We humans are programmed to seek and be fulfilled by connection (e.g. to God/Higher power, with self, and to self, and with others). Unlike most other mammals (or animals in general!), we are completely dependent on that connection with a parent/caregivers for our survival not just for days, but for many years. Our basic on-going needs for survival are food, water, shelter and sleep. As long as these needs are met adequately, we want to do more than just survive; we want to thrive. One of our primary needs in order to thrive is human intimate connection. We seek to love and be loved, to belong, to fit in, and to feel through interaction that we matter to another human being. We crave to be known, understood, and validated. We need to know that there is somebody who is available and has our back in times of trouble. We want to have somebody with whom to laugh and have fun. Most of us have a strong desire to find someone with whom to experience romantic love and sexual pleasure/connection.
When we fail to meet that need for connection, we do not thrive. Most of us meet that need to some degree, so we have varying degrees of thriving or well-being. The greater the gap between our desired connection and our experienced connection, the greater our loneliness. Simply defined, loneliness is “the failure to adequately meet the need for connection”. Loneliness is one of the most painful human experiences. Ironically, the reason we often fail to meet our need for connection and therefore experience loneliness, is because we over-protect by not letting people in, or perhaps even blatantly pushing them away. This protection leads to the avoidance of many kinds of hurtful experiences we could have in relationships, and yet sets us up for the MOST PAINFUL experience……loneliness.
Thus, there is an inherent “catch-22” of our human experience:
In order to thrive, we have to meet the need for human connection. In order to meet that need we have to be vulnerable and be willing to share our true self (thoughts, feelings, wants, needs, etc.). If we do so and we get connection/validation- AWESOME!! That feels great. However, if we get hurt, rejected, used/abused, let-down etc., we are hurt and then shift our focus to protection. The ways we protect often show up as walls that either a) push people away, or b) keep people from getting too close. These walls afford us protection, but prohibit connection. Without ways of healing those past wounds and of protecting ourselves in more balanced ways than these extreme walls, the cycle continues to escalate until we have lives and relationships that are organized around protection rather than connection. We settle for cheap substitutes for true intimacy like food, pornography, drugs, material goods, accomplishment/success, money, intensity, superficial relationships, social media “likes”, etc. and we fail to thrive.
Granted, some people would be better off alone than interacting with the toxic people who are currently in their lives. If our relationships include shame, blame, ridicule, abuse or neglect, – we may thrive more by hanging out with Just God and the dog! However, there is almost always somebody “out there” with whom we can have a fulfilling relationship/friendship. And, when we choose to isolate, the things we can start to believe about ourselves in the absence of loving feedback from intimate others, and the things that we end up doing to numb out the pain of loneliness become primary sources of our mental health problems. Addictive behaviors/substances are among the most costly of such problems. We use addictions to numb out pain from past or current hurts, to wall off and protect from future hurts, and/or to experience pleasure/get a high to “fill the voids” created in our state of loneliness.
To the contrary, healthy relationships are a source of not only the love/connection we deeply desire, but also of accountability and support. This accountability and support can make all the difference when trying to make difficult changes such as recovering from an addiction or stopping other destructive behaviors. This is why we need families/support systems. This is in large part why 12-step programs are so helpful to so many. In addition to the focus on spirituality and surrender, these are programs of relationship….of human connection. However, recovery relationships fail to meet our deepest needs for connection when used as more comfortable sources of human interaction while avoiding the healing work needed with loved ones who may be struggling with hurt, anger and mistrust.
The “out” for the catch-22 described above is in large part dependent upon the willingness to be vulnerable in the name of connection, and when needed to bring in protection through assertive boundaries rather than using “walls”. Boundaries allow for both connection and protection. They are clear messages of “I feel _______ (e.g. hurt, angry, scared) when you __________, and I need you to know that is not OK with me, so I’m asking you to please ____________. If that is not respected by the other person, the boundary may end up needing to include, “and if you choose to do that again, what I will do to take care of myself is ___________.” (note: it is critical that you tell the other person very clearly what you will do to take care of yourself rather than telling him/her what their “consequence/punishment” will be! No adult likes being disciplined, punished or controlled). It is critical that when setting boundaries/expressing anger that it is with an assertive tone. Assertiveness, unlike passivity or aggression, is clear, honest, open, respectful and direct; remember the acronym “CHORD”).
