The Drivers Behind Sexually Addictive Behaviors
Because sex is a natural biological drive, treating sex addiction is quite difficult. But success does happen if the focus is on the right issues. As with all forms of addiction, the Kiloby Center – through extensive research and field-testing – believes that the focus should not be on the behavior itself (sexually acting out) but rather the drivers behind the addiction. The sex drive is not the only driver. There are emotional and psychological drivers that increase the drive towards unhealthy, addictive behaviors. These additional drivers include unresolved trauma, shame, and deficiency stories such as “I’m unsafe” or “I’m not good enough.”
Ironically, one additional driver is the recovery story itself. In recovery, a client with sex addictive behavior begins to measure his or her progress over time including counting days between sex acts or counting overall abstinence time. This measuring is often hijacked by the ego and becomes a set up for failure. Because sex is a natural biological drive, at some point abstinence just doesn’t work. One may be able to go 30 days, 90 days or even six months without any sex. But because it is a natural drive, the drive will reassert itself at some point. And when it does, if there has not been any deep work around all the drivers mentioned above (trauma, shame, deficiency stories), it is likely that the person will enter back into full-blown addictive behavior. Bottom line: believing that you are a sex addict or even a sex addict in recovery can actually fuel sexually addictive behavior.
Another driver is sexual repression. When people choose to remain completely abstinence, there is some danger in repressing sexual desires completely, which goes against the very fact that sex is a natural biological urge. In repressing all sex drives, even emotions and self-expression can unintentionally be repressed along with the sex drive. We do not condone sexual repression at all. In order to truly recover, one would have to eventually uproot the sexual repression and begin to live a healthy sex life. This can be difficult after a long period of repression, as repressing is a habit that tends to sustain itself. It can take an extended period of treatment or recovery to undo the repression. As a side note, many eastern spiritual teachings talk about celibacy as a higher form of spiritual realization. Although this may work for some, we have seen a long history of spiritual teachers proclaiming the benefits of celibacy while secretly sexually abusing their students. We have seen clergymen involved in sexual molestation of minors. There are stories of monks living in a monastery during a period of celibacy who masturbate themselves and each other. All of this happens because repression is not natural for many people and can create a double-life as sexuality yearns for expression in secret, unhealthy ways even after a vow of abstinence.
We have seen success cases at the Kiloby Center which happen over a long period of time and involve exclusively dealing with all of these drivers and do not involve sexual repression. Ours is not an abstinence approach because we feel abstinence sets up the sense of complete failure when the sex drive kicks back in after a period of abstinence, often bringing back up unresolved issues of shame, deficiency stories, and trauma. And when that relapse occurs, the ego feels despair and even depression, having lost its identity as a recovering sex addict in abstinence. This can feel like a major regression and can lead back to extremely harmful cycles of compulsive sex. “I’ve lost my recovery, so why not just act out completely now?” Acting out becomes a way of medicating the unresolved trauma, shame, and deficiency stories. This is why we focus on those drivers. They are the reason for the pain that created the addiction in the first place and they are the reason people find themselves in full-blown addiction after a relapse.
Our Approach Focuses on the Underlying Drivers, Not on the Behaviors or Symptoms
Instead of encouraging people to count the number of days of abstinence, we find it better to help the client define what a healthy sex life would be for him or her. Then we work to resolve the underlying issues (i.e., the drivers) that are fueling the more compulsive, dangerous and damaging aspects of the person’s sex life.
This form of recovery looks different for each person. For example, Client A may choose to refrain from binging on porn and instead choose to masturbate a few times a week without porn. Client B may choose to continue engaging in unhealthy behaviors. Client C may choose to refrain from any form of sex except with a committed partner. Despite these different recovery maps, all clients are encouraged to use our somatic mindfulness approach to resolve or dissolve the trauma, shame, deficiency stories, recovery stories, and repression (the drivers) that are fueling the behaviors. This is a long term approach and one that we think is healthier because it doesn’t focus on behaviors or symptoms but rather on the underlying pain driving the unhealthier forms of sex. Forms of sex that are unhealthy are ones that create harm to self (physically, emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually), harm to partners, family members, and other social relationships and inability to perform at work effectively or achieve other life goals.
