The Ugly Duckling

At the very start of my Integral Coaching programme I was encouraged to read The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson by my coach.

The reason my coach recommended this book to me was two fold:-

  1. The story involves a creature which does not fit into it’s familial environment – a correlation with my own experience
  2. The story ends with an understanding of self – an acceptance of self – my own aspiration

Both of these themes resonated deeply with my own experience:-

First of never feeling that I fitted in to my family and setting expectations of myself to conform to the expectations placed on me and;

Secondly, it was a clear aspiration for me at the start of my coached journey of self discovery to find self acceptance (note that this is different to the acceptance of others!)

As a child, I have early memories of somehow not fitting into male friendship groups. I do not remember having a male friend in class until about the age of nine. My interests were more feminine, my friends, particularly out on the street were girls.

As i entered an all male school environment at the age of 13, I had established male friends and I was a member of friendship groups but I sensed an exclusion from friendships with those boys who I secretly aspired to be like – the sporty types, the physically strong.

I was subjected to bullying by physical assaults at primary school and these turned into more verbal name calling up to about the age of 16 years, through three different Catholic Schools which caused immense damage to my self-esteem and to my capacity to mature both emotionally and sexually.

In sixth form I had a strong group of friends, most of whom I still see regularly, 30 years on, but at the same time as entering into a relationship with a girl, who later became my wife, I had already begun to be very difficult at home.

I had entered fully into the quite conservative Catholic upbringing and was in every sense of the word a strong believer – I had wondered whether the years of suffering that I endured at the hands of bullies, followed by the years of suffering I endured in carrying on with my marriage in the knowledge that I was in fact gay, would somehow dent my commitment to my faith – it has not.

In my late teens I suffered mood swings and I was very argumentative with my mother, particularly. I felt a deep resentment towards my siblings, closer to my sisters rather than my brothers, but over the years I even managed to alienate them by making them fear the lash of my tongue on any given perceived injustice that I deemed them to have caused.

My mother said that I had an out sized inferiority complex, but she was not capable of establishing with me the cause of my anger. My father (as related in an earlier post) steered me away from effeminate interests e.g. wearing jewelry, dancing etc. In short, I had conformed to my environment to the extent that like the baby swan I did not understand my own identity and in being verbally aggressive towards my family (who have always cared for me) I contributed to my own “imprisonment” of fear and resentment.

At the end of the story of The Ugly Duckling, the creature catches sight of itself in the water – the ugly cygnet that had looked out of place with its sibling ducklings and had suffered grievously had emerged into a beautiful white swan – for me this means in the context of my own suffering that the cygnet discovered it’s true identity.

I discovered my true identity in my late 20’s – the realization that I was in fact gay was not an instant revelation – it took me a long time to realise that all my anger and pain and confusion was in reaction to having never confronted within me the truth of my deep rooted sexual attraction to men.

My revelation was not like the lucky swan who began to be a swan and to be recognised as a swan – no, my understanding of self was suppressed once again into at least 20 years of deep isolation and pain because I could not face losing my wife (who I love deeply) and my children. My decision to suppress and conform to my situation could be viewed as a weakness by some – I recognise that – however, I wanted to be faithful to my responsibilities as a husband and a father and I did not want to destroy the happiness of my wife and children.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts will know that two years ago, after sustained periods of unhappiness and suicidal thoughts, I reached out and told my brother of my gay sexuality. This was followed almost immediately by a confession of the fact to my wife. There response was acceptance and concern and love.

I have spent the last two years, supported by that love and acceptance, searching for a place of self-acceptance. I have come a long way on that journey with the guidance of a remarkable coach  – I accept that I am gay – I no longer want to be rid of that element of my identity – however, it is sometimes hard to be calm, it is sometimes hard to be at peace, but I am learning the techniques to make the ripples in the pond smoother – after-all it was the smooth ripples in the pond, which revealed to the cygnet, that he was in fact a swan!.

My next blog will be: Sitting Practice

William Defoe

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