Among the most critical relationship skills and wills, are apology and forgiveness. Not quick apology or cheap forgiveness, but hard work over time that involves dealing with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors necessary to bring about the necessary healing. (more on apology and forgiveness will be shared in a future blog). We will all be hurt within our friendships, marriages/partnerships and family relationships (e.g. parents/children/siblings). While some of that hurt comes from the intentional toxic behaviors of others, it is more often the result of mismanaged struggles in the balancing act of connection and protection.
The ability to maintain healthy connections with others, which inevitably includes being willing and able to apologize and/or forgive, is one of our greatest means to attaining and maintaining mental health. This is in large part dependent upon our being able to love, be connected to and forgive our self – and actually love our self and enjoy our own company! Most of the people I have worked with over 25 years as a counselor will readily admit that they are hardest on themselves, meanest to themselves and have the hardest time forgiving themselves. Just like our relationships with others, this journey toward self-love, acceptance and forgiveness is long and hard…and like many “roads less travelled” is also profoundly rewarding! I hope we can all be a little more gentle with, and forgiving of, ourselves and more patient with our imperfect loved ones as we navigate this journey we call life….and that we can remember we all have a LOT more in common than we have differences! Travel well 🙂
Article by Brian Case, Ph.D
As humans, “fixing” is part of our nature. We are logical, strategic, solution oriented beings that are often taught from a young age that a question always has an answer and a problem always has a fix. After all, we invented the wheel when things became to heavy to carry and found fire when we needed a better way to eat. In short, “fixing” is part of our nature because it’s birthed from our instinct to survive.
With that being said, no wonder it’s so uncomfortable for us when we encounter a problem that has no tangible fix.
For many couples seeking out therapeutic support, desire to fix, make better, take away a partner’s pain is often a common goal at the onset of therapy. Perhaps one partner has not been faithful, or has said something hurtful or has acted in some way, which has resulted in the other receiving the message “I am not important, I am not loved, I don’t matter”. With true genuine intentions, this partner often arrives in therapy hopeless and helpless, stating his or her belief that they have done all they could–no matter how hard they try to fix the problem, things just don’t seem to be getting better.
“Fixing”, while generally coming from a well-intended place, (we don’t usually enjoy seeing someone we care about hurting, especially when we know that our actions are the reason or at least part of the reason for the hurt) is invalidating. When we have hurt someone and we attempt to fix it or make it better, we are essentially sending the person we have hurt the message: “Your feelings make me uncomfortable so I’m going to do what I can to try and make them go away. This way, you’ll feel better and I can feel better knowing that you’re no longer hurting because of me.” While this is often happening at a subconscious level, it’s the reason why simply telling our partner “you are important, you are loved, you do matter” in these moments is often not enough.
You may have heard therapists or others use the phrase “lean into the discomfort.”—this is what that’s all about. While there is no tangible fix in these circumstances, what is really needed by the hurt partner is for the other to create space for them to be; to lean in to their pain, let them know that their feelings are valid and be asked what they need. When we can do this, we are able to acknowledge our partner’s pain and let them know that their discomfort makes sense. We come alongside of them and co-burden the hurt. In doing so, hurt and pain becomes more manageable because while it is still ever present, we receive the message from our partner that we are not alone.
By Aliza Cooper, LMFT
Self-esteem is partly determined by the ability to be truthful with a humble spirit in order to identify with the “realness” of who we are while gaining insight into our life story. No one can change what is unknown or denied. The transformation of our life script takes rigorous honesty, mentoring, reflection, self-care and a journey of faith, hope, and courage. A surrender and willingness to self-asses in order to self-govern with respect requires borders and boundaries. The essence of healthy relationships are indicative of healthy boundaries. Once established they reveal self-love and allow one to differentiate and to attach to others. Individuality defines the distinction of thoughts, beliefs, emotions, clarifying the moral compass and values before we speak, act and or decide.
