Work With The Mind To Stop Sex Addiction
- Written by Joe Zychik
For long-term success you need to be able to identify the signs of repression
For two years George did not experience any sexually addictive desires. During that time he stopped all his sexually addictive behavior. Then, one afternoon he went on a sex addiction binge at a massage parlor.
Malcolm did not act sexually addictive for a month; the few sexually addictive desires he experienced he pushed out of his mind, easily. He told his wife his problem was over. A week later he watched three porn videos.
Steve forced sexually addictive desires out of his mind by following his therapist's advice. He was so happy he told everybody at his group therapy meetings to follow the doctor's orders. But then Steve stopped going to group because he had returned to his sex addiction.
If you ask people who act addictively about their past attempts to stop, they'll tell you that when they stopped:
they had no desire, or
the desire was easy to get rid of, or
it was difficult to get rid of.
Then ask them, "If you didn't have an addictive desire, or you were able to get rid of it, why did you go back to your addiction?"
Sometimes you will hear an answer similar to what George told me: "I went along fine for months, no desire, no urge, not even thinking of it. Then, one day out of nowhere, it just hit me. I had to do it."
Others will convey Malcolm's experience: "I fought it when it happened and it seemed easy. Then it got worse and worse. I couldn't take it any more. The desire was too strong."
Some people will remind you of Steve: "I felt good about myself. The desire would come and I would make it go away. It was mind over matter. But I got weak. I couldn't get the desire out of my mind."
Look closely and you'll observe three progressive phases in people's failed attempts to stop addictive behavior:
The person gets rid of the addictive desire.
The desire returns days or even years later.
He resists the returning desire until he can't fight it any longer. Then, since he has no way of coping with the desire, he returns to addictive behavior.
This three-phase experience illustrates repression.
It is the most common reason most people don't overcome any addiction, especially sex addiction.
If you've ever attempted to stop any addictive behavior, you'll probably find some of these symptoms familiar:
-Living in fear of experiencing an addictive desire you can't get rid of.
-Resorting to other addictive behaviors, including overeating, drinking, drug use, smoking, workaholism, compulsive exercise, or obsessive sexual activity.
-Excruciating pain when you try to push the desire out of your mind.
-Feeling as if a ticking time bomb of addictive desire in your subconscious will explode any minute.
-Anxiety, depression or anger when you experience a strong, long-lasting addictive desire.
-Feeling afraid to go outside, turn on the TV, read a book, listen to the radio, or even answer the phone because your addictive desire might be "triggered."
-When the desire strengthens, you feel you are bad or weak. When it subsides, you're afraid it will strengthen again.
-Every day feels like a never-ending losing battle to control a swarm of uncontrollable urges.
In my attempts to stop smoking, I went through just about every one of these grueling symptoms. I kept going through them until I developed an approach that did not rely on repression.
I wasn't sure what the results of my new approach would be, I just knew that repression had failed me too many times.
When I applied my method I was amazed to discover that I could experience my addictive desires without climbing the walls. That was a first for me.
The second welcome change was that - on my own - I could choose whether or not to smoke. I didn't have to rely on behavior modification gimmicks, support groups, a Higher Power, prayer or self-condemnation.
I overcame my addiction by doing something you've done many times in other areas of your life. It's something you know from your own experience works; you just haven't known how to apply it to your addiction.
What I did was to teach myself how to face my addictive desire head-on - I didn't have to bury it or hide from it -then I taught myself how to choose whether or not to act on it.
Look at the accomplishments in your life.
When you tried to hide from a problem, you made it worse.
If you didn't have a correct method of making a decision, your chances of making the wrong one were very high.
You achieved a goal when you faced the problem honestly and decided in a correct manner what to do about it.
I took these simple principles and applied them to overcoming addiction.
I knew I had discovered something so important, it could change my life and the lives of millions of addicted people. But getting that message out took another 25 years. So let me share with you what I have observed since 1975 about repression and how addiction is successfully overcome.
I define repression as:
an attempt to consistently exclude from consciousness a thought or feeling you decide is threatening.
If you conclude that a thought or feeling is not good for you, that it is bad, that it is a threat, your first reaction will be an attempt to consistently keep it out of your conscious mind. The attempt to continuously keep it out is repression.
Repression occurs two ways:
You consciously try to drive the desire out of your mind, and/or
Your subconscious automatically keeps it out.
The most common form of repression is subconscious.
The symptom of subconscious repression is:
At the beginning of the attempt to stop, the desire seems to have gone away or lost most of its power.
If you ever attempted to overcome addiction and failed, you probably went through a phase in which you truly felt like the addictive desire had left you or had lost most of its power.
Although you sincerely believed you had triumphed over your addiction, what you were experiencing was subconscious repression. You did not know it and no one told you.
If you were in conventional, licensed therapy, a Twelve Step Program or a religious approach, you were probably congratulated for driving the desire out of your mind.
I doubt anyone said, "You're walking around with a repressive time bomb that can explode without warning. When it explodes, you will most likely return to addictive behavior."
Let's take a closer look at repression to understand how this happens.
The mind abhors repression because:
-The mind relies on "emotional accounting":
If you compulsively watch TV, your mind needs to be able to identify that you spend too much time in front of the tube. If you are enthusiastic about photography, your mind needs to figure out if your hobby is an emotional asset or an obsessive liability.
If you love your family but spend your evenings watching TV and digitizing photos, your mind is designed to tell you, "Hey, you're putting too much time and effort into TV and photography and not enough into the people you love. The return on investment of your time, effort, and emotional energy is lousy. You need more emotional profit in your life."
When you repress, you distort the mind's emotional accounting process. To let you know that the emotional calculations are being distorted, the mind sends out a pain signal.
The pain is the mind's way of telling you, "You're trying to misrepresent the emotional balance sheet. I'm going to send you pain until you honestly acknowledge your emotional inventory."
Think back to your last failed attempt at overcoming addiction. For most people there is a phase when the desire becomes so painful they can't cope with it.
That pain is not from the addictive desire. It's from repressing.
-The mind needs to give you accurate data to help you make decisions:
Your ability to make decisions is a life-or-death matter. To make sure you survive and emotionally prosper, when the mind encounters repression it sends a pain signal to let you know that your decision-making process is dysfunctional.
The mind is trying to tell you, "How can I help you make decisions if you won't let me give you all the data? Stop trying to lie to yourself. Your survival is at stake. If you die, I die!"
Review your failed attempts to stop and you'll probably notice that returning to your addiction felt like you could live your life again. You may have even felt calm and comfortable even though you knew the addiction was a major cause of stress in your life. The reason you felt calm and comfortable was that by returning to your addictive behavior, you relieved the stress of repression.
Repression is an attempt to distort awareness by consistently excluding from consciousness a thought or feeling you decide is a threat.
To protect itself from distortion, the mind sends out pain signals when it encounters repression.
The pain of repression can be greater than the pain of acting addictively.
To relieve the pain of repression, you return to the addiction.
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