Secrets fuel addiction. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, addictions, such as pornography addictions, are a shame based experience. This means that when someone uses pornography they feel as if they are a bad person, rather than feeling that they are a good person despite making a mistake. When someone feels shame, they often compartmentalize what they have done – they hid it and separate it from who they think they really are, or, think that that mistake totally defines who they really are.
This is where secrets come into play. Over time, a man (or woman – I’ve worked with both in therapy for pornography issues) who has been using pornography and feeling shame because of it will gather many secrets. He won’t want to tell anyone what he is doing, or won’t want to tell them all that he is doing. He might only present the best parts of himself or just tell enough about his mistakes to others to appease them or to feel like he is being open. But, in fact, he is keeping secrets. These secrets start to bury him and make him feel more shame. They take effort to maintain and keep hidden. They cause him stress and to feel disconnected from others. All of these things can lead to more addictive acting out.
Being transparent is key. This, in part, is why in the 12-step model of recovery (for alcohol, sexual addiction or substance addiction) addicts are asked to write a fearless moral inventory and to share it. Being open with others can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many would say, “It’s in the past – let it stay there” or, “I don’t want to hurt her, so I’m not going to tell her about it”. These mindsets only make things worse for someone using pornography and their spouse/family. Telling others and being transparent is on the path towards recovery.
Pornography counseling offers a venue to be transparent and honest with yourself and with your loved ones. A good therapist will help you through this process in a way that might be painful, but certainly not shameful.
At one point or another anxiety will impact you. Most of us have an experience with anxiety that makes us feel scared and stressed. Anxiety is the body’s emotional and physical response to a stressful situation or anticipation of a real or perceived difficult circumstance.
It’s important to understand that anxiety is largely a physical reaction to a real or perceived stressor. Calming your body down when anxious allows you to engage the coping skills you have at your disposal. When working with clients presenting with anxiety one of the first things we do is focus on techniques to cope through physical exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. After clients possess the skills to calm their bodies down when anxious, we are able to work on the emotional, relational and intellectual aspects of this difficult emotion.
Anxiety can often take the role of a secondary emotion – an emotion that presents itself as an attachment to your primary emotion. For example, if you are feeling sad, lonely, stressed overwhelmed you might get a general sense of anxiety. Knowing that anxiety is sometimes a secondary emotion helps you to know dig deeper to see what is really going on. Addressing the previous emotions in a specific and deliberate manner helps anxiety lessen.