Boundaries spoken and maintained educate the world around us how we would like to be treated. The three functions of boundaries are as follows: to define the essence of who you are, to protect oneself emotionally, sexually, physically, financially, intellectually, and spiritually, and to contain and regulate both internal and external triggers. Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries allow for freedom to be “real” and a passage into the maturing process. It is a walk of integrity, high regard and courage especially when challenged. Be best and stand in honor with boundaries!
By Brenda Garrett-Layman
Being human means being vulnerable. We are sensate creatures meant to feel and emote. We typically prefer safety and routine and when we are forced to leave all things familiar and secure due to death or loss, we experience fear and grief. In fact, we may on any given day experience loss to one degree or another. These losses might be experienced as “big deaths” or “little deaths.” Based on an individual’s experience with past trauma, spiritual beliefs, social support and values, our losses are experienced on a spectrum. Some examples of loss include:
- Suffering childhood trauma
- Loss of love
- Loss of beauty, fitness or youth
- A difficult birth
- A near death experience
- Losing sexual potency
- Losing one’s virginity forcefully
- Experiencing a natural disaster
- Immigration/refugee status/loss of culture/language/tradition
- Losing a pet
- Leaving home or a school or job
- Losing a parent, sibling, friend or child
- Losing faith in government, church, corporation
Grief is a psycho-spiritual process. The ego is shattered. Our sense of self becomes submerged in feelings of despair and sorrow. A part of us is lost, yet we often feel pressure from friends, family and society to get back to our old selves. Usually this is because there is an inability in our culture to tolerate someone else’s pain. Grief is not simple or finite and it manifests in a variety of ways:
- Anticipatory grief
- Normal grief
- Delayed grief
- Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged)
- Disenfranchised grief
- Chronic grief
- Cumulative grief
- Masked grief
There is a stark beauty that can be found in surrendering to grief. By embracing it, befriending it, sitting alongside it, being curious about it, we can move through it to find a renewed sense of self. A self that is wiser, more empathetic and compassionate with a better understanding that the control we once thought we had was an illusion. All we really have is this moment. We can then consider, “How shall I use this moment, how shall I choose to live?” Through exercise, energy work, tending to the body, meditation, narrative therapy, trauma resolution therapy, group therapy, talk therapy and finding meaning in service to others we can create a new sense of self. A self that is more expansive yet understands the value of humility. We can then transition from grief to gratitude.
For additional information on grief and bereavement:
Healing Through The Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan
A Broken Heart Still Beats: When Your Child Dies by Mary Semel and Anne McCracken
The Way Men Heal by Thomas R. Golden
Intimacy is knowing and being known in a manner that creates connection and safety. I sit with many couples who want intimacy, to feel that connection, to know the friendship and passion of intimacy. However, few want to truly explore what it takes to build it. They express a desire to be known, but do not want to do the work of knowing themselves. We can only share with another to the extent of what we know about ourselves. Intimacy begins as a personal work—Know Thyself—which then gives rise to a relational work.
Although there are many ways of understanding personal intimacy, three are at it’s core: honesty, compassion, and boundaries. The first aspect of intimacy is honesty. I must be honest with myself about who I am and all of its complexity. Answering a few questions can start this process: What am I feeling at any given moment? What do I think or believe? What do I want or need? What do I like or dislike? What do I value? The key is in owning your story—what makes you tick? Telling your story is a start. Find a safe friend, therapist, 12-step group where you can put your story out to others—the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we begin to tell our story, and own it with safe people, we get clearer about who we are, begin to affirm ourselves, let go of shame, and can hold it up against who we want to be.
Compassion is another aspect of intimacy. I have heard it said, in one form or another, honesty without compassion is cruelty. As you own your story, do so with eyes of compassion. Show empathy towards yourself. See the wounded part of yourself and be gentle. Do something kind for yourself everyday. Breathe.
Finally, establish boundaries. Boundaries are not a way to control or punish others. Boundaries are rooted in self-care. Boundaries therefore begin with you. By getting clear about who you are with honesty, you can begin to see what you need to do to take care of yourself, how you harm yourself, and how you can harm others. Therefore, boundaries identify what I need to do and what I need to prevent myself from doing. Boundaries can look like getting to bed at a reasonable hour, eating healthy, or having fun family or friends on a regular basis. Also, boundaries can help us address issues that are destructive such as rage, isolation, or addiction, by keeping yourself out of vulnerable situations, learning emotional regulation, establishing accountability, and making amends. When we have healthy boundaries with ourselves, we are better able to have healthy boundaries with others.
