What is self-compassion?
Multiple therapies can work together to overcome addiction. One of those therapies, which is free and can be used at any time, is self-compassion. While self-compassion by itself will not end an addiction, it is a useful tool for living a happier, healthier life and for changing the brain patterns associated with sexual addiction. Here, essentially, is what it is: treating yourself as you would treat a dear friend or loved one.
What would you do if your friend lost his job? What about if a significant other left him? Or what if he learned he had a debilitating disease? Would you chew him out or tell him that he shouldn’t feel bad? If he made a mistake, lost his temper, forgot something important, or wrecked the car, would you call him names and tell him he’s the only one in the world that does such things? Would you tell him over and over what a horrible or stupid person he is? Most likely, no.
Stop for a moment and think about what you would do.
Would you recognize how your friend might be feeling and feel some of his hurt yourself? Would you try to cheer him up? Would you remind him of the times he’s done things right or express confidence in his ability to get through the situation? Would you want him to be happy? This is compassion. When you feel and do these things for yourself, it is self-compassion.
How can I apply self-compassion in my life?
The age-old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” applies not only to how we speak of others, but also how we speak and think about ourselves. Just as we have healthier relationships with others as we extend compassion, mercy and grace, overlooking their faults and focusing on their strengths, so too can our relationships with ourselves improve as we forgive ourselves and highlight our own strengths and accomplishments.
Thus, one way to apply self-compassion in our own lives is to be aware of and intentionally modify how we talk and think about ourselves. Choose to think positively. Choose to speak positively.
This is not about being blind to what you are going through or pretending you aren’t feeling your emotions. Rather it is about choosing where to put your focus. For example, if you don’t want to get out of bed and you feel as though you no longer want to exist, but you get out of bed anyway, you could (A) berate yourself for how you feel, or (B) congratulate yourself for having the strength to get up when you don’t want to. (Or, if you didn’t get out of bed, you could (A) berate yourself for how you feel, or (B) congratulate yourself for at least recognizing that it is healthy and beneficial to get up.)
Besides verbally and mentally being self-compassionate, you may want to try journaling or writing yourself a letter. First, write down your negative feelings or thoughts. Then pretend that those are the feelings or thoughts of a best friend or loved one. When you’ve done this, write down your encouragement and support. Here are two examples:
I became angry at my son today and yelled at him. I know you didn’t want to yell at him. You’ve been working on that. And it’s been a week since you last yelled. That’s awesome. A lot of people have trouble controlling their temper. That’s not an excuse, but hopefully you realize that you’re not the only person trying to be better.
I’m not where I should be in life. My friends earn more money than I do and my debt’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s tough to be in debt. It is. And some of your classmates do earn more than you. But you earn more than some people. It really doesn’t matter how much you earn compared to other people. You know you need to learn to live within your means. Perhaps you can take a community education class on budgeting or personal finance.
In summary, whether you do it in your mind, speak it out loud, or write it down, pretend that you are talking or writing to your best friend and offer yourself compassion. Objectively empathize with how you are feeling, remind yourself that others go through hard times too, and help yourself see the positive aspects of the situation. Look for your own strengths and successes. Focus on offering yourself support.
If you want help overcoming your pornography addiction or sexual addiction, call Paradise Creek: (855) 442-1912.
Mindfulness As An Addiction Treatment
Mindfulness is an addiction therapy that is proving to be successful at preventing relapse, and that can be integrated into other treatment programs. It is something that can learned and performed anywhere. One of the reasons mindfulness may contribute to sobriety is that it provides a healthy way to deal with and reduce stress1 and can increase self-acceptance2.
What is it? One definition describes it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”3. Essentially, it is consciously being aware of how and who and what you are right now, and doing so without judging yourself. Other ways of describing or thinking about mindfulness are “objectivity”, “neutralness”, “observing without judgment”, and “self-observing”. In mindfulness, you become an objective observer or scientist, consciously becoming aware of yourself, your experience, and your surroundings.
