The pain caused by early wounds is not easily forgotten. Satan uses pain—particularly in childhood–to gain access to a person’s mind and will. Negative emotions that are not dealt with in a godly manner will be stored inside. When the person experiences another painful situation, that present pain connects with the reservoir of pain from earlier experiences causing an intense, exaggerated reaction. As a hurt child experiences pain, the alleviation of pain becomes the first consideration of his/her thinking. Thus, the thinking turns to whatever “works” to stop the pain. This is where deception and irrationality begin in the mind. The false methods that the hurt child goes for in attempting to alleviate pain do not work—each is a temporary “fix”. Because the pain is not permanently removed, the rational mind separates from the painful emotions. Since these emotions later connect to the sex drive, the patterned reaction to pain usually includes some kind of twisted erotic desire. When the person joins in with this desire and pursues it, he/she commits sexual sin. As this joining in with temptation is repeated, sexual addiction develops. To break the cycle of sexual addiction it is essential, therefore, that a person should learn to trust God rather than the emotions.
Identifying the Emotions
Most counselees still in homosexual addiction join in with their emotions instead of standing against them. This explains why the person is unable to break the addictive cycle. Rather than understand their reactions to pain, most people are not rationally in touch with the pain, and go into anger or revenge or denial or trying to win over the abuser or whatever sin pattern they learned would “work” to deal with the pain. The mind has been trained to react in ways that are unhealthy and which justify sin, particularly the sin of taking matters into one’s own hands rather than seeking the protection, comfort and wisdom of the Lord. Many people, because of childhood pain or early homosexual desire, believe that God is against them. The emotions cry out for relief, and the person clings to that which appears to make a refuge from pain. In this condition, homosexuality seems to be the answer while God and the Bible seem to be the problem. Though they may know that homosexuality is a grave sin, in moments of pain their mind shuts down to that truth and focuses on the “relief” which the homosexual experience seems to offer. The pattern of being hurt and reacting in sin is repeated over and over resulting in hypersensitivity, bitterness, frustration and hopelessness. Many people are tired of living like this, but seem unable to break free of the old reactions.
One way to interrupt this vicious cycle is to identify what the emotions are that drive homosexual desire. Since this may not be immediately evident, prayer for God’s wisdom is recommended. The Lord wants us to be aware of the negative emotions that are connected to the sex drive so that we can flee the evil desires we gave place to in our youth (2 Tim. 2:22). Pray that the Lord would give you an ability to identify when you experience the emotions of fear, anger, abandonment, rejection, jealousy, shame, guilt or any other emotion which is at the root of the homosexual feelings. Ask God to reveal the times and events which stir the pool of emotions you have kept inside since childhood. For example, you may get frightfully insecure when your boss calls you into his office, fearing that you are going to be disciplined or fired. Perhaps you get very nervous when you have to make a decision, worrying that you will choose wrongly and bring upon yourself God’s disapproval and severe chastisement. These situations cause extreme upset and desire to escape.
Ask yourself probing questions such as: What upsets me during my day? When do I most want to shut people out? What situations am I avoiding? When do I feel pain or emotional upset? Do I live in a state of anxiety, expecting bad things to happen? Am I numb to pain? Do I shut down or run for a “fix” at the first hint of pain? Have I vowed never to feel pain again? How do I tend to react to the things that upset me? What is my immediate goal? When do I desire to act out sexually?
Our Father in heaven will give you understanding without finding fault in you (James 1: 5). He delights to reveal the works of the devil that are shrouded in darkness and to expose them to the light of His truth so that they can be broken once and for all (cf. 1 John 3:8). If you are having trouble identifying the emotions, write about the unnerving experiences in a notebook or journal. Pray for God to connect your mind to your emotions. God will be with you as you write to reveal patterns and reactions that He wants you to see. Remember, the Lord is your partner and helper, not your adversary or critic. He really wants you to know how Satan snares you into sexual sin. You are not outside of the circle of God’s love.
