Why Is It So Hard To Stop Acting Out? (Breaking Up Is Hard To Do), By James Gallegos, MFT

Stopping, really stopping, a sexual compulsive behavior or addiction presents a major challenge. Some of us can actually stop or at least curb our behavior but we never really feel out of the woods. We continue to feel that we are prone to relapsing. Intellectually we may know that the bad choices we might make are harmful, even wrong, yet we still know that if we get to a certain tipping point, all logic or maturity might just fall away.   


Why is that we just can’t seem to really let go of our acting our behaviors, our addict — at least not all the way?


How do you let go and finally break up with your addict? Many people who struggle with sexual compulsive behavior look at their struggle as a sort of Jekyll and Hyde or good versus evil battle. If you are a person who grapples with a sex or porn addiction, have you ever considered that your acting out behavior is something, some aspect of you that you actually rely on? It can be helpful to check out the ways the use of porn or sex works for you. How does this behavior, your addict, attempt to help you cope with your problems?

The Addict: Friend Or Foe?
It is possible to begin to look at your addict as a friend, not a foe. I believe we often overlook the emotional relationship or dependency we have on sex or porn. It’s like that favorite toy or activity that we used to use to feel comforted, to feel safe. I often conjure up an image of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts character, Linus, and his attachment to his ever-dependable blanket … the quintessential comfort object. These items—teddy bears, blankets, a favorite toy, for example—provide familiarity, and safety during trying times. As children and adolescents, we may have used comfort objects to soothe, to cope, to feel better when we experienced hard feelings. They helped us bridge the gap as we matured through the stages of our human development.


If you’re struggling with sex addiction, might porn or addictive behavior be working like a security blanket?


Think of how long you have actually had your behavior around. Perhaps at first maybe it was just fantasy and masturbation. Eventually you progressed to more frequent and/or severe behavior. Your comforting behavior, your addict, has likely traveled with you for most of your life. Maybe you relied on porn for many reasons—like when you were bored, lonely, angry, etc. to self-soothe. In this sense, the addict is like an old friend that provides familiarity and (short-lived) comfort. But, is this addict part of you a friend who really has your best interests in mind?

How To Change This Relationship
If it is hard to break up with your addict, how about growing him up instead? How can you go about changing the nature of this relationship? Can you see what your addict is trying to accomplish and then find other ways to cope rather than acting out sexually?

Here are some questions to examine to help you do that:

•   How long has your addict been around? At what age did you start acting out?

•   How does your addict help you? What do you get out of acting out sexually?

•   What would it be like to stop? Can you see a life without acting out? Have you experienced that already and what was it like?

Understanding this concept can be an important step in actually changing your behavior. Examining why you act out, the relationship you have with your sexual behavior, will begin to tell you how and why you rely on your addiction. Then you have a chance of either breaking up with the addict part of you — or helping that aspect of you to mature, helping that part find ways to find comfort and safety that are not detrimental.

8 thoughts on “Why Is It So Hard To Stop Acting Out? (Breaking Up Is Hard To Do), By James Gallegos, MFT

  1. josh

    I’ve fallen into that Jekyll and Hyde mentality a lot too. This is a great and helpful article. I like the the attachment-theory
    blanket analogy too. You can even push this a bit further, perhaps. What is it that ultimately causes us to rely on our attachments, even when they are out-dated, counter-intuitive, and self destructive? I’m beginning to think it is a form of fear. Continuing with our addictions is destructive, but it is familiar. Recovery is new, it can be scary. After all, it involves nothing less than letting go of life long mentalities and courageously facing reality.

    1. James

      Hi Josh,

      Good to hear from you and thank you for your own thoughts and input. Indeed we are creatures of habit and routine…and we will seek out the familiar more times than not no matter how damaging they are. Investigate new ways to cope and learn…you always have a choice.

      Be Well,
      James

  2. SP

    My therapist blew my mind when he explained this “comforting friend” concept to me and he also mentioned how “breaking up” with this friend requires going through a grieving process similar to dealing with a good friend passing away. The standard five stages of grieving are 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance. As an addict trying to rid himself of his best and worst friend, I’ve seen myself going through the first four stages over and over again. I just haven’t figured out how to get to the Acceptance stage, yet.

    Good article, thanks for sharing!

    1. James MFT

      Hello,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Really cool that your therapist helped you through this and that it resonated. This old behavior worked for you at one time and it sounds like you are exploring new (and better) ways to live. Good for you.

      Best,
      James

  3. Mark Brouwer

    Thanks for this article. I really appreciate and agree with the perspective that we overcome sexual compulsion not by “breaking up with” (or denying, or killing off) the part of us that is the addict … but growing him up. I work with lots of evangelical Christian clients who equate the addict part of them with their sinful self … but it’s not that simple. The “addict” part of us is not simply the personification of all that is bad in us … it’s more about the part of us that seeks to cope with pain. I appreciate your article.

    1. James

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comments and I am happy that you found value. Sounds like you too have to help people eliminate (as best you can) the shame and look at the behavior objectively. Good luck to you and helping others.
      Best,
      James

  4. Too Embarrassed to Leave Name

    This words by Gallegos really hit the spot for me right now on May 16, 2012 at 9:18 am. I am putting these details down right now because at this moment I am in need of escape from my reality and instead of looking at diving into porn I retreated to this site. I have to confess that before I came to this site I did look at porn and after a few minutes I had to escape and came here. Just as Gallegos writes here porn for way too many years of my life was something I came to rely on, to give me comfort (short lived as it was). Whenever I have times of stress I reach back into that recess in my brain of escape and that escape for me was porn, prostitutes, and the abuse of marijuana. Working with George Collins now for a few years the abuse of marijuana has gone away. The abuse was that I made weed a part of my ritual when I went to go see prostitutes. I have stopped seeing prostitutes, however, the easy availability of porn online has been a struggle but one that is a struggle to stop. One method that I have used to replace the need to look at porn is what Collins has worked with me on and Gallegos writes her is the need for my inner mind to mature and deal with my issues in an adult way. As fucking ridiculous as it sounds here I am a 52 year old person with a 10 year old kid, who I am trying to teach healthy ways of acting, and here I am having to grow up myself. But it is, what it is and better late than never. I know that getting out and staying out of this mental hole I have dug for myself will be a struggle for the rest of my life and having the roadmap to recovery that Collins has laid out for me will make it safer for me not to get lost.

    1. James Gallegos

      Hello,
      I’m happy that you found personal value here. Seeing that you have been acting out in some way for over 80% of your life just shows you how much you have depended upon this for getting by. Good for you for opting to instead change and get help. That takes courage and compassion and you have both. Stay in it.

      Best, James

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *