Posted in addictions, Authentic Freedom, Boundaries, codependency, detachment, Empowerment, Healing

Heal Yourselves! Lessons on Detachment

It is said, “The good Lord helps those who help themselves.”

The key here is “help themselves.” The Lord (or whatever name you give to the transcendent aspect of the Divine that is said to be a source of guidance and support) cannot help those who refuse to take responsibility for their own lives, their own patterns of dysfunctional behavior, their own woundedness and their own fears.

The same can be said for us. When we reach out as a source of loving support for others, we can only help those who are willing to help themselves.  We cannot help those who are unable or unwilling to identify their own patterns of dysfunctional or compulsive behaviors (including behaviors of gluttony, addiction, victimhood, martyrdom, rage, power and control, envy or jealousy, sloth or pride); and we cannot help those who are unwilling to do the work of identifying the unhealed woundedness or fears that are in fact the cause of their dysfunctional behaviors and the unfortunate life situations their behaviors get them into.

What we can do is provide a listening ear and a compassionate heart. We can be a presence of unconditional abiding love.  We can educate, inform and direct them toward resources that might help them (including ourselves if we have the proper resources).  The rest is up to them.

As it is also said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”

Whether or not those we hope to help refuse to drink from the well of support we lead them to is completely out of our control. Even if we could make them “drink” that doesn’t mean they will actually do the hard and often painful work of taking responsibility for what ails them.  This is where the subtle and necessary practice of detachment comes in. When we have offered all we are able in the form of guidance and support and when those we hope to help refuse to help themselves, there is nothing left for us to do but walk away.  For the sake of our own wellbeing, we cannot allow ourselves to take another person’s decisions personally; neither can we lose a minute of sleep over it.  As one teacher says, “their decisions are none of my business.”  Detachment is the ability to be a loving source of support while also having no attachment to what the other person decides to do with our offer of support. If they receive the support and take appropriate action, then they are well on their way to healing.  If they refuse the support and continue in their dysfunction, it is now on them.

As the Lord helps those who help themselves, it is also true for us. We can only help those who are willing to help themselves.

The Authentic Freedom Mastery Course empowers us with the ability to identify our gifts, along with our compulsive and dysfunctional patters of behavior and then provides tools for helping us to heal these patterns ourselves.  Learn more by clicking the image below:

 

Posted in addictions, Authentic Freedom, Authentic Freedom Academy, Being Human, codependency, Death, Empowerment

Power in Our Aloneness

The greatest fear in the human experience is not death, neither is it public speaking.  The greatest fear in the human experience is that we are alone – really, truly, alone; and in this aloneness, life has no meaning and no purpose.  This is our greatest fear because it is also our greatest truth.  At the end of the day, we are really, truly alone.  Death brings us face to face with this absolute truth.  When we release our final breath, there is no one – only ourselves and our hope that there is another to take us home – and the fear that this “other” is simply a lie we have told ourselves to make ourselves feel better.

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Day in and day out, this fear that we are alone, haunts us. While we may not acknowledge that this is the fear haunting us, or that we have any fear at all, believe me, it is there.  It is there is our restlessness, our boredom, our short attention spans, our search for something “out there” that will make us happy.  It is in our “retail therapy.” It is in our social media searching and trolling.  It is in our cultural addiction with reality TV (including the clown show that has become our election process).  It is in our food, alcohol, tobacco, drug addictions.  It is present in every single situation and experience where we think something “out there” will fulfill us and in the relentless search for that “something.” This fear that we are alone is in our longing and yearning for “the other” who will complete us – even when that “other” is given the name of “God.”

We spend nearly every minute of every day avoiding our fear of this aloneness by chasing after “that which we cannot name.” We are sure if we keep chasing we will eventually find it.  It’s in that check we’ve been waiting for, the mysterious windfall, the lottery jackpot.  It’s in the elusive soulmate who will bring perfection to our lives.  It is in the next great car, the bigger home, the job with the bigger paycheck.  It is in the victory of our chosen political candidate.

But guess what? The fear of being alone is NOT remedied through any of the above, because THERE IS NO CURE for our fear of being alone.  This fear is the consequence of the human condition and a fear we will always intimately know.

