If you have children, or you’re a child at heart, maybe you’ve seen the movie, Inside Out, an animated film that cleverly depicts the emotions inside a child’s mind as a cast of characters trying to work together—or not—to help their host cope with her outside world. Our minds can often seem that way too…a variety of thoughts and impulses pushing us (often) in divergent directions.
If you struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, this likely rings quite true. Do you often feel that you are being pulled in a direction you know isn’t good for you yet feel powerless to intervene? Clients often describe the addictive part of them as a voice or a character that all too often takes over. As they begin to pay deeper attention to their addictive voice, our clients too begin to understand that there is a lot more going on in their minds than either acting out sexually or not…in fact, in can feel quite crowded.
In our book, Breaking the Cycle, we utilize the metaphor of an amphitheater to the human mind. Within this amphitheater, or sports arena, business office, or any other “venue” that our clients identify with, exist voices—essentially, thoughts and feelings—similar to the movie. By identifying the voices, the key voices, you can then begin to really learn your own psychology…and the impulses that perhaps lead you to acting out sexually.
So, how do you begin to identify the voices (thoughts and feelings) inside your own mind?
1. Track your Feelings
You first need to be curious about yourself. Sounds simple enough but it is quite the discipline to study your thoughts, feelings, and actions…and actually keep notes. Yes, write these down. Keep a journal. Track your thoughts, feelings and actions so that you can notice your own tendencies.
Weren’t we told if we talk to ourselves, we’re crazy? Just the opposite…well, in terms of what I’m describing. Think of all of your most important relationships in your life—family, friends, work—and how vital it is to that relationship that you talk. If you are trying to (re)build a relationship with yourself, you too have to talk. If you struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, you need to talk to the compulsive part of you that acts out sexually.
3. Identify the Voices
Clients who work with us quickly notice that the addict part of their personality is only one of many “characters” they encounter. Often when trying to dialogue with that particular piece, different, often stronger, emotions emerge. Typical voices in the amphitheater include critic, judge, shame, guilt and saboteur, to name a few. These voices represent feelings that are key components of your personality—and how you cope with your environment. By identifying and talking with them, in dialogue form, you learn about yourself.
Practicing these steps will help you build a deeper self-awareness. Recognizing your thoughts and feelings will not only help with identifying events that trigger your compulsive sexual behavior but also develop tools to make better decisions.