It’s easy for an outsider to leap to the assumption that we must by suppressing our true feelings and denying who we supposedly “really are.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Journey to Our True Selves
We are in fact on a courageous journey to discover and address underlying environmental and relational issues that may have led us to feel conflicted over same-sex attractions in the first place.
It is not always the easiest way to respond to unwanted or incongruous same-sex attractions. It might be easier for some to say, “Well that’s just the way I was born” and be done with it. Instead, we choose to pursue courageous personal-growth work and a personal spiritual and emotional journey to our most authentic, most affirming, most “whole” selves.
And in doing so, many of us found that “gay” wasn’t really who we were or what we wanted after all.
Common Past Experience: Lying and Hiding Our Pain
Many of us grew up lying, hiding and putting on a happy face.
Inside, we were crying. We buried pain that we couldn’t understand and were sure that no one else would either — pain about feeling different, not fitting in, feeling alienated from other males, being bullied, or desperately lonely. Some of us carried secrets and shame about sexual thoughts or behaviors we were sure were wrong or unacceptable. Some of us were taught that our emotions — especially anger, tears and fear — were bad. Because so many of us were sensitive, “good little boys,” we tried to comply by shutting off our feelings altogether.
So we put on a false front and lied that everything was “fine.” But inside we were in pain, silently dying.
Our Solution: Rejecting Shame — and Accepting Ourselves As We Are
It’s ironic but true: Until we could begin to love and accept ourselves just as we were, right then, unchanged, many of us found we could make little progress toward real change. Acceptance of our goodness, our value and our true potential as men was a critical early step.
And so, through trial and error — and usually some divine intervention! — we came to accept ourselves as we were. We began to see that God and most other people held us in much higher esteem than we did ourselves! We discovered that people didn’t always reject us; that many were in fact capable of seeing past our struggle to our inner worth.
Our Solution: Feeling Our Authentic Core Emotions
In the Journey Into Manhood weekend retreats, we learned that that there are four emotions that can be described as “core,” foundational or central. Authentic connection to these feelings is essential to any kind of emotional healing. The four core emotions are:
- joy (which includes love and peace)
Core emotions create powerful sensations in the body, and with those sensations they create impulses to move or act or respond. Core emotions are those feelings that have the capacity to move a person toward greater healing and wholeness. They cause one to want to expand rather than contract, to open up rather than shut down.
Sadness, for example, moves a person through the experience of loss by expanding him to encompass the loss. He becomes something more than he was before.
As with virtually all personal-growth or inner-healing work, it begins with willingness.
- We became willing to be truthful with ourselves.
- And we became willing to face and then feel our true feelings – especially our core emotions. (As they say, “You gotta be real to heal.”)
Our Solution: Facing Our Inner Work
We became willing and ready to do our inner work. No more running or hiding from ourselves, from our pain, or from our pasts. We became willing to face the unknown and uncomfortable—sometimes even painful—underlying issues that we may have been denying all our lives. (As they say, “You gotta feel it to heal it.”)
- We began accepting ourselves just as we are, today—and became willing to grow from here.
- We developed inner integrity. No more hiding. No more lying to ourselves. No more pretending we can put on masks and only show people what we think they want to see.
- We found the courage to be truthful with others about our authentic needs, true emotions, and who we really are inside.
- We learned to take the risks necessary to build mutual trust.
- We built strong personal bonds with other men — forming meaningful, deeply authentic male friendships; seeking out trusted mentors; and co-creating male communities (“tribes”) where we finally experienced what it was to truly belong.
- We took the risks to prove to ourselves that we really were “one of the guys,” a “man among men.”
- We found the strength — and the support of brothers — to heal same-sex emotional wounds that had kept us stuck in the past or in self-destructive behavior cycles.
Our Personal Stories
“It’s a tragedy that I believed for so many years that I was the only one who felt different or attracted to males. So I learned to stuff my emotions. Trouble was, unexpressed emotions have this way of exploding in rage or inappropriate behavior. Brothers Road has helped me to identify my core emotions and to acknowledge them, feel them, share them with others authentically and to release them in healthy ways. I now feel things deeply and passionately and can tell others what I feel without fear of condemnation. No going back to “safe operating mode” for me. There is too much life to live on the passionate level.” —Alan, Ukraine
“I did not know who I was. I had no true self-concept. I did not like myself. I have learned that my environment was a big factor in forming my beliefs. I came from a very dysfunctional family, but I learned that nobody wanted to hurt me. Each person was doing the best possible. I am learning how to work through these problems. My perception is changing. I am healing emotionally and I am starting to live for the first time. I am not held back by my past.
“I am getting freedom. I still have a way to go, but I have hope. I see progress and am encouraged to continue.” —Steve, Louisiana, USA
“Allowing a full venting of stored-up anger and sadness has freed me from fear. The constant strain of wearing a mask is gone. I am now free to be who I am, and need not impress anyone.” —Tom, USA
“I learned that unresolved fear, anger and sadness from my childhood were driving my addiction to pornography and my false belief that another sexual encounter with a man would somehow fill me up. As I let go of the addictions, I began to feel my feelings more. Some were negative and scary, but as I learned to share them with others, I recognized that I’m really okay being me, warts and all.” —John, Washington, USA
“Once I was true to myself and wasn’t living a double life, I found that I was able to reach out to other men and be honest about who I am. I can live with that reality. But I also understand that I don’t have to live in that lifestyle to be happy.” —Glen, Utah, USA
“I realized that true intimacy can only come from honest and sensitive self-disclosure to safe people. The most important of those safe people was the woman who has now become my wife. I went through the JIM weekend in 2006, and over the next several years dated two different women, both of whom I disclosed my “journey” with. The third woman I began dating in 2011 has now resulted in marriage! I am grateful and happy to report that we have a sensitive and thoughtful love and emotional support for one another.” —Fred, USA
“I have much less anxiety when with others because I am more secure with myself and have no need to present anything else than my authentic self.” —John, Texas, USA
“Being open, real, and vulnerable is a terrifying thought, but nothing has brought me greater joy and fulfillment. The difficulty of true authenticity is that people see every part of me; there’s nowhere to hide, and I risk everything by showing others my true self. However, it’s incredibly powerful and affirming to have people witness the darkest parts of myself and show me that they love me anyway. It’s helped me to believe that I’m lovable and that I’m worth it, just the way I am.” —Justin, Utah, USA
“I no longer have to hide. I can be free to share with my wife and others who I really am and what I really feel. Confessing to another human being that I trusted was huge. I had never owned up to anyone like that before. I did an inventory with this person. I used to hate sharing in our small group and would not be open, but now I can be.” —Dale, Arizona, USA
“Growing up I thought I was just cold and aloof. But in Journey Into Manhood I learned I’d built walls to protect myself. Although I still have a lot of work to do, it’s incredibly helpful to be able to identify real feelings and validate them.”—Ryan, Pennsylvania, USA