We came here to have a unique and individual experience which by its nature means we are separate and alone. Within this choice also exists the knowledge of our true nature – of a time before we chose separation.  It is the knowledge of our true nature that causes us to feel alone while at the same time it is calling us home.  It is an ache that will never cease as long as we continue being human.  While there is no remedy to the fear of being alone, there is an answer to all the relentless searching and avoiding we do by searching.  The answer is to stop running from this fear.  Stop looking “out there” for something that will fill the eternal vacancy inside.  The only way to calm (not remedy) this fear, is to BE WITH IT.

Being with our fear of being alone means just that. Be with it.  Turn away from all the external searching and turn within.  Go deep into our hearts where this longing resides.  Move past the ego attachments to fame, status, money, power, success and achievement. Move beyond the need to be right and for others to be wrong. Move past the restlessness, boredom, loneliness, impatience, and anxiousness.  Move past anxiety, depression and despair.  Beneath all of it is the DEEP ACHE, the indelible pain, the vivid realization that we are alone.  SIT with this fear.  Sit with this awareness.  Sit with the excruciating discomfort.  Simply be with all this pain is, has to say, and feels like for you.  FEEL IT.  Revel in it.  Bathe in it.  Know it to be a deeply intimate, true and cherished part of who you are.  KNOW that this ache is your Soul calling you home – NOT home to some “heavenly abode.”  Home to YOURSELF.  It is here in the deep well of your aloneness that you will find yourself.  And here, you will find your power.

 

The Authentic Freedom Mastery Program provides tools to help us navigate the fears of the human condition, moving us from fear into a deep and abiding love. Learn more about the Authentic Freedom Mastery Program HERE.  Check out the FREE preview course to see if Authentic Freedom is for you.

authenticfreedommasteryfreepreview

 

Posted in addictions, codependency, Empowerment, Healing, Lessons, Spiritual Practices

Conquering Co-Dependency – Learning to Love Ourselves

Today’s blog addresses the issue of co-dependency – the tendency to believe it is our job to make other people happy and that it is their job to make us happy in return.  Specifically, we explore the ways in which we are willing to give ourselves away in the hopes of earning another person’s love.

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Patterns

As human beings, we are hardwired to seek out connection and companionship.  We have learned that in order to survive and to thrive, we need each other.  Unfortunately, a distortion often arises in the way we learn to make connections and that distortion is co-dependency.  Co-dependency arises out of the false perception that we are not love – that love has to be earned and can be taken away.  As such, in our search for connection, we try to make other people happy so that they will “love” us.  In our attempts to make other people happy, we give parts of ourselves away.  Additionally, we unconsciously agree to carry the burden of their fears, anxieties, insecurities, and the unhealed wounds of their past.  We know that we have done this when we jump at the first sign of another’s distress and rush toward them hoping to make it better, all the while believing that somehow the other person’s distress is somehow our fault.

Not Our Fault

The truth is, in these situations, the other person’s distress is not our fault at all – we have simply been conditioned to take responsibility for other people’s fears.  When your partner is working on a project and breaks a piece of glass and begins hollering and cursing and you feel the pull in the center of your gut to run toward them in the hopes of making it better, you have taken on THEIR anxiety and frustration.  Their anxiety is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.  When you share our dreams or experience a great success and a friend drops a doubt bomb on you, this is a reflection of their jealousy and the guilt they are feeling for not pursuing their own dreams, and yet, you agree to carry their jealousy and guilt by feeling doubtful and unsure about your dreams. Their jealousy and guilt are not your fault. When our child has anxiety about fitting in and believes this anxiety will be quelled with a new wardrobe that we know they don’t really need and is outside our budget, yet we agree to go anyway – we have given into another’s fears.  Their anxiety about fitting in is not our fault and will not be healed by blowing our budget on the “latest trends.”

Healing These Patterns

The reason we give into other people’s anxieties and fears is because there is a tiny part of ourselves that has forgotten that we are love(d).  In order to change these patterns, we need to heal the part of ourselves that have forgotten that they are love.  First we become our own witness.  We pay attention to every situation where we are tempted to take on the burden of someone else’s guilt, fear, jealousy, weakness, anxiety, unhappiness, frustration, anger, hatred, ignorance, etc. etc. etc.  Then we STOP doing it.  We stop giving ourselves away and instead take responsibility ONLY for our own fear, anxiety, doubt, weakness, etc. etc. etc.  Finally we initiate a great act of love toward ourselves. In tomorrow’s Superhero Report, I will share a simple spiritual practice to help you do just this – conquer co-dependency while learning to love yourself. In the meantime, here is a poem to help prime the pump:

I Did Nothing Wrong

Tired of carrying the burden of your unacknowledged guilt.