The idea of what we now call “mindfulness” is not new. Hundreds of years ago, Leonardo da Vinci stated, “An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” In other words, the average human is not mindful. When we become mindful–when we become aware of what we are doing and experiencing–our human experience becomes richer and more meaningful.
While there are multiple elements of mindfulness–including observing, savoring, meditating and breathing–conscious, non-judgmental observation is its core. Whether you are at a party, at work, out with friends, or at home, you can choose to intentionally notice the sensations you are experiencing and the thoughts you are thinking. How does your food taste? What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys? What is it like being with your friend? What emotions are you feeling? Simply be aware of what is going on, without passing judgment.
You can use mindfulness to examine how your own addiction works or relapse occurs, and to stop them. In an article in The Fix, Jenifer Talley says, “The process of becoming nonjudgmentally aware of the components of a compulsion weakens its power. That’s why increasing numbers of clinicians are eagerly incorporating mindfulness into the treatment of substance use disorders, eating disorders, sex addiction and other compulsive behaviors.”4
Observe Instead of React
One of the ways this works is by helping the person become aware of what is going on, and instead of reacting, to continue observing. Since cravings are temporary, by watching, one can become aware of what triggers the craving, of the craving itself, and then of the craving’s abatement without actually giving in to the craving.
Judson Brewer M.D. Ph.D. puts it this way, “mindfulness helps individuals pay careful attention to their cravings, such that they can see what they are made up of – thoughts and body sensations. Importantly, with this awareness, they can notice cravings as they arise, see how they change from moment to moment (instead of lasting “forever” as some of my patients have described), and as a result, stay with them and ride them out instead of acting on them.”5
You can practice mindfulness throughout the day by asking yourself intentional questions such as: What emotions am I feeling? What sensations is my body experiencing presently? What am I thinking? As you observe your thoughts, you can intentionally decide whether or not to believe them.
Mindfulness is one of the therapies that Paradise Creek teaches at its recovery center for sexual addiction. Call (855) 442-1912 to learn more.
Addiction Interaction Disorder
Many people with a sexual addiction also experience one or more other addictions or compulsive behaviors. And if they don’t have another addiction co-occuring with the sex addiction, the other addiction(s) can occur once the sex addiction has been stopped. These addictions can interact or replace each other, and “fuse” together. This is called Addiction Interaction Disorder (AID), and is something that every person with a possible addiction needs to be aware of.
In the words of Patrick J. Carnes, “Addictions more than coexist, they interact, reinforce, become part of one another. They become packages.”1 Thus, if a person has a sex addiction, the existence of other addictions and the risk of future addictions need to be screened. Additionally, since the addictions in an interaction disorder seem to have common causes, those causes–and not just the addictions–need to be treated. When there is AID, if multiple addictions are not included in the treatment plan and the causes of addiction are not addressed, then chances for recovery will be reduced.
There are multiple ways in which addictions can interact with each other. We’ll briefly describe a few of them.
Replacing One Addiction For Another
First, they can replace one another. In this case, a person may “recover” from one addiction and replace it with another addiction, either right away, or after some time. For example, a person with a sex addiction can ostensibly recover, having healthy, monogamous sex, but replace the addiction with another addiction such as compulsive work or gambling, thus perpetuating risky and dangerous behavior.
If the replacement occurs quickly and the new addiction is participated in at high levels, this is a sign of cross-tolerance. In other words, a person has a high tolerance for one addiction, and when he starts the new addiction, his tolerance level for it is already high.
Another form of cross-tolerance is when the tolerance for two or more addictions increases at the same time. Examples of this are having an increasing number of sexual encounters while also drinking more often, or both compulsively spending more money and eating more food.
One Addiction To Lessen Withdrawals From Another
Third, addictions can mediate withdrawals. The example set forth in “Bargains With Chaos: Sex Addicts and Addiction Interaction Disorder” by Patrick Carnes, et al., is of alcoholics smoking at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.2 The cigarettes ease the pain of alcohol withdrawal, but are still an addiction and still constitute a health risk.
