“It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.” –Paul Cezanne
All over the world, hundreds of millions of families are getting together this weekend for a variety of reasons. And a large number of them will have, as part of their nature, a big announcement made. Depending on the announcement and the family, reactions will vary greatly. As you keep this in mind, I’d like you to listen to the French band, Air, and their unheralded electronica masterpiece,
There are many possible answers to the following question, and there is no right or wrong answer. But I’d like you to look at the image below, and I’d like you to fill-in-the-blanks by naming the first three English words that come to your mind. Ready? Go!
Like I said, there are no wrong answers. And it’s very likely that your answer varied depending on a few things, such as how the music made you feel (if you were playing it), how the prompt about family made you feel, and your overall mood. Maybe you chose neutral words, like king, kite, or — perhaps inspired by family — kids.
But maybe if I had given you a different prompt, and had made you think of something different, perhaps your words would have been different. For instance, what if I had shown this image instead?
(Image credit: Dan Belasco Rogers, of A. Baehr and S. New.)
You might be more likely to have thought of different words, such as kiss or kind. But some interesting research has just come out of the University of Rochester; when given a prompt such as the rest of the (uncropped) image, below, the reactions of many people were vastly different.
People were far more likely to fill-in-the-blanks with aggressive words, such as “kick” or “kill” after being prompted to think about gay couples or individuals. But not everyone exhibited this, mind you. It turns out that people who both harbored an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who also grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires were far more likely to feel that way. In other words, homophobia and violent feelings towards homosexuality were attributable to a combination of self-phobia and social conditioning.
From the University’s Press Release:
The paper includes four separate experiments, conducted in the United States and Germany, with each study involving an average of 160 college students. The findings provide new empirical evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that the fear, anxiety, and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people hold toward gays and lesbians can grow out of their own repressed same-sex desires, Ryan says. The results also support the more modern self-determination theory, developed by Ryan and Edward Deci at the University of Rochester, which links controlling parenting to poorer self-acceptance and difficulty valuing oneself unconditionally.
The whole study (and synopsis) is really interesting, and is the first one (that I know of) providing very compelling evidence that links homophobia and violent reactions to self-phobia. As a couple of compelling reads are making the rounds, I thought it would be nice to throw a little science into the mix.
I’m no one to tell anyone else how to live (and wouldn’t want to be), but I would encourage everyone to be true to themselves and as kind and generous as you can to everyone you encounter. Let everyone you know and care about that they’re great, and worthy of love exactly as they are. And happy holidays (or springtime, if you don’t have a holiday) to one and all!