When you consider the causes of porn and sex addiction, you may think first of adverse childhood experiences. And you would be right. The prime suspects are: Early attachment injury such as lack of nurturing, emotional neglect/abuse, Sexual abuse by an adult or older child, or an inappropriate or seductive caregiver Abandonment, alcoholism or mental illness in a parent, etc.
We have heard a lot in the news lately about people, mostly women, who have been harassed, betrayed, abused and battered. We have heard a lot of the obvious reasons why it has always been difficult for spouses and women generally to say "enough is enough." We have also heard a lot about the amazing loyalty of Trump voters, many of whom are zealous in their support of a person and a set of beliefs that are opposite to something the voter holds dear. This is particularly true regarding the Trump administration's problems with men's alleged transgressions against women. But more about that later.
Some couples I see who are struggling to come back from sexual addiction seem to be locked in perpetual conflict. For some, mistrust, resentment and aggression characterized their relationship or marriage since the beginning, since long before the sexual betrayal was revealed. For others the discovery of a sexual addiction allowed resentments to blow up into seemingly continual hostility.
If you are a narcissist how would you know it? Maybe you've been accused of being a narcissist; certainly most sex addicts have. But what would it actually feel like if you were a narcissist? When we think of narcissism we often think of the way it looks in the rich and famous, the over-privileged. It plays out in a lack of genuine connection and empathy, an attitude of over-entitlement, and a tendency toward manipulative, deceptive and self serving patterns of behavior.
I have seen many sex addicts who have frequent "slips" (recurrences of addictive behavior), even though they have been working what looks like a rigorous recovery program. These people may be in individual or group therapy, attending regular Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, engaging in a spiritual practice, and generally attempting to use the tools of the program. And yet they will predictably act out in little ways every few weeks or months even though they feel genuinely ready to let go of their addiction.
Sex addicts in treatment for a sexually compulsive behavior are generally asked to decide which behaviors are out of control and interfering with their life. These sexually addictive behaviors differ widely from person to person and they can change over time. They include behaviors like excessive pornography use, commercial sex, voyeurism, compulsive hook-ups, and serial infidelities. These are designated as "bottom line" behaviors or "inner circle" behaviors. These are the things that the addict needs to stop doing completely. These target behaviors determine how much time the addict has accumulated in sexual recovery. As with recovery from alcoholism, sex addicts who slip and engage in an inner circle behavior lose their "time". They begin anew to count their sexually sober days from the day after the slip.
Most recovering sex addicts intuitively know that traveling is a time when they are at increased risk for relapse into one of their old sexually addictive behaviors, such as porn, strip clubs, or hook-ups. On a business trip in a different city, addicts run the risk of getting into a slippery situation without really thinking about it.
People are loving reality cheating videos in droves like the popular YouTube series "To Catch a Cheater" (some explicit imagery). The Ditto for the true life TV series "Cheaters" which promises to document "the pain of a spouse or lover caused by infidelity." These shows specialize in catching or entrapping partners and spouses on camera in the act of cheating on their loved one and showing the betrayed partner's filmed reactions of horror, anger and humiliation.
Sex addiction is by definition a pattern of compulsive sexual behavior that resembles any other behavioral addiction such as gambling addiction in that it is maladaptive and difficult to put down. You may think of sex addiction in any of a number of ways: as a symptom of deeper problems relating to early attachment injury, or a constellation of symptoms such as intimacy avoidance, secrecy and dissociation, or a brain disorder resembling chemical dependency. Or all of the above. But no matter how you choose to think about it, sex and porn addiction are diagnosable and treatable.
In the treatment of addictions it may be that mindfulness is best understood in terms of what it is not. Most people are pretty sure about what mindfulness is. In common usage mindfulness is being aware of something or attending to it. In a spiritual sense you might say mindfulness is being "present" or "in the moment". What mental processes stand in the way of this important recovery skill?