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Number 1: Spring 2008

How Not to be a Happy Homosexual

Peter Nevins

I wouldn’t dream of supposing that all homosexuals are miserable or that misery is constitutive of homosexuality itself. However as Freud said, ‘satisfied perverts don’t tend to seek analysis’  (Freud, 1919: 298). I want to explore the place this misery has in the lives of some of my patients, to look at the impact of unacknowledged external social forces and make them meaningful; to build a picture for those who are miserable, or faced with the potential for becoming miserable, of what their misery is a product of or a substitute for–in short, to find its value for the individual.

The play on words in the title of the 1986 book by Terry Sanderson, How to be a Happy Homosexual, serves to mark a moment in time where the idea that happiness is what we are all after and that there can be a codified way of getting it, is installed. No doubt the practical and political message in the guidebook served, and might still serve, a very useful purpose, but the promise of happiness–well let’s see. I am amused to discover that, such is our preoccupation with happiness, there is a ‘world map’ of it.

As the analytic social psychologist, Adrian White, has remarked:

The concept of happiness, or satisfaction with life, is currently a major area of research in economics and psychology, most closely associated with new developments in positive psychology. It has also become a feature in the current political discourse in the UK. (White 2007)

And Slavoj Žižek has this to say:

Now that we are bombarded from all sides by the injunction to ‘Enjoy’ psychoanalysis should perhaps be regarded differently, as the only discourse in which you are allowed not to enjoy: not ‘not allowed to enjoy; but relieved of the pressure to enjoy.’ (Žižek 2006)