By working on intimacy with yourself through honesty, compassion, and boundaries, you create an understanding which allows for greater intimacy with others. It is a life long journey with always more to discover. Take time to know yourself. You deserve it.
By Douglas Withrow
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, often referred to as DBT, is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to teach people effective skills for living a more satisfying life. There are four main components of DBT. They are Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance and Emotion Regulation. All four modules emphasize how to handle painful experiences effectively and stay in control of one’s thoughts, emotions and behavior.
Mindfulness is the foundation of DBT and is woven into all of the modules. A mindfulness practice allows people to be aware of what is happening both within them and around them. An important component of this is curiosity and non-judgment. DBT teaches people to notice their internal and external experiences without attaching labels such as “good” or “bad.” Mindfulness allows individuals to just notice what is.
Interpersonal Effectiveness skills teach people how to reach desired outcomes in their relationships. There is a focus on behaving in such a way as to respect both self and others. Interpersonal Effectiveness training helps individuals answer three questions: what do I want, how to I want others to feel about me and how do I want to feel about myself?
Distress Tolerance skills are designed to help people survive emotional and interpersonal crises without making things worse. Self-care, self-soothing and resisting urges to behave impulsively are key components of this module. Moreover, a practice of radical acceptance is incorporated to help people accept what is and reduce the emotional suffering that accompanies resisting reality.
Finally, Emotion Regulation training assists individuals in creating a life worth living. Clarifying values, prioritizing goals and creating realistic plans for goal attainment are key features of this module. Furthermore, skills for checking the facts and remaining mindful and in control of one’s emotions in non-crisis situations are also provided.
DBT skills can be taught in individual or group therapy settings. If you are interested in joining a DBT group at PCS, please give us a call for more information. We look forward to helping you create a life worth living!
Rick Isenberg, M.D. and Medical Director for Psychological Counseling Services, discusses sex addiction and what we need to know in this Triune Therapy audio interview.
[su_button url=”https://www.triunetherapy.com/behind-closed-doors/sex-addiction-need-know/” target=”blank” style=”flat” background=”#003a54″ size=”7″ wide=”yes”]LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE[/su_button]
More on Rick Isenberg, MD HERE.
Everything I Needed to Know About Recovery—I first Had the Opportunity to Learn in Little League
By KEN WELLS, LPC
Life is rooted in community which is about bonding in relationships. Bonding is strongest within communities where values are forged, convictions are cemented and care for one another is formed. When bonds are broken, community suffers from its break down. I learned early in life that baseball is a microcosm of life.
Little League is about fitting in. It’s not unlike any other sport for a kid. Belonging matters. It’s that way for adults, too. Regarding addiction, I never met an addict who did not struggle with fitting in. It’s a common struggle for most. Without this experience of belonging in relationship, most addicts don’t recover.
It was a warm spring day when my youngest son Sam came running in after school and announced “Coach called and I got practice today at 6pm”. He had been drafted in Little League and his coach called to tell him whose team he was on and when the first practice would begin. You would have thought the president of the United States had called. Everything about belonging and fitting in was wrapped up for a little kid in that announcement. That is so much about what Little league was about— fitting in. Though it doesn’t happen as much as desired, in the early stages the rules of the game of baseball are designed to promote belonging and fitting in. Kids don’t get cut in Little League baseball. Every kid plays at least 2 innings— at least in my town they did. During the early leagues, no one kept score. But that didn’t last long. Still, the focus was including everybody. Baseball and other sport is about bonding. When players decide to hang up their cleats and retire after a short or long career, one of the things they miss most is the chemistry, connection and camaraderie they had with their baseball fraternity.
Most stories I know about addiction center around this profound issue about bonding, belonging and attachment. The way I know I matter is when my parents participate with me on my terms in sufficient amounts of time. When it doesn’t happen I am prone to subconsciously search for significance through performance in ways that might get mom and dad’s smile of approval. The problem is when I become an adult I can never perform enough. Eventually the focus on performance becomes very painful and empty. At this point, an addict can never get enough of what he really doesn’t want. He then seeks to medicate the painful emptiness with an addictive behavior.
