10 Gems From ‘Gay Therapy’

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Nick Fager is a psychotherapist practising in New York City. On his Instagram page ‘Gay Therapy’, he shares some great insights into many areas of modern gay life.

It’s nice to find advice (on a social media channel, no less) that’s not the usual, run-of-the-mill, hokey and cliched stuff. What’s even better, is that ‘Gay Therapy’ really goes in-depth and takes the time to delve into a range of issues, and explore them from a unique perspective.

That’s something that I try to do on the blog. So I am super excited to share with you 10 gems from the ‘Gay Therapy’ Instagram page below. Check them out, and be sure to follow the ‘Gay Therapy’ Instagram page so that you never miss out.


On Sexual Freedom

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Nick writes –

As sexual minorities, we all received messages throughout our lives that what we were attracted to was wrong, or that something was wrong with us overall. We internalised those messages to varying degrees, but none of us avoided them completely. When we came out, we took a stance against those messages, and yet as prideful as we might be, they can still affect us in various ways without us realising it. In other words, we can come out as gay and still believe deep down that something is wrong with us.

One of the ways that I see those negative messages and beliefs emerging is through sexual preferences. We all have certain types that turn us on, from twinks to bears to jocks to daddies, and we all have preferences when it comes to the kind of sex we like, from topping to bottoming, from rough to gentle, from casual to intimate. So often I hear people say that something is wrong with what they’re drawn to. They say they should be drawn to six packs, or they should be a top, or they should be less aggressive during sex, or they shouldn’t want to be used, or they should be attracted to people of a similar age, or they shouldn’t watch the porn that they watch.

At the basis of these shoulds is deep seeded shame and fear of rejection. There are certain things that society tells us to be attracted to, and certain ways society tells us to have sex, and we learn that to go against those is shameful and must mean that there is something wrong with us. It’s the same narrative that kept so many of us in the closet, and now causes us to deny ourselves the pleasure we’re desiring. The misguided belief that we are somehow broken.

We have to get in touch with the narratives we are subscribing to around sex, and the sexual shame that we still carry with us. Then we have to challenge those narratives and try to accept whatever turns us on as long as it falls within the confines of the law. We already gathered the courage to accept our sexual orientation, now we have to apply that same courage to our unique sexual desires. Accepting that part of ourselves inevitably frees up a lot of internal blockages and leads to increased fluidity in all aspects of life.


On Achieving Your Goals

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Nick writes –

Recent research shows that the best path to happiness and success may come from embracing uncertainty, insecurity, and failure. When we devote all of our energy to avoiding those things, we end up staying within our comfort zone and cutting off from our emotional core. When we accept the possibility of failure, and use failures as motivating lessons instead of confirmations of our negative self talk, then we develop the strength and courage necessary to achieve our goals.

Take a minute today to think about what your goals are, and what you’re willing to endure to attain them. Include failure on the list


On Strength

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Nick writes –

What is your definition of strength? Men receive messages throughout their lives that being strong means being independent, unemotional, in control, and never vulnerable. Emotions and vulnerability become associated with femininity, which gets associated with weakness and rejection.

Unfortunately, these rigid standards of strength and masculinity set men up for failure and emotional isolation, which is a vicious combination when it comes to mental health. Our failure to be “strong” leads to shame and embarrassment, but since we can’t be emotional or vulnerable, we don’t ask for help in dealing with that shame. We find ways to avoid it, such as substances, but all the while it builds up inside and causes us to suffer greatly.

We have to fundamentally change our definition of strength. Strength is not the ability to withstand intense emotions in isolation, that is self harm. Strength is the ability to be vulnerable, to put ourselves out there, to show our emotions, and to ask for help. Strength is being able to depend on someone else. So many gay men struggle with this idea of dependence in relationships because it feels like weakness, but in fact the opposite is true. Weakness is running away, putting our guard up, and letting defense mechanisms from the past take out and make us cynical. It is always easier to do those things. It takes strength to recognize our need for others, to open up to others, and to give ourselves to others.


On Making Mistakes

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Nick writes –

Embrace uncertainty and dive into the unknown. Don’t let past experiences hold you back from taking the risk you’ve been wanting to take. Mistakes are inevitable, it’s your reaction to them that matters the most. You can let them reinforce self defeating beliefs and recede into your comfort zone, or you can view them as valuable lessons that make you stronger, clarify your vision, and ultimately push you further toward your goals. Choose the latter.


On Loving Yourself

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Nick writes –

How many times has someone told you that you just need to love yourself, as if you could snap your fingers and change the way you relate to yourself? This phrase that is thrown around so often can make us feel helpless and inadequate. Sure, loving ourselves is a good concept, it means building up resiliency in the face of life’s inevitable challenges, but how do we even begin to get there?

Loving yourself isn’t about creating a new feeling, it’s about undoing the messages that have gotten in the way of a feeling that is already there. From the moment we’re born, we receive messages about who we should be and how certain parts of ourselves are unacceptable, and we all internalise those messages to varying degrees. Our community is particularly susceptible to internalising these messages because they came not just from our friends and the society we lived in, but also from the people we loved and depended on the most.

