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VICIOUS TO VIRTUOUS (V2V) FREE ONLINE RECOVERY PROGRAMME FROM SEX AND PORN ADDICTION - Module 6 Common Triggers for Sex Addiction and Porn Addiction

VICIOUS TO VIRTUOUS (V2V) FREE ONLINE RECOVERY PROGRAMME FROM SEX AND PORN ADDICTION - Module 6 Common Triggers for Sex Addiction and Porn Addiction

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VICIOUS TO VIRTUOUS (V2V) FREE ONLINE RECOVERY PROGRAMME FROM SEX AND PORN ADDICTION - Module 6 Common Triggers for Sex Addiction and Porn Addiction

Recapping on the previous 5 modues is a good starting point. Key to the recovery journey is the idea that you are going to be working at 2 level at the same time.  Firstly, you are working on stopping the behaviours (this is the 90 days abstinence from sexual acting out so that you can shake off the dopamine dependency) and getting back control over your brain and behaviours.  Secondly, you will be starting to work on what is beneath the apparent need for reliance on acting out behaviours such as sex addiction.  Here you will be loking at the fundamental causal factors which need to be addressed sucessfully to promote full and lasting recovery from addictive behaviours. 

Modules 1-5 have addressed the know-how and tools you need for achieving abstinence and keeping stopped.  If as you read this you have not successfully schieved a true 90 days abstinence you will benefit from returning to those tools, especially those set out in modules 4 and 5, and reinforcing the techniques provided to achieve true 90-day abstinence before progressing onto this module.  This is important because to be working too soon on both the 'stopping' level and the 'underlying issues' level without specialist support is likely to be overwhelming and counter-productive.

Assuming you have achieved at least 60 of the 90 days true abstinence (ie without relapses or slip-ups) we might say that the required 're-booting' of your dopamine pathways is well underway and you will be experiencing new-found confidence and control over your triggers and urges.  Mental capacity will be improved sufficiently for you to focus efforts on the environmental, psychological and emotional triggers which are a key component of your addiction spiralling.

Module 6 is the fist of 5 modules in this programme which take in turn different groups of causal experiences and influences likely to lead to a need for destructive addictive habits.  Each of these modules 6-10 are optional reading and further work according to your case.  So for example you will have looked at some indicators in previous modules of the broad categories of causal factors such as relationships, trauma and personality / core beliefs.  Your results can be used to point you to the relevant modules.  If you are attending specialist sessions with a sex addiction therapist then they will be able to guide your reading.  

Module 6 covers a diverse cluster of causal factors, many of which could also be deemed to be opportunities (see module 4 where time, time alone, money, technology and people are looked at specifically as opportunities which can be managed straightforwardly), and that I find often set my clients up for compulsive acting out and in that sense they seem like opportunities.  I have gathered them here because a) they crop up a lot with clients and b) I believe they are less easily managed as they are more deeply rooted in our day to day existing and usually unavoidable in modern living and so need more detailed attention.  They are the kind of causal factors and quasi-opportunities that fit more into the underlying issues category than they do the practical stopping one.

When my clients come to me we spend a good amount of time becoming more understanding of their unique histories and how these have contributed to their addictive and compulsive behaviours.  I often liken this process to building a biographical jigsaw where we carefully construct and paint the pieces and slot them together to make a picture that makes sense to the client.  We are talking here about anything between 6 and maybe 15 pieces of key experiences, events and influences that together form the journey to addiction.  To illustrate, pieces might reflect the family environment in which my client grew up, their school experiences, career path, trauma, relational skills, personality, core beliefs, opportunities and so on.  Once the puzzle is as complete as the client needs it to be we can begin to address each piece and how each relates to the others.  The relationships between the pieces are often complex, sometimes linear or overlapping, but whatever explanations we construct the often imperfect but good enough picture provides the hypotheses we need.