Simultaneous Addictive Behavior
Fourth, addictions can “fuse” or become dependent on each other to create the necessary reward. Fusion describes when addictions are engaged in at the same time. Examples would be when a person always drinks when he gambles, but never drinks or gambles without doing the other, or when he smokes while compulsively shopping online. Says Carnes, “Neither addiction separately is sufficient: only simultaneous use suffices.”2
There are other ways in which addictions can interact, but those presented above give an idea of the importance of addressing Addiction Interaction Disorder in any therapy program. As can be seen, a person seeking to overcome sex addiction will be best served when screened for multiple addictions and for the risk of future addictions. The results of the screening should then be included in a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses (1) all the client’s addictions, and (2) the causes of those addictions.
Paradise Creek screens for AID and when indicated, incorporates the screening’s results into its treatment plans. You can call Paradise Creek at (855) 442-1912 for more information.
1Carnes, Patrick J., PhD. “Addiction Interaction Disorder: Understanding Multiple Addictions.” http://www.iitap.com/images/Addiction_Interaction_Disorder101.ppt. Power Point file.
2Carnes, Patrick, Robert Murray, Louis Charpentier. “Bargains With Chaos: Sex Addicts and Addiction Interaction Disorder.” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 12:79–120, 2005.
You Are Enough
Too many people have a profound sense of being insufficient or unworthy in some way–of being broken, flawed, or different from others. This feeling of shame or unworthiness can trap people in social, spiritual, physical and psychological disease. People feel not they made a mistake, but that they are the mistake, not that they have problems, but that they are a problem. Such deep-seeded feelings of unworthiness may come from experiences in childhood and can be perpetuated by a western culture that values material wealth and outward appearances and which in turn breeds shame and separation. Messages that we do not have enough, do not do enough, and that essentially, we are not enough, continually pelt our sense of worth.
Rather than accepting themselves as they are, some people seek to numb their feelings with sex, shopping, alcohol, web surfing, video gaming, drugs or food addictions. Or perhaps they over-work and seek achievement in an effort to earn the admiration and praise of others. Focusing on the other people’s failings and inadequacies is another method of dealing with one’s own imperfections. All of these methods of dealing with our false sense of unworthiness hinder our ability to enjoy healthy, loving relationships. Concealing our inadequacies from others becomes our focus and stifles our ability to see and experience the beauties of life.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
The key to changing how we feel about ourselves and letting go of guilt and shame is to accept who we are right now, both our good points and our bad points. We become aware of the whole package–of everything we are–and recognize that we, right now, are valuable. We practice mindfulness, or in other words, see ourselves and our situation clearly, as compassionate, third-party observers. We view ourselves in the present, neither fretting about future problems nor ruminating about past mistakes. And we do not seek to hide from nor numb ourselves. Instead, we permit ourselves to experience both the pleasant and the unpleasant aspects of our lives from moment to moment, offering to ourselves compassion, gentleness and care rather than judging or shaming ourselves . When we want to escape, or we grasp for something to distract us from pain and grief, we view our experience without condemnation, but as a parent would an injured child, with kindness, sympathy, patience and love.
When we fail or others reject us, our feelings of being unworthy or of shame may lead to an obsessive brooding over the future or the past. We may blame ourselves and others. How do we escape this negative fog of despair? By being both compassionate to ourselves and by being mindful. This means accepting ourselves with our pain and discomfort. It means realizing that we are more than our reaction to our present experience. By accepting ourselves and who we really are, we become free of the trap of false unworthiness and shame.
Mindfulness And Clear Vision
Some might argue that being mindful and accepting of our true selves is defeatist resignation, or perhaps a way of justifying self-indulgence. However, accepting ourselves does not mean we allow our own inappropriate actions, our own bad habits, or the misbehavior of others to continue. Rather, acceptance and mindfulness allow us to clearly see and understand our situation, a prerequisite to real and effective change.