I did nothing wrong.

Your unhealed wounds and unacknowledged fears,

The way my presence awakens in you the truths you’ve spent a lifetime avoiding,

The overwhelming weakness you feel yet refuse to acknowledge ,

Your inability to acknowledge, let alone, manage your anxiety,

The insecurities that make you crave co-dependency…

Are not my fault.

I did nothing wrong.

I know you know the web you’ve woven and the bed you’ve recently made –

These also, are not my fault,

Neither is the shame you feel in knowing that I know.

I did nothing wrong!

For years, I agreed to carry your guilt, your shame, your unhealed wounds

and unacknowledged fears –

The scapegoat for every fear my presence, lifestyle and choices trigger in you.

It’s not my fault.

I did nothing wrong.

And now…I give it back to you.

copyright 2014  Lauri Ann Lumby

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Posted in addictions, Authentic Freedom, shame, Spiritual Practices, Superheroes, world changes

Superheroes and our Relationship with Mood-Altering Substances

Superhero Report – July 28, 2014

Our Relationship with Mood-Altering Substances

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It is not something we like to admit, but the New Superheroes have often had trouble with mood-altering substances.  Whether it is caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, a whole host of illegal substances or ones that have been prescribed by our doctors for ADD, anxiety, stress, depression, or panic attack, certain ascetic meditation practices, television, video games, the internet – the New Superheroes are likely to have (or had) some sort of habitual relationship with one or several of the above.  There is a sound explanation for the attractiveness of these substances and to the way in which we are almost irresistibly drawn toward them and why they can so easily become addictive.  There are also some simple practices we can engage in which can render these substances unnecessary.  (Note: if you have an addiction, please seek out the support of your local 12-Step recovery program.)

 

The question of why we are drawn to mood-altering substances has a many-layered response:

 

1) We remember our true nature and our original home and we want to go home!

On an unconscious and often conscious level, Superheroes remember what “heaven” feels like. We also know our “true self” is not of this earth, but that we are pure, spiritual beings. Mood-altering substances stimulate the brow and crown chakras and give us an experience of being “home.”

2) We were given a vision of what the earth is supposed to be like, and this is not it.

Until we know how, we often resist this human form and are looking for ways to ESCAPE. The earth we are currently residing in is the not the vision of earth that was planted into our hearts and that we are here to make real. Again, mood-altering substances give us an experience similar to being home, thereby allowing us, at least temporarily, to escape the painful human condition.

3) The false belief that spiritual is better than human.

This is a biggie – especially among certain members of the New Age, Ascension, and Lightworker communities. We are NOT here to be spiritual, we are not here to ascend the limitations of our humanness, we are not here to sprinkle fairies and stardust upon the world singing songs of light and love and perfection, believing that if we think good thoughts all will be well and we will have everything we want. No, we are not here to do these things – not at the expense of being HUMAN anyway. WE ARE HERE TO BE HUMAN. PERIOD. We are ALREADY fully Divine. We came here to experience being human AND to bring our already perfect Divine nature fully into this experience. Rather than Ascension, the journey of the New Superhero (and the rest of the world with us), is actually INCARNATION – transcending the illusions of duality and becoming BOTH fully Divine AND fully Human. We already know the Divine part….let’s figure out how to be human! (ahem….I know a pretty cool dude who lived about 2000 years ago in and around Palestine/Israel who came here to do the same.)

4) Shame

As strangers in a strange land, we often have the experience of not fitting in, of being judged for being weird or strange. People don’t understand us, or the vision we carry in our hearts and the drive to make it real. When we feel rejected by those around us, and sometimes even by those we love, we take it personally. This rejection becomes internalized as shame. Mood-altering substances are a great way to numb the pain of this shame.

5) Loneliness

Just ask Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, being a Superhero is lonely business. Until they discovered each other and formed the Justice League, these Superheroes were out there on their own trying to make the world a better place and feeling very alone. The same is true of us. We often feel alone in the world with few who understand our unique temperaments, gifts and call. Mood altering substances help us to numb the pain of feeling alone and misunderstood.

