PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued
In addition to being events going on within ourselves, words or thoughts have another characteristic. They don’t change. The world around us is constantly changing, but the words do not. This means that once anything has been assigned an ‘identity’ with a word allotted to it, the verbal identity does not change even if the thing it refers to changes quite a bit. One of the most important things to a person is the ‘identity’ he assigns himself. Even although he keeps on changing, the stream of his memories of his past keep him thinking of himself as the same person. Both the stream of memories and any verbal identity he gives himself remain almost fixed qualities of himself. Felicity pointed out that Englebert had himself said that he is whatever it is he is, and that wouldn’t change. If a person gives himself the verbal identity of ‘being a homosexual’, that would feel to him like his ‘identity’ — the word would stick with him.
But even that was not the end of the issue involved. We all use (usually) verbal ‘filters’ through which to screen our daily experiences. These ‘filters’ tell us whether to notice or ignore our different experiences. We all have so much rich experience every day that our brains cannot handle it all. Our brains pick and choose, by means of these filters, what we are going to notice or pay attention to and what we will simply ignore. These filters are conceptual or ideational filters which are based upon our beliefs, and which are formed through our beliefs from our values
— or the things we consider to be ‘important’ to us. If I come to believe that I am a homosexual as part of my identity, my attentional filters will allow me to notice confirming evidence
— “See, I did get turned-on by that man”. And they will prevent me from noticing dis-confirming evidence — as if I happened also to turn-on to a woman. In fact, if I did notice an attraction to a woman, I would be inclined, having a homosexual identity, to attribute the turn-on to something else — like, “Yes, she’s a nice friendly person,” or “she’s dressed well,” or “her make up looks good'” or “Women try to ‘look’ sexy, and that’s what she’s doing.” The problem all this creates for a person who wants to become heterosexual is that it will be hard for the person to change the beliefs and the ‘filters’ he uses so that he can actually notice the evidences of the changes in himself. Indeed, it is because of using these kinds of filters and beliefs and identities that all of us manage to hang on to our clear ideas of ourselves as either homosexual or heterosexual. Felicity ended by adding that, as he had pointed out from the test results, Englebert was still a bit confused about his sexual identity — that his beliefs and filters were not entirely excluding him from alternative bits of evidence.
And this was probably why he had come to ask Felicity about his homosexuality in the first place. And, incidently, that was why Felicity had offered him a thorough psychological assessment.