Command and Control

Dan Jenkins

About a week ago I heard President Bush mention that the United States is going to help the new Iraqi government build Command and Control Centers in order to fight the insurgency. When I heard the phrase, ‘Command and Control’ several recollections came to mind. I recall several years ago during the initial phase of the Iraqi war our primary objective was to knock out their command and control centers in order to create confusion and lack of direction among the troops loyal to Saddam Hussein. I also couldn’t help but relate this whole idea of command and control to how the mind works.

Individually, a lack of command and control takes a person down the path of confusion and chaos that is so characteristic of addictive behavior.

It’s been said that an army without the structure of command is led around by its privates. What an appropriate analogy for a sexual addiction! In fact, the rational thinking of your mind is done in the outer layer of your cerebral cortex, and that layer is only a few millimeters in thickness. The cortex makes all the big decisions and psychologists have come to refer to this activity as the ‘executive functions of the brain.’

Below the cortex, running through the heart of your brain like a wishbone, is the limbic system and the source of your emotions. The limbic system is concerned with only a few basic things.

When you walk into a room the first thing your limbic system does is threat assessment, ‘Should I fight or run?’ If there is no threat the question becomes, ‘Is it food and can I eat it?’ If it’s not food the final concern of the limbic system is, ‘Can I have sex with it?’ What do you think would happen if the executive functions that exert command and control over the lower levels of the brain were knocked out by, let us say, a strategically placed cruise missile? The brain would function like an army without an executive commander and the result would be chaos, lack of control, and yes, men being led around by their privates.

Did you know that there are more inhibitory neurons in your brain than there are excitatory neurons? In other words, more effort is spent mentally keeping you from doing things than the energy it takes to do things. Let me clarify this further with some examples. People with brain damage are often impulsive in their actions. They don’t seem to have the executive functions that inhibit impulsive acting out behavior. It takes effort for the rational side of your brain to control the impulsive, emotional side.

Now, add to this that the Limbic system, the emotional part of your brain, does not have an understanding of time or reality. Fantasy seems to satisfy almost as well as reality. For example, you fool your limbic system every time you create a sexual fantasy and your body becomes sexually aroused. You know in your cerebral cortex that this is not reality, but that old limbic system doesn’t seem to know or care.

What happens, then, when you give command and control functions over to that base, lower level, emotional part of your brain? Answer: You stop living in reality. You start living a life of impulsivity and chaos. People who have lost executive functions, either by brain damage or addictive processes, feel threatened by things that should not evoke a fight or flight response. Without command and control, people develop anxiety disorders (see threat everywhere), eat excessively, or become sexually out of control. Sound familiar?

When a person with brain damage has lost command and control over their behaviors, we don’t lay big guilt trip on them. The answer is fairly simple. We structure their environment so they are more likely to succeed. For example, sometimes mentally retarded individuals self-stimulate by banging their heads against a wall. Lectures and shame-based approaches don’t change the self-abusive behavior because it’s not based in rational thought. Instead, we take away a little of their freedom and make them wear a helmet.

People with sexual addictions need some external control too (no, not chastity belts). We call it accountability to someone else. Submit yourself to the authority of another person who can help you make those tough decisions. It’s humbling but the alternative is to stay emotionally retarded.

If your command and control centers are not functioning correctly, seek out someone else who will fulfill that function to some degree. I’ve known very intelligent men who are being led around by their limbic systems because they have a long history or relinquishing control of their executive functions to their basic instincts. It’s very humbling to realize that the path to regaining control involves other people but accountability partners will help you start thinking again with your cerebral cortex.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

Rebuilding Trust in Friendships

Clint Thomas

Friendships can be an incredible source of stability, encouragement and strength. God said in Genesis 2:18, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ thus the friendship between Adam and Eve began. Also in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are exhorted to, ‘spur one another on toward love and good deeds as well as maintain meeting together for the purposes of encouragement.” In other passages (Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12) Paul talks of Christians working together as a body in interdependence. All throughout scripture we see examples of the importance of friendships.

A good friendship requires maintenance and care, time and attention. Something we guys don’t think much about this part of friendship, expecting that it won’t require any effort. In effect we sometimes treat friendships as if they have very little value. In large part we have not been taught how to maintain or value these relationships. An unfortunate fact about our culture today is that most men have very few friends compared to women. As a result this has negative effects on our emotional and physical health.

Friendships are primarily about intimacy; knowing another person and being known. The phrases ‘see into me’ or ‘into me see’ describe it well.

Maintenance within a friendship is allowing yourself to be fully known and showing interest in knowing the other person. When this happens a deep connection can be experienced. However, what happens when we are caught up in sin that we are ashamed to share with our friends? Can we be intimate and hide simultaneously?

