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Your acting out is a symptom — a symptom of a bigger issue. If you only focus on stopping behavior, you don’t get to the root of the problem, and it will continue. You might be able to control your porn addiction for a while — what has been called “white knuckling” — but what’s required is understanding what’s driving the machinery, understanding what the acting out behavior is trying to cover up or to soothe.
One of the reasons you might continue to act out sexually, to not be able to get free of your porn or sex addiction, is because your life is too chaotic, and that chaos doesn't allow you to find healthy coping mechanisms. You continue to use acting out as an unhealthy coping mechanism. When you encounter a chaotic time in your life, when you encounter disruption, you can default to acting out behavior, even if you really want to find a different default than something that’s causing damage. So how do you install some new default options?
If you have a cut on your arm, the first thing you need to figure out is what's happening. Maybe you need some antibiotics. If it’s a bad cut, you need to go to the doctor and get a diagnosis. That’s why if your acting out due to sex addiction is harming your life, you need to get some professional help, so you can begin to understand what's happening underneath the surface.
Then you can begin to discover why you're doing what you're doing. You can begin to find greater self-awareness. You need to ask yourself: “What are you doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I making these choices?” If you don’t, you’ll continue to go through a cycle that never ends, and you'll get extremely frustrated, because you actually want to stop the behavior that’s not helping you at all. You have a clear desire to get free, but desire alone hasn't worked. Sheer attempts at using your willpower to overcome a porn obsession won’t work long term.
CARRY ON ONLY PLEASE
When I travel, I'm constantly working to make sure that I have a carry on instead of loads and loads of baggage. So, how can we apply this to your recovery? I was at the airport not long ago. And it's amazing to me how much luggage people bring—how much baggage they bring to the airport. I recognize that if you're going on a long trip, maybe you need more stuff. But then when I went overseas, I packed a carry on — a backpack. I packed it with two-weeks-worth of clothing, and that's all it took. Everything worked out great, it was fantastic. I didn't have a lot of luggage to carry around, I was able to just throw that thing on my back and throw it up in the overhead compartment. I didn't have to wait for my luggage. I didn’t have to worry about it getting lost, because it was with me. It was really great. So, when I saw people at the airport recently with all that luggage, it made me think about recovery and what’s needed.
WHAT BAGGAGE ARE YOU BRINGING?
When we're interacting with the people that we know, when we get into relationships, we can’t help but bring our baggage. We're bringing issues from our childhood, from our past, our addictions, into where we are today. When we’re not aware of this baggage, then we can’t deal with these issues, so they show up in relationships, in careers, in all the spaces of our lives. And those, our issues, cause other issues. Issues that can be harmful to yourself and others. Of course, that's something that we don't want to happen. So what can we do?
You don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to have everything fixed. All your issues won't suddenly be resolved. You’re in recovery. But you can work toward recognizing what’s causing your need to act out. These realizations then begin to allow you to be a little more centered and still, when the chaos comes — which it will. You begin to move toward having less baggage — having a carry on only.
There will always be things that you have to work on or deal with in life, one way or another. But as you bring light to your unconscious, knee-jerk-like responses, you don’t add your own baggage to the challenging circumstance, you don’t respond in an unconscious, more primitive reactive way.
If you want to get to a place of having just a carry on and living in with that measure of freedom, then you have to start asking yourself why you're doing what you're doing. You have to have greater self-awareness.
A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
When we come into a relationship with anyone, they're bringing their baggage and we're bringing ours. You have these two people showing up and they’ve got this huge cart worth of baggage. One person may be thinking, “I need you to help me with my baggage.” But the other person is also thinking, “I need you to help me. I’ve got all these pieces over here.” This prevents either one of them from engaging in a healthy relationship.
If you want a healthy relationship, you need to be healthy. That journey to awareness can be something you need to continue doing. This isn’t to discourage you or to make you feel overwhelmed, but without gaining awareness of what’s at the root of your reactions, you can pick up more baggage along the way. The things you run into, the hardships, the chaos, and the ways of the world, can cause you to pick stuff up from new hurts and resentments.
So, gaining awareness of the way your previously unconscious internal mechanisms have been the root of your reactions can allow you to slim down the baggage you’re carrying around. You bring that baggage into the light of your awareness. This doesn’t mean you minimize your issues — that is repressing. Repressing won’t help you slim down the amount of unconscious baggage.
To get to a point of having a carry on only (instead of lugging around a bunch of unconscious luggage) requires intentionality. It requires the courage to really just look at what’s going on, looking at what’s underneath the surface.
Sometimes people don't do this because they're afraid of what they find, or they just aren’t ready to face it. But I’ve found that often, it’s because you’ve just never been taught how to do it. No one sat down, and said, “Hey, let's talk about this. Let's discuss it, so that you can understand what's happening here.” None of that happened, so you get lost, or resistant.
FINDING ANOTHER WAY
You can ask this question: “What is this stuff, these unquestioned assumptions, I’m lugging around? What is this baggage? Why do I have it?” You can begin to say to yourself, “Okay, I need to understand what's happening. I need to understand why I'm doing what I'm doing. Why do I feel the need to act out? Why am I wanting to act out in the first place? What's coming up for me? What’s putting me in that space?”
If you just offhand or superficially think, “Oh, that’s stress,” or, “Oh, it's overwhelming,” it’s not enough. You need to really think through it, because there could be other things below the surface that you're not aware of. This is the work that’s required.
You need to find out why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why do you have a bunch of luggage? Why do you have the baggage? Why do you continue to carry it around? What's the point?
It’s worth it to find out because the unseen baggage can cause a lot of damage to the people that you love — and to yourself. Just like an infected wound, if you don't clean up that infection, the reason that the pain is there in the first place, then it's going to continue to be painful. And you'll continue to experience the pain. The urges and temptations are not random. There's a reason behind them. And your job, the work that you’re doing is to understand what's behind them, and why it keeps coming up. Otherwise, you'll continue to carry around that huge cart full of luggage instead of having a carry on you can bring with you.
If you’re seeking porn addiction support or therapy, connect with Compulsion Solutions today. We’ve been where you are, and we can help you on the road to reclaiming your life. Contact us today to learn more.
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