As you pray and write about your emotional reaction to pain, try to make the connection of your present reactions to those you had as a scared, alienated child. Perhaps you will have to write about your childhood to discover what first caused the negative emotions that are at the root of your sexual addiction. The Lord will bring to remembrance situations from your early years that you may have forgotten or refused to think about because they were so hurtful. Do not turn away from anything He is revealing. It will not harm or kill you. You are in a “controlled environment” where our loving Heavenly Father will not give you more than you can bear. God knows that your present condition of sexual sin is rooted somewhere in your childhood, as you began to react to pain in ungodly, unhealthy ways. You were not born with this desire to commit perverted sexual sin. Nor is it a way of seeking out the love you did not receive as a child. It is an involuntary, unhealthy attraction to someone of the same sex that continues to hold power as you choose to react in the same ways you did as a hurt, alienated child. That is why it is so important to identify what causes childish, ungodly reactions and to turn from them. Thank God for giving you this understanding.
Admitting the Sin in Our Reactions to Pain
Doing the emotional work involves taking a long, hard look at the negative emotions that are connected to the sex drive. This may seem counterproductive or even “unchristian” to some who would prefer to downplay the role of emotions and simply quote scripture in the moment of temptation. But we have seen that it is absolutely essential to the work of being set free that a person deals directly with the buried negative emotions that are connected to the sex drive. [Scripture may give momentary strength to resist sin, but just saying NO does not have the power to uproot evil desire (Col. 2:20-23).] But we also need to repent of our UNGODLY reactions to pain—to admit the sin in our reactions rather than continue in our justifications for evil behavior. This is perhaps a more difficult thing to do than identifying the emotions. For many years the person with a homosexual problem has maintained reasons and excuses for giving in to sexual temptation. These justifications were not formed in the rational mind but rather in the emotions and take us into a place where we justify our sin. These emotional justifications make it difficult to see the sinfulness of our irrational reactions.
One of my counselees was raised in a strict home environment and attended a legalistic church. He was forced to observe an early curfew even though other children his age were allowed to stay out and play. He was expected to help his grandmother (a spiritual “mother” of the church) make and deliver meals. Even though he admired his parents for teaching him to be a “good boy” so that he did not turn out like the “bad kids” in the neighborhood, at an emotional level he was enraged by this regimented, controlled upbringing. However, he was never allowed to voice opposition to his mother or grandmother—if he tried, he was shamed by being labeled “disrespectful”. So rather than risk punishment, he continued to do everything he was commanded. But the buried anger didn’t go away–it occasionally erupted in violent outbursts which eventually landed him in a hospital for mental evaluation. Furthermore, it connected to his sex drive at puberty. When he felt hemmed in or under someone else’s control, a very strong desire to have homosexual sex stirred. To this day he continues to justify homosexual sex because he can’t stand to be told what to do by someone else.
As you can see, this man wrongly believes that the homosexuality is the only escape he has from a reality he considers annoying and stifling. The ungodly behavior or fantasy that a person turns to and which appears to numb the pain for a time is the thing which the person will cling to most tightly. Because of this, it becomes a place of concentrated demonic influence—a veritable stronghold that must be pulled down with great effort. But in order to do this, the person must admit the sin in his/her reactions to pain and turn from the old behavior. Only then, can the demonic power be prayed off and its stronghold demolished with the weapons of the Spirit (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
If we justify our homosexual desire, fantasy and behavior there will be no freedom. We must consciously choose to confess the sin in our reactions to pain and to turn from the lie that there is pleasure in the evil desires of the flesh. (There is a feeling of pleasure in homosexual sex but it is a deception of Satan.) Only then can we really lay the axe to the emotional roots of homosexual addiction. We must lay down our case against God and believe that He is good and never makes mistakes. If we turn from our sin and toward the Lord, He will give comfort in our pain, hope in our disappointment and encouragement to our masculinity or femininity. Only as we renounce our sin can we dwell in reality and find the clarity of thinking we will need to uproot evil desire. By repenting of our sin we make a place in our emotions, mind, identity and will for truth and strength. Evil desire wars against the Spirit of God who lives in our hearts—we must decide which kingdom we will serve. The Lord will honor any and all efforts to resist the devil when we submit in faith to Him.
Working the Emotional Roots of Homosexuality – Part 2
by Robert Schaeffer