A New Kind of Sex Addict- Technology’s Role in Shaping Impulsive Behavior.

Porn Addiction and Impulse Control

In the past, sexual addiction was often linked with issues of trauma (example: childhood sexual or physical abuse).  The typical addict was a man who had a history including such difficult issues and was living in an ongoing trauma cycle (create a trauma cycle).  However, as with many issues, sexual addiction has evolved as society has changed.  The chief driver of this shift is technology.  Never before in history has this much information been available so readily.  Quite literally, an individual with a smart phone or other device can access content of any kind at the touch of a button.  The stats are staggering, and point to an extraordinary pursuit of sexual material online.  The man struggling with sexual addiction is no longer only the individual with a traumatic past.  Instead, he is the very embodiment of an impulse control problem.

In a clinical context, we define an impulse as a sudden, perhaps strong desire to perform some kind of action.  These may be carried-out, or the person may filter them, actively deciding upon those he will act on and others which will not be allowed to occur.  In other words, he is taking action to manage or control his impulses.  In the case the “new sex addict,” his impulses are sexual, and his ability to manage of these is steadily decaying.

Impulse + Behavior= Impulsive Behavior/Impulse Control Problems         Short-Term Enjoyment

Impulse +Thought+ Alternate Behavior= Self-Control/Discipline                    Integrity

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The path to sexual content, and in reality, the pleasurable experience of sexual arousal becomes well worn.  Without realizing it, the “new addict” has utilized this arousal to cope with various aspects of life which are difficult for him.  The addictive behavior get woven into the fabric of his life and like a thread, touches many aspects of his existence never intended.  The dependence on sexual arousal to cope with issues like career stress, marital troubles, parenting, and other demands of life works to “retard” the man’s growth.  Rather than endurance and perseverance which lead to the creation of character, the man begins digressing, steadily becoming more impulsive or childlike.  God’s plan is courageous triumph.  The “new addict” has left its pursuit, for sin’s empty course.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

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What is Sexual Addiction?

What is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction can best be understood in two parts.  These are “sex” and “addiction.”  The first of these, sex, includes the cognitive, emotional, relational, and physical expression of sexuality.  It is not limited to the act of sexual intercourse, but includes all variations of sexual expression, thoughts, emotional components, and relationship dynamics.

Sex Addiction and Avoidance

The second component is addiction.  Addiction pathology is similar, in many ways, regardless of the object of the addiction.  In this case, sex is the object.  Addiction is a form of pathological avoidance of reality.  It is an issue of escape.  Perhaps you have spoken to someone who is addicted and experienced the frustration attempting to get them to see and acknowledge reality.  It’s like the are living in another world.  Addiction, often times, originates as a means of escaping the loneliness, hurt, sadness and fear.    Addicts are committed to their avoidance.  They will expend considerable effort to maintain this system, despite its destructive impact on both them and others.

The sexually addicted individual utilizes sex as a means of destructive escape.  Sex is no longer a part of a healthy, marital relationship, as God designed it to be.  Instead, the addict becomes obsessively focused on increasing the arousal and intensity of sexual behaviors, at the expense of intimacy.  Sex addicts compulsively seek out and obtain sexual gratification in harmful ways.  They may utilize pornography, prostitution, anonymous encounters, swinging groups, voyeurism, and compulsive masturbation, to name a few.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

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The “good Christian” with a Porn and Sex Addiction Problem

Your church is full of men who struggle with pornography and masturbation.  Statistics tell us the issue is absolutely rampant, and perhaps one of the most critical issues facing today’s church.  Perhaps you can relate with Gabe’s story.

Porn Addiction in Christian Men

 

Gabe: “The Good Boy & Porn”-

Gabe  grew-up in a Christian home with both parents present.  The family went to church together, read the Bible, and prayed at meal times.  Mom and dad made sure he and his siblings were taken care of in a stable environment.  In fact, looking back, stability was a primary focus for the family.  Each person knew their role and worked diligently to fulfill it.  It played out in daily interactions like a well-choreographed dance.  Conflict was not something Gabe remembers, not because his family was perfect, but because it didn’t happen.  It was the kind of family most people would hope for, and that is what confuses Gabe.  For his part, Gabe was a friendly kid, a bit introverted and socially awkward at times, but well liked.

 

Starting in high school, he began looking at pornography and masturbating.  At first it was once in a while then becoming more frequent.  Each time he felt tremendous guilt and shame.  He would pray and seek God to help him let go of this behavior.  The path down to the alter at his church was well-worn, as Gabe brought his secret sin to God again and again.    There were was a significant, emotionally charged moment in youth group, where teens were asked to write down on paper the sins they had been struggling with, and then symbolically throw them into a fire barrel, where the flames consumed them.

 

Gabe did well for a time, but then, fell again, finding himself back doing what he despised.  He guarded the secret more closely than ever, feeling a bit trapped and jaded.  He wanted desperately to be free, but it hurt too much to let himself get his hopes up that change was possible.  Now, as a young man out on his own in the work world, he masturbates while looking at porn and can’t stop.  He wants deliverance, after all, he can’t get married and still be doing this, or maybe having a wife will make the problem go away.  It’s overwhelming and Gabe is losing hope things can change.

 

Are you Gabe?… God will help…help sometimes looks like a professional counselor.  The Relationship Center is a Biblically Based, Clinically Proven Counseling Center specializing in helping men with pornography and sexual issues.  Contact us today to get started on your journey.  


christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

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How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography….Part II

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How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part II

Check out Part I here: How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part I

The initial conversation is over.

We started STRONG, sending a clear message: we know about the problem (breaking the silence), we care (empathizing with our son), and we can help (our action plan).

Now it’s time to take the next step, active disciplining of our sons, guiding them into MANHOOD.

EXAMPLE TALK:

 

Who is Present: Dad and Son

Who is NOT There: Other family members or friends.  In fact, Dad has taken steps to ensure there will not be interruptions by others, which would only serve to destroy your son’s confidence in opening up.

Setting: The fire pit in the Yard.  Your son has built the fire (as was agreed upon) and he is excited to show you his handy-work.

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Son: Dad, what do you think?  Pretty good fire, huh.

Dad: Yeah, you did a great job and didn’t even burn the house down!

Son: Well, if I did you are the one who taught me to build fires.

Dad:  That’s true.  Well, let’s get to what we are here to talk about.  I told you I would follow-up with you on the issue of sex and sexual temptation.  It can be a tough and uncomfortable topic for guys to open up about, so the squirming I see you doing is pretty normal.