Kids who love to play sport experience at an early age the magic of belonging. Little League creates this experience for many. But, for the kid who either doesn’t like baseball or sport, community can become very painful when sports are heavily emphasized.
I remember when my oldest son Jimmy played varsity baseball in high school. There was a home school kid, Jamie, who tried desperately to fit in as he attempted to make the team. He was not a great player but adequate. Yet, he could not fit in and was unable to create a sense of belonging. It was painful to watch. Jim’s team won the state championship that year but missed an opportunity to learn how to build community through acceptance of someone who was different. Looking back, the memory of a championship season faded. But, the reality of intolerance, exclusion and judgment that fuels hatred, strife and addiction continues to permeate communities throughout our world.
A lack of connection in community always fuels socially destructive behavior including epidemic addiction . I won’t forget a friend whose name was Sigler and who attended the church college that I attended. He was from Detroit. He moved into a dorm and lived on the same floor that I lived. It was a dorm floor that for the most part was dominated by kids who grew up in the South and who were redneck about their religious beliefs and life in general. I did not grow up in the South but I loved the fun loving ways that was demonstrated in the lives of these guys. Somehow, I was able to fit in. Sigler didn’t. The school was conservative and evangelical. It was important to be “born- again”. You would not fit in if you were not.
Apparently, Sigler, had been forced to go to this Bible-based school by his parents. He was unhappy about being controlled. He gave evidence of his displeasure by wallpapering his room in Playboy and Penthouse pinups. He smoked cigarettes and cussed a lot, too. Sometimes, he even smoked in his dorm room. Well, for Bible-belt, fundamental, southern boys who had come to learn to preach the gospel, this behavior was a “no-go”. So Siglar was picked on and excluded from the community. In fun-loving seriousness, a few of the southern boys decided to take matters in hand. One time one of the southern boys whose name was Danny, took a cigarette from Sigler’s pack of Winston’s and with tweezers pulled out the tobacco. He inserted a firecracker and re-packed the tobacco. Later, Sigler went to get some beer at a Seven Eleven convenience store. He pulled out a smoke from his pack and lit up. It began to sizzle. It blew up in his fingers while Sigler was looking at it, wondering what the heck was going on! It was fortunate that he did not get hurt seriously. When hearing about the story from Sigler later, Danny, the culprit, with a capricious smile uttered “Turn or Burn Sigler!”.
On another occasion, Sigler was asleep in his dorm room. He did not have a roommate. One of the southern boys stole the master key that fit all of the dorm rooms from the Resident Assistant (R.A). About 3am, he took a paint pan and filled it with wadded toilet paper. He then sprayed hair spray all over the paper. he turned off the hall lights and sprayed Sigler’s door with hairspray as well. He recruited a partner in crime, then quietly unlocked Sigler’s room. On the sly, he tiptoed up to his bed. Sigler was in a deep sleep. He positioned the paint pan just above Sigler’s chest. He took Sigler’s cigarette lighter and lit the paper which immediately burst into flames. At the same time his partner in crime lit the hairspray on the door which also burst into flames. Then they both screamed “Fire!-fire!-turn or burn, Sigler”! Even though there was no damage done to the door or to his room, needless to say, the prank scared the hell out of Sigler, who had been terrorized out of a deep sleep by this craziness. He was a far better sport than what I would have been, had the trick been played on me. Sigler never returned to the school after that year and I never saw him again. For sure, he left, not fitting in and of course, unconverted.
Learning to deal with not fitting in is an important skill to master throughout life. Most addicts cope with this dynamic destructively. What I have come to believe is that throughout the course of life we all become “Sigler” in that we have the experience of not belonging at different times throughout life. I won’t ever forget the sense of lostness I felt when I transitioned from stardom in Little League to being average to eventually disappearing from the baseball scene in my hometown, during my youth. It was very painful and lonely.
