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Excerpt from book

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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, an 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 at 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 at 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!”

After listening to this, I ask, “Do you love your wife?”

“Of course I love my wife. She’s the mother of my children.”

“Well, how have you treated her?”

“Oh, not very well.”

“Have you lied to her?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you betray her trust? How have you treated your mistress?”

“Well. It’s been a pretty rocky road.”

“Have you lied to her and humiliated her?”

“Well, that’s her side of the story. . . .”

And so it goes on, with me pointing out all of his behaviors that demonstrate that, rather than loving his wife, girlfriend, or mistress, he treats them with anger. Women are equally blocked in identifying their anger toward the men with whom they are emotionally involved. They, too, do not want to hear how angry their emotional vulnerability makes them.

In my practice, I continually see how sexual anger is generated by shame. Not just the shame of people acting against their values—but the shame that tells people that, at the core or deepest parts of their being, they feel worthless and inadequate. Living in shame is an uncomfortable place for addicts because shame generates feelings of being less valuable than others, being vulnerable, or being out of control. To combat these feelings, the addict uses anger as the cure. Anger allows the addict to move from feeling vulnerable to feeling “safe.” Anger acts as a mask or a wall the addict can hide behind—he may feel safer, but it is a lonely, isolated place to live. Often the addict lives between these two extremes: the low of shame and the high of anger.

My work as a therapist specializing in sexual compulsivity leads me to search for the connection between that early shaming/wounding and a sexual component, that is, a specific incident in which sex and shame got connected. All my work as a sexual compulsivity therapist ultimately depends on nurturing my clients to an understanding of how their childhood shame developed this sexual or eroticized component. The yoking together of sexual energy under conditions of severe abuse creates traumatic connections that, in later life, will associate sex with shame, pain, and anger. I call the resulting product of this pathological association sexualized anger. Recognizing it in the lives of my clients—and coaching them to remake their emotional lives, free from shame-based sexual compulsion—may be the most essential part of my work.

In my practice, I am continually blessed by witnessing the transformation of my clients from the hopelessness of the sexual addictive cycle to the self-empowerment of healthy sexual expression.