Son: Yeah, it’s pretty awkward. . . (trailing off).

Dad:  It definitely can be and that’s why I am going to take the lead in this as your dad and carry more of the weight.  I am just going to ask you trust me enough to follow.  Part of my job is to show you how to be a man who serves his heavenly King.  You see, we will all bow our knee in submission to something.  Our choice is whether we will bow to God or to sin.  As you get older, you are going to see a lot of boys and men proudly bowing their knees to sin, thinking it makes them more of a man.

Son: Yeah, I definitely see that at school.  Guys think it’s cool to talk dirty and try to get girls to have sex with them.  It’s really not.

Dad: I agree.  The truth is tsmartphone-459316_1920hose things haven’t changed.  Guys were doing it when I was in school too, we just didn’t have all the technology you have today.  I want to talk with you about how what we see and think about can impact us physically.

Son: But I already had the puberty talk with you, dad.  I know my body is changing.

Dad: Yes, we did have that talk, and I know you are aware of some of the facts about how your body is transitioning from being a boy to a man, but knowing some facts and really understanding what is happening are not the same.  I believe you when you tell me you want to have sexual integrity, to really tackle this issue.  If I told you gaining understanding would really help get you to your goal, would you be willing to take on the challenge, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable?

You are calling your son up, seeing his desire to live a life of integrity and inviting him to accept the difficulty as part of the challenge.  Guys thrive on being called up.

Son: Yes, but it does make me feel weird talking about it.

Dad: The enemy wants us to stay silent and alone, to be scared into trying to do it all on our own.  Why do you think he would want that?

Son: I guess it makes us weaker.

Dad: Absolutely!  Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, but the truth is he is a coward, and wants to get us alone and discouraged, too fearful to reach out for help.  When we are alone we are right where he wants us, ready to be picked off.  You and I talking, in spite of our fears, is an act of FIGHTING BACK!

Son: That’s a cool way of looking at it. I hadn’t realized that before.

Dad: Well, let’s talk about the physical part of sexual temptation.  I know you and I have talked about becoming physically aroused, getting erections, masturbation, and orgasming, but there is more to arousal than those things.  There is a lot going on in your brain.  In fact, you can be aroused without any of those things I just mentioned happening.  Have you ever found yourself noticing or enjoying looking at a girl?

Son: Yes . . . (a little bit timid).teenage crush

Dad: Sure, and that’s a form of being aroused.  What’s it like when you notice a girl you think is attractive?

Son: Well, I just think she is pretty, and kind of look at her.  Don’t guys just do that?

Dad: Guys do notice girls, but there are things going on which they often don’t take time to notice.  For example, have you ever noticed having some enjoyment or excitement when you are checking a girl out?

Son: Yes, I guess I have.  It kind of just feels good.  I don’t know why I like looking, but I just do.

Dad: I really respect your courage in being willing to talk about this.  Let’s keep that going.  When you are looking at a girl you think is beautiful, what do you notice about her?  What are your eyes drawn to?

We are giving our son a chance to talk about his natural attraction to girls without having to resort to locker room humor.  He has the chance to talk candidly with dad about what it’s like to notice and take pleasure in looking at girls.  This ability to have an actual discussion which is not crass is especially important for Christian young men who are trying to live in INTEGRITY.  Often times, we talk about the fundamentals of our sexual attraction and experience, but do not talk about the pleasure involved.  Unintentionally our boys begin to believe the only guys getting to enjoy having sexual attraction are those boys who are giving free reign to their desires.  The message turns into sex being burdensome to Christians while being fun for other guys.  Let’s pick this back up after dad and son have had a chance to talk a bit more. 

Dad:  We’ve talked a bit about the physical arousal and pleasure in noticing girls.  Now I want to examine what we allow ourselves to think about, what goes on in our minds that no one can see but God.

Son:  I know I have thoughts I wish I didn’t have sometimes.  I know they aren’t right, but sometimes it’s so hard. . .

Dad: It really can be.  What’s it like for you when you give in, when you have those thoughts you regret?

Dad opens the door for his son to talk about the challenge of guarding his thoughts in a hyper-sexual world which mislabels impulsivity as being authentic to yourself.  We rejoin the conversation a bit later.

Here are some follow-up questions to use with your son to help the two of you talk about when he struggles in his thought life:

  • What do you do after you have struggled in your thought life?
  • What are you thinking about yourself when you mess up?
  • How long do you feel down/think these thoughts?
  • Do you ever get discouraged?
  • How often do you think other guys struggle in this area?
  • What does God think about your struggle?
  • Does struggling sometimes mean you are not serious about your walk with the Lord?
  • Do you ever just want to give up? (if yes, when does that happen?)

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Cen

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Let’s Talk About Sex – Part II

Let’s Talk About Sex

And How Our Views About It Impact Our Lives

Part Two

Let's Talk About Sex

Taking some time to think about, how you think about the word, S-E-X is way more important than you could ever imagine. It is imperative that we understand where our views of sex come from, so that we can obliterate and destroy the LIES that pervade our minds and hearts today.

Satan’s desire is for us to be held captive by his warped teachings about sex, so that we may never see or understand or be able to enjoy what God’s design was for it to begin with.  In the last blog post we discussed how the church can skew our views of sex.  In this post we will discover another avenue which our misconceptions of sex can come from:

MEDIA

This is probably a more predictable answer compared to the church.  It also, has more of a broad scope of influence on how we think about sex.  Watching sexually explicit material strongly affects one’s ability to enjoy the sexual relationship within marriage.  This is because it affects the ways in which we perceive ourselves, others, and sex itself.

The following are ways in which the media taints how we view sex within marriage:

1.) Sex is boring.

Pornography gives the impression that sex must always have some type of newness to it.  An online article written about pornography addiction writes,

“Male sexual response follows a well-established pattern known as the Coolidge effect. As demonstrated in rats and other animals, a male will enthusiastically have sex with a female he’s been newly placed with – but before long, he’ll become accustomed to her, and less interested in sex. However, if she’s replaced with a new female, the process restarts, and the male will once again be just as enthusiastic about having sex with her as he had been with his previous mate,” (Project Know).

It is obvious from this article that sexually explicit material impacts the ways in which men or women view their sexual relationships.  Partners whose perceptions are impacted by the media will be wanting and desiring more novelty in their martial relationship.  Sexually explicit material provides this novelty all the time.