Module 6 looks at a diverse range of influencing factors that add more pieces or at least act as the glue that keeps the pieces fixed together.  Add to this the years of research and experience of the therapeutic world and we have a very unique and robust case study to address the core reasons for the behaviours and promote full and lasting recovery.  To briefly reflect on the commonly accepted therapeutic models and assumptions, we know that for example certain styles of parenting often lead to common patterns of adult behaviours in children and that trauma experiences have a certain definable and lasting set of effects on people that result in common psychological and emotional symptoms.  With this knowledge I can add to clients' histories so that the links between experience and later behaviours make reasonable sense and can even point to predictions about future patterns of behaviours.

I call the causal factors we will look at in module 6 DLFs (short for disguised life-style factors) and have gathered them into the 3 Es; events, emotions and environment.  We are looking at these because how you respond to the 3 Es will be determined by your individual 'set-up' or in other words how you are programmed by various factors.  For example, you may have patterns of behaviours that re-surface in particular social events or work situations or in your relationships.  You might not see them as such currently but hopefully module 6 will shed some light on these and set you up for recognising further, deeper patterns in modules 7-10.  What we get from these patterns are clues as to what might be going on at deeper, often unconscious levels so that these can be hooked out and examined more closely. 

EVENTS

Triggers under this heading surface frequently when I am working with sex addiction clients, and often when they are simply relaying seemingly innocuous experiences to me before we have even got into history-taking.  Many clients come to the first session in a highly anxious state, despite being otherwise high-functioning and 'together' adults.  responses to events such as these point to underlying insecurities, anxieties, distorted self-image, low self-esteem and deeply-rooted shame.  I have broken this part down into socialising, work and life transitions.

Socialising 

Two broad categories make sense here and you may be in one or the other or have a foot in both!  One camp relates to the fear response when meeting people and groups which creates anxiety perhaps because of a damaged self-image or a worry about some form of defectiveness such as saying or doing the wrong thing.  Being worried about being humiliated or making a fool of yourself is often the distorted automatic thinking that takes hold in these situations despite knowing logically that you are intact and resourceful.  Anxieties such as this can lead to avoidance of social situations and of meeting people, or always being a little awkward around people.  Social isolation can ofetn occur where you might withdraw into a self-imposed and self-constructed life-style which is hermit-like and as a result of which you fail to build sustained friendships and relationships.

Camp two is the opposire - socialising sets you up for acting out because alcohol (and or drugs) are available or , certain places such as sex venues are frequented (common it seems even today for executive and client gatherings) or where the peer pressure leads you into opportunities for acting out behaviours.  Clients also frequently report using acting out behavours such as pornography and masturbation or erotic massages as antidotes to the evening before which they need to pull them out of a hangover.

Both camps imply the possibility of an underlying maladaptation to social interacting.  So for example, in camp 1 there is a lack of normal adapting to new situations and people and in camp 2 there is a lack of boundary management and assertiveness in order to stay safe, even more appropriate when in a committed relationship.  In both there is a regression of sorts to childlike acting out whether it be the shy, withdrawing and vulnerable child or lack of rational decison-making and impulsiveness reminiscent or adolescence. 

Next Step

Examine your patterns of responding to social situations - are you avoidant and withdrawing or impulsive and over-compensating to keep up with peer pressures?  

Try to understand why you behave dysfuntionally in these ways - for example were you constantly put down by parents or told you should be seen and not heard? Or perhaps you were given few boundaries when yourger or conversely too many when a child so that boundaries as an adult have become problematic?

Be more mindful in social situations of your internal responses, anxieties and tendencies to 'play along' with the crowd and begin to counter these with active rational challenges.  Begin to experiment with new behaviours such as speaking out more and monitoring the reactions you get (which will likely disconfirm your anxieties) or being more assertive about your personal boundaries with peers (you may be surprised to find that you have compatriots in the group!)

If you cannot make sense of your behaviours and their root causes or your experiments continually flop (they will sometimes fail as they do for all of us!) then turn to additional self-help resources or support from your therapist or coach.

