When you act out sexually, are you ever really happy? Maybe? What if you think of happiness as before, during AND after? I worked with a return client recently who had completely stopped his sexual addictive behavior and when I asked him what the difference was for him this time around in treatment, he reflected and shared this revelation with me: “I recognize now that how I feel afterwards is very important to me.”
Sounds so simple and profound but a lot of work went into this shift of thinking and behaving for my client. In short, he had to rewire the reward systems in his brain…and, no, not surgically! He and many of us need to really examine the age-old question, “what makes me happy?” The addictive part of our personality will tell us that grabbing the immediate high of acting out sexually is the answer but to echo my client’s experience…how do you feel afterwards? Was acting out mere fool’s gold?
Quality of your relationships greatly matter
Do yourself a tremendous favor and watch an amazing TED talk on the study on happiness. It does not address sex addiction but rather what research finds is essential to happiness and positive human development. In short, being socially connected to loved ones and community proves necessary in order to enjoy a good life.
Now connect that to your sexual compulsive behavior. Notice if you feel connected to not only others but yourself too when you begin the ritual that is your acting out behavior. Are you happy? Perhaps acting out is somehow trying to fill that void? What’s lacking?
Another article on the secret to happiness speaks to the science of having a positive attitude towards life and the numerous benefits happiness brings to your day-to-day. Happiness precedes success rather than the result of being successful. But what if you are not “naturally” happy…is it possible to retrain your brain? Yes! And by doing so, you can become more motivated, creative and productive, as well as better at handling unplanned life events and rebounding from failure or tragedy…and even addiction.
Practicing happiness is rather subjective and a vast subject. Still, here are a few suggestions from both research and my experience working with clients.
- Mindfulness practices such as meditation
- Social connectedness
- Physical and creative hobbies
So, back to the original question—when you act out sexually, are you really happy? Chances are no. Acting out sexually serves as a coping strategy, a method to deal with unmet feelings and experiences. For those who have struggles with compulsive sexual behavior, you will likely notice that you have been “practicing” this coping mechanism since you were young.
Much like a business, it’s beneficial and necessary to do some type of quality control. If you’re triggered or just finishes acting out and feeling lousy about yourself, what did you miss? What was lacking? Can you follow the threads and determine how you got to this place? Think about the thread of happiness and whether you were really unhappy when you started the ritual of misbehaving. Another blog I wrote may be of help to you in investigating this process.