This is the ultimate struggle in friendships and marriage for that matter; allowing our sin to be known as well as our positive qualities. I hear from wives who are broken by their husband’s sexual sin say, ‘I thought I knew him but I guess I didn’t. I feel so hurt, I don’t know if I can ever trust him again’.

They feel betrayed, foolish and vulnerable. While wives are our closest friends, our other friends will sometimes feel similar.

Friendships are like taking a walk with someone. The further you travel the closer you become. However, at the point you begin to lie, or deceive, you are no longer walking with that person even though they think you are. You have chosen a separate fork in the road.

Rebuilding the friendship is much like walking back to the fork in the road where you separated from your friend and starting from that point forward. Your friend will know that you are trustworthy by your willingness to do this without defensiveness. They will see they are important to you by your willingness to put this kind of effort forward to restore trust with them.

A trustworthy person will have words and deeds that match. What they say and what they do will be the same. They will also acknowledge when they have hurt someone. Taking responsibility for their actions, they will apologize. Their non-verbal communication such as body posture and facial expressions will match this as well. When this repentant stance is taken over a period of time trust will begin to build.

A repentant heart leads to rebuilding trust and reconciliation can be the end result. You don’t have any guarantees that your friend will respond to your efforts but you will never know unless you put the effort forward. When your friend knows that you mean what you say he can trust that it will be safe to get close to you and reconcile an intimate relationship.

The Greek term for reconcile is to bring back to a former state of harmony. This harmony can only be gained when there is true repentance on the offender’s part and therefore safety in the relationship.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle and The New Life Weekend.

‘Ka-CHOO’

Martin Fierro

Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo is a silly focus of a book where Dr. Seuss details the ongoing impact of one seemingly small act, a sneeze, which leads to a large disastrous result. At each step of the intensifying destructive storm, the bug follows along in horror of what has resulted from the onset of his behavior. The end of the story concludes with unsettling chaos within the city, which is not any where near being controlled. The last picture of the bug who sneezed is a display of, ‘oh my, look what I did, I am ashamed of myself.’

When a man truly works through his crisis of truth where he has to confront his sexual addiction, he starts to recognize the impact of his seemingly little action on his life environment (family, friends, co-workers, church etc’). There will be raw moments of discouragement, frustration, embarrassment, shame, guilt. In such, it is virtually impossible to escape the snare of depression.

Recovery and depressed moods do frequently go hand in hand. Once in sobriety, uncovered wounds must be dealt with to truly ‘move on’ from the snare of the addiction. Reconciliation with others and personal healing is an initial focus of recovery/sobriety from sexually addictive behavior. But when the momentum for this recovery/sobriety is not in the optimum desired fashion, or rapid speed, men can become depressed and experience a sense of hopelessness. A ‘why bother’ attitude can settle in as well.

In that, working sobriety is a two-edged sword. The one side is the reclaiming of the healthy life God desires for you and the relationship you are in (or going to be in). The other side of the sword is the pain of facing the feelings and thoughts that got you to this point in life (the seemingly little sneeze idea). The actions towards reconciliation with yourself, your relationships with others and with God will naturally cast a light on your soul where you will have to face the true despair of your actions.

Through the ongoing recovery and reflection of life many men will begin to see the very small acts of life that began the ripple effect leading to the complete snare of addiction. This is why it is so important to have a support group and a professional therapist to assist you through these times. If it is attempted alone, the chances for being stuck in those moments (even without realizing it) are extremely high.

Again, it is a benefit when a man turns away from sexual vices pursuing daily sobriety because it does him well to recognize the triggers that led to the disastrous result. Much of that is the turning back the pages of life, facing painful experiences and feelings while recognizing the results from one situation to another.

For some to recognize the impact of the ‘Ka-Choo’ moments in their life can bring on great despair and grief. In the recovery process depression can set in as you turn back the pages of your life to face and come to peace with wounds (humiliation, incompetence, insignificance, and powerlessness) that occurred in your life.

Maybe you are recognizing that the depressed moods you have been struggling with have caused some difficulty in your life: trouble sleeping, changes in your eating habits, significant weight change, difficulty with concentration, feelings of hopelessness, or thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself. These are significant symptoms and signs that you should seek professional mental health support.

Depressed moods can be extremely powerful and debilitating and should not be taken lightly. To find professional support to manage and work through the depressed moods you are suffering from call 1-800 NEW LIFE. As with the recovery process from your sexual vices, depression is something you should never go through alone. Seek help and talk with others confirming your experience. And most importantly don’t underestimate the ripple effects of depressed moods through your recovery process. It may seem like a simple episode but if the depressed moods affect your daily routine and functioning, seek professional help.

See Every Man’s Battle for support.