Much later, I will never forget the first time I walked into a 12 step room for my first meeting to address my addiction. It was lonely and I certainly did not think of myself as fitting in. Even yet, it occurred when I shed my conservative heritage and embraced a more liberal theology than the mother church I grew up. Clearly, I no longer fit in. It hurt and I was very lonely by all accounts. I felt judged and was excluded from many experiences. I had the age old experience of feeling like I was “on the outside, looking in”. It was the loneliness and non acceptance from an old familiar community that was most painful. I had lost a sense of belonging. It must have been what Sigler felt.
Over the years, I have come to appreciate the opportunity that Little League baseball presents about how to live in community. Baseball for kids can introduce a critical communal element of acceptance that is so necessary for all.
Most people who attend 12 step meetings to address an addiction will never forget their first meeting. It is just about as tenuous as what the Little League kid felt at his first practice. There is such a fear of exposure and rejection. It is common to hear afterwards the amazement of inclusion, kinship and lack of critical judgment. For many, the magic of the meeting is found in the sense of belonging and spirit of unconditional acceptance. The fundamentals of community building begin with a sense of belonging and like Little League, the design of a 12 step meeting is to draw a circle wide enough to include everybody.
There’s a story I read about a guy who was able to capture a vision for inclusion as a way of reconfiguring limitations that most folk just accept. His name is Phil Deason. He seemed to believe that everyone could know the freedom and power of belonging and fitting in. He created the Moody Miracle Baseball League in Conyers, Ga. Apparently, in 1996, a mother of a spunky 3 yr old with Down Syndrome approached him. Her son desperately wanted to play ball. Phil was the president of the local youth sports association. So he put the baseball wannabe in a non competitive league which seemed to be fine.
Eventually, the boy grew too old for the league which provided the impetus for Deason to start a baseball league for people with special needs. The league developed into 10 teams with players from 7 different counties. In the game, every player gets a chance to bat, every at bat is a home run, and every game ends in a tie. Some of the players have Down Syndrome, while others are autistic or suffer from cerebral palsy. One woman was blind and her guide dog leads her around the bases. In the Moody Miracle League, everybody gets to fulfill the dream of playing baseball. Volunteer “buddies” are assigned to the players to walk the bases with the players or may stand in the field alongside them to make sure no one gets hurt.
One of the volunteer umpires said, “Some of the players can only blink or smile, but to see their faces light up when everyone stands and cheers for them, well, it’s a blessing.”
Deason himself says, “In regular youth associations, parents will holler because of a bad call or a child who didn’t get to play, but at a Miracle League game, you hear them talk of gut wrenching decisions between buying a new car or their child a new electric wheelchair. That puts it all in perspective.” He added that where he grew up, most folk fantasize about what they want in life. Few find a way to make their dreams come true and include those who most likely don’t fit.
Recovery is about people who get stuck obsessing about their fantasy and lose touch with reality. It is for those who do not think they fit or feel that they belong in social situations. These folk fail to find a way to make their dreams come true because of their stuck condition. Not many people use their creativity like Phil Deason did, to adjust the focus of their dream to include space for human brokenness. When brokenness remains unaddressed, people become manacled with failure and shame. People begin to feel disconnected and isolated, believing that somehow they do not fit. Life becomes a zero sum game fraught with losers and all too few winners. It’s a life formula that produces a driven culture where no one can ever get enough. Cultural addictions connect to a point where frenzied, frazzled folk can’t get enough of what they really don’t want. It’s a destructive dynamic that is founded and fueled by toxic shame traced to the very earliest days of our lives. The strategy of Little League baseball is to underscore the importance of the inclusion of all as necessary to the building of caring community. It is from this place of belonging that Little League teaches a child to fulfill destiny and make their dreams come true.
In recovery, without a community to belong, an addict will lose focus and most often relapse feeling like they never really fit in. The fundamental dynamics of belonging so vintage to building community as early as in Little League, is an absolute necessity in building a solid foundation for recovery in addiction.
Article by Ken Wells
Destiny—A Manifesto for All
By KEN WELLS, LPC
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. – Henry David Thoreau
It was an August evening over 50 years ago in a little midwest farmer’s town. From my memory it was a special night. The team that I played-the Schilling Stars were facing Columbia Machine for the city championship. Each team had won its division and would play to see who would win the City Series. It was best of three. I was selected to pitch the opening game of the Series and naturally was really excited. I had won all of my games that year, including 2 no hitters where the other team didn’t score any runs. I remember the evening had electricity in the air because I just loved playing baseball. Of course, it was Little League, so our Coach Bernie Nale always played everybody at least the minimum of 2 innings. I never liked it because I just wanted to win. I was always frustrated when we did not have the best players on the field.
