FEB 1995


Therapists Talk 
Shrink Rap 


    Michael E. Holtby, LCSW, BCD


Journey to Authenticity

Originally published in Colorado's AIDS Newsletter, Resolute! , June, 1995

Marty Wolf

10/4/50 to 12/25/94

The first three months Marty was in one of my HIV psychotherapy groups he avoided talking about his work. He wanted to be accepted as just one of the guys. The rest of the group was taken quite by surprise to finally learn that Marty was a Catholic Priest, living in a community of Franciscan Friars. The fact that Marty was gay, and that he was a religious were fractured parts of himself at the time. That was in 1990. Father Marty underwent an amazing metamorphosis. He shed his shame, and embraced the two Marty's as one. The result is that he found his true ministry as a role model and celebrity within Denver's gay community, and as a comfort and friend to many others with AIDS. Many will remember the cover story about Marty in The Catholic Register, in which he came out as a gay Catholic priest with AIDS. Many will also remember Marty as the keynote speaker at a nondenominational service on World AIDS Day (1993) at MCC Church.

Marty and other group members wrote their own eulogies as an exercise to reflect upon their lives. Marty summed up his own life in this way: "Through this group, the Friars and my family I have found the strength to come out more publicly, not only in the church but in the city too, and that's where I found the healing. That desire to be authentic has always been part of me, and as a result, I have found a deeper peace. You know the 12-Step saying, "You're as sick as your secrets." I've discovered that to be true. I don't have secrets anymore and that feels very good. That was part of the journey of my life and I believe that is what we're all called to: to embrace what Carl Jung calls our shadow, not to kill it, to embrace it and say that is who I am too. For me that has brought life, and inner peace and a freedom. I don't have to spend energy protecting secrets anymore. I believe my life's journey was a journey to authenticity." (6/28/94)

Marty had more to teach us, than just to come out of the closet. Marty worked very hard to be in touch with what he felt, and to communicate those feelings. He talked about the days he would get angry, not being able to really name what he felt, and realizing only six months later what had provoked him. Marty worked in a 12-Step Program in which his sponsor had him write down his feelings hourly from a list of possibilities. By the time he died Marty was considered an emotional leader within our group: the first to cry, the first to perceive the hidden feelings of others, the first to give an emotional response.

We live in a society of conspiracy to hide feelings, and not be who we really are. This goes well beyond issues of sexuality. Consider your telling your mother that you are afraid of dying with HIV, and her response is, "Oh don't be silly. You'll live a long time." Or your father saying, "Just don't dwell on it." Or the New Age Negative Nazis who tell you that kind of thinking will surely send you to an early grave. So sad that we cannot share our feelings with each other. Too bad that we cannot be real, or what Marty called authentic, even with those closest to us.

So many times when I see clients for any length of time I find I know them better than their own lovers, or family members. I often say, "Why don't you tell him that?" I get a list of reasons:

"If he really knew me he wouldn't like me."

"He couldn't accept that about me."

"He won't want to hear it."

"I 'm afraid of his anger."

"Best not to make waves."

"I'd feel too vulnerable."

"It would hurt him."

"He won't listen."

But this is at a great cost. Every time you withhold what you feel, what you want, what you need, who you are; you whittle away at your own integrity, self esteem. This is especially true with those you consider "close". You compromise the level of intimacy between you and them. You are no longer authentic, you are molded into a chameleon, a shell with a good paint job to be what others want you to be.

Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true -- and as day follows night, be false to no man." Be false to no man in terms of what your real truth is. Within the context of AIDS, you can hide behind your shame; but to what end? You are punishing yourself. Maybe that is one reason why PWA's kill themselves three times more often than people with cancer. You could see HIV as an opportunity. What do you have to lose? Its likely everyone will end up knowing you have AIDS. You don't have time to waste on more secrets, on a double life. Nor do you have time to waste on superficial relationships restricted to discussions of your work, or the weather, and trying to be butch and pretend you have an interest in the Broncos. What we hide doesn't make us more lovable. It makes us more dishonest and more distant. Be yourself! If you are a flaming queen, be a good one! Go girl! The unlikable parts in people are their walls, their personas, their defenses. When they show what makes them a unique, one-of-a-kind person; when they show their hearts, they become someone many people want to be around.

Marty was one of these unique individuals, and he will be greatly missed by a very large part of the gay and HIV communities. May we live his legacy!



Last messed with November 15, 2001

Copyright(c) 2001 Michael E. Holtby, LCSW. All rights reserved.