Comfort book for the journeyBookwatch Thursday, September 27th, 2012
The Velvet Rage
To out or not to out?
At this point in your life, you’ve made your decision but sometimes, you get a little angry that it’s even an issue. Sometimes that anger really gets you down, enough to make you want to just sit and think – or sit and drink, and that’s not good, either.
In the completely revised, updated edition of The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs, Ph.D, you’ll find a road map for the journey.
Is self-destruction inherent in gay men?
Alan Downs believes so, and he thinks he knows why: shame.
Shame, he says, is the “fear of being unlovable.” It’s “not embarrassment over being gay; it is the belief that being gay is a … symptom of your own mortally flawed psyche.” And perhaps because it’s a “secret [a man] cannot reveal,” it often leads to self-destructive habits including suicide.
Shame starts in childhood.
The first man you loved, says Downs, was your father. If he withheld acceptance, you turned to your mother and were “drawn to the feminine …” This all led to a change in family dynamics, which might have taught you to hide “ugly realities” as a means of survival and avoidance, resulting in shame’s accompanying rage.
To live a life of happiness, Downs says, there are three stages that gay men must endure. The first is characterized by being overwhelmed by shame, coping with it by “splitting,” or leading two discordant lives. Splitting helps to avoid shame, but it leads to a breakdown in relationships and a crisis in identity.
Stage two is marked by compensation for shame and a “belief that there is something fundamentally flawed,” internally. This is where addiction and depression often appear, especially when former validation is no longer enough to “soothe the gay man’s distress.”
In stage three, a gay man “seeks a better life for himself.” Old self-destructive behaviors no longer hold interest. Relationship trauma (betrayal, abuse, abandonment, and relationship ambivalence) is healed. Joy becomes possible.
Aside from the overgeneralizations, The Velvet Rage is pretty good.
The beginning chapters of this book may make readers feel like a bobblehead doll, nodding, nodding, nodding. That’s eerie, because it may be very hard not to see yourself in at least some of what author Alan Downs portrays, in fact.
What was most appealing about this book, though, were the last chapters. There, Downs helps readers along with his “Skills for Leading an Authentic Life,” which are good strengths to cultivate, no matter where you are (or are not) on Downs’ continuum.
Meant, perhaps, for a younger man who’s just starting this journey, I also think this book has words of wisdom for older gay men, too. If you’re in search for comfort and a more peaceful life, The Velvet Rage is a book to check out.
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