Art of Pausing
An easy technique to become more mindful is practicing “the art of pausing”. Simply take a few minutes each day (or whenever you feel extra vulnerability or stress) to pause and become aware of your surroundings, your feelings, your thoughts, and of how your body is reacting. This exercise of stopping and becoming aware moves you out of the worry and stress of what may occur in the future, or out of the feelings of regret and guilt that haunt the past, and focuses you in the present. You thus become aware not only of how you are reacting to the inescapable pressures of life, but also to the beauty and wonder of your present existence.
By pausing, you stop yourself from running away, your awareness increases, and you find access to wisdom that may otherwise be hidden. Your focus can begin to change from what you don’t have and what you are not to what you do have and what you are. Feelings of wholeness, connectedness, and wellbeing replace the sense of unworthiness and shame. You feel right with the world. You recognize that you are… worthy and enough.
For help in overcoming sex addiction and pornography addiction, call Paradise Creek call (855) 442-1912.
The following article is a summary of the review paper entitled, “Prefrontal control and Internet addiction: a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings” by Brand, Matthias, Kimberly Young and Christian Laier, as published 27 May 2014 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience*:
While many people have control over their Internet usage and use it as a tool, some have lost that self control, resulting in negative and social personal consequences. This conclusion is based on a review of existing literature and on the authors’ experiences.
The world-wide scientific community has not yet standardized terminology nor testing related to Internet overuse that results in psychosocial distress. Nor has sufficient research been performed. In fact, the standard reference for American’s mental disorders, the DSM-5, includes only Internet Gaming Disorder. Certainly, however, other Internet-related disorders do occur.
The authors of the review article seek to determine why some people experience loss of self-control related to the Internet. Their hypothesis is that the loss of control occurs in part due to Internet-cues disrupting prefrontal processes.
One model of Internet Addiction states that addiction is linked to either a poor off-line social support and the negative feelings that result from that, or from a pre-disposition for a specific addiction (such as pornography) that happens to be available online. The authors add to this model the effect of negative and positive reinforcements that condition behavior. Expectations can also play a role in creating or maintaining addictive behavior. Expectancies, goals and needs, personality traits, predispositions and mental/emotional disorders can also play a role.
Our prefrontal cortex has been linked to our ability to control conscious behavior. The results of a study that utilized the Game of Dice Task, “suggest that patients with Internet addiction may have reductions in prefrontal control and other executive functioning.”
Neuroimaging has shown that excessive or frequent Internet gaming can change the volume of cells in various areas of the brain. While one study mentioned in the paper reported increased gray matter density, the other studies reported a reduced volume. Other studies provide tentative suggestions that people with Internet addiction have a modified dopamine system that may play a role in loss of control.
Research on Internet Addiction is increasing and tends to indicate that functional changes in certain areas of the brain are correlated to Internet addiction. Indeed, it appears “that prefrontal control processes are reduced in individuals who are addicted to the Internet and may be related to the patients’ loss of control over their Internet use.”
Nevertheless, more research is needed on (1) stimuli related to the Internet and brain function, (2) “different types of Internet addiction,” and (3) on women. Additionally, research that has already been performed needs to be repeated in different countries and on another age group (i.e., if the research has been done on adults, it needs to be done on adolescents, and vice versa).
People with lower pre-frontal control processes seem to have less ability to utilize coping mechanisms. This, tied with the reinforcements offered by the Internet, create a myopic, Internet-based view of the world. All of this needs to be taken into account by the clinician.
In conclusion, research on Internet Addiction has produced similar results to research on other forms of addiction. The authors of this review agree with other authors in that “this clinically relevant disorder should be classified as a behavioral addiction.”
*You can read the original article here: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00375/full
(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)
[H]ow do we know if the pain and sadness we are experiencing is something more than just a part of the normal ups and downs of life? When a person comes down with a common case of “the blues” it is usually described as a feeling of sadness that only mildly interferes with a person’s routine, and is usually resolved after a few days. Clinical depression on the other hand is a serious illness identified by lasting and acute feelings of hopelessness and despair that have a profound impact on an individual’s life and ability to function.