Again, if our relationship with mood-altering substances has reached the level of addiction, then it is time to seek help.  12-Step recovery programs are a great way to get support in stopping the use of the substance and Authentic Freedom helps to identify and heal the inner fears/wounds which led us to the compulsive behavior in the first place.  If our relationship to mood-altering substances is less problematic but we still find ourselves drawn to them, the following practices may prove helpful.

 

1)Tonglen 

Tonglen is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice which incorporates visualization and breathwork for the intention of transforming painful emotions. For the Superheroes, applying Tonglen to feelings of loneliness and shame can prove effective. Here is the practice in short:

  • Identify the feeling you want to work with (shame, loneliness)
  • Call that feeling up in your body.
  • Identify where in your body you feel it.
  • Breathe INTO that place in your body, while feeling the emotion (shame, loneliness).
  • While breathing into that place, follow your breath with your mind.
  • Now breathe out love, following the love with your breath as you imagine it flowing out of you from the place of the painful emotion.
  • Continue with this practice until you feel something change – perhaps the emotion shifts to something else, maybe you begin to weep.

2) Embodiment

Embodiment is a practice that I discovered while struggling with an overactive and fretful mind.  The intention of this practice is to REMEMBER that we are here to have a HUMAN experience – no matter what we remember about our “heaven home” or our true nature as spiritual beings.  Embodiment allows us to set aside the false belief that spiritual is better than human and gives us the tools for bringing our, already perfect, Divine selves FULLY into the human experience.  When our spirit is fully incarnate in our bodies, we feel safe and secure and are less likely to be tempted to FLEE.  It is not, however, until we INCARNATE that we feel safe in our human selves, so let’s get to incarnating, shall we???

 

  • Close your eyes and draw your awareness deep into your body.
  • See if you can identify the distinction between your spiritual and human self. (Note, the spiritual self, until we are incarnate, tends to hang out in the upper chakras, especially our head, or even somewhere outside and above us.)
  • Conscious of the distinction between your spiritual and human self, bring your consciousness deep into your body.
  • Imagine the Earth beneath you as hands reaching up to hold, support, protect, and nourish you.
  • Feel the sense of safety in resting in this supportive space.
  • Imagine your HUMAN self as supported by the Earth and receiving its nourishment from the Earth.
  • As you begin to feel the safety of humanness, imagine that your human self is like a chalice – an empty vessel waiting for your Spirit to be poured into it.
  • From this place of security, observe as your Spirit willingly pours itself into the safe home of your human chalice. You are not pushing, forcing or pulling it in, it willingly enters in the knowledge that the Human form is safe.
  • Returning to the awareness of your human form, FEEL the sensation of being fully human and safe in this experience, while completely filled by your Divine Spiritual nature. Feel the wholeness and completeness of this experience. As you sit in this feeling of safety, you become aware of all illusions of separation melting away. Your Spirit and your Human natures are now one – no longer separate or distinct from each other, but ONE.

 

Embodiment eliminates the temptation to FLEE because when we INCARNATE, we find that WE ARE HOME and that there is a home for us in the human condition and that with our embodiment, it looks a whole lot like the heaven we remember and the heaven we were sent to make real upon this earth. 🙂  In this experience, we know that HEAVEN IS REAL and it is right here, within and among us.

 

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come,

Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed,

And no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘ look, there it is.’

For behold, the kingdom of God is within (and among) you.”

 

Luke 17: 20-21

 

Posted in addictions, Authentic Freedom

New Year’s Resolutions – from addiction to recovery

Dear Readers,

Today, as an example of resolutions gone RIGHT, I am sharing with you a blog posted today by one of my clients, Brian Hayford.  It is with Brian’s permission that I share this blog here today and I do so with great pride and admiration of the VERY HARD WORK Brian has accomplished in the past year and with great humility for having been a part of Brian’s amazing journey from opiate addiction to recovery.  Congratulations Brian and KEEP UP the hard work!  Since completing an in-patient stint at Hazelden, Brian continues to work the 12-Steps, has worked through and continues to work the Authentic Freedom process, rediscovered Martial Arts as a vehicle for building strength and self-empowerment, and is in the process of rediscovering the person he lost through addiction.

