Defining Secondary Boundaries

The next few installments of the blog will be about defining secondary boundaries. As a team at the workshops, the counselors and I have been raising the bar on what and how we present the material. We’re constantly discussing how we can make the workshop more effective and present a TON of important content in the most meaningful way.  A member of the team, Jim Phillis, recently presented a breakdown of 10 types of secondary boundaries that have been very, very helpful. I hope you’ll take this material and apply it to your own recovery. I have already applied it to mine, and am making some changes which I’ll share as we go.

First, what are secondary boundaries? They are the fences we cross on our way to going off the cliff of acting out. In other words, they are experiences where we can potentially enter the addictive cycle and ultimately act out. It is important to remember that secondary boundaries are typically innocuous in themselves; they are usually not sinful. However, when we encounter them, we must acknowledge that we are one step closer to sinning. By defining them, we are simply heightening our own awareness and raising our level of intentionality with respect to integrity.

Here are the first 3 types:

  1. Geographicalplaces that can be triggering. It can include particular cities or parts of town.  It could include places within your home. The idea is to define which geographical areas might activate lustful thoughts. Once defined, you’ll need to decide on a strategy to handle them. That could be avoiding them, but more likely will mean being on heightened alert when you are in them.
  2. Situationalcontexts that can be triggering. Examples I regularly hear are 3 B’s: Bars, Beaches and Ballgames. With situational triggers it is also important to look more deeply, to see if the issue is the emotional experience of the context. Other situational triggers might include:  issues at work, payday, church, meetings where women/men are present, when you’re home alone.
  3. Relational – think people. These are relationships and specifically, situations within those relationships, where you might be triggered. There is overlap with situational here as you’ll see. Again, it is important to look at what happens emotionally in these relational situations to see what makes it a boundary. Examples may include certain people: a flirtatious coworker, a “touchy” person, a family member whom you have a strained relationship with. It could also include particular situations within relationships: conflict with spouse, disciplining kids, dealing with parents or siblings.

To close, remember that we aren’t trying to define every single situation where we might be triggered and to stay away from it. That’s impossible. And unbiblical if we’re to be in but not of the world. The crux of the exercise is to raise our awareness and preparedness. When I worked at Arthur Andersen I was part of a team that developed DRP’s – Disaster Recovery Plans. (The plan at Andersen didn’t account for tax fraud, however). The goal was to assist clients in anticipating situations that might arise where corporate data systems could be compromised (natural disaster, theft, etc), then create a plan to keep the business functioning effectively in light of it.

Same thing here: we want to anticipate situations that might trigger us and have a plan to keep ourselves functioning effectively in light of them.

 

Self Temptation

James 1:14-15

..but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sometimes we’re too quick to blame our temptation on the Devil and the culture. Is it true that temptation arises from these sources? Yes, it is. However, often times our temptation originates from within. It begins when we are dragged away and enticed. What does that mean? It means our focus shifts away from what matters most and we become distracted with what fulfills the least. Many of us have reels of old footage from past porn binges, affairs, strip clubs and chat lines that we can recollect and thereby be enticed. When we engage that footage and allow ourselves to fantasize about it we are being dragged away; or to put it in context of the verse, we are dragging ourselves away. Where is that going to lead us?
We also experience temptation as a form of dealing with our emotions. Some of us have learned that emotions such as anger, insignificance, loneliness, rejection, fear, failure and disappointment can be numbed and soothed by engaging sexual thoughts. Unfortunately, it is easier to engage those thoughts and medicate rather than to deal with the emotions appropriately. It was very difficult for me to accept this truth and to learn to deal with my emotions in healthy ways. It was especially difficult to learn how to process my emotions with other people. I wanted to keep it all bottled up and to myself. I didn’t want to weigh anyone down with my junk. I wanted people to think I had it altogether; that I wasn’t needy. The truth is: we’re all needy and sometimes we have to get needy out loud.
Whether to numb feelings or to excite ourselves, we are giving birth to sin and ultimately that will give way to death. We have to take ownership for our self-temptation and be willing to engage our neediness, and surrender ourselves to God.

A couple of questions to consider:

1 – In what ways do you tempt yourself, effectively dragging yourself away to be enticed?

2 – Have you turned these things over to God and others? If not, how about telling God and others about it today.

