For those not familiar with the acronym "JIM", it refers to the Journey Into Manhood weekend, an experiential weekend designed, as I understand it, to help men work through emotional scars and developmental roadblocks to clear the way for the development of the whole, masculine man they have always been, consequently clearing the way for an increase in "natural" attraction towards women. I affectionately refer to those who have gone on JIM weekends as JIM-dandies.
Now, to be fair, I really want to make it clear that I have never been to JIM, do not know specifically what happens there, and have not extensively researched reparative therapy in all its nuance and clinical theory. I can only speak from the bit of reading I've done and the conversations I've had with some close friends about their experiences with JIM in a broad, general sense, as they sign a contract not to divulge certain details about the weekend.
A good friend of mine recently went for the first time. A couple of other friends did, too, actually, but I haven't seen them as much to see the effects. This friend who went obviously took away some valuable tools, and I was excited for him to go and am happy for the experience he had. I think it was a huge help and well worth what he spent on it.
Still, I'm not interested in JIM even after seeing how much of a difference it has made in a friend of mine. I guess the skeptic in me never rests, and I believe individuals are so very unique that one experience that is amazingly beneficial to one may not be so to another individual with a different set of perspectives and circumstances. Not better or worse, just different. And yet, even though I don't wish to go, myself, I have recommended, on occasion, that some friends look into going for themselves.
I mean, I did enjoy the sort of sneak-peek activities one of the JIM directors did with us at the last Evergreen conference. I realize that was a very tiny, shallow sampling of what goes on at the weekend, but I like activities that make you leave your comfort zone enough to learn something about yourself or see something from a refreshed perspective, to shift paradigms where necessary and clarify others. I don't doubt I'd take away something from a JIM weekend, but I'm extremely doubtful it would be worth the investment and airfare. When I read testimonials or listen to a description of what it's supposed to do, there's nothing ringing inside of me that says, "That's ME! That's what I need. That's my issue, too!"
And when my friends get together and talk cryptically about JIM things and principles, it really grates on my nerves after a while because of the culture-specific lingo they use and the things they can't say. Maybe this is what it feels like to be a member of another faith in Utah? Or one of my straight friends hanging out with my moho friends? Poor saps.
With one friend who had just been to JIM recently, I noticed he started verbally qualifying every attraction with traits and/or qualities. It sort of went under my radar at first, but after a couple of days, I realized that this was his way of defusing the attractions and possibly convincing himself they aren't really the attractions he thought, unless I'm overinterpreting. It seemed like every time he saw an attractive male, he tried, in a sense, to "explain" the attraction by some trait he admired and wanted for himself. And I understand some of the ideas behind that line of thinking, but I have to ask some questions about it.
Honestly, any man or woman could deconstruct their attractions in many ways. They could name traits and characteristics that draw them to a person. Emotional, spiritual, character, social qualities that are attractive. I see traits that draw me to people around me. Sometimes, I'm not physically attracted to someone until I get to know them. Many other times, I'm very physically attracted before I know them.
Some people look at that and have learned to analyze those initial attractions, determining what qualities they are ascribing to the person just because they have always assumed people who look like that are a certain way or have certain qualities the admirer has only dreamed of having. But...that's not unique to same-sex attraction either. Statistics indicate that good-looking people get hired more. Isn't this because all human beings, whether for sexual reasons or not, ascribe qualities to them? They're more confident, more socially adept, more capable, more trustworthy. Those are false notions, but everyone does that, sexualized or not. And again, how is it different for opposite-sex attracted people? Do we not all, to some extent, wishfully ascribe qualities we desire in a companion to those whom we find attractive?
Sometimes we look at such and think that what we "really" are doing is seeing qualities we would like to emulate or which we desire for ourselves, and so we sexualize them or turn them into romantic qualities. But in reality, what quality would you find attractive if you DIDN'T admire it or have some desire to possess it yourself? Truly. How could you be attracted to a trait you don't admire? So this approach makes sense on one hand but seems moot on the other.
I guess it's the attitude behind certain "techniques" or ways of looking at things that I take issue with. Maybe my perspective is a strange one that just doesn't work for most people. I just don't think I see a need to redefine my same-sex attractions, or convince myself they aren't really the kind of attraction straight people experience, to honestly approach the possibility of a relationship with a woman.
I mean, if I were to apply the analytical "reparative"-style line of thinking, as I understand it, to my attraction to women, I'm pretty sure it would have similar results as doing it towards men. So I see all these men reframing their attractions to members of the same gender while unquestioningly embracing any attraction to women, and I think, "Is that REALLY honest? Is that really fair?" Nevertheless, I will not deny it may be a very useful tool. And I will also say this entire exposition may be moot if I'm missing certain nuances or subtleties to the therapeutic approaches I'm discussing because I've only learned of them secondhand.
