The New Year brings feelings of change. At the start of the year it’s common to set resolutions. It’s a healthy practice to take stock of our lives and consider habits we’d like to change or ways we’d like to grow. Perhaps you want to lose weight, develop new hobbies, or change professional careers…the list can go on. Change, however, requires time, practice and commitment.
While listening to a mindfulness meditation on my Calm application, I was reminded of just how counterproductive it can be to set resolutions and then, with great disappointment, fall short. If you are battling with compulsive sexual behavior and trying to stop, this particularly rings true. How many times before have you tried and then “failed?” Tamara Levitt of Calm speaks to this dangerous game of setting resolutions/goals and then being overly critical of ourselves when we do not meet them. Resolutions can take on an all or nothing mentality. It is important to ensure that the strategy we’re using to implement change is an effective one. When we make resolutions we’re often looking at what is wrong with our life and taking action to fix that problem. Strong feelings of guilt and shame however often ensue when the linear path of pass or fail is not completed.
So, what’s a healthier or better way to go about setting goals? What’s a more compassionate way to stop your addiction to sex and pornography? Levitt points out a stark difference between setting resolutions and instead bringing intentionality to the idea of making personal changes. Intentions offer a much more compassionate energy because they don’t tie us an outcome. They simply ask that we bring mindfulness and presence to our actions and make efforts to change.
Okay…so what can this look like in your recovery program? How can you bring a more compassionate way to dealing with the many ups and downs in your recovery? Realize first that the aforementioned resolution approach is set up for failure. You will have setbacks and the negative feedback loop associated with setting hard and fast rules of “success” feeds feelings of failure, shame, and just wanting to give up. Instead, bringing intentionality and setting up a mindfulness approach possesses both presence and self-compassion and will keep you more engaged in the process…not just the outcome.
Self-compassion is the emotion you feel in response to your own suffering. Here are a few ways to bring self-compassion into your life and recovery from compulsive sexual behavior.
Breathing Meditations. The simple act of sitting down and breathing, focusing on the breath, gets you to pay attention to yourself.
In your journaling and dialogue work, assign a role to Self-Compassion and give that part of you a major role. Let that part (feeling) have a voice.
Practice kindness. Practice patience with yourself and others and be in the present moment when you notice you are reacting negatively.
Self-compassion can ease shame, guilt, and self-criticism associated with sexually compulsive behavior. It can help teach you the art of just starting over when you stumble. Move on and the next moment is a brand new moment. With intentions our focus is not on what we need to fix but rather what we want to create.