It will be difficult for there to be sexual fulfillment within the martial relationship for whoever has been impacted by this perception of sex from pornography because of this.  Often times, those who use pornography will then expect their marriage to emulate pornography as a means of fulfillment.

2.) Sex is unsatisfying.

Pornography changes the way in which people are able to engage and think about sex.    Therefore, actual sex with their mate becomes unsatisfying not just mentally, but physically as well.  One’s mind and perception has been altered by pornography, affecting the ways in which people perform and participate in sex physically.  GQ magazine recently put out an article stating the affects of pornography on the human condition.  They based their research from their article off of a group called NoFap.  NoFap is an online support group dedicated to helping people with sexual addiction to stop “using” pornography.  It writes,

“Among 27-31 year olds on NoFap: 19 percent suffer from premature ejaculation, 25 percent are disinterested in sex with their partner, 31 percent have difficulty reaching orgasm, and 34 percent experience erectile dysfunction,” (GQ Magazine).

Pornography lessens the ability for the sexual relationship between a husband and wife to be satisfying because it creates issues like premature ejaculation, disinterest, difficulty with orgasm, and erectile dysfunction. Another article about the social costs of pornography writes,

“Even short, experimental situations involving one time exposure to popular pornographic depictions create negative consequences for males’ evaluations of their romantic partner’s attractiveness…” (Bridges, 15).

Pornography nurses desires that were not meant to be, which sadly makes it difficult for the sexual relationship between a husband and wife to be satisfying.

3.) Sex is not safe.

Most instances of the use of pornography occur outside of the marriage relationship in private and without knowledge of the other spouse.  Often times, the discovery that ones spouse is using pornography is traumatic for their partner.  People report feeling shocked, hurt, and confused when they learn the nature and extent of their partner’s sexual activities.  Finding out about pornography use distorts and hurts the perspective of the male or female in the relationship who did not know their spouse was using sexually explicit material.

It can cause their spouse to consider their sexual relationship to be unsafe.  The use of pornography can cause the non-using spouse to struggle with feelings of betrayal, lowered self-esteem, mistrust, anger, objectified, feelings their partner is less interested in sexual contact, pressure from partner to enact things from online fantasy, and feeling like they cannot measure up to women online (Bridges, 17). 

The frequent comments I have heard from some of my client’s who recently discovered their spouses have been using pornography are:

–    “I am not attractive enough”
–    “I should be more available”
–    “I am not cared about”
–    “My spouse is less interested in sex with me”
–    “I fear he/she is picturing other women while we are having sex”
–    “I am just not good enough”
–    “God’s plan for sex must be unfulfilling and boring”

The perception that pornography gives to the other partner is that sex is unsafe.  It can cause insecurity and discomfort for both spouses.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure…” (Hebrews 13:4, New International Version).

God designed sex to be enjoyed by a husband and wife and for the sexual relationship to be honored by all. He wants us to honor it by keeping the marriage bed pure and it makes sense why.  God designed sex to be a safe and satisfying experience. The use of sexually explicit material steals the passion, satisfaction, and safety from it.

These are only a FEW of the many ways in which we our perceptions of sex can impact the sexual relationship we have with our spouse.

There are ways to overcome sexual addiction and the affects it has on the marital relationship. If you are feeling conflicted about this topic and feel trapped or do not know who to talk to about this, always know that there is help available.

This topic in general can be shameful and embarrassing to discuss, but is not something you should feel like you have to keep to yourself. Follow this link to schedule an appointment to talk to someone here at The Relationship Center.

Resources

Bridges, A. (n.d.). Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships. Retrieved March 4, 2015.

Christian, S. (2015, January 1). 10 Reasons Why You Should Quit  Watching Porn. Retrieved March 4, 2015.

Exploring NoFap: Taking a Whack at Porn Addiction ( Infographic). (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2015.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

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Am I Going Crazy? Denial & Sexual Addiction

 Denial with Sex and Porn addictionSteven: “It’s not like I do this kind of stuff all the time. She is overreacting. Most guys look at porn and masturbate way more than me. I can’t believe we are taking up time and money sitting here talking about this issue. I’m sure we are taking up time people with real problems need.

Anna sits across from him on the couch in my office, with eyes red from crying, shaking her head. Is he for real? Does he really believe the words coming out of his mouth? What more, does he think she is foolish enough to believe them? The thought nearly throws her into a rage.

Anna (to me): “Am I overreacting? I mean, I feel so confused, like I am going crazy. But the thought of him looking at all those other women online and then lying to me about it is more than I can stand.

Denial and Sexually Addictive behaviors go hand in hand. They work together to allow sin to flourish in a man’s life. This is why understanding and rooting out denial is a top priority in Christian Counseling. Here is a basic framework for understanding what denial is, how to recognize it, and steps to deal with it:

What is denial?

Denial is the distortion of the truth through various means, allowing for the protection and continuation of destructive behavior. It is dishonesty, pure and simple. Deception can occur not only in what we say, but how we say it, both to ourselves and others. In denial, the facts are distorted and presented in such a way as to minimize the discomfort to the perpetrator.

Why Does He Need Denial?

We can understand this mystery by using a simple word picture. Imagine holding in one hand, your beliefs and convictions about sexual integrity. These beliefs are based on what the Bible has to say about sexuality and subsequent behavior. In the other hand, you are holding a behavior the Bible distinguishes as sinful (ie: viewing pornography, sexual conversations in chat rooms with anonymous partners, soliciting prostitution).

Now imagine holding these items up next to one another. They do not work together. In fact, they are fundamentally opposed. Attempting to continue possessing both leads to significant discomfort or friction. We call this cognitive dissonance. In other words, a person’s beliefs and behavior are at odds. A solution is needed desperately to lessen this uncomfortable friction.

How Does He Use Denial?

Denial becomes the lubricant, alleviating the uncomfortable friction between convictions and actions. In other words, Anna’s husband changed his perception of himself, his behavior, and his impact on others to allow him to continue act out sexually.

How To Recognize Denial:

Denial is sometimes difficult to spot, as it can be carefully woven into what the person is saying. Attempts to detangle or challenge it are often met with more denial, leaving the listener confused and upset. Here are 3 fictionalized men presenting with denial in regards to sexually addictive behavior. They represent some of the most common situations I see in my practice.

Examples of Denial:

Ryan: “I can’t believe you are making such a big deal about this! It is ridiculous! Now we are in an office with a guy we are paying to agree with you and say there is something wrong with me. You have to control everything. Why can’t you just be happy and thankful for what you have? If you are going to drag me into counseling for this, I should tell him about how you rarely have sex with me. I have needs, and if you are too selfish to notice them I have to get them met on my own.