Over time, these messages blocked our feelings of love for ourselves. They made us consider parts of ourselves ugly or unacceptable and made us separate from those parts.

Undoing those messages and regaining that access to ourselves is a gradual process, and it starts with finding safe, intimate connections with people we trust. That could be a close friend, a significant other, a family member, or a therapist. With those people, we can begin to access those parts of ourselves that we cast out long ago. When someone supports us in this process, when they don’t see those parts as ugly and unacceptable, they counter the messages we received for so long, and we can begin to see the value in those cast out parts of ourselves. We can even begin to love those parts.

In short, in order to love ourselves, we need to make ourselves vulnerable with others. When we let others in, we get the opportunity to counter the messages that made us dislike ourselves to begin with. With the support of others, we get the opportunity to transform our shame into pride. We get the chance to recognise that there is nothing wrong with us after all.


On Commitment

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Nick writes –

Yes, there are a hundred other people on Grindr and Scruff they could sleep with, and a thousand other people on Facebook and Snapchat they could be “friends” with. Embrace the people that choose you, with all of your flaws and insecurities, over all those beautifully deceptive stats and pictures, and do the same for them.

With all of the choices that surround us, it’s increasingly rare to find people that we feel safe with, that won’t run for the next best thing at the first sign of conflict, but finding those safe connections is the most important task we have. Those are the relationships that open the door to healing, growth, and happiness. Sure, they’re hard to find, but they’re still out there if you ask for them and are willing to let people in. When you do find those people that go hard for you, hold onto them and don’t take them for granted.


On Living Your Best Life

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Nick writes –

Which side of you normally wins out in this tug-of-war? How often do you take risks and seek what you yearn for, and how often do you let fear keep you guarded and isolated?

Somewhere inside of all of us, there are strong desires for attachment, dependency, and love. There is a child in us that keeps striving to get our emotional needs met, that keeps wanting to love and be loved. As we grow older, we all start to bury that part of ourselves out of fear. We stop putting ourselves out there and asking for what we need because we’ve done so in the past and we’ve been wounded. We suffer alone instead, and eventually we might even lose touch with the child inside of us.

LGBT people have an especially strong tendency to fall on the fearful and guarded side of the spectrum. We stay guarded and avoid emotional risks because for most of us, communicating our true feelings became associated with rejection and abandonment at some point in our lives. Many of us convinced ourselves that we were fine by ourselves, that emotions are meant to be dealt with independently, and that dependency is weakness.

That child is still there, always looking for safe spaces where it can emerge. We have to be willing to take emotional risks in order to find those safe spaces, and we have to stop turning away from each other at the first sign of vulnerability. When we get back in touch with the child in us, when we accept our need for love and dependence, we open the door to healing, growth, change, and happiness.


On Not Hiding

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Nick writes –

No one is better at hiding away parts of themselves than the members of our community, because at some point we all had to, in order to fit in and to survive. Reconnecting with those parts of ourselves is a difficult and gradual task. We might assume that no one will love or accept the person we’re hiding, because those are the messages we received and lived by for so long.

The only solution is to repeatedly put yourself out there and see, to let your guard down and live unabashedly as you. So many of us struggle to find love and happiness in our adult lives because we remain guarded and keep our true selves stashed away for fear of rejection. Become conscious of the fears that are holding you back from freely expressing yourself, then challenge them relentlessly.

Yes, there will be letdowns and failures, but don’t allow yourself to use those letdowns and failures as confirmations of your negative self talk and justifications for going back into your shell. Those experiences are simply making you stronger and helping you to clarify what type of love that you want.

Keep putting yourself out there no matter what happens. When you begin living as your authentic self, you become magnetic.


On Perfection

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Nick writes –

When we start getting intimately involved with someone, their imperfections inevitably emerge, and we can react in two different ways. We can let our walls go up, think about all the other options out there, and leave, or we can embrace them for allowing us to go beneath the surface and showing us their authentic, flawed, insecure selves.

Apps like Grindr and Facebook lead us to idealize people because everyone presents an idealized version of themselves. As soon as someone becomes real and flawed, there is a tendency to pursue all the other “perfect”options out there. But no one is going to be the perfect match, love takes flexibility, forgiveness, and a commitment to enduring conflict.

In order to be vulnerable with each other, we need to create a safety net for the relationship that embraces imperfection, and we have to resist the urge to compare a complete person to pictures and stats on an app.


On Vulnerability

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Nick writes –

Our most basic psychological drive is for relationships where we can feel safe and protected, where we can let our guard down and expose our pain without fear. These are the attachments that facilitate healing and growth. In order to attain those deep connections, we have to take risks and make ourselves vulnerable to others. We have to let others see our pain. Some people won’t be able to hold it, but some will, and there’s only one way to separate one group from the other.


Pretty amazing, right? be sure to follow the ‘Gay Therapy’ Instagram page for more great insights. Oh, and don’t forget to follow the Little Gay Blog on there too!

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