There are several behaviors, which sexually compulsive people habitually practice, that make their pathological sexual characteristics resistant to healing. One such unconscious behavior is the isolation practiced in their closest relationships. The need to protect mood-altering sexualization is the same as a cocaine addict hiding their ‘stash’. This can be any type of material, memory, or thought, which is used for inappropriate erotic arousal for escaping the painful life that they have designed.
In addition are the behaviors used to seek out sexual stimuli and recover from the shame based ‘hangovers’.
Isolation hides the true nature of intimate relationships. The confederate is selected for hiswillingness to practice a superficial appearance driven connection. The relationship must focus on its public image. Both addict and the partner mutually and tacitly agree to conceal all the painful shame, anger, and despair caused by lives spinning out of control. The credo of the Saturday Night Live show ‘Looking marvelous is better than being marvelous’ is the marching order of the day. The representation of healthy Christianity is sacrosanct, not the essence.
The result of isolation produces two dysfunctional tenets, which maintain the painful union. The first is replacing intensity for intimacy so the focus becomes the stimulation of the powerful emotions of fear, anger, and eroticism. One can get lost in these strong feelings and never process the content of the problems that are choking the life out of them. The distracting nature of these feelings serves an important purpose which keeps the addiction safe and hidden, and the relational dance intact. The second tenet is the practice of compulsive and obsessive overcontrol instead of a caring emotional connection. The isolation has a ‘no talk, no sharing’ rule which helps keep the separate existence preserved. Power struggles emerge from a climate where two people try to control one another and are obsessed with mistrust and mind reading. This becomes the fodder for all kinds of insane conflict, none of which address the real problem and issues they live with everyday. A caring emotional bond produces security. The overcontrol produces the inability to predict what the other is going to do when they are outside one’s direct grasp. This fact is the basis for many wasted hours of speculation and worry.
Because an emotional and spiritual bond does not unite them, they do not calculate very well how the other will react if they would take the ultimate risk and become honest. A great deal of distorted perceptions grows out of the ignorance that never gets a chance to be checked by the reality test of an actual intimate relationship.
An essential requirement to healing is being emotionally connected and living an open and honest life before God and man. Making this step is daunting for any addict due to the multiple levels of relational change for them and those coupled to them. Often the first level of change comes when a person is ‘busted’ and is faced with consequences that cause terrible shame and anguish. The change begins when one of God’s servants ministers grace and mercy to the busted perpetrator. This powerful supernatural and unnatural exchange between the sexually compulsive person and a true minister of grace begins a slow and developmental process of disclosure. Strangely and spectacularly, isolation and secrets give way to the acceptance and caring bond of confessional and priest. The ensuing battle will be against the established lifestyle and all its potent rewards and the new found freedom discovered in the acknowledgement of sin. The process is life giving but at the same time will feel very threatening.
The opportunity for a human to represent Christ’s love to another eventually leads the recipient to reach upwards to the Great Healer.
This act of hope results in another developmental process of transformation. This will challenge an additional set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have kept the enslaved Christian practicing an empty religious front. The religious veneer must fall to expose the true need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Such a process in time will become foundational in their recovery but in the beginning, it will feel intimidating and odd.
While these two levels of change occur another level is clamoring for attention and usually is the most difficult to transform. This is because it involves other people and sometimes a network of people. They invest in things remaining the same but for very different reasons than the addict. They have been involved with the addict because many things about their sick and exterior focused relationship works for them as well. They may find that being open and honest with these people does not result in grace and acceptance but in rejection and shaming.
During this process of change, the addict finds the more he grows in God the more tension it creates with those who resist recovery. This tension must be seen as a gift, because it is through the conflict and how it is managed God can influence change. The vital key is how the addict engages the conflicts and yet builds an emotional bond with those relationships. The final antidote for isolation is the committed emotional bond developed by open honest intimacy with God and man.
For help in the battle for integrity please see Every Man’s Battle.