Ryan is escalating and going on the attack with his wife. He is trying to make her believe she is being crazy by suggesting he has a problem. Not only that, but he is attempting to blame her for his actions, making a manipulative, guilt laden accusation. It’s a kind of smokescreen, which he hopes will distract his wife from the problem.

Joe: “ I can see how you would be upset. It’s a tough problem and may have impacted you in a way I did not intend. Anger is not going to help us figure this out, though, we have to be rational. I have been looking at porn, but it doesn’t effect how I feel about you. I love and want to be with you, only you.”

Joe is taking this hurtful behavior and reducing it down to a set of facts. He appears to be empathizing his wife, but he is actually putting her down by insinuating her experience of emotion is lessor and immature. He is also compartmentalizing. Joe wants his wife to accept that he is able to look at other women and lust after them without this impacting his relationship with her. For such a “rational guy” it’s an idea that is completely out of touch with reality.

Peter: “You always seem to get overly reactive and upset in stressful situations. It’s like when you get home from work all stressed out and I have to help you see reason again. We are Christians, but a lot of men struggle with this issue. I struggle with it quite a bit less than most guys. The stuff they look at is disgusting. I looked at naked women, but never went to those extremes. I can and have solved the problem, when you found out and I saw you were hurt, I stopped looking. Why are we here? What else is there to do?

Peter attempts to distract his wife by making broad statements about her behavior. He’s attempting to justify his own behavior while invalidating his wife’s emotions. He is also comparing himself to other men. In his mind, if other men look at pornography, it is not quite so bad. This is especially true since he has heard of men who look at it more frequently than he does and the “stuff they look at” he calls “disgusting.” Peter is practically a saint compared with them.

Dealing With Denial:

Denial is a form of deception in which a person attempts to deceive themselves and others. The goal is to be able to do both what they desire and change or control the way others respond. In the cases above, the husbands are attempting to reach into their wive’s lives and change their perceptions so they will respond in a more favorable manner. Wives who have experienced this do get angry, and it’s easy to understand why. So what can be done about it?

DON’T:

  • Attempt to argue the points he is making through denial.
  • Try to convince him to change his mind.
  • Tell him what to do/Tell him how it is.

DO:

  • Let him know his reasoning does not change the reality of his actions impact on you.
  • Tell him your perception of the problem, but own it as your perception.
  • Tell him what you have decided you are going to do.

Here’s Why:

1. If you attempt to argue with his denial, he is prepared for this action. Do you really believe he thought you’d go down without a fight? He has been preparing for the inevitability of this conversation for a long time. He has been examining how he might present the situation most effectively, addressing points and counter points over the months or even years leading up to this moment. You, on the other hand, are walking into it blind.

2. The best way to handle your formidable debate partner, is not to engage in debate with him. If you do, his response will be predictable. He will have additional denial tools he uses to combat your arguments. He may dig in his heels and get stubborn, focusing solely on disarming your arguments, rather than the content of your message.

  • Instead, if you tell him how you believe his actions have impacted you and your relationship with him, you are staying in your yard. In other words, you are telling him how the situation is for you. It’s less threatening and much more potent if you speak about what you know, and what is happening in your mind.

3. Finally, in anger, I have seen many wive’s issue ultimatums to their husband’s. These are grand speeches or statements, fueled by emotion, and aimed at giving her a sense of control. The problem is, they never actually work. Like it or not, you cannot make him do anything, and, if you are honest with yourself, you don’t really want to.

  • The changes he needs to make should come out of his choice and desire to make them. If you do it for him you will spend the rest of you relationship looking over your shoulder for him to mess up. You will never be at rest because you must keep the pressure on him to ensure he “stays fixed.” Instead, let’s put you in a secure and safe position.
  • Decide what steps you are going to take as a result of his choices. These decisions you have made are independent of him, meaning, just like you cannot make his decisions, he cannot make yours.

If you are ready for things in your relationship to change, then start changing them. You control and are responsible for the part of the relationship you can change. And that change starts today. A few options are to attend counseling of your own, go to a support group, and cease sexual activity with him.

Denial happens in sexual addiction. It’s a sad truth, however, if you know how to spot and deal with it, as outlined above, you have moved from powerless to able.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Sex Addiction Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post Am I Going Crazy? Denial & Sexual Addiction appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

Thinking Errors of Single Men

Single Man ThinkingAs a counselor who has spent several years specializing in working with men, I have come to recognize a few toxic thinking patterns prevalent in guys.  These thought patterns are like bad, outdated software, limiting the performance of an otherwise capable computer.

In other words, toxic thoughts will keep you from realizing your full potential, in any avenue of life.  Let’s identify some toxic thought patterns and examine solutions.

 

Balancing emotion and logical thought

People experience both emotion and thought as part of their ongoing, daily existence.  However, the content and management of these varies greatly across individuals.  Some men are more given to thinking obsessively and becoming emotionally overwhelmed.  Others stay firmly in the arena of logic, reducing most of life to a seemingly objective set of decisions.  Often times, men who are unsure in their ability to manage thought and emotion tend to attempt to live on the logical side, avoiding emotion.  Emotions are experienced, but they are a private affair, being held and dealt with internally.

There are some real advantages for a guy to stay on the logical side:
  1. He’s good at it.  He can put together a reasoned, logical argument, and pick apart another stance with little effort.
  2. It renders him emotionally safe.  In other words, he has no significant emotional investment in his interactions with others.  As such, he is behind a kind of fortress wall, keeping him from harm.  He can have a debate with you, but doesn’t know how to have a relationship.
  3. Probably hardest reason to hear: it often positions him as superior.  Now, most guys who actually do this will quickly have a logical argument explaining they are not attempting to be superior, but let’s have the courage to take a look.   The problem is his way of thinking becomes the measuring stick by which he assesses all others.  If something makes sense to him (is logical), it is possible.  If something does not make sense, then it cannot be true.  He holds the standard by which others thoughts and feelings are assessed, and he’s rigid in clinging to his assessment.

These men tend to exhibit excessive focus on task accomplishment and career identity, insensitivity to the needs of others, and a way of relating to others which is seen as “aloof.”  It’s like you need to remind men who operate like this that Vulcan’s were actually a fictional character on Star Trek, not an ideal to be aspired to.

