3. Beginning to Face the Problem: Compulsive Sexual Behaviors
In this Practice:
Review the definition of compulsive sexual behavior
Sexual behaviors other than watching porn
What happens to you when you compulsively misuse your sexuality?
Third Practice Assignment
Let’s review our definition of compulsive sexual behavior from Practice 1.
Compulsive sexual behavior is our use of sex to alter moods, handle feelings, handle life. What makes it compulsive is that is progresses—it takes root in our soul in a way that it self-reinforces its usefulness to us and our need for it. We become dependent on it.
We know we’re becoming compulsive when we have difficulty controlling our use of sex, hide our behaviors from others, suffer consequences because of what we do sexually and are behaving contrary to our own best will and desires.
Compulsive sexual behavior is progressive, becomes a substitute for healthy relating, takes over our will and is pathological.
For many of us—especially those of us who have grown up in the Internet and high-tech era—viewing porn and masturbating has been our primary if not exclusive way of sexually compulsive behavior.
For others of us struggle with many other ways of behaving sexually. Just a few examples:
Using fantasies based on real or imagined sexual encounters with others to arouse ourselves
Seducing partners in a way that our arousal is based on conquest rather than genuine connection
Anonymous sexual encounters
Attracting the sexual attention of others by exhibiting ourselves and being aroused by their reactions
Paying for sexual services from others
This is not an exhaustive list, but is meant to illustrate that there are many different ways our use of sexuality can become compulsive.
How does compulsively misusing our sexuality affect us?
This compulsion may let you take a break now and then, but it never really lets you go. Lots of guys will be able to stop doing whatever is bothering them for a bit. Especially when life gives them an interruption, like a vacation, new job, relationship, any sort of break in routine. I often said I could stop. It was staying stopped that was my problem.
Sometimes you’ll white knuckle it for a bit and a voice in your head will tell you the problem’s gone away. That’s not how this compulsion works. It does not go away. It may seem to disappear for a time, but if you’ve truly become compulsive, this behavior will come back when you’re stressed, bored or out-of-balance. It always does.
This compulsion harms our relationships with others. Moving boundaries are something we almost always will hide from others. There’s an inherent shame in the kind of appetite for sexual stimulation we have. It’s selfish. That’s one thing. It’s all about you and me. But as our appetites progress, we will hide where they’re taking us. Are you hiding your behaviors? Are you struggling with shame? This will only get worse until you do whatever it takes to break this pattern and live a different life.
This compulsion harms your sense of who you are. Let’s say you’re a spiritual person. Maybe you’re even a really healthy, maturing spiritual person. This compulsion will harm your spirituality because it is a misuse of your personhood. Compulsively misusing sex to handle life is selfish, self-centered, unbalanced and creates cravings it will never ultimately resolve. And that’s the opposite of a truly spiritual life.
This compulsion will deepen your sense of personal shame. Guilt is the reality that there is something I have done wrong. But shame is the sense that there is something wrong with me. Guilt is useful to us, helps us recognize truth about our lives. But shame is toxic to us, lies to us about who we are. The very way compulsive sexual behavior increases our need for more and different erotic stimulation and isolates us from others makes us more vulnerable to this idea that something is wrong with us.
We have a vulnerability to erotic sex. It’s a wonderful thing, sexuality. When we participate in it in life-giving, healthy, balanced ways, our sexuality reflects the better part of us. But when we fall into patterns of misusing our sexuality, it has a disintegrating impact on our souls. We feel ashamed and that shame corrodes our spirituality.
In the next Practice, we will begin the process of rebuilding our lives in a healthier way by breaking out of our isolation and creating a culture of personal support.
Assignment for Engaging the Third Practice—Beginning to Face the Problem: Compulsive Sexual Behaviors
As I said, work at the pace which is best for you; it may be best to do only one or two assignments a day.
1. Go to http://www.fightthenewdrug.org scroll down to “Porn Harms in Three Ways” click on the “Brain” tab and read: “Porn Affects Your Behavior”
2. Go to http://yourbrainonporn.com click on the “Articles” tab and scroll down to “Toss Your Textbooks: Docs Redefine Sexual Behavior Addictions”
3. Now ask yourself:
What have I learned about how not only porn but also compulsive sex works in the brain?
Do I recognize the progression of attraction-hook-progression-loss in my own sexual life?
How do I feel about the way I’ve used my sexuality?
Do I want to live a sexual life I can respect?
Am I coming to agree that I have a problem that will take my life from me bit by bit unless I take steps to genuinely change my trajectory? Am I now willing to do whatever it takes to deal with this problem?
4. I recommend you continue to use this prayer daily:
My Creator, please help me. Help me to be honest with myself. Help me to be open to the Truth. Help me to see my life as it really is. And help me to realize you are here with me and you will help me. Amen.
So do the work of the Third Practice. This will lay an important foundation of your personal willingness to do whatever it takes to change the pathway of your life.
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