The 4 components of recovery from porn – Part 4: Emotional


Emotional Distress After a Personal Injury

We finish our 4 part series on the components of recovery from porn and sex addiction. The Emotional component is our focus today. 

So far, we have addressed the Behavioral (Part 1), Spiritual (Part 2) and Chemical (Part 3) components.  Of the four components of recovery, the emotional is typically the most difficult to discover and treat. But, without addressing the emotional roots, recovery is very often short-lived.   

As a counselor, I often find that the real roots of any strong unwanted behavior, especially addictions, are rooted in emotions. There are several reasons for this. 

Every person is broken

Yes, each and every one of us is emotionally broken in some way or another. Some more than others. We all have some level of shame we live with. 

Behaviors fueled by underlying emotions. 

Many of a person’s behaviors are fueled by underlying emotions and often a desire to cope, medicate or counter a negative emotion. In other words, what a person does or how they react to a situation or event is fueled by a history of learned responses and emotions. In fact it doesn’t even always have to be a negative emotion, yet the emotion is still the underlying motivation for a behavior. 

One perspective is referring to a person’s behavior as the River, and the reason for that behavior is the River under the River. 

Wired for love.

God wired every person to love and be loved. Period. We must have it and if we don’t, we will seek it and often accept any counterfeit form offered to us. Sexual sin is the most common form of counterfeit love. Most common forms of sexual sin are porn, prostitution, illicit massage parlors, extramarital affairs, etc.  

No love = Lots of Pain.

Since God wired us to be loved, if we do not feel loved we feel “out of sorts” or feel disordered or empty inside. Often this emptiness is so severe it is painful.  

Typically when it is not painful, it is due to other already established coping mechanisms to avoid the pain. This lack of love results in pain, which is a form of hell on earth. Some once said, “If you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit it”. Our coping mechanisms, and our compensating behaviors are the transformation of this pain. Porn is an obvious transmission of pain. 

What is not so obvious is other behaviors such as reacting in anger when an opinion is challenged, or needs aren’t getting met. Even some overachievers are seeking to fulfill an emptiness or need for validation by overachieving, in these cases their behaviors are in essence transmitting pain. (more about this in a bit)

Shame.

Negative events in our lives, especially in our youth, often result in shame. This shame and the resulting pain becomes our identity. 

Here is a real example of how all the above come together. 

A third-grader, Jimmy, comes home with a report card. He has 4 A’s and 1 C. His father says “Why is this grade a C and not an A, and doesn’t even acknowledge the 4 A’s Jimmy did get”. Now the father just asked a simple question and wanted information, maybe so he could help his son. However, since the father didn’t express affirmation of the 4 A’s, and only focused on the C, Jimmy heard “I didn’t get all A’s, I am not good enough, I need to be perfect to earn my father’s love”.  

Yes, this seems distorted but in actuality, it is often what the child internalizes. Several of these types of events lead to a person to describe themselves with shame statements such as “I am not good enough”, “I need to be perfect to be loved”,”I am not perfect therefore I am unlovable”.  This shame shapes this person’s identity. 

How this negatively shapes Jimmy as an adult.

As an adult Jimmy (now Jim), lives with the above shame and internalizes the associated identity. Jim is now a successful architect with his own firm. His motivation to be “good enough” drove him to succeed, unconsciously thinking “If I am successful enough, maybe I will be loveable”. Jim’s coworkers, friends and family all know that if they question something that Jim says, he responds in anger. 

In actuality, when Jim is questioned, he hears criticism and the wound of his father criticizing his report card and it’s like touching the thorn in a lion’s paw. It triggers an unbalanced emotional response. Jim also has great difficulty with intimacy as he cannot let a woman emotionally close to him for fear that they will find out that he is not worthy of being loved. Jim has discovered that looking at porn is a good escape. He has no risk of rejection, he can escape into the fantasy of being wanted and loved without risk, and the Godly designed intense pleasure from the chemical cocktail delivered in his brain (as described in the last article), makes porn a substitute for love. 