Solution: You need both emotion and logic.  Life is not a math problem, nor should it be a soap opera.  Learn to identify what you are thinking and what you are feeling, noticing the connections between the two.  Pay attention to what you see in yourself, like a curious observer, having the courage to take in what’s there.  From this stance, you’ll be in a strong position to allow the Lord to refine the man you are into the man He has for you to be.  Finally, allow others access to your previously private experience of emotion.
 

Rigid categorization of people, events, ideas

Decisiveness is not a bad trait, however, attempting to quickly define people, events, ideas using an “all good or all bad” system is not workable.  Often, it is a tool of convenience, quickly simplifying life.  Simply place things in one category or another.  Single men using this way of thinking will quickly attempt to have others “figured out” and respond to them accordingly.  People are either worthwhile individuals he will engage or simply part of the background.  Again, this way of thinking provides the illusion of safety, similar to being logical.  It prevents the man from wasting his time or getting hurt by taking risks in relationship.

Solution:  Life is a bit messy.  Let go of some of your control and allow things to unfold.  Stay engaged, rather than checking out in relationships and see what happens.  You might notice some successes in forming close relationships, as well as some failures along the way.  However, the failures likely won’t be as devastating as you thought.
 

The “there’s something better” stance in life. 

It’s a position of always looking around rather than being where you are.  The man fantasizes about what he might do or could do given the opportunity, all at the expense of the life he is currently living.  It allows him only limited availability for the life he is actually living.  Additionally, contentment with where he is currently at is seen as “settling”, a word sure to turn the stomach of any man.  Stewardship is the answer.  A man can and should have aspirations, but not at the expense of where is today.  These aspirations should not take the form of fantasies that anesthetize him from reality.  Instead, he needs to remain firmly in the reality of the present.

Solution:  Stewardship.  What has God given you today, and what are you doing with it?  Not what you want Him to give you or what you might have tomorrow.  Tend what you have to the best of your ability.  Work to refine and be an expert with little.  The benefits are huge.  Read Matthew 25:14-23 & Luke 19:12-19.
 

Parable of the Three Servants

 14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
 
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of  how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

family-250x250Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

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How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography

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Everyone knows the statistics about boys using pornography, unless, they live on an island in the middle of the ocean. Of course, they’d probably have internet access there too!

There is an epidemic of boys turning to internet pornography, using it frequently and developing a habit which could plague them for years to come. It’s an issue I am seeing more and more of in my office, as a therapist specializing in working with families and men’s issues. Parents come in upset, unsure of what to do, having found their son is looking at porn. It’s very important how you respond. Your son doesn’t just need an anatomy lesson, he needs a Biblical moral framework through which to understand himself and the problem.

Here is some clear, practical guidance on this particular issue from the counselor’s office:

1. Let’s Avoid the Extremes:

Responses can often arise out of one of two camps:

On one end, we have the worldly, secular perspective. Boys are just curious about their sexuality, arousal, and the female body. They will do exploring which is normal, healthy, and should be encouraged. The chief goal here is to avoid them experiencing any shame about the pornography and sexual content they are viewing. We will dress that in some kind of feminist secular morality, where we tell the boy it is okay to be curious and look at porn, just don’t objectify women.

Confused yet? Maybe he should look at sexual content in which women are featured as powerful. It’s the post-modern mindset. There’s no right or wrong, just perspective. Feeling any kind of shame is bad. This kind of thinking ends with a self-serving man who worships his own desires, spurning correction. Wow, that’s sounds bleak! Well, so life is without God.

The second extreme is not much better. Parents find out their son has looked at pornography and react purely out of fear, without any wise counsel. They respond as if the boy is now permanently damaged, beyond repair. The parents drill into the child, “We didn’t raise you to do this kind of stuff, don’t you get how serious this is”, and so on and so forth. The boy learns a few things from the experience:

  1. If you are struggling, don’t go to mom and dad, they don’t know what to do and will overwhelm you with their response.
  2. Either I am the only person weak enough to struggle with this, or other people are just hypocrites and fake.
  3. If I really loved God I wouldn’t struggle with sin.

2. Get Some Perspective:

Instead of these responses let’s try something different. Pornography use is serious. It’s an issue of lust and can be destructive to the boy’s life, just like any sin. Sin is destructive, leading us to harm. We are all born sinners leaning towards our own destruction, and will struggle with it on an ongoing basis until we die. Sexual sin is often times, in my experience working with boys, the first time they have encountered and really had to deal with their sin nature in an ongoing way.

In other words, up until this point, when the boy has said an unkind thing or taken what does not belong to him, the solution has been simple. He goes and apologizes or returns the item. He feels remorse, and in many cases, no strong desire to return to the destructive behavior. However, now enters sexual temptation.

For the first time, he is both genuinely sorrowful and ashamed of what he has done but is drawn strongly to act-out again. The boy questions his commitment, sincerity, and relationship with God. After all, if he was truly sorry, wouldn’t he stop? Do you see where this is leading? The sin natures a fundamental problem, all people must come to terms with, and for many boys, sex is the issue which first brings it out.

They can either deny the existence of sin, as in the case of a humanistic perspective, there is no God and therefore, no sin, only socially imposed morality creating unnecessary shame. Or we can accept, as the Apostle Paul did, that we all struggle with sin.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:14-15 (NIV)

Here is Paul, a man who has seen Jesus, and been sent as an apostle to grow the church among the Gentiles, talking about struggling with sin. It is a humbling statement, reminding each of us, we need a savior. Parents, which of us has fully mastered our sin nature? I answer with a confident “none.” Our son’s need to hear this, not to give them an excuse to sin more, but an encouragement, helping them too understand the grace and forgiveness of God.

3. The Talk:

Now, how do we engage this boy in a meaningful dialogue, avoiding the extremes and having an accurate perspective on the problem?

Who: Present, at least initially, should be all three people (Son, Mom & Dad). Which parent has the closer relationship with the boy? That parent should take the lead in the three person conversation initially. If mother is the closer parent, this is fine. You can be part of this initial conversation. However, over time, Dads, this is a matter of you son coming into manhood and God has placed you in his life to offer guidance and direction on this journey. You should transition to the parent taking the lead in this issue. If you are uncomfortable or unsure how, speak with a counselor, pastor, or another, older man who is spiritually mature and has successfully walking his own sons through understanding sex and sexual issues.

Where: A comfortable, private environment, without distractions.

When: Not right after you, parent, found out. Talking through things while emotions are high and you have not had time to process them is unwise. Taking a day or two to put your thoughts together and get counsel is appropriate. But wait, what about the issue at hand? If I don’t address it now, that’s a mistake. No, if you don’t address it wisely, that is a mistake.

