This article on help for sexual addition references the book, Ready to Heal, by Kelly McDaniel.
Love and sex addiction is a double bind. If we seek a relationship, which we are all designed to do, we will experience pain. If we then avoid relationships, which seems logical when we’ve been hurt, we will also experience pain – usually the pain of being isolated. When we are lacking healthy role models in our formative years, we may arrive at adulthood without the tools to navigate pain.
With repeated betrayal in relationships, we may end up with some of these feelings:
- I am not at “ease” or at peace.
- I rarely know a moment of comfort in solitude.
- I have difficulty being alone or still.
- I have disordered eating, sleeping, and/or spending patterns.
- I grow increasingly confused and tired.
- I have difficulty trusting people.
- I become more isolated while pursuing sex or romance.
- I lose interest in friends, hobbies, family, and work.
- I can’t seem to identify or live within my value system.
- I experience more and more episodes of irritability, rage, and restlessness.
Shame sets in when we can’t seem to free ourselves from choosing destructive...
At the emotional root of every addiction is a good desire. We want to be seen, known, and loved well, and when it doesn’t happen, the pain can be intolerable. We want to be free of our stresses and free to enjoy life. Good desires. The problem with addiction is that it masquerades as a solution, masking our symptoms while our condition slowly worsens in the background.
I once heard a pastor say, “Only dead things float down stream.” You’ve got to be swimming at least a little bit just to stay in one place. Addictions are like floatation devices that keep us from having to face our emotional pain and make difficult choices that might actually bring growth and change. Pornography addiction is particularly insidious, because it can seem like a “victimless crime” and it masquerades as bonding to our unconscious mind, while gradually building an addiction to our own neurochemicals. Add to that the guilt and shame which often go along with it, plus the underlying emotional structure driving the behavior, and the dynamics of pornography addiction become a complex puzzle that can take some time and effort to unravel.
Recent studies in neurobiology have shown that thoughts that are repeated actually create stronger neural pathways in our brain. Re...
Part 4 of a 4-Part Series: Porn and Power
The first three parts of this series made some key observations about pornography:
- Healing requires more than cognitive (changing thoughts) or behavioral (changing lifestyle) approaches, although both are important.
- A man’s sexuality and shame are deeply rooted in narrative, in long-buried stories of emasculating loss that drive men to seek relief and power in porn’s degrading “pseudo-story.”
- The pseudo-connection and risk-free predictability of pornography promises to override a man’s fear of futility and impotence.
Colorado pastor/counselor Michael John Cusick, in his book Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, outlines the “broken promises” of pornography:
- To validate manhood without requiring strength
- Sexual fulfillment without relationship
- Intimacy without risk and suffering
- Passion and life without connection to your soul
- Power over women, without responsibility
- Comfort and care without needing to depend on others
Research studies note how boys lose touch with their inner world, and with the narr...
Porn and Power: A Christian Counselor Explains
Part 3 of a 4-Part Series
I’ve positioned the solution-oriented parts of this series (Parts 3 and 4) at the end – on purpose. Because waiting, and holding the tension of waiting, is critical to healing soul, body, and brain.
Many guys are already prone to a quick “fix-it” persona that conveniently bypasses the need for a deeper, more disciplined attentiveness to their inner life, to the emotional core Self. As men, often we want a 5-step plan for efficiently calculating and conquering the problem (or concealing it).
But that’s what made porn so appealing in the first place: it’s just a few pre-packaged steps or clicks towards “managing” an anxiety that’s often unnamed, even unfelt.
The Brain on Porn
Pornography hijacks normal brain functioning by artificially stimulating a neurochemical cocktail. Naturally interacting levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and oxytocin become highly combustible when experienced outside of relationship – profoundly restricting our emotional bandwidth for genuine connection with another person.
The brain’s delicate reward-gratification circuitry goes haywire, which can lead to numbing depression, anger, anxiety and decrea...
The late psychoanalyst and author Erwin Singer observed how “active striving” or searching in life is essential for psychological survival – but the only action that carries with it the risk of significant loss and failure.
Man’s undoing is not failure itself, Singer argued. Failure is inevitable and vital to the creative process. Failure spurs growth and discovery. The tragedy, Singer said, is when the threat of failure reduces man to mindless “pseudo-activity” – or surface-dwelling pursuits void of authentic ambition and meaning.
Singer related pseudo-activity to “pseudo-listening,” or a man’s tone-deaf inattentiveness to his own inner emotional life and to others.
Performance Pressure and Futility
What makes pornography such an addictive, absorbing “pseudo-activity” is that it promises an effortless return to the pleasuring, reassuring rule of Eden.
As premised in Part 1 of this series, a man...
A Christian Counselor Explains
Part 1 of a 4-Part Series
Men struggling with pornography often arrive for counseling with two basic fears: First, that pornography is threatening to take over their lives, if it hasn’t already. Second, that they are going to be shamed for their character, then instructed simply to read their Bible and pray more.
Another simplistic but common treatment approach is to focus on the act itself and corresponding behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Steps are formulated to identify cognitive-behavioral triggers and patterns, and to replace them with healthier ones.
At one level, this is sound thinking. As an ultimate strategy, it is also a bit naive – neurologically and narratively.
Science and Story
Neurons matter, of course. Science clearly shows how “neurons that fire together, wire together.” In other words, repeated exposure to pornography will condition the brain into to pave neural pathways of visual fixation that dead-end in neurochemical chaos – leading to self-hatred, emotional castration, and relational dysfunction.
Pornography abuse engages a person far below ocular, chemical, and cognitive levels. So, while coping tools and redirecting s...
Cybersex, Part 2 of a 3-Part Series
In my previous article in this series, I introduced the phenomenon of sexual addiction, and outlined its effects on both men and women. This article builds on that discussion by providing a vignette of a first-time visit to a therapist by a couple who have been affected by sex addiction.
The following transcript is a compilation of what may typically occur in therapy. It describes a first-time appointment for a couple who are struggling with pornography use by one of the partners, in this case the husband as that is the most common scenario.
Sex Addiction in the Counseling Room
Therapist: Why are you both here?
Sally: We came because I am angry and can’t go on any more like we are. He spends hours on the computer looking at who knows what. He never initiates sex. And he’s distant to the kids.
T (to husband): Why are you here? Now I know why she is here.
Phil: It’s really not that bad. She’s exaggerating. Yeah, I spend some time online, but I’m doing okay.
Sally: Do you really think that…?
T: Let me interrupt for just a moment. Phil, it’s obvious she is extremely frustrat...