But most of this harm is harm to self first. Trauma, shame and deficiency stories constitute an unhealthy ego. When there is an unhealthy ego acting out in compulsive and damaging ways, the fallout extends to relationships, work and other life endeavors. The key to our approach is to help the client learn to resolve and dissolve the underlying drivers, which over time, reduces the sexual activity directly related to the trauma, shame and deficiency stories. This would then leave, by nature, healthier forms of sex, which do not cause or which reduce damage to self and others.
Sex Addiction Treatment at the Kiloby Center Is Very Case Sensitive
Here are some examples:
A man who believes he is not good enough compared to other men may find himself attracted to porn that involves women worshipping big, virile men. These porn scenes have the effect of mirroring back to the porn watcher that he is not good enough. Deconstruct the false “I’m not good enough” story in the mind of the porn watcher and he slowly loses interest in that kind of porn.
A man who is addictive to being a voyeur, watching other people masturbate or have sex, often experiences fear of intimacy in his own sex life. Dealing with that fear of intimacy through mindfulness can uproot that fear such that the person no longer gets a sexual charge out of watching or experiences a greatly reduced charge.
A woman addicted to masturbation may be doing so as a result of a lack of love and support she is receiving from a partner or as a result of the pain and loneliness she feels from not having a partner. The focus would be to resolve the underlying loneliness (deficiency story) as well as any trauma from her childhood (e.g., abandoned by her father).
A man addicted to BDSM where he plays the subordinate role along with a dominant male or female may be dealing with issues of self-worth (deficiency stories) or unresolved trauma (being raped at an early age). We would work with this person to resolve these deficiency stories and trauma.
The measure of Success in Our Approach
Even though we don’t condom a complete abstinence approach, we support clients at the Kiloby Center who want to refrain from all or most forms of sex for a period of time. One can measure success quite cleanly in this way. “I haven’t had sex for 6 months, that’s success.” Well, it may be a success for those six months. But the rubber meets the road when the period of abstinence is over. And abstinence must end. So the key to truly measuring sex during and after a period of abstinence is the same as with all other forms of recovery: Have the underlying drivers been resolved such that when sex returns, there is less interest in the more harmful forms of sex.
For all other recovery maps (engaging in masturbation a few times a week, continuing the engage in all unhealthy behaviors, reducing porn usage, reducing other behaviors), the treatment is the same: Reduce or completely resolve the drivers – the trauma, shame, deficiency stories, recovery story, and repression.
Success is harder to measure when using a non-abstinence approach. But generally, over time, as the somatic mindfulness dissolves the drivers, a person begins to feel less and less drawn to the sexual acts that are directly related to drivers. Resolving the drivers resolves the pressure and compulsivity to engage in addictive behaviors that are creating the most harm. This also allows for a healthy sex life to begin to flourish. And what a healthy sex life looks like depends on what the client and the counselors agree would be healthy in a person’s particular case. For example, masturbating two or three times a week might feel very healthy and non-problematic to someone who previously binged on porn for hours at a time several times a week. A voyeur who loses interest in voyeurism by resolving the drivers might find that he still likes to watch people naked, but only in purely consensual scenarios. And he may begin to discover that he enjoys touching a partner more like the fear of intimacy begins to fade. Someone previously addicted to BDSM might occasionally engage in that activity for fun, but might not be drawn to it on any regular basis. Instead, the person might become more interested in intimate and sensual encounters with partners that do not involve the dynamics of bondage or control.
Unlike most other treatment centers, we employ an independent outcome measurement company to assess all patients in terms of these underlying drivers. So you can trust our results completely. As a client, you will see weekly progress reports showing whether our work is reducing the underlying drivers.
If you are suffering from sex addiction, feel free to reach out to the Kiloby Center if our program resonates with you. We have several on our staff and in our aftercare program who have overcome unhealthier forms of sex addiction and are now living a sexual life that brings them great pleasure without all the harm. Visit us at .
By Scott Kiloby