American parents should take a warning from what is happening in China. Doctors over there consider internet addiction a clinical disorder. Chinese children may spend months in a rehabilitation center for their addiction.
Parents in the U.S. often use electronic devices, whether television or a smart phone, to occupy and entertain their children. Some of the negative results of using electronic media too much when it includes simulated violence is a decreased senstivity to violence and an increase in aggresiveness and arguing. Poor academic performance and unhealthy weight gain are other results of high screen time. Children’s emotional maturity may also be hampered.
To learn more, read the original article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/06/screen-addiction-is-taking-a-toll-on-children
Wondering how you can reduce the amount of time your children spend interacting with digital devices? A New York Times article offers some suggestions. These include:
- A link to “Outsmarting the Smart Screens: A Parent’s Guide to the Tools That Are Here to Help”
- A link to Harvard’s “Food & Fun” online curriculum, which includes physical activities kids can do instead of using their electronic devices.
- Don’t allow children to “have their own cellphones or televisions in their bedrooms.”
- Parents need to learn to interact socially without electronic devices. (In other words, set the example.)
- Create and enforce rules regarding the use of electronic media.
To learn more, read the original article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/13/how-to-cut-childrens-screen-time-say-no-to-yourself-first
Free Therapies: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Sex addiction is a complex issue. Effective treatment can require a variety of techniques and therapies. Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness are two therapies that can help you in your recovery. They are free, and you can start practicing them right away.
Focus on Breathing:
In mindful breathing, you simply become aware of your breathing. You don’t try to slow it down or speed it up. You don’t try to breathe deeper or more shallowly. You simply focus on breathing.
Kelly McGonigal, PhD suggests three ways to practice mindful breathing. First, is to repetitively think “inhale” or “exhale” as you breathe in and out. Second, is be aware of the sensations breathing creates, such as the movement of your belly or the feel of the air in your nostrils. Third is to count each exhalation until you reach the number ten, then start over. With all three suggestions, when your thoughts drift to something other than your breath, that’s okay, just refocus on your breathing1.
Rather than dreaming about the past or longing (or worrying) about the future, savor the present moment. Whether you are eating a meal, spending time with a friend, walking, working, exercising, playing, talking or typing, become aware of what you are doing and delight in it. Notice the sensations you are experiencing. How does your food taste? What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys? What is it like being with your friend? What emotions are you feeling?
Savor the sunset right now–the vivid pink and orange and purple colors changing shade and brightness as the clouds move and the sun sinks deeper behind the mountains. Savor being with someone you love. Savor the food you are eating. Savor the feel of the breeze, or the heat or the cold. Savor the feel of your feet hitting hard ground as you walk, or the supporting cushion of your shoes.
You can do guided or self-guided meditation, and the meditation can take different forms. Focusing on different sensations: the earth, your feet, what you hear, your skin. It can include imagination, such as imagining a healing energy flowing through you. You can use music or not. Kelly McGonigal, even shares the idea of walking while you meditate.2
Pause and Observe:
Simply stop and notice. What are your surroundings? How are you standing or sitting? What do you smell or hear? How are you reacting to your thoughts and feelings? Do not pass judgment, just observe and become aware. This “Pause and Observe” exercise can help ground you in the present so that you are not worrying about the future nor feeling shame for the past.
Become Your Best Friend:
If your best friend made some mistakes, wouldn’t you give him the benefit of the doubt, encourage him, support him, and focus on his good qualities? Treat yourself the same way. Find the good in your situation and in yourself. Focus on the positive. This is not to say that you should ignore what needs to be changed, but rather that you love yourself and accept yourself as you are, even as you strive to change.
To learn more about overcoming sex addiction using mindfulness and compassion, please contact Paradise Creek Recovery Center at (855) 442-1912.