Specializing in Family Counseling, Men's Issues, & Trauma

Trauma & Sexual Addiction: Why Does Trauma Matter?

For many individuals struggling with a sexual addiction, trauma is a fact of life.  The majority of sexually addicted clients I see have significant, unresolved trauma in their past.  The research also supports this reality, showing that sexual addicts are very frequently trauma survivors.  Surviving is exactly what they are doing, too.  The wounds are still there, but significant energy is expended to numb or distance oneself from the pain.  Often times, this has been going on for so long, the addicted person really doesn’t connect emotionally with the trauma any longer.  They really “feel” like it’s not a big deal.  However, the evidence manifested by the existence of their addiction is clear.  The trauma was and remains significant.

The addiction becomes the identified “problem” and the trauma is something secondary which doesn’t need to be dealt with.  It is legitimate to point to the addiction and its consequences as a problem, but let’s define this further.

The sexual addict has two problems:

1st– The presenting problem is the addiction itself, which disrupts their ability to function and maintain healthy relationships.  It was the original mechanism through which the individual deal with their wounding. 

2nd–  Is the underlying trauma/wounding, which necessitated the creation of various avoidance mechanisms, including the sexual addiction, to abbreviate or dull the pain.

In a sense, avoidance in the form of addiction is the vehicle used to survive.  Over time, it develops into a problem of its own, often being the red flag which declares the person needs help.

Getting in My Own Way

Pornography and Sexual Addictions are rooted in shame and secrecy.  Overcoming involves letting go of many of the old ways of operating, and as with any kind of change, even good change, it’s difficult.  Let’s use the example of computer software and hardware.  Out physical being, body and mind are the hardware, the CPU of sorts in how we operate.  The way in which we view ourselves and the world around us, as well as the way in which we interact with our environment comprise our software or programming.  Many Pornography and Sexual Addicts have programming that reads like this:

 

  • I am simply a private person and difficult to get to know.
  • My emotional and relational needs are unimportant.
  • Emotions are irrational.
  • My problems are complicated and unsolvable.
  • Others cannot understand or help me.
  • I don’t have needs, other than those for money, prestige, and sexual gratification.
  • I must limit the amount of information others know about me.
  • My presentation with others should be guarded, limiting their access to me.
  • I can simply stop “acting out” and this will solve my problems. 

 

Programming such as this is the problem.  It pushes for the cessation of sexual “problem” behaviors while leaving the addictive structures in place.  This kind of thinking, which prizes intellectual prowess and logic, operates under the highly irrational belief that one can change without changing.  Paramount in treatment in a badly needed software upgrade.  Let’s reinterpret the programming in a more accurate and truly rational light:

 

I am simply a private person and difficult to get to know.— I keep others from getting close to me/I am alone.

My emotional and relational needs are unimportant.— I don’t know how to get my needs met or am afraid to.

Emotions are irrational.— I am disconnected from my own emotions.

My problems are complicated or unsolvable.— I am special/unique, not like others people.

Others cannot understand or help me.— I am alone/unreachable.

I don’t have needs, other than those for money, prestige, and sexual gratification.— I don’t have a deep understanding of who I am or what I need.  I am empty.

I must limit the amount of information others know about me.— I am hiding.

My presentation with others should be guarded, limiting their access to me.— I am terrified of intimacy.

I can simply stop “acting out” and this will solve my problems.— I am overwhelmed by reality.

 

One of the biggest obstacles for addicts in treatment is the man or woman they see in the mirror each day.  The addict has bonded/attached to the object of their obsession (sex), leaving them blinded or unable to feel what they really need.  Their thinking is a stumbling block to their overcoming addiction.  In fact, if we could harness the energy they place into maintaining this dysfunctional and destructive system, recovery could begin.  Thankfully, the person in the mirror can also be a tremendous ally.  Treatment, powerful, life-changing work, is found in dealing with my propensity to continually get in my own way.  These behaviors are my map to understanding and overcoming my core issues.