Continuing my discussion of Christopher Nutter’s The Way Out, I found enlightening his discussion of the roles that fear and beliefs play in the average gay man’s struggle to accept his sexuality.
In his book, Nutter described how his conservative religious upbringing in the Deep South molded his conception of himself as a gay man. Of course, I as well as most gay men, could relate to his experience. Societal and religious beliefs are imbibed and, consciously or not, believed, and these beliefs in turn cause fears. These beliefs and fears are clothed with a powerful reality by our unconscious (or even consciously) that is illusory, but the effects of such fears and beliefs are, unfortunately, not. Among other things, these fears and beliefs cause us to cleave our selves in half, separating the “gay” part from the rest of us, and to reject what IS real.
Some of these fears are related to our anxiety over what may happen to us if we question beliefs that exist within us. And these are not the beliefs of an institution or a religion, but personal beliefs. As Nutter comments, “A ‘religion’ cannot have beliefs – only an individual can.”
Nutter points out that the first step toward consciousness is to give ourselves permission to examine our fears and beliefs and to accept that they are not “real,” i.e., they have a life of their own:
“In addition to beliefs that have clouded your self-knowledge, you may be afraid of what’s there, and that’s where the struggle will also take place … I don’t suggest that you must eradicate your fear, but rather that you disengage your faith in your fears. After all, your fears do nothing for you but wall you off into a narrow, little prison cell … As long as you hold on to the idea that your fears about what being gay means cannot be questioned because they are real, you will not be able to regain even one ounce of power over yourself or your life. Walk through these fears with faith [that] you yourself can in no way be diminished by the questioning and release of a belief … ”
As an example of the effects and power of beliefs, Nutter cites the example of a young child:
“As a child, before you had beliefs, you were utterly present and accepted everything for how it was in that moment. In that state you would have thought nothing about two men holding hands or living together. It was the belief systems you were indoctrinated into later and that you chose to agree with that created the judgment you have against men who love and have sex with one another. It was later on that you wound up judging yourself … and the way out of this judgment against yourself is through the process of questioning.”
The main point here is that, when examined carefully and mindfully – i.e., when the light of consciousness is shined upon them – we can see clearly where and when we invest beliefs with a reality that does not reflect Reality. And we really can have no idea how our beliefs affect us until we explore them:
“… It may take a while [to discover what makes up your personal belief system] – unconscious thoughts are often like the house in your neighborhood you’ve walked by a million times but somehow never looked at. Becoming aware of what you’ve never looked at requires that you be on full wakeful alert on your daily walks up and down your street
… The first step in [the] journey is to explore your beliefs. You may have entire walls of beliefs that are so immense and so real that they rise before you in every direction, all the way up to the sky so that they even block out all light. You must first see them as beliefs and as fears [in order for] these walls standing between you and the truth of your perfect self to come crashing down into the pile of nothing that they really are.”
I should point out here that Nutter is not talking about dogma. He’s talking about what we believe about ourselves and our world. He carries on his conversation in the context of beliefs we have about being gay, but the same principle applies to other aspects of our selves as well.
“Ask yourself what it is that you believe. Do you believe that you can’t be gay because you want to be straight? Because you didn’t choose it? Because if you pretend to be straight it will eventually come to pass? Because you are a real man, and real men are not gay? Because you have not met the right girl yet? Because you don’t WANT to be gay? Because there are no gay men in your ethnic group, religion, or from your region of the world? Because you are nothing like gay people you know or see on TV? Because it would mean that you are weak? Because you have a girlfriend or a wife or a child? Because accepting it would be against God’s will?
“Does what anyone else says cause or change whom you are sexually attracted to? If the answer is no, then you must be willing to let go of that belief; otherwise, you are literally doing the insane, which is to reject what IS, not to mention squandering your life energy on a lie about yourself that hurts you.”
I think one of the most pernicious and tenacious beliefs that a gay man who was raised in the Mormon belief system (or any other conservative belief system) carries embedded deeply within him is that being gay is a choice. So much flows from this. If it is a choice, we can change. If it is a choice, we can choose not to be gay. If it is a choice, we can overcome “temptations,” just like we can overcome a temptation to drink or smoke or view pornography. If it is a choice, then there is something very debauched about us that makes us want to give into it. If it is a choice, then the consequence of choosing it is shame. And on and on.
But the primary casualty of this belief that gay is a choice is what it does to our basic sense of human dignity, of self, of our very connection to what IS. We live in a Matrix far more removed from Reality than the one I have been discussing for the past few days.
And this is just ONE belief, which generates untold numbers and types of fears, that can and do reside in the neighborhood of one’s unconscious.
Identifying and neutralizing such beliefs in the light of consciousness, in the light of what IS instead of what is BELIEVED, is a huge step toward self-acceptance, higher consciousness and happiness. Writes Nutter:
“Once you have disempowered enough of your belief systems … you can actually perceive what IS in a state of acceptance and sanity. The thing about the nature of what is actually real beneath your beliefs and fears, is that it doesn’t require any thinking and it doesn’t need you to believe it – you can believe all day that the world is flat but that doesn’t make it flat. And the world doesn’t need you to believe that it is round to be round. Similarly, you can believe all day that you are straight, and you don’t need to believe that you are straight or gay in order to be either one – you just ARE.”
Pondering and meditating on what I have been reading in The Way Out has helped me to say, “I just AM.” I am a gay man. I just AM.