Examining your sexual compulsive behavior, you may find that negative feelings often drive the need to act out sexually. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re feeling lousy it’s a natural reaction to search for other things to cope or deal with those feelings so you can opt to escape and feel better—even if it’s just for the short term.
Feelings of shame and guilt and the critical inner dialogues that often accompany them are at the core for most people who struggle with sexual addiction. Watch how often you use the word, “should” in your daily thoughts: “I should be working out more;” “I should be making more money;” “I should be doing something better with my time instead of looking at porn.” Self-critical thoughts keep you stuck in the cycle of addiction.
Dr. Kristin Neff’s research on the power of self-compassion reflects how practicing self-compassion can have amazing results. It’s a fact we commonly treat others with more compassion than we offer ourselves. When we feel it for others, there’s a sense of kindness towards them. There’s empathy, and a real desire to reduce their suffering. And we often fail to offer that same compassion towards ourselves. Instead we place these massive judgments about where we should be in life, the type of job we should have, our earnings, the relationships we should be in—what life should look like. We aren’t good enough, we aren’t attractive enough, we aren’t smart enough… the list goes on.
These are all judgments. And like anything else, the more often we behave in a specific way, the more deep seeded the habit becomes. So rather than berating ourselves perhaps we can practice self-compassion. The question is: how do we do this?
Well, self-compassion involves creating a space within ourselves that’s free of judgment…a place where can respond to our sadness, frustrations, and failures with kindness and care. When you’re having a hard day and you hear yourself saying unkind words, notice what’s happening. Pause, and picture a good friend or your child in your place. Would you say those same words to your friend or child? Probably not. If you keep a journal or dialogue, notice the language you use towards others and to yourself.
Decide what you would say instead and offer that same kindness to yourself. Just as you would comfort a friend, comfort yourself in the same way. Even try placing your hands over your heart and practice speaking kindly to yourself. Soothe yourself. When your inner voice starts up with criticism, counter them with love. Tell yourself how you feel is okay…that you are okay.
Honor your experience and your journey. Offer yourself compassion for your limitations, your failures, for your past and present circumstances. Trust yourself with the love and compassion you would offer a best friend. And in turn you’ll become your best friend.
Practicing Self-Compassion in Your Recovery
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’s both a practice and a life-style change that need not wait until tomorrow, next week, or next year. Start the process now.