M.A.N.S. Work: Needs Fulfillment


We began discovering our true needs and desires underlying our homosexual thoughts and desires and found ways to meet them in healing and constructive ways. We stopped focusing on resisting or controlling unwanted or self-destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and instead focused on replacing and preempting unwanted desires by fulfilling rather than suppressing core needs.

We began to envision a greater good or higher purpose for our lives, and began to put our energies into running toward the good rather than running from the bad.

We began to experience real change once we stopped trying to control our sexual desires and instead began to fulfill the core desires that lay underneath them — for instance, the need every little boy feels to be affirmed, mentored and loved by fathers and brothers, men and boys. We learned that true change comes from fulfilling true needs, not just from resisting unwanted urges.

We found that, for us, lust for another man often had its roots in envy of traits that we felt lacking in ourselves. We also found that it was often a “sideways expression” of a legitimate need to connect platonically with other men. Since we were unwilling or unable to meet that need in authentic, direct ways, the unmet need would intensify, much as hunger and thirst intensify the longer they are ignored. It would then express itself “sideways,” through a false emotion — lust — that feels more urgent and intense, making it far more difficult to ignore.

Think of the young child who doesn’t get what he wants when he says “please,” so he resorts to a tantrum. A man’s “inner child” may respond the same way. Imagine a man’s inner child quietly begging, “Please, I need buddies! I need healthy non-sexual touch with another guy! I need my father’s love! I need time to just play, especially with friends, instead of working so hard! Will you take care of me?” And the adult self responds, “Don’t be so childish. I’m a grown man. I can’t ask other men for those things. Besides, no one wants to be my friend. So just keep quiet and go away.”

So what does the man’s inner child do? He has a tantrum. He aligns with lust to get his own way. He insists, “I WILL connect with males and with my masculinity one way or another, whether you like it or not.” Lust kicks in, and so the man gives in to the inner child’s tantrum. The tyrant child gets his way because the adult self refuses to nurture him.

So it was with us. We eventually learned we had to take a completely different approach. Instead of trying to stop or resist unwanted behaviors and feelings, we had to preempt and replace them with something nurturing and satisfying. We had to start paying attention to the legitimate needs of the inner child.

For us, some of the most common authentic needs underlying homosexual desires were needs:

  1. for male affirmation, attention and acceptance
  2. for male association; for a male community or “tribe”
  3. to feel like “one of the guys”
  4. for healthy, platonic touch
  5. for physical exertion and connection to the body
  6. to play, especially in the company of other men
  7. to connect authentically to feeling, and especially for a safe place to feel and express anger and grief
  8. to connect authentically with others, especially men; being “real” with them; being fully seen and heard
  9. to connect to Spirit
  10. to find a higher purpose in life beyond serving only our own self and our own needs.

At first, we often resisted facing our fears and letting down our defenses. Our defensive detachment and other defense mechanisms existed, after all, to protect us from getting hurt. But they were no longer serving us. The walls we had built around us to keep us safe had become a prison rather than a protection. So we began to let down the defensive walls and to experiment with taking the actions of authentic need fulfillment. And soon enough, this began to be an immensely rewarding part of A M.A.N.S. Journey. A life of self-denial — of failed attempts at willpower and self-control — began to transform into a life of self actualization.

Heart Power

In their powerful book, “Willpower is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed At Change,” authors Dean Byrd and Mark Chamberlain write that efforts at using willpower alone to change any unwanted human behavior do not work over the long term. This is because willpower is the power of the mind (“mind over matter”), while it is actually the heart that is the source of emotion and true motivation. The authors write:

“We need rely on willpower (or mind-power) only to the extent that our hearts are not in what we’re doing. Problems of self-control can be conceptualized as battles between the mind and the heart. The heart feels like doing one thing, but the mind thinks better of it” (page 23-24).

In fact, the authors write, continued reliance on willpower alone can actually worsen the resistance/indulgence/resolution cycle and help keep it alive, thus actually fuelling unwanted desires (page 5-6). Instead, those who succeed at changing unwanted behaviors, addictions or self-destructive cycles of any type are those who learn to access the powerful, motivating power of the heart.

“One way to bring (mind and heart) into agreement is to find another, higher motivation, something that will engage your heart so thoroughly it will supersede the bad habit or attitude you’re trying to control…As counselors, we have seen many people change from fighting the problems in their life to earnestly, even passionately pursuing positive alternatives” (page 27).

The authors quote Nazi concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl, who wrote in his moving book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that those who survived the camps frequently relied on a vision of a greater meaning in life or higher purpose for their suffering. They quote from Frankl, who in the midst of unimaginable horrors, had a vision of his future:

“‘Suddenly I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote view of science. By this method I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation.'”

Byrd and Chamberlain continue:

“Incredibly, this kind of clarity of purpose provided Frankl and other prisoners with the fuel to live on” (page 35-36).

“The simplest of positive purposes can swell to displace what is destructive in our lives…We are more fully ourselves when we are in the midst of doing good rather than evil. In essence, the process of gaining more self-control and increasing in righteousness is not one of changing from who we are. Rather, we are changing to who we are (page 34).

“We can find the power to change when we find a purpose outside ourselves…(and) displace bad in our lives with good (page 29). To find something to which we can devote ourselves wholeheartedly is to discover meaning that transcends our own existence — something outside ourselves (page 30). We each have numerous desires in our life. The key is not so much to squelch the bad ones as to nourish the good (page 36).