Even though it is false love, a counterfeit, it nonetheless is safer than the rejection of a real person. Jimmy goes on feeling empty because he does not have authentic love from the porn and is unable to get emotionally close enough to his wife, due to his fear of intimacy, to be authentically loved. 

Additionally, Jim doesn’t want to go to mass because he feels like a hypocrite plus he often is in a state of mortal sin from looking at porn and doesn’t want his wife to ask why he isn’t receiving communion. So he just doesn’t go at all. 

The emotional woundedness of Jim prevents him from receiving and accepting the authentic love he is wired for, and drives him to the counterfeit unsatisfying love of porn. Plus he is spiritually disordered by not having a relationship with God because of his guilt and feeling unworthy of God’s love.   

Jim is stuck. 

Brokenness is unfortunately commonplace among men.

I will tell you, in counseling and running groups, I can’t even count how many men have stories very similar to Jim’s. 

As I have said from the beginning, porn is not the problem, but a symptom of a deeper problem. The emotional brokenness yields the shame and false identity, which is shown through the behaviors of looking at porn and live events triggering the desire, plus the disconnect from God and not attending mass and the spiritual disorder, and then the chemical cocktail of the brain resulting in the intense pleasure of porn providing a medication and coping mechanism for all of our problems. 

How to fix the mess.

As we see from this scenario, porn is the major problem, but in Jim’s case, there were intimacy issues, anger issues, and likely a host of other behavioral symptoms – like depression, isolation from family, and difficulty connecting with coworkers, etc., from the emotional brokenness. 

Pulling the 4 parts together.

To address the problem outlined above, you can see that the behaviors must be altered, (filters to avoid porn, recognizing boundaries that create paths to acting out, etc)

Plus Spirituality factors must be reordered (confession, daily praying or meditation to connect to God, learning God’s plan for sexuality, learning that God is where the true intimacy lies and going to mass, etc).

Plus addressing the Chemical draw and addiction of the porn and its chemical cocktail that creates a pleasure that draws on to look at porn compulsively or addictively as an escape or medication to life.  

But most importantly, addressing the brokenness and emotional wounds – 

  • The feeling unlovable and unworthy in Jim’s case must be healed. This wound must be discovered and identified. (Restoring God’s Foundation addresses this). 
  • The false identity must be dismantled (begins with scripture – and Restoring God’s Foundation addresses this), 
  • When the source of the wound is identified, it must be healed through the forgiveness of those that triggered the wound as well as a self for living the lie of the false identity. (Restoring God’s Foundation addresses this)
  • All of this is done while the behaviors are identified and managed, the spiritual disorder is re-ordered, and the chemical craving for porn is addressed (Restoring God’s Foundation addresses ALL of this)

By now, you are beginning to not only see that porn is much deeper than a sinful behavior but it in most cases involves a multi-faceted approach. And Road to Purity can help with its program Restoring God’s Foundation. (did we say it’s free!) 

And just in case you didn’t know, Dann Aungst, the founder of Road to Purity has been through all of this. Dann was addicted for over 30 years and has been in recovery for nearly 14. See his personal story here “The Battle for Purity”. God has led Dann to a place of freedom and a deep call to bring others to freedom as well. He says “There should be no boundaries to freedom and God’s love” which is why a large amount of the programs that Road to Purity offer are free. 

Another free awesome gift for addicts is the newly released online community called The Simon Community. A great safe place where addicts can share their struggles, get prayers, and communicate with other men sharing the same struggles. 

Next steps and recommendations to stop porn use.

If you or someone you know is battling the scourge of sexual sin, pornography or other, I invite you to try for free, our unique recovery program – Restoring God’s Foundation
If you would like to support the Road to Purity ministry or sponsor the cost of the program for someone, please donate today.

One thought on “The 4 components of recovery from porn – Part 4: Emotional”

  • Tom Pipines says:

    Your ministry is a gift, Dann.
    You have allowed our Lord to heal you from your addiction and use it for His Glory

    Thank you for this gift.
    God Bless

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