There is a well-known tale about an elder who was teaching his grandson about life. It speaks to the need to demonstrate characteristics of peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, compassion, and faith. In short, if you nurture these emotions rather than negative emotions, such as jealousy, hate, and greed, you live a much nicer life.
This tale specifically addresses many of the core issues of those who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior—the dueling stories, the back and forth, and the inner struggle to whether remain sober or to give in to the temptations. It also speaks to how the emotions and qualities we focus on (feed) are the ones that grow. For example, if we continually focus on self-criticism and judgment then those emotions take over and impact our behavior, actions, and overall well-being.
Differentiating thoughts and feelings from the observing, watchful part of you allows you to step outside of your story. If you are experiencing strong urges to act out sexually, how do you separate the urges from your “true” self?
Curiosity and Compassion
Observe the language (internal and external) you use when talking or thinking to yourself. The aforementioned self-criticism may be a persistent one. How do you meet such a harsh feeling and more effectively deal with it…particularly if you notice that is linked to your acting out behavior? First understand that a negative story is running and unfolding but that you need not be that story but rather than the one who is observing that story. There’s a big difference between responding to it with frustration and instead with curiosity, compassion, and patience.
In the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, the centered Self is characterized by demonstrating qualities of leadership. Think of it like any other leader—CEO, sports manager or coach, for example—who possesses certain skills to lead others. Curiosity and compassion are mentioned here as some of those characteristics and will serve you well in your attempts to differentiate the “real” you from the “fake” you (addict). Pay attention to both the content and the recurrence of your self-talk and put the story outside of you for a bit as you practice the important skills of dialoguing, talking back (in the form of writing out) with the feeling or thought you are having. Practice patience and kindness during this process.
Approaching your feelings with curiosity, a sense of interest and wonder often will disarm the heaviest of thoughts. Rather than push it away, hope it goes away, or identify with it too strongly, ask questions of it. Learn from it. The compassion part plays a keen role too, particularly when dealing with feelings of frustration, defeatism, and criticism. Give them their do but then let them go. Remember, what you feed will grow. Our thoughts and words are powerful—reinforcing old stories and beliefs. Which thoughts become habitual?
Observe it all in but once acknowledged it’s up to you to choose which emotions and qualities you want to nurture.