“It is possible to stay motivated, to keep our hearts engaged in our attempts to change. But to do so, we must have an alternative that is meaningful to us — and meaningful not only in an intellectual sense but in a deeply emotional one as well. Let your vision of that positive alternative be clearer than the temptation of your old life; then you will be well on the path to change. You can do anything when your heart is in it! (page 37)”

What We Did to Effect Change

Here, then, are various changes that many of us made:

  1. We began discovering our true needs underlying our homosexual thoughts and desires.

    • When we had homosexual thoughts or felt homosexual desires, we retraced our thoughts and emotions back to discover what had triggered them. Often, we found, they were feelings like feeling weak with other men (the revealed needs were to feel strong and to feel equal to other men) or feeling abandoned or threatened (the revealed need was to feel loved and accepted by men). These feelings often went back to a time early in life when we did not feel sufficient love, acceptance or affirmation from father, father figures, or other males in our lives.

    • We began paying attention to our individual patterns of lust or other homosexual longing. Were there particular days of the week, times of the day, or situations that we were predictably triggered?

    • We searched for the good desire at the core of even our most unwanted desires. Sometimes this is called the “gold inside the shadow.” We found the core desire was often the desire to love and be loved, to feel accepted unconditionally, and to be protected and safe. The problem, we found, often was not the core desires themselves, but the inauthentic, “sideways” expression of them — or the shadow approaches to meeting the core needs.

    • We diluted some of the power of the unwanted sexual desires by bringing them out of secrecy and shame. We discussed the core needs we were discovering with willing mentors or others in our support network, who could sometimes see patterns or situations that were too close for us to see ourselves.

  2. Based on our increased self-awareness of our true, core needs, we conducted a personal “needs inventory” and identified specific, fulfilling alternative ways we could consistently and proactively meet those authentic needs in constructive, healing ways.

    • Our methods varied from man to man, but they often included developing our friendships and mentoring relationships, meaningful emotional connection with men, joining small-group or one-to-one activities with other men, developing our skills in a sport, exerting ourselves physically, especially in the company of supportive male friends, etc. We found that the actions we were now taking to develop our connection to masculinity and to other men were often the same actions that met our core needs.

    • We also found that praying for strength to resist unwanted desires, or praying for them to just be removed, was usually not particularly effective. We found it was far more effective to pray for enlightenment to understand our true needs, and the courage and ability to break down our old barriers to meeting those needs.

  3. We stopped putting our energies toward resisting unwanted or self-destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and instead began to put our energies toward replacing and preempting unwanted desires by meeting rather than suppressing core needs.

    • No longer demonizing our unwanted desires, we came to recognized and respect our legitimate needs for physical and emotional bonding with other men and began to work proactively to fulfill these underlying needs rather than resist them.

    • We developed a deliberate, proactive program to ensure this hunger for male connection was “fed” regularly with healthy “food,” instead of suppressing it until we were so starved for male affection and affirmation that we would do anything to feed it.

    • We had to schedule these healing activities into our day-to-day and week-to-week lives. Most of us found we could not wait for homosexual urges to arise and then count on our ability to meet the underlying need in a non-sexual way at that late moment; by then the “sideways expression” of our core need often was already overwhelming. A program of deliberate preemption was far more effective than resistance.

  4. If we suffered from “touch deprivation,” we learned to meet our need for platonic physical connection with men through physical activities, therapeutic massage, or by asking for and receiving non-sexual hugging, holding or other appropriate touch from heterosexual male friends, mentors and family members.

  5. We began to envision a greater good or higher purpose for our lives. We began to put our energies into running toward the good rather than running from the bad.

    • We pondered the questions, “When we are no longer putting our energies into overcoming unwanted thoughts and temptations, what will we do with our energies instead? What were we working toward that was more powerful and more motivating than what we were working against? What do we want even more than we want to be freed from homosexual feelings? What goal or what good are we pursuing beyond that?” (See Willpower is Not Enough)

    • We shifted our entire focus away from what we didn’t want to be and toward becoming the men we did want to be, with the future in which we could do have the most powerful force for good in the world.

  6. We developed and even rehearsed a specific “crisis intervention plan” for times when sexual desire or other longing would seem overwhelming.

    • We identified men in our support network we could call for support at times of crisis (or better yet, at times when we anticipated a possible pending crisis) and even practiced calling them when we were not in crisis.

    • We identified specific activities we could do, “safe” people we could spend time with and talk to, or other steps we could take that would feed our souls in healing, constructive ways at times when we experienced particularly intense need.

  7. For a time (as long as it took), we made fulfillment of authentic core needs, and healing from unwanted sexual attractions generally, the absolute top priority in our lives.

    • We stopped trying to squeeze healing and fulfillment into an already busy, over-obligated life, doing the minimum to effect change. We stopped placing any other priorities — keeping our secrets, maintaining our defenses, remaining unwilling to take new risks, protecting old beliefs that no longer served us — above healing and recovery.

  8. As we established a pattern of consistently meeting our authentic, core needs and desires in healing, constructive ways, we began to find space in our hearts to care more for the needs and desires of others — including current or prospective female partners. And that, we discovered, was an imperative component of the ability to love a woman romantically.

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