Communicate to your son this is an issue you will be revisiting, and set a day and time. Additionally, make sure he no longer has access to pornography (ie: limit internet access). Those two things you can do now. Your task, when you initially find out about your son’s porn use is to let him know and plug the holes in the boat (ie: discover routes of obtaining the material and block these access points). That’s it. There is nothing wrong with telling him this is a serious issue, and you are glad he has brought it to you. Simply tell him you will need to talk further about it later.

Length: Not long, 30 minutes max, unless your son wants to talk longer. This is typically more of a problem for mothers. It is at this point I have to remind you as a counselor, your son is not a girl.

Boys do not typically sit and talk at length about issues. They are mission/task oriented in their communication and do not do well with ambiguous dialogue.

Content: Bite-Size. We are not covering everything in one marathon talk. If you want to train your boy to cringe and hide from you every time you have a concerned look on your face, ambush him with long conversations. Think of one or two small things or “bites” you are looking to accomplish in the discussion. He can only really take in a piece at a time, and overloading him only serves to alleviate your anxiety (and then leads to frustration as he “checks out” of the conversation).

EXAMPLE TALK:

Setting Porch at the Family Home.

Present- Son, Mom & Dad.

Not Present (equally important)- Siblings, who are at a friend’s house.

DadSon, as you know, your mother and I are aware you have been looking at pornography and we are concerned about this. As your parents, it’s our job to guide you into becoming the man God has for you to be, and this material is harmful. Now, I recognize this can be very embarrassing to talk about, maybe you wish we would leave it alone, but that would be unwise.
Son: Yes, I know I shouldn’t have been looking at that stuff. It’s very embarrassing to talk about.
Dad: I hear that, it’s awkward to sit down and have this discussion with your parents.
Mom: Son, would you be more comfortable if you and your father had the conversation without me present? I wouldn’t be offended, it matters to me what you think.
Son: I’m okay.
Mom: All right, if that changes, will you let me know?
Son: Yes.
Dad: When was the first time you looked at pornography on our computers?
Son: It’s been a while, I really can’t remember when.
Dad: Had you looked at it prior to your last birthday?
Son: No, I hadn’t yet. I guess it was about two months after that, sometime in June, I think.


*Why is it so hard for him to remember? The two most common reasons I come across are deception or a combination of shame and avoidance.

  1. Deception usually happens with young men who are more immature and impulsive. His parent’s faith in God is exactly that, their faith, not his. His primary driver, in this situation, is preserve his own freedom to do what he wants.
    • Conversations about serious issues are especially boring and pointless to him. He will do all in his power to end them quickly and limit any consequences he could face.
    • He is short-sighted, sacrificing his integrity to ensure he is still allowed to go out Friday night with friends.
    • The approach with this young man will be primarily behavioral with small amounts of discussion. More specifically, he learns by having his privileges restricted by those outside of himself. He does not self-regulate (make changes himself).
    • If this describes your son, more in depth conversations will occur following the consistent implementation of discipline. Obedience will be present prior to any understanding.
  2. Shame and avoidance are present when a boy is conflicted about his behavior. Typically, this is a young man who has a personal relationship with God and a more mature perspective.
    • He does not need anyone to tell him what he is doing is wrong, he feels the weight of this for himself.
    • He experiences significant shame for his actions and has attempted to correct his behavior himself. However, the behavior has become a cycle for him. In other words, he looks at porn, feels shame and guilt, repents, promises himself he will not do it again, attempts to move forward and put the past behind him, and then stumbles again.
    • This young man feels such shame, he attempts not to think about what he has done, hence the avoidance. He works to forget what has happened, which makes recalling events difficult. In a sense, whereas the first boy deceives others, this young man works to deceive himself because reality is painful.
    • Handling this young man will involve more guidance and relationship, relying less on behavioral interventions (grounding, loss of privileges, etc).

Dad: Okay, where did you go to find the images?
Son: I didn’t have to go anywhere. I wasn’t even meaning to find them. I was playing around on Facebook and visited a friend’s page. He had some pictures of girls in swimsuits with a link. I knew it was wrong, but I clicked on the link. . . (trailing off).
Dad: Sounds like you were kind of caught off guard. Temptation works like that sometimes. So you clicked on the link, and then what happened?
Son: It took me to a page with pictures of girls, some of them in bikinis and some of them without clothes. I just kept looking and clicking.
Dad: Wow, so the link took you to a page with some very powerful images on it. You started looking and struggled to stop.
Son: Yes, and I felt terrible. I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I told myself I would never do this again.
Dad: And then what, how long did you go without looking again.
Son: Like two weeks. At first, it was easy, but then it got hard. I kept thinking about looking again. Eventually, when you and mom were out and I was alone, I went back and looked. I felt horrible all over again. I prayed again and really meant it. I told God I was going to stop.
Dad: It sounds like you have really been wrestling with this problem. You even did what mom and I have taught you to do by taking it to the Lord in prayer. I am glad you did that.
Son: But it didn’t work.
Dad: What do you mean?
Son: I kept doing it again. Pretty soon, I didn’t even pray anymore. I mean, if I was really sorry I would stop, right? Why would I keep doing something over and over again? If felt so fake.
Dad: I am hearing this has been confusing and difficult for you. Can I help you to understand it?
Son: Yes, I guess.
Dad: Good. Son, this is the first time, probably, you have had to deal with a sin issue that doesn’t go away easily. Do you remember the time we caught you lying about your homework?
Son: Yes.
Dad: We talked about it, disciplined you, and then what happened?
Son: I didn’t lie about homework anymore.
Dad: Yes, exactly. I bet you weren’t even very tempted to lie again.
Son: No, I wasn’t. I didn’t like how lying made me feel or getting in trouble.
Dad: To this point in your life, sin has been like this for you, kind of simple. However, now, as you are getting older, you are going to start having challenges like this, which are very different. It means you are going to be doing some really amazing growing in you understanding and faith. You know all those Bible stories we have taught you over the years?
Son: Yes.
Dad: Well, many of the people in those stories struggled with issues that weren’t really that easy, or simple. In fact, many of them had a decision to make: get discouraged and quit, or trust in God.
Son: I did trust in God, and He didn’t take this away.
DadThe reason God didn’t take it away is because your sexuality is a gift from Him. God made you to be sexual and does not want to take that away from you. God wants you to grow to enjoy this part of how he made you, within the plan and boundaries He has set. The issue is that Satan always tries to distort what God has given us with sinful motives and actions.
Son: I guess that makes sense.
Dad: This is a lot to take in, so don’t worry about understanding everything right away. Today’s conversation has been about getting the problem on the table. From here, I am going to help you in two ways. First, I am going to work to help you plug the leaks in your life. You and I will see where you are getting access to pornography and put some boundaries there. Boundaries help to keep us away from situations that are harmful. Believe it or not, I have boundaries for myself when it comes to the internet and what I look at. Second, you and I are going to meet to talk through this issue. We’ll set a weekly time to get together, maybe sit out by the fire pit. I know we both like that.
Son: That sounds okay. I do like sitting by the fire. Can help set it up?
Dad: Sure, in fact, I think that could be your responsibility. Well, do you have any questions or concerns?
Son: No, not really.
Dad: Well, how are you feeling?
Son: Kind of relieved. This wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Dad: Great. These things can be tough, but they can be talked about. Let’s end in prayer.