The Great Accelerator of Sexual Addiction

Darren Lowman

The Internet’s ‘triple A’ ‘ “access, affordability, and anonymity” (Cooper) has allowed pornography to escalate in ways thought impossible. Men struggling with sexual sin/acting out are finding that they can explore their every fantasy in complete privacy and utter anonymity. Long gone are the days of sheepishly sliding into the corner liquor store to purchase a sleazy magazine. At a cost of less than 50 bucks a month, a DSL connection provides millions of pages of pornography. Before internet access, thirty dollars would buy a single steamy porn magazine or video.

It has become so easy to destroy one’s life.

Internet pornography has changed the way addiction counselors assess compulsive sexual problems. Generally, it takes 2 years or more for an addiction to become established. In other words, counselors want to see a pattern of maladaptive behavior over a long period of time before naming a problem addictive.

The Internet, however, has significantly reduced the time it takes to become “hooked” and for the destructive nature of this disorder to become realized. This is why Dr. Patrick Carnes, known as the grandfather of sexual addiction, states that “the Internet has become the great accelerator of the addictive process.” Internet porn, also known as the crack cocaine of sex addiction (Al Cooper), can grab a hold of a man or women in less than 60 days. Men attending Every Man’s Battle conferences are known to express the pivotal Impact internet porn has had on their lives. It is often a great accelerator of their addiction or it is the beginning point.

What makes the Internet such a risky proposition? Why should men remain vigilant in their stand against the evil lurking inside the computer screen? The internet, unlike any other medium, offers rapid fire information. Not to mention the 1,000 new pornographic web sites that enter the super highway daily. The brains circuits are quickly overloaded and require more and more stimulation in order to maintain or increase the “high”. The pleasure seeker is driven to explore the next image, surprise, or fantasy with no end to this search.

Carnes writes about one such individual in his book, Clinical Management of Sex Addiction:

Robert sat in his attorney’s office wondering how things had gotten so out of control. It was only six months ago that he discovered pornography online and now he was being charged with possession of child pornography. He was at a loss for words when his wife asked why this happened. What could he tell his own children about the fantasy life that he developed online? Robert remembers discovering the illicit pornography and then his life becomes a blur as his addiction spirals out of control and into a world he never thought he would enter. The next thing he remembers is being arrested at his home and his computer being taken away as if it were a weapon from a crime scene. As his attorney entered the room, Robert realizes how much worse things could have become if he had continued to progress in his cyber sex addiction.

Additionally, the World Wide Web is turning some not only into sex addicts but into sex offenders. Many would have never gone down such a road if it weren’t for access to the Internet. Such a case was reported by Natalie Pona, a staff reporter for the San Jose Marital & Sexuality Center:

This is new for forensic psychologists, said Dr. Al Cooper, a California based therapist and author of Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians. What were finding is a lot of these people have no history of sexual problems’. And we believe they would not have had problems without the Internet. Take the case of the 21 year old Winnipeg man who allegedly lured a teen from her home. He allegedly gave her marijuana then videotaped himself sexually assaulting her, said Stonewall RCMP Sgt. Gerry Thomas. The attack was interrupted by a passing RCMP officer. The man didn’t have criminal record.

Certainly, this type of situation is an exception and should not be understood any other way. However, men are generally unaware that engaging in cyber sex accelerates an established sex addiction and can lead them places thought impossible. Additionally, it leads many to sexual compulsion that, without the Internet, would never have developed such a problem

Most would agree the internet has changed the way we all do life.
There are many, many up sides to the Internet. However, access, availability and affordability have allowed the ignorant pastor, father, husband, employee, etc to get caught in its evil web before ever knowing how devastating it may prove to be.

Men who have been successful at rooting sexual addiction from their life have taken extreme measures to ensure the Internet doesn’t “take them down”. For example, many have removed their Internet (or computer all together) connection. When the internet is unavoidable in the work place, these men maintain accountability, meeting with others on a regular basis ensuring that their sexual behavior is “an open book.” Men in recovery must be aware of just how vulnerable they may be to losing all that matters to them, in part, because of the great accelerator of sexual addiction’. the Internet.

Are you viewing Internet pornography? See Every Man’s Battle for help.
For an Internet Filter see, Every Home Protected.