The following are some Characteristics of sex and love addiction that we have used to hide the progressive loss of self, which is at the heart of the disease:
- Having few healthy boundaries, we become emotionally and sexually involved with people without knowing them.
- Out of fear of abandonment or loneliness, we stay in or return to painful, destructive relationships, always struggling to conceal our dependency. Real intimacy is rare, if it has ever existed.
- Fearing emotional or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves with one relationship after another, sometimes having more than one sexual or emotional affair at a time.
- We confuse love with such things as neediness intensity, pity, sexual or physical attraction, being a victim or being a rescuer.
- We feel empty or incomplete when we are alone. Though we fear both intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships or sexual contacts.
- We sexualize stress, guilt loneliness, anger, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing, support and understanding.
- We manipulate and control others with drama and sexuality
- We become immobilized or seriously distracted by sexual or romantic obsessions and fantasies.
- We avoid personal responsibility by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable.
- We stay in denial about our addiction to emotional intensity, romantic intrigue and compulsive sexual activity.
- To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement mistaking sexual and emotional anorexia for recovery.
- We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then we blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.
Sex is one of the most powerful forces in the human condition. It can drive individuals to the pinnacle of emotional and physical ecstasy or, conversely, spiral other people into depths of despair and anguish. The power of sexual energy and expression exists because our sexuality is tied, or connected, to the core of who we are; it is our essence, our life force, our creativity, and our passion. A sense of self means an inner knowing, clarity of our true nature or authenticity. In healthy sexual expression, there is desire, connection, and a sense of well-being. The act of expressing one’s self sexually results in a positive, life-enhancing experience; it is an expression of love, an exchange of mutual pleasuring and respect that leads to an intimate connection.
The sexual compulsive person may think this is what he or she is experiencing. However, the opposite is true. Sex for the addict is about intensity, danger, power, and control. It is about emotional numbing, conquering, and getting high. Sex becomes a commodity to be manipulated, a means to a self-defeating end. Sex and love become a game to play, avoidance, a push/pull, or a hunger so powerful that the addict will risk everything to reach that sexual high. No risk or consequence has stopped the addict: disease, financial ruin, lost relationships, legal injunctions, career setbacks, or self-respect. The addict is caught in an intoxicating dance that has induced a delusional reality.
This is the cycle of sex addiction, and it is deadly—not always in physical form, but most assuredly in emotional experience. This “soul” death is temporarily allayed when the addict is on the “hunt” for sex or, at the other extreme, is avoiding sex at all costs. At either end of the spectrum, the addict feels in control and powerful. This is the high, a chemical release that is as addicting as any drug. When these chemicals—or the high—are induced, euphoria washes over the addict, creating the illusion of complete immunity to the realities of his or her internal ache.
Sexual addiction is not a moral issue; it is a coping mechanism born out of the addict’s wounding. The types of wounding can be as diverse as the addicts themselves. Not all addicts are aware of their “wounding,” as abuse or trauma is often covert. When a person is wounded or traumatized, he or she must learn to cope, often without understanding or support. In order to cope or escape their painful realities, addicts may use drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, staying busy, controlling others, or work. Sex addicts escape through sex. Like a steamroller, they cover, protect, and seal the layers of their painful past. Unfortunately, the layers are never erased. The history is embedded like sediments layered in a canyon wall, linear markings of a sordid history, buried but never forgotten.
All sex addicts are profoundly angry with the people they think they love or to whom they have the greatest attraction. Sexual lust or fantasy is the result of the addiction. However, anger is its driving force. Sexualized anger attempts to hide or bury the shame addicts feel at their core. When I suggest to a client (let’s say he is a heterosexual male) that he is angry with women, his response may be, “What are you talking about? Angry at women? I love women! I seek them out! I want to have sex with all the women in the world!” By Maureen Canning
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ― Brene Brown
Working with complex trauma, sexual trauma, sexual addiction and anger at Trauma Recovery Institute
Trauma Recovery Institute offers unparalleled services and treatment approach through unique individual and group psychotherapy. We specialise in long-term relational trauma recovery, sexual trauma recovery and early childhood trauma recovery. We also offer specialized group psychotherapy for psychotherapists and psychotherapy students, People struggling with addictions and substance abuse, sexual abuse survivors and people looking to function in life at a higher level. Trauma recovery Institute offers a very safe supportive space for deep relational work with highly skilled and experienced psychotherapists accredited with Irish Group Psychotherapy Society (IGPS), which holds the highest accreditation standard in Europe. Trauma Recovery Institute uses a highly structured psychotherapeutic approach called Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP).
At Trauma Recovery Institute we address three of the core Attachment Styles, their origin’s the way they reveal themselves in relationships, and methods for transforming attachment hurt into healing. We use the latest discoveries in Neuroscience which enhances our capacity for deepening intimacy. The foundation for establishing healthy relationships relies on developing secure attachment skills, thus increasing your sensitivity for contingency and relational attunement. According to Allan Schore, the regulatory function of the brain is experience-dependent and he says that, as an infant, our Mother is our whole environment. In our relational trauma recovery approach you will learn to understand how the early patterns of implicit memory – which is pre-verbal, sub-psychological, and non-conceptual – build pathways in our brain that affect our attachment styles. Clinically, we can shift such ingrained associative patterns in our established neural network by bringing in new and different “lived” experiences in the Here and Now.
The Role of the Therapist in transforming attachment trauma: Healing into wholeness takes the active participation of at least one other brain, mind, and body to repair past injuries – and that can be accomplished through a one-to-one therapeutic relationship, a therapeutic group relationship or one that is intimate and loving. In exploring the “age and stage” development of the right hemisphere and prefrontal cortex in childhood, we discover how the presence of a loving caregiver can stimulate certain hormones, which will help support our growing capacity for social engagement and pleasure in all of our relationships. Brain integration leads to connection and love throughout our entire life span. At trauma recovery institute we bring a deep focus to the role of Neuroscience in restoring the brain’s natural attunement to Secure Attachment. Our brain is a social brain – it is primed for connection, not isolation, and its innate quality of plasticity gives it the ability to re-establish, reveal and expand one’s intrinsic healthy attachment system.
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) at Trauma Recovery Institute Dublin
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) is a highly structured, once to twice weekly-modified psychodynamic treatment based on the psychoanalytic model of object relations. This approach is also informed by the latest in neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology and attachment theory. As with traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy relationship takes a central role within the treatment and the exploration of internal relational dyads. Our approach differs in that also central to the treatment is the focus on the transference and countertransference, an awareness of shifting bodily states in the present moment and a focus on the client’s external relationships, emotional life and lifestyle.
Dynamic Psychosocialsomatic Psychotherapy (DPP) is an integrative treatment approach for working with complex trauma, borderline personality organization and dissociation. This treatment approach attempts to address the root causes of trauma-based presentations and fragmentation, seeking to help the client heal early experiences of abandonment, neglect, trauma, and attachment loss, that otherwise tend to play out repetitively and cyclically throughout the lifespan in relationship struggles, illness and addictions. Clients enter a highly structured treatment plan, which is created by client and therapist in the contract setting stage. The Treatment plan is contracted for a fixed period of time and at least one individual or group session weekly.
“Talk therapy alone is not enough to address deep rooted trauma that may be stuck in the body, we need also to engage the body in the therapeutic process and engage ourselves as clients and therapists to a complex interrelational therapeutic dyad, right brain to right brain, limbic system to limbic system in order to address and explore trauma that persists in our bodies as adults and influences our adult relationships, thinking and behaviour.”