Let’s summarize the talk:

  1. We broke the silence, talking with our son about a difficult, sin issue.
      • We worked to identify when the problem started and hear a little bit of how our son felt. Notice, we did not go in depth or attempt to find out all the details. This is because this talk was the beginning, not the totality of what we are doing.
      • When we attempt to have too epic of a conversation with our teenage son, in a way, we are doing the same thing he is, attempting to make the problem disappear in one stroke. It doesn’t work and we get discouraged.
  2. We empathized and validated our son. He got to hear us recognize how difficult this is for him and how trapped he must have felt.
  3. We put together a plan of action to instill hope. We included the practical step of taking away opportunities to view pornography while also making a plan to have ongoing discussions.

This article is only an introduction to the topic of pornography and teenage boys. There may be questions or concerns you have in regards to the issue. If that is the case, you are welcome to contact Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC at The Relationship Center. We would welcome the chance to advise you.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

Depression in Men: Common Warning Signs

Depression in men is real and impacts life substantially.  However, it often goes unnoticed, by both the man and those who care about him.  When the “d” word is used, the response is immediate, “No, I am not depressed!”  As a therapist who specializes in working  with men, there are common warning signs of depression I look for.  A man may won’t use words like depression or sadness, but he may identify as:

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  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.
  3. Being overly tired or not having the energy he once had.
  4. Sleeping too much or too little.
  5. Eating too much and not taking care of himself.
  6. Having few if any close interpersonal relationships outside of spouse.
  7. Feeling inadequate, incapable, or incompetent.

*See below to learn more about each of the seven warning signs of depression in men.

  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.  Men are like pick-up trucks.  They are built to work and haul loads (life responsibilities).  In fact, just like a pick-up, if there’s no load in the back, their handling can get kind of wild (think of the way many young, single men live and behave).  While its good for him to carry a load, sometimes life’s load gets imbalanced or he is not effective in carrying it.  Generally, instead of recognizing this and communicating a need for help, he will struggle silently, growing more frustrated.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.  Like it or not, most men equate sadness with weakness.  Weakness is not something he is comfortable with, at least his own weakness.  Men will often make flippant comments about the box of tissues in my office, trying to joke with me about needing it.  Anger, in the form of irritability, frustration, being demanding/controlling, is safe for a man to express.  Anger gives the illusion of power and mastery.
  3. Being overly tired or not having the energy he once had.  If a man loses the “zip” in his step or enthusiasm for life, it can be a sign he is struggling.  Men have an energy to go forth and conquer in life.  Feeling defeated or beaten down can steal his joy.
  4. Sleeping too much or too little.  Pretty straight forward.  Look for a man to have trouble getting up on time and moving in the morning.
  5. Eating too much and not taking care of oneself.  Our bodies and the way we care for them are often an outward manifestation of our internal condition.  In other words, the man who treats his body badly, is showing how he feels about himself.  It can also manifest in the opposite, for instance, if a man is trying to find some sense of control/mastery in life or he feels insecure, he may spend excessive time and energy on his physical appearance.
  6. Having few if any close interpersonal relationships outside of spouse.  A man who doesn’t have time for meaningful relationships outside of his wife is a lonely man, even if he is not aware of it.  I often confront men with their own “neediness.”  In other words, whether he likes it or not, he is human and has needs.  One of these needs is to be connected with other people, outside of work.  If he does not meet this need, it doesn’t go away, it just deepens.  It’s like hunger.  Not eating over time does not mean a man overcomes his dependence on food, it just means he becomes emaciated.
  7. Feeling inadequate, incapable, or incompetent.  These three words have been a part of my work with nearly every man I have met over the years.  A man who struggles with any or all of these is not at peace with himself or the world around him.  For women reading this article and trying to understand men, consider the following:  You may struggle at times with appearance, acceptance, and belonging.  Those are powerful issues for you as a women.  These three “I’s” are the equivalent issues of significance for men.  He will go to almost any lengths to satisfy the need to extinguish these.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with depression, there is hope.  At The Relationship Center, our counselors specialize in helping men with these issues and their spouses/families.  Contact us today to speak directly with a counselor.  We would be happy to answer your questions.

 

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Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 3

Part 3  The Confusion of Relapse:

Sobriety & Lapses

Among the most compelling questions for people struggling with addiction and those who love them is the phenomenon diagramed above.  In short, the variations in the amount of time between addictive acting-out lead to a sort of false security.  Let’s examine this more closely.

In the diagram above, there is a line representing time, progressing forward predictably.  Circles, showing the addiction cycle (explained in the two previous pages) are superimposed on the timeline.  The circles remain the same, except for one characteristic, size.  Some of the cycles are larger, allowing more time between lapses, and some are smaller, with very limited time between acting-out.  However, the end result is always the same, destructive behavior.

Now comes the confusion.  People mistake sobriety with recovery.

Sobriety is ongoing time spent refraining from the destructive, addictive behavior.  Periods of sobriety can vary, from very short, hours or days, to very long, months or years. 

Recovery is the active, ongoing change of the individual’s way of living.  It involves the alteration of the person’s very foundation, making them incapable of producing the fruit of destruction any longer.  In recovery, a person lives for what they are now free to do.

In simple sobriety, life is about a list of “don’ts.”   Recovery does not happen without staying active in treatment!  For the addict, this means accepting that you cannot do this on your own and need help.  For those who love them, you must no longer enable the addict by accepting their excuses about lapses being isolated incidents which will not be repeated.  Life would be easier if this were true, but it is only a seductive fantasy.  This easier life does not exist, it is a manifestation of avoidance, an essential component of an addictive system.