Brian is a talented writer (as you will see) and artist.  He has a keen sense of justice and has an innate sensitivity to the struggles of the human condition through which he is called to help facilitate the birth of a new and better world.  I for one am grateful for Brian’s passion and vision and trust that as he stays on the recovery path, his unique participation in this vision will be revealed.

You can read Brian’s story here:  http://www.bubblews.com/news/1941482-what-a-ride-looking-back-on-my-2013-lots-of-lesson-learned-finally

Posted in addictions, codependency, guilt, shame, The Seven Deadly Compulsions

Partners of Sex Addicts Part II

Today’s blog is the final of a four-part series on sex addiction.  Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s blog focused on identifying sex addiction and understanding some of its possible causes.  Thursday’s began the discussion on how partners of sex addicts are effected by the addiction and today’s blog continues that discussion, exploring possible resources for assisting partners of sex addicts in their own journey of healing. 

Co-Addiction?

Many experts in the field of sex addiction refer to the relationship between a sex addict and their partner as co-addiction.  Drawing from 12-step recovery programs, the partner of a sex addict is held accountable for their role in enabling the addiction through denial, preoccupation, enabling or rescuing, taking excessive responsibility, and trying to (or wishing they could) control the addict’s behaviors.  In order for one to identify sexual addiction in their partner, they also have to acknowledge their own role in the cycle of addiction.  Denial is perhaps the greatest obstacle to the addict and their partner in stopping the cycle of addiction.  For the partner of the addict, excessive responsibility is perhaps the second obstacle.  Partners of addicts come to believe that the dissatisfaction, restlessness and irritability of the addict is somehow their fault and often work to try to “make the addict happy” by engaging in sexual activities that make them uncomfortable or looking the other way when the addict seeks to satisfy their need through pornography, excessive masturbation, sex-sites, other partners, etc.  For those who choose to remain in a relationship with a sex addict (who is still engaging in addictive behaviors), unraveling themselves from their role as enabler is critical.  In order to keep one’s self safe, the partner of a sex addict must stop taking responsibility, feeling guilty for the addict’s unhappiness and for excusing their sexual acting out.  If the addict remains in denial and refuses treatment for their addiction, the partner may eventually determine that the relationship is no longer viable and may decide to leave.  (For more on working together to recover from sex addiction, please read, Mending a Shattered Heart, edited by Stefanie Carnes, PhD.

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For those who leave

For those who choose to leave a relationship with a sex addict, acknowledging their co-addictive behavior will be an important step in healing from the co-addictive relationship and for establishing a ground upon which healthy intimacy may one day be possible.  In the beginning stages of having left a sex addict, however, I believe that attention first needs to be given to grief * and shame**. First, the partner needs strategies, room and time to grieve the loss of the relationship they at one time hoped to have with the addict (before they knew of the addiction).  What also needs to be addressed is the deep well of shame experienced by a partner of a sex addict.  Shame from having been in the relationship in the first place.  Shame over their co-addictive behaviors (denial, bargaining, over responsibility, etc.).  Shame from all the ways in which they were told they failed the addict.  Then somewhere along the line, the partner of a sex addict needs to pick up all the shreds of their own desire and sexual self-confidence which were destroyed in the course of the relationship and put those back together.  In grieving the loss of the hoped-for relationship, healing the deep well of shame, reassembling one’s self-confidence and desire, and addressing any co-addictive behaviors provides the foundation upon which the former partner of a sex addict may enter into a meaningful, healthy and intimate love relationship – the kind that was, sadly, not possible with the addict.

* To learn more about the grieving process, click HERE. 

** To learn more about releasing shame, click HERE.

If you are a partner of a sex addict, please seek out help and support through counseling, psychotherapy or a local 12-Step group well versed in the subtleties of sex addiction. For additional support, check out Mending a Shattered Heart – a Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, edited by Stefanie Carnes, PhD.

 

Posted in addictions, codependency, guilt, Healing, Relationships, shame

For Partners of Sex Addicts Part I

Today’s blog is part three in a series on sex addiction.  Parts One and Two explored the ways in which one might identify sex addiction in one’s self or one’s partner and possible causes and suggested supports for healing sex addiction.  In today’s blog, I hope to provide partners (and former partners) of sex addicts with some support – specifically validation for the devastating effects of being in relationship with a sex addict.  In tomorrow’s blog, I will explore possible supports in helping the partner heal from having been in relationship with a sex addict.