Some of the kids only played because their parents made them. During this year there was a kid whose name was Williams. He was one who could care less about baseball. Back in the day of Little League, position players would enthusiastically chatter support for their pitcher between pitches—like “me, me swing batter!”. If the chatter was weak and I was pitching, I would turn to the field and holler for the players to talk it up for me. Once, I was pitching and turned around to yell at all the position players to talk it up. I looked around and saw Williams standing in right field with his glove on his head! He had picked a dead dandelion and was blowing the spores, watching them fly away in the wind. I remember being pissed. Between innings I stormed to dugout and complained to the Coach to do something about Williams. What I recall the Coach said to me is that he would talk to the guy who mowed the field and ask if he would cut the grass a little closer so there would be no dandelions to distract Williams next week.
On this night, I was glad that Coach was in my camp and he intended to play just the guys who would help us win. I remember the smell of popcorn and the pungent odor of cigar smoke. It was all inviting to me. There was a charge of anticipation in the air as the game began. It was a 6 inning game and we were the visiting team. When I came out to pitch the final inning, there was a buzz of thrill in the air. We were ahead 8-0 but what was special is that I had a perfect game going—no one reached base to that point. I’m a lefty and remember feeling really pumped when we got the second out. I remember knowing that I had a perfect game going and wondered if I could get the last guy out. I don’t even remember how we got him out but I do remember being deluged with teammates congratulating me for being “Perfecto”! As I made my way off the field, two people said things to me that changed the direction of destiny baseball would take in my life. One adult came up and told me that the only reason I pitched a perfect game was because of the defense behind me. His son was the shortstop. The other, my brother Jimmy, said to me “Beckett (my middle name) you will be a ballplayer when you can hit .667 the way I did in American Legion ball. We won the City Series but what stuck with my young mind were those two impactful statements.
Destiny is often shaped by words and behaviors to individuals when they are young, impressionable and influenced by others around them. Unless there are people to protect and provide clear perspective, the destiny of many young minds is crushed and cremated before they ever begin.
I remember rolling over in my young mind that no matter what I would do, I could never be good enough. To a young and impressionable mind, it was profound. I had tried so hard to be so good, but somehow in my mind I wasn’t. I had won all of my games that I pitched that year and was not selected to the All Star team. I don’t recall any adult saying much about the game or the season, one way or the other. They may have. But, what stuck were the two adults who said some pretty stupid stuff to an impressionable kid. Things in my inner life began to unravel soon thereafter. I lost my confidence and my way around baseball. Within 2 years of that game, I had given up playing baseball, believing that my best would never be good enough. Whether or not I would have ever been a decent player later in life is unknown and not even the point. What mattered is the experience of destiny being curtailed and stymied by untimely hurtful remarks that shaped my young and naive mind.
As an addict destiny seems to narrow to one central focus—when can I get high, get laid, or figure out where the next hit will come from. All of life is reduced to the utility of craving. Nothing else matters. I’m an addict, a pastor, a professional counselor and a person who started out wanting to be a baseball player. As an addict, I know what it is like when I can’t get enough of what I really don’t want. As a pastor, I have absorbed the pain of a lot of people who pretend to fulfill their destiny with a lot of frenetic energy for God but who end up at a place of deprivation not too far from what an addict experiences. As a professional counselor, I listen to people share broken dreams and destroyed destinies triggered by an all consuming ‘I want what I want when I want it’ mentality from a place of addiction or other dysfunction.
Looking back as a young aspiring baseball player, I was first introduced to the possibility of building dreams and fulfilling destiny playing Little league baseball. It was about introducing the special idea that no matter who you are, there is a destiny to be fulfilled. Even if you don’t know the rules of the game, you dream that you can still be a star player. How many kids who played Little League baseball have daydreamed about hitting a walk off home run or diving and reaching just beyond the fence to catch and rob someone of a home run. Most of us who played have had these and other heroic daydreams.
