Out of the Shadows
Sexual addicts have four core beliefs
- Self-image—I am basically a bad, unworthy person.
- Relationships—No one would love me as I am.
- My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others.
- Sex is my most important need.
These core beliefs come from Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction by Patrick Carnes. During a seminar on this topic in October, this book had been recommended. I bought it after we were back in the States and read it over the past weekend.
Carnes describes the “Addictive System” on page 26 in which you have two interlocking circles. It all begins with the belief system.
belief system–impaired thinking–addiction cycle–unmanageability
Following is the addiction cycle
and back to preoccupation to start the cycle over
“Within the addictive system, sexual experience becomes the reason for being—the primary relationship for the addict.” p.26 (italics original)
One of the most interesting sections for me was about the neurobiology of arousal. Referring to research by John Money about a “lovemap” that we all have, Carnes wrote,
“Between the ages of five and eight, most of us already have formed this map about what is sexually arousing to us. It serves as a template with which we decide whether a specific situation is arousing—and then we act on that template.
Problems occur when that template or map becomes distorted. . . Early sexual experiences, especially if they involve shame or fear, can also distort beliefs about sex. Physical and sexual abuse can have a profound effect on what Money termed a vandalization of a person’s lovemap. The tragic result can be that the person may become aroused in ways that are self-destructive or not functional.” p 88
Other topics of the book: levels of addiction, the family and addiction and co-addiction (what I think most people refer to today as codependency). Carnes wrote this book in 1983 but it has been updated in 1992 and 2001. He does a section on cybersex but it does not really do justice to the issues that are present today. He follows the AA twelve step model as a proven method towards recovery. In fact, he says there is often alcohol or other substance abuse connected with sexual addiction. It is an easy read and a good introduction into the topic if you are interested or need to know about this topic. Just be aware that Carnes wrote before the huge explosion of internet pornography in the last ten years.