Sex addiction confused as love

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, for as long as sex addicts are indulging their addiction, sex addicts are incapable of experiencing or participating in true intimacy. This truth has devastating effects on any and every relationship into which the sex addict enters. As Stephanie Carnes, states, “Sex addiction thrives in secrecy, (Mending a shattered heart, 2009, p. 9)” and addicts will go to any length to protect their double life.” Whether engaging in compulsive fantasizing, pornography, sex sites, prostitution and/or masturbation, addicts accomplish this in secret and their partners are often none the wiser.  Additionally, many sex addicts are masters as presenting themselves as simply “passionate” and pride themselves is being masterful “lovers,” luring potential partners in with their exceptional “skills.”  Soon, however, the partner begins to see that no matter what they do or how they do it (sexually), it is never enough, neither is it good enough, because nothing can compare with the fantasies cooked up in an addicts mind or with the intensity and danger of what they might be viewing through pornography or experiencing on sex-sites.  As the partner of an addict eventually learns, the partner’s need for sexual stimulation has nothing to do with love and instead of helping to facilitate intimacy, actually destroys it.

Sex Addiction is Still in the Closet

One of the challenges with sex addiction is that in most circles, it remains in the closet.  Sex addiction is not discussed publicly and neither has it attained the recognition and acknowledgement of other addictions such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.  For some, sex addiction is considered a joke – something that was cooked up by some fundamentalist, repressed, suppressed, uptight religious folks trying to keep us from having great sex.  The accessibility and mainstreaming of pornography, does not help in this regard. As such, sex addiction is difficult to identify, especially for the partner of a sex addict, who maybe never witnesses the behavior itself, but only the before and after-effects.

Effects Experienced by Partners of Sex Addicts

Before: The before effects of sex addiction are most easily recognized by feelings of withdrawal such as irritability or restlessness on the part of the addict when unable to act out sexually, which escalates until they get their fix. The partner feels the tension of these feelings and often becomes the target – being blamed by the addict for these feelings (you aren’t servicing me enough or in the ways that I want). Often, not knowing any better, the partner believes it must be their fault.  Shame and guilt step in and the partner often feels pressured to play their part in helping the addict “feel better,” often agreeing to sexual behaviors that actually make them feel uncomfortable.

After: The after-effects are also comprised of shame and guilt because no matter what the partner does or how, it will never be right for the addict.  For the addict, sex becomes a bottomless pit of need that can never be met, and in the mind of the addict, their partner becomes the person “responsible” for their dissatisfaction.  Until they know otherwise, the partner often takes on the responsibility for the addict’s unhappiness, frequently entering into the cycle of addiction with the addict – trying everything within their means to make the addict happy and having to face the shame of continued failure.  Eventually, the partner may shut down sexually and cut off any connection they may have to their own sexual needs and desires, unable to face the continual shame of failure and humiliation.  Compounding this shame is the addict’s blaming and shaming behaviors toward the partner.  Because of their inability to “please” them, addicts often accuse their partners of being “frigid, repressed, uptight,” or even “asexual.” Sadly, partners begin to believe these lies and end up losing any self-esteem they might have had in regards to sexual intimacy and desirability. These feelings of shame are compounded when the sex addict turns away from the partner toward masturbation, pornography, sex sites or other partners in search of a “better” fix.

Shame

Ultimately, what is created within the partner of a sex addict is a deep well of shame – shame over not being able to please their partner, shame for agreeing to sex acts they might feel uncomfortable with, shame over wondering what is wrong with them and shame over wondering if there is something wrong with their partner in a culture that often glorifies sex addiction and in a partner who might still be in denial.  When recovering from a relationship with a sex addict, healing this shame is the primary and most critical task.  In tomorrow’s blog we will explore strategies for healing yourself from a relationship with a sex addict.

If you are a partner of a sex addict, please seek out help and support through counseling, psychotherapy or a local 12-Step group well versed in the subtleties of sex addiction. For additional support, check out Mending a Shattered Heart – a Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, edited by Stephanie Carnes, PhD.