Work 

My clients report workplace factors frequently and in particular:

- pressures of work demands both volume and performance expectations

- time and location

- colleagues and clients

Pressure of Work and Managing Expectations

Many clients' addictive behaviours around sex and porn addiction have taken hold since entering the world of work, professional status or self-employment.  Constant, relentless pressure resulting from work-related demands is a key causal factor behind many addicts acting out.  Although we generally find when we unpick this that the work context is actually a secondary stage of the triggers and not the primary one.  This tends to be more about how individuals respond to the workng environment which in turn is based on their core beliefs related to work or perhaps a social anxiety.  Addressing these will usually alleviate the secondary triggers that arise in the work context.

Work itself can be ferociously addictive and become co-morbid with sex and porn addiction.  What we are saying here is that this person has an underlying need for acting out behaviours and it so happens that he or she has discovered that work and/or sex fit the bill.  Work as an addiction is easily masked of course behind our social expectations that we should all work all of the time and continue to push our performance to our limits.  

Looking at sex and porn adiction as a self-standing addiction for now, it is clear from my clients' experiences that they have developed a compulsive coping pattern (to manage work-related causal factors) which consist of long working hours and days, working during leisure time and working into the early morning hours, often when partners are sleeping (as they should be!). Not only are clients in this scenario self-perpetuating work pressures (the more they achieve the more their boss or shareholders expect from them) so too are convenient opportunities for acting out created, for example when alone in the office in the evening or when partners are asleep or when working away on their many 'essential' work trips away from home.

Over-working is self-imposed. As addicts strive to prove to their bosses and colleagues that they can handle endless pressure they trap themselves into a cycle of ever-escalating expectations and a need to maintain the super-human personae.  But of course we are all only human and we all have our limits.  Bosses know this but will exploit, consciously or unconsciously, a projection of work hero who can always take on more or solve the unsolveable. In fact, working less makes people more productive - our brains get to rest and recuperate making them more energised and creative.  Companies that reduce working weeks produce more and make higher profits. 

Assertiveness is a part of the recovering addict's long-term relapse management strategy and being able to sometimes say 'I am sorry I can't do that right now because...'.  But many need to have a shift in their core beliefs related to work as this response implies an admittance of failure.

Sometimes sex and porn addicted workaholics benefit from focused therapeutic work on their core beliefs relating to work expectations.  Often they are being driven by a core belief, family script or internalised parental voice that makes them preoccupy with work.  They have an underlying assumption that solving work problems and pressures must be done by working harder and harder. Unrelenting standards are constantly pushing such apparently dedicated employees to the brink of mental capacity and towards breakdown.  Such internalised voices and assumptions often originate with parents' persistent demands on their children to constantly aim high, to be the best, to perform optimally all the time.  Their children grow into adults with a fixation on always achieving what is impossible, being the best all the time and always having a solution whilst never seeking help and support.  In my experience of this sort of client, this constant drive for success gives rise to a need for a pressure valve, and because the high standards core beliefs block help (as everyone must be highly self-sufficient and ferociously independent) such a release valve often comes in the shape of dysfuntional acting out such as sex and porn compulsions.  These are great for easy access to dopamine which itself is a highly effective, and addictive, antidote to stress and anxiety.

Next Steps

Treatment for unrelenting standards which result in stress, anxiety and dysfuntional behaviours operates at two levels.  On the first, clients learn new, healthy coping mechanisms to manage the day to day pressures of work.  These will include establishing firm boundaries around work schedules so that working hours are reasonable, taking proper breaks and eating sensible lunches, finding simple ways of resting during breaks to give body and brain sufficient recuperation, and seeking more support from managers and colleagues in solving problems.  At another level this sort of work-compulsive will also benefit from re-assessing their core beliefes relating to work expectations, re-defining and reinforcing their sources of self- validation and addressing any underlying fears of failure or anticipated punishment from others about their standards and achievements.

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