopped in its tracks and made an example of. That was certainly the tone of my William and Mary expulsion and subsequent NIH “hospitalization” as well as “individual therapy”. This view was understandable given the Cold War, and the fact that WWII was then more recent history.
Doesn’t the same thing happen in heterosexual relations and marriage? Yes, it does, as I discussed on Sept. 16. Critics say, however, that the procreation of children gives the traditionally married couple another anchor for a long-standing intimate relationship, where the spouse is welcome in the family bed for life, that is missing in a gay relationship, where there is, instead of complementarity, a focus on possessing vicariously qualities that one should have had already and wants for oneself (NIH, again). But of course that becomes circular, as more same-sex couples actually raise children, sometimes by adoption, previous traditional marriage, or surrogacy. In some cases, as in the soap “Days of our Lives”, a gay relationship can become a way for a charismatic person to get others to participate in raising his own children.