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Posted in addictions, Body/Mind/Spirit connection, guilt, Healing, shame, sin, The Seven Deadly Compulsions

Sex Addiction – Causes and Compassion

In yesterday’s blog, we explored the subject of sexual addiction and ways to identify this behavior in ourselves or our loved ones so that we might seek out help.  In today’s blog, we will examine some of the possible causes of sex addiction, specifically the deeper emotional and spiritual wounds what are ultimately seeking healing.

Causes of Sexual Addiction

As is the case with other addictions, there are no cut and dried formulas in their cause.  There are, however, some reported similarities between sex addicts which warrant examination:

  • Sex addicts often come from dysfunctional families
  • Many report a past history of having been physically, verbally or emotionally abused
  • 82% of sex addicts reported having been sexually abused as children
  • 80% reported substance abuse as present within their family of origin
  • Many report parents as distant, uncaring and rigid
  • It is theorized that abnormalities in brain chemistry may predispose a person to addictive behaviors, including sex addiction

(Source:  Herkov, M. (extracted 2013). What causes sexual addiction? www.psychcentral.com.)

Behavior modification

As discussed in yesterday’s blog, sex addiction is recognized in compulsive, uncontrollable behaviors most often driven by anxiety.  Addiction language speaks of this anxiety as the “emotional trigger.”    Learning effective methods for dealing with this anxiety or confronting the specific emotional trigger goes a long way in supporting recovery and healing in sex addicts and allows the addict to create new and healthier ways of responding to these triggers.  It has been my experience, however, that in many (if not most) cases, the addictive behavior ultimately has nothing to do with the behavior itself (ie: fantasizing, masturbation, use of pornography, etc.), and simple behavior modification, while necessary, is not enough to facilitate long-term recovery, and more importantly, does not help the addict learn how to cultivate and enjoy healthy, loving, intimacy. For as long as they are indulging their addiction, sex addicts are incapable of experiencing or participating in true intimacy.

Sex Addiction and Need

Instead, sex addiction has much more to do with deeper, unhealed spiritual and emotional wounds that are seeking to be made known so that they may be healed.  Sex addiction, contrary to the belief of many addicts (and their partners), is not about love or intimacy.  Sex addiction isn’t even really about sex.  Sex addiction is about seeking the remedy to a deep, inner, often unnamed pain.  As mentioned above, many sex addicts report having been emotionally, mentally, verbally, physically and even sexually abused as children.  For sex addicts, sexual behaviors (including fantasizing) allowed them to disassociate from the on-going trauma and provided temporary relief from the pain.  In order to facilitate enduring recovery, the addict needs to acknowledge this pain and identify the needs that were left unmet in their childhood.  Some of these needs might include:

  • The need to feel safe and that their needs for food, clothing, and shelter were being met
  • The need to feel of value and as if they had something significant to contribute
  • The need to feel supported in being and living as their most authentic self
  • The need to feel unconditionally loved
  • The need to feel free to express their needs and their truth
  • The need to know their truth and their path
  • The need to feel as if they were not alone

As the addict works on healing these deeper unmet needs and unacknowledged childhood wounds,  learns strategies for getting these needs met and tending to themselves in adulthood, while developing healthy interventions for managing anxiety, the addictive behaviors become less and less necessary.  Addressing these deeper wounds then provides the foundation upon which the addict can begin to cultivate what they have been missing all along – healthy, loving intimacy.

If you believe that you or your partner is suffering from sex addiction, please seek help and support through counseling, psychotherapy or 12-step recovery groups tailored to the needs of sex addicts.

To learn more about sex addiction, check out Out of the Shadowsby Patrick J. Carnes, PhD.

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Posted in addictions, shame, temptation, The Seven Deadly Compulsions

Sex Addiction

Sexual Addiction

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am venturing down a path that I have learned is incredibly taboo – the discussion of the very real issue of sex addiction. In a culture where objectification is marketed as a commodity and “sex sells”, sexual addiction and its related behaviors (compulsive: fantasizing, masturbation, use of pornography, sex sites, multiple partners or even prostitution,) becomes simply another “normal” activity.  In the world of psychology, however, these compulsive behaviors are not normal, neither are they considered healthy and are characterized as behaviors consistent with “sexual addiction,” or “hypersexuality.”  Currently 3-5% of the population self-identifies as suffering from sex addiction, and are seeking help.  It is estimated that many more are suffering and either in denial or refusing help for their addiction, explaining it away as “normal.”  With the accessibility and mainstreaming of pornography and online sex sites, sex addiction is growing problem – for the addict, their partners and their families. In today’s blog, I will address sex addiction in general and how to identify it in yourself or your partner so that you might seek support.