How do you recognize if a person is truly in recovery, or simply remaining sober?  It’s a prudent question, asked by the people who have been hurt.  There simply is no completely safe way to love.  However, in true repentance, certain evidence should be present.  Specifically, if the individual has truly surrendered to Christ, they have become a new creation, or a new “tree.”  As such, we examine the fruit they are now producing:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. -Galatians 5:22-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

The post Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 3 appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 2

Part 2 The Individual’s Tendency for Cycle-Preservation:  Why does a person seem so committed to their destructive behavior, even when they say they want to change?  Again, we will use the simple concept of a circle to understand this aspect of addictive/destructive behavior.  A circle is a circle because the curve remains constant.  In other words, at any point in the circle, the line’s curve is the same.  The result is a circle that will continue to repeat itself indefinitely.  The steps of pre-occupation, impaired thinking, ritual behaviors, addictive acting-out, and shame & despair will always lead to one another.  But. . .

What if we change the curve?  If the curve is altered, at any point, to any degree, the circle changes and the cycle cannot repeat itself.  It is here we find freedom.  There is a catch, however.  If alterations can be made to the curve in one direction, they can also be made it it’s opposite.  Changes can be changed back.

Addictive Cycle Change & Correction

Why, if someone is making healthy changes in their life, would they go back to the way they were?  Perhaps, we have sat with them as they recalled their past behaviors with horror, disgusted at themselves.  What does lapse into destructive, sinful behavior mean?  The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 7:15-19-

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

The mind can be thought of like an old-fashioned set of scales, the kind that required weights to be measured against one another.  The mind desires balance, not health.  Often, our way of achieving balance is to give-in to our sin.  Changes, even those which are healthy, blessed by God, create a time of imbalance.  The scales are skewed and the individual experiences discomfort.  It is at this point, corrective actions are taken remedy the problem.  The individual sabotages success, going back the old curve, the old cycle, and achieves balance once more.

It is not a matter of whether or not a person will work against their recovery, it is a matter of when.  Much of the work in Christian Counseling and support programs is found in identifying and changing this sin pattern.  As believers, we see our sinful nature as a result of the fall of man.  Man, ultimately, is in need of a Savior and there is hope.  Paul goes on to say:   

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:24-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

The post Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 2 appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 1

Part 1:  Understanding Addictive/Destructive Behaviors as Cyclical:  When you think of your own or a loved one’s  addictive/destructive behavior it is helpful to imagine a circle.  A circle is a continuous line with no beginning or end, flowing into itself.  There is no defined point of entry, no easily identified trigger that sets the whole process in motion.  Instead, at any point you engage in the circle of behavior, you will eventually experience the entire cycle.  This seemingly pointless, disorganized string of destruction leaves those involved confused, angry, and hopeless.  They are unable to answer the question of “why” effectively.  In other words, does John act-out because he feels great shame or does John feel great shame leading to his acting-out destructively as a means of medicating himself.

Below is a diagram of a basic addictive cycle.  Not every addictive cycle is the same, so this example is not meant to be definitive.  However, it is a solid guide to understanding some of the basics of destructive cycles.  Let’s look at the components that make up the cycle:

Addiction CyclePre-Occupation:  The individual enters a time of rumination or internal obsessing on acting-out.  This can also occur in the form of obsessing on not acting-out.  It is important the individual acknowledge obsessive thought patterns are a part of addictive/destructive behaviors.  Rather than hiding this pre-occupation, they should be actively processing it with their counselor and support groups.

Impaired Thinking:  At the heart of destructive cycles, are faulty belief systems, which work to perpetuate problems.  Both addicted individuals and those with other destructive behaviors live according to these beliefs.  Some examples include-

  • I do not need others.
  • If others really knew me, they would reject me.
  • It’s not okay to show my emotions.
  • I don’t deserve love.

Ritual Behaviors:  Leading up to the actual acting-out, are a series of preparatory behaviors.  Often, when individuals have not fostered self-awareness via counseling and support groups, they are oblivious to their own ritual behaviors.  These can include, but are not limited to- isolating themselves from loved ones, looking for possible times or ways of acting-out, engaging in risky/”all most” acting-out behaviors.

Addictive Acting-Out:  The identified event of behaving in a addictive, or, otherwise, destructive behavior.  It is the “identified problem”, the piece of the cycle the addict and others point to as needing change.  However, it is only one of a set of steps.

Shame & Despair:  Inevitably, the individual experiences the impact of their destructive behavior.  If they have not been caught, this is the point at which they convince themselves they will never do “it” again.  The chief objective here is secrecy, and in the event they have been discovered, it shifts to minimizing the damage they have done.  In other words, the individual will attempt to convince themselves and others that what has happened is not “a big deal.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help.  At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help.  Contact us today- www.therelationshipcenter.us

The post Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 1 appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

Sexual Orientation & Biology

josh spurlock director of the relationship centerSexual orientation, whether towards the opposite sex or towards children, has been a hot topic of discussion in the media recently. Specifically the questions is whether or not sexual attraction or orientation are the result of biology in either case. While a plethora of research has been done the results are still inconclusive. To date there has been no discovery of a ‘gay gene’ nor has there been conclusive evidence completely ruling out the possibility of some biological component.

KSPR 6-20-13 News Piece on Biology & Sexual Orientation (featuring Josh Spurlock)

 

While there remains a question about the role of biology in the development of same-sex attractions there is no question about the role of choice in sexual behavior. Sexual behavior is a choice. Sexual behavior is a choice that Bible believing Christians and organizations, like The Relationship Center and Focus on The Family, believe have moral implication.

The full interview with Josh Spurlock, MA, LPC

 

At The Relationship Center we help people who experience distress with their same-sex attractions or conflict between their sexual behaviors and their values. We use the Sexual Identity Therapy model developed by Dr. Mark Yarhouse and Dr. Warren Throckmorton, referenced in the APA’s 2009 report on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.

Dr. Mark Yarhouse on Exodus International Closing

Dr. Mark Yarhouse, along with Stanton Jones and Warren Throckmorton, are the leading Christian researchers on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their research is clinically solid, and respected by secular organizations like the APA, while their conclusions remain solidly evangelical and consistent with the teaching of the Bible. I have the greatest respect for these men and their work. My training in sexual identity therapy is from Dr. Yarhouse through the Institute for Sexual Wholeness.

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