Recently I attended a weekend seminar and was reminded of how quickly and easily people, me included, set up routines. From the opening moment we each entered the meeting space, each of us carved out our own territory—where we sat, where we ate, where we broke to return calls, etc. This exact routine was repeated several times each day. I’m guessing you have done exactly the same sort of thing.
Creating a habit or a routine is not unusual — creating them creates a sense of safety. Without them (particularly when we’re young) life can feel chaotic and volatile. For those who struggle with sexually compulsive behavior, this may be particularly familiar. Think back to your own childhood. Perhaps you too grew up in a chaotic atmosphere and you sought solace and peace through sexual fantasy and masturbation.
Many of the clients I work with are often in a hurry to be rid of their addiction … they see “addict” as an unwelcome entity or a part of them that’s trying to ruin their lives. It’s certainly reasonable to think of it that way, particularly if your acting out behavior has cost you plenty — your marriage, your job, your relationships.
However, have you ever considered your acting out behavior as a routine or ritual you set up for yourself long ago … and it’s simply still with you? Perhaps you created this routine as a sort of solution to a problem.
Let’s think of how your sexual compulsive behavior, a routine you have created, is an attempt at a solution. Consider answering these questions:
- What benefits do you get from acting out? Examples may be having an orgasm or something like it helps to fight boredom.
- What does acting out allow you to avoid? Examples may be a lot of work, not enough work, stress.
- Think of your acting out behavior as a sort of guest. When he or she arrives, what do they want to do? How long does this guest plan to stay around?
Now that you are considering your acting out behavior as a guest (a temporary one at that) who is here to help you sort out a problem, maybe you can begin to interact with him in a different way. In other words, addict isn’t here to hurt; he is here to help … although his solution likely leads to you feeling bad about yourself. So, how do you help him “leave” once he has arrived?
Simply ushering “addict” out the door will likely not work for long. There’s a saying: whatever you resist, persists. The fact that you feel like acting out should tell you something about yourself in that particular moment — that you are having strong feelings about something. Instead of stuffing them down, avoiding them, and acting them out, how about feeling them out? Consider these steps:
- Ask addict to sit down for a talk. Ask him questions. Write these questions and “responses” out. Yes, that means you’re actually dialoguing.
- Ask him how he plans to help you. What is he trying to do for you?
- After getting the information, thank him and ask him to leave. See if he resists or argues with you.
The overarching theme here is to notice that you are having sexual impulses. These are likely masking feelings or thoughts you do not want or know how to deal with. Simply busying yourself each time you feel this will only get you so far … how about a deeper, more permanent change? Taking your feelings on directly may allow you to do just that.