The downward spiral of sex addiction

Like any other addiction, sex addiction begins with an innocent act, such as the discovery of pleasure or an innocent means of alleviating stress. Sex addiction, as opposed to healthy sexual engagement, is recognized by the addict’s need for increasing intensity of activities (whether fantasizing, participating or viewing) in order to obtain the desired results, results which only satisfy temporarily, thereby provoking the addict to search for their next fix. The behaviors of a sex addict are similar in scope to any other addiction such as alcohol or drugs – always looking for the next fix and unsatisfied until the fix is obtained. Some addicts eventually find themselves turning to pornography, multiple partners, on-line sex sites, even prostitution to satisfy their “need.”  Addicts continue this behavior without regard to their own emotional, mental, relational, physical or financial well-being; many tumbling into financial ruin because of their need for “more;” and many relationship have been destroyed because of the behavior of a sex addict.

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Defining Sex Addiction:

While a formal definition has not yet been agreed upon, The American Psychological Association has drafted preliminary criteria for evaluating what they are now calling Hypersexual Disorder:

The symptoms of Hypersexual Disorder are:

  • Over a period of at least six months, a person experiences recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior in association with four or more of the following five criteria:
    1. Excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.
    2. Repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability).
    3. Repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to stressful life events.
    4. Repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.
    5. Repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.

(extracted from:  http://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-of-hypersexual-disorder-sex-addiction/0005046 )

Stephanie Carnes, PhD (Mending a shattered heart – a guide for partners of sex addicts, 2009) further describes sex addiction as:

  • The need to increase the intensity, frequency, number or risk level of behaviors in order to achieve the desired effect; or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number or risk.
  • Distress, anxiety, restlessness or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior.
  • Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological or physical problem that is caused by or exacerbated by the behavior.

Sex Addiction is not about sex – in and of itself

Now, let me be very clear:  Sex addiction is not about morality.  Neither is sex addiction about sex, creativity, innovation, fantasizing, pornography, sex sites, prostitution, masturbation or multiple partners, in and of themselves.  Sex addiction is about compulsive, repetitive, uncontrollable behaviors driven most often by anxiety which is not satisfied until the desired sexual activity is engaged in and accomplished.  The causes of this anxiety can be any number of things:

  • boredom
  • unhealed childhood wounds or trauma
  • challenging life situations
  • stress
  • unhappiness
  • depression
  • grief
  • arrested development
  • undiagnosed mental illness (ie:  bi-polar, narcissism, borderline personality disorders, etc.)
  • unacknowledged feelings of shame
  • loneliness

The role of anxiety in sex addiction

Somewhere in their development, sex addicts discovered sexual behaviors as a way to alleviate this anxiety and never learned healthier, more fulfilling and enduring measures for dealing with anxiety or its underlying causes.  As such, their anxiety and its underlying causes are never really satisfied or healed which leaves the addict in an endless hamster wheel of anxiety, engagement and more anxiety.  Many sex addicts are also able to identify a specific emotional trigger which leads to the anxiety which then leads to the compulsive behavior.  Compounding this cycle is the shame felt by many sex addicts who know on some level that their behavior is ultimately detrimental to their own (as well as others’) wellbeing, and the insidious way in which shame itself becomes and addiction.  While there are many negative consequences to the activities of a sex addict (destroyed relationships, reduced sensitivity to sexual stimulation, impotency, financial ruin, etc.), what sex addicts ultimately miss out on is true emotional and sexual intimacy which can never be obtained while indulging in the cycle of addiction.

(See tomorrow’s blog on “Compassion for the Sex Addict”)

If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from sex addiction, please get help.  Learn more about sex addiction HERE.  Further support for recovery from sex addiction may be obtained through an experienced counselor or psychotherapist and there are 12-Step programs specifically designed for sex addicts and their loved ones.