Another problem. I beg pardon, in advance, from my many friends who have participated in and swear by JIM weekends. In fact, of my closer moho friends, most have been to a JIM weekend, and some have staffed them. Among those friends with whom our perspectives generally agree, almost all of them are JIM-dandies, as I like to call them. So there's probably something to all of it that is greatly beneficial and positive and correct. I really like the subtle changes I've seen in my aforementioned friend. He seems to have more of a sense of ownership of his life, a grip on his emotions, and added perspective on interpersonal relationships, as well as additional coping and processing tools he may have lacked previously. That's awesome.
My problem: I don't like being reprogrammed by other human beings. I like input. I like learning from varied perspectives. I absolutely bristle and refuse to let someone use cultish tactics on me. I don't care how much I could learn quickly, it amounts to giving someone far too much influence on my thought processes, and I won't have it. One might say, "Well, you'll never heal, then, because you'll never allow anyone in enough to help you." OK, I can appreciate that. But I do let people, or ideas, in. I just don't give over my skeptical reasoning unless I've been inspired to do so. So, barring a revelation or inspiration to do so, I will not participate in secretive faternal organizations.
So yeah, I'm a skeptic, but I'm a fair-minded skeptic, I think. I see the good effects these JIM weekends have had on my friends, and I acknowledge that and support, I think, a great deal of what is done, despite my own reservations and concerns about what is done to the thought processes of the participants. I just don't think it's for me, and I have to shrug it off when guys come back from these weekends insisting I should go. Sorry, but I guess we'll just have to let that be one tiny rift in our friendships.
I've heard some say, "Maybe it wouldn't be good for you simply because you wouldn't get out of it what you could. Not now, anyway." The implication is that I would just remain so reserved and not "open up" enough to my "process" that I would only get out of it what I put in. I've heard this used to explain one friend's luke-warm experience. I can fully appreciate that you only get out of an experience what you put in, but what bothers me so thoroughly about that knee-jerk reaction I've heard from a few people when I question JIM the way I do is that many of them seem to be coming from a very specific perspective: homosexuality is ALWAYS merely a symptom of deeper issues that can be addressed and resolved, thereby diminishing the homosexual in you and magnifying the heterosexual. And SINCE homosexuality is ALWAYS a SYMPTOM of altered development, and not a result of natural development, EVERY homosexual man has ISSUES to resolve. So, in that mindset, if you're at one of these weekends, and the other men have just born their deepest secrets and sobbed uncontrollably in front of the group or screamed at the top of their lungs about their deeply guarded anger and bitterness and frustration, if, when your turn comes, you share some dilemas or conflicts you've had but do not release a torrent of vulnerability and break down in front of the others, you MUST be holding back because you SURELY have deep wounds you are not putting forth the energy to access. You are being lazy, holding back, not trusting enough, not reaching deeply enough. Because, in the mind of a man at a JIM weekend, a homosexual cannot possibly be SO emotionally healthy and at-peace as to not have deep-seated issues to bring out. I really can't speak for the mind of a man at a JIM weekend, but this is my personal perception.
Sorry, but I don't buy into that. But I can understand how the group would feel betrayed and not trusted by someone not showing the same degree of vulnerability they all did. I can picture them then closing off to that person who was supposedly not giving enough. These kinds of weekends are a prime breeding ground for groupthink, but hopefully most of the men rise above that tendency, although I'm inclined to think that's discouraged simply by the fraternal nature of the experience and the need for total trust and vulnerability.
To be fair, I want to say that almost every person I've known who has gone to a JIM weekend has come away saying it was, undoubtedly, well worth it, they would at least consider doing it again, and they feel like better men for having done it. Many of them (not all) have called it a life-changing experience. A couple have said it was good in many ways but probably not meant for everyone.
I tend to think of this: an experiential weekend like this, which is so focused on brotherhood or fraternity and gaining a sense of masculine belonging, is going to attract a certain crowd, so OF COURSE it's going to be greatly beneficial to the vast majority of people who go. It ATTRACTED them for a reason: the issues addressed are the ones drawing them to it in the first place. Those who choose not to go MAY not need the same kind of healing. Is that so hard to comprehend?
That said, I actually, honestly have NO DOUBT I would take a great deal from going to a JIM weekend. From what I've heard and read, it would be a definitely growing, learning experience in some ways, probably in some significant ways. And I may have a revelation one day that I need to put an inordinate (for me) amount of trust in some carefully selected strangers to speed up my healing journey and maybe even try to "change" or "diminish" my homosexual attractions, but for now, at least, I'm not interested. I like to learn from friends and study and my own experiences. I like to learn from real life situations, at my own pace.