I received the following question when I was conducting a webinar on sexual addiction:
“I have had a pornography addiction since I was a teenager. I am now in my mid 30’s. For the past four months I have abstained through Inner Child work, but two days ago I visited a porn site and masturbated. I feel really sad about this. What is the best way to address this?”
Pornography addiction is quite common. At one of my Five-Day Couples’ Intensives, one of the men was working on his porn addiction and was feeling embarrassed about it. In an effort to help him, I asked, “How many of you are addicted to porn?” Among the six couples there, four of the men raised their hands.
If I was working one-on-one with the questioner – I will call him Lance – this is what I would ask:
“Lance, there must be a very good reason you started to look at porn as an adolescent. What was going on for you then that led to this?”
The following dialogue is a compilation of many such sessions.
Lance might have said: “I was awkward and shy and afraid of getting rejected, but my hormones were over the top. Pornography offered me a way of managing my sexual feelings without having to risk rejection. It was very available and more fun and erotic than fantasy.”
“Lance, tell me about your sadness.”
“I feel like I let myself down. I had made a decision to abstain and I went back on it. My inner child doesn’t like it and doesn’t feel good about it. It feels like I violate myself and my values when I use women this way, but sometimes the adolescent part of me acts out.”
“Lance, please go inside and ask yourself what you were feeling before you masturbated to porn.”
“….I was feeling lonely.”
This is almost always the answer I receive when I ask what someone was feeling before acting out with pornography – or most other addictions.
Loneliness is a very hard feeling. This is likely what Lance was feeling as an adolescent, as loneliness is a very common feeling during adolescence. Unfortunately, most of us never learned how to manage loneliness, and many people judge themselves for feeling lonely, so they have learned turn to various addictions to avoid the feeling.
Loneliness is a fact of life. Feeling lonely is not an indication that there is something wrong with you. We feel lonely whenever we want to connect with another person and no one is available to connect with – either because no one is there or because the person there is shut down and unavailable for connection. Lance needed to learn how to manage loneliness in order not to resort to his addiction.
“Lance, right now, see if you can find that place of loneliness inside your heart and soul. Embrace the loneliness with compassion toward yourself – with kindness, gentleness, tenderness, caring and understanding. Can you do this?”
“Now continue to hold that feeling with compassion until it starts to subside. Then be willing to release it to the universe, saying, ‘I release this loneliness and replace it with acceptance and peace.”
Lance does this. “Now what do you feel?”
“Much better! The sadness is gone and so is the loneliness. I feel lighter.”
“Lance, this is what you need to do with all your deeply painful core feelings – loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, helplessness over others, grief and sorrow. When you embrace these very painful feelings with compassion rather than with judgment or by numbing them with addictions, then your inner child doesn’t feel alone inside. You can manage these painful feelings when you do this kind of bonding/” title=”View all articles about Inner Bonding here”>Inner Bonding process.”
We all need to learn to manage the deeply painful feelings of life. This is what is necessary in order to not use addictions to numb our feelings.
[Margaret Paul Relationship Toolbox]