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Gonen, J.Y. (1971). Negative Identity in Homosexuals. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(3):345-352.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(3):345-352

Negative Identity in Homosexuals

Jay Y. Gonen, Ph.D.

The development and formation of identity, as well as the danger of identity diffusion, has received much attention from Erik Erikson.2,3,4 Identity refers to the overall integration and internal organization of an individual's separate identifications and learned roles. It includes such constructs as a sense of self-esteem and an awareness of both the continuity of self over time and the continuity of the ego's synthesizing methods which insures this sameness of self over time. In the process of developing identity, there is a constant interaction and complementarity between ego synthesis and social institutions or organizations.

In the case of negative identity, the mutual reciprocal interaction between ego functioning and social organization is disrupted. Negative identity which may result from such a disruption is described by Erikson2,3 as perversely based on identifications and roles which have been presented to individuals as most undesirable but most real. In such a case, a person's habitual modes of coping with the environment are not congruent with the social mores and are opposed by society. For example, Erikson3 described a girl, the daughter of a white man of brilliant showmanship, who quit college and was arrested as a prostitute in a Negro quarter of a southern city, and a Negro preacher's daughter, who disappeared and was finally found among narcotic addicts in Chicago. Neither girl had actually become what she seemed—a prostitute or a drug addict—but each had engaged in behavior which served as a protest against parental values.

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