When my son Jimmy, started playing tee-ball, there was this kid who kept striking out by missing the ball teed up for him. Finally, his last at bat, after two missed swings, he hit the ball on the third try and the ball dribbled off the tee. All the parents were screaming “Run, Run”. The little guy was frozen with little idea what to do. Suddenly, he sprinted to third base to fulfill his destiny. While all the parents yelled at him to go to first base, he went to third and in the midst of all the noise and commotion he and the third baseman stood on third base hugging each other, jumping up and down on the base. This comical picture puts in perspective the intensity of dreams that parents have for their kids around baseball and other sports.
Addiction has a way of squeezing all of the magic out of you. As a counselor, I have heard thousands of heartbreaking stories of people who have been tragically deprived of seeing the possibility of embracing an exciting, adventurous destiny. I would add my story to the long list of those that I have listened to. Many hopes, exciting plans for a happy destiny dashed by addiction and human brokenness.
Every person should have the opportunity to fulfill their destiny. No one should remain stuck in the shadow of their own past or limited by what others say that they can or cannot do. As a pastor and counselor I have listened to many folk speak about the messages they received from their now deceased parents that debilitate, sabotage and defeat destiny.
I have never utilized a ouija board to call back voices from those who have already passed. Yet, I have heard many people share the negative enervating messages from parents who are dead but whose voice is as real as if they were alive today or as clear as any ouija board could possibly create. These are the messages that dominate and narrow vision and eventually destroy destiny— keeping people mired in destructive behaviors.
It is necessary for each person to go deep within themselves and not let the voice or influence of others squeeze them into the mold of common expectations. I was told after I pitched a perfect game in a Little League title game that I would only be a ballplayer when I could hit .667 like my older brother did in American Legion ball. I believed him. In less than 2 years, I quit playing baseball.
I was told that I would never make it in college by one of my high school teachers. My college academic advisor told me that my “C” average in college meant that was all I would ever be in life- just nothing special. In time, I learned to never believe those two people.
When I was little, two people’s opinion and statement influenced and shaped my destiny. Later, two people’s opinion only fueled my passion from within to spurn their conclusion and walk to the beat of a different drummer. By this time in my life I had begun to develop a vision for what I could become and create in my life. I knew down deep that none of these people knew what was inside my heart. It wasn’t like as if I didn’t continue to experience failure during my college days. I had attempted to sell Bible books during the summer of my college sophomore year. I worked 80 hrs a week- from 8am-10pm, going door to door every day. I earned $300 for the entire summer. I returned to college and came within a whisker of flunking out of college after the Fall semester. Later, just after my senior year, I failed as a youth pastor, crossing boundaries with one of the kids in my youth group. Yet, there was something within that reminded me that these results were not who I was.
To know yourself is to be able to fulfill your destiny. Dreams will never be discovered unless you are willing to embrace the mysterious. The journey within will take you to places of uncertainty, conflict and even confusion. Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and know themselves. Fear prevents many from taking the journey from the head to the heart. Many people cannot stand the creative tension that is developed when challenged with looking at what is inside the heart. Addicts dread the tension and stress of the unknown. It drives them to act out.
Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and truly know themselves. The goal is to sit with ambiguity, doubt and despair. Allow these unwanted feeling experiences to do their healing— their purging work! Falling short of this process is settling for something shallow. It will take determination and resolve to move through the uncertainty, doubt and the fear of the unknown. What happens for those who stay the course is that you begin to slowly see your dream on the horizon. It is a wonderful harmonious experience to know your dream that has come from your heart.
It is important to not question it- to just go with the flow of what it brings to you. Always know that you will not have to make your dream come true, rather, it will flow through every part of your being. Like an athlete who in sport stops trying to force the game his way but lets the game come to him. It just happens. Nothing will be able to prevent destiny from happening because ultimately your dream is a part of you and you are a part of your dream.
Your destiny is not about results, it’s about the essence of who you are. It’s about the quality of your being. You will not be able to fail if you connect to the depth of essence of who you are. Destiny becomes a part of the quality of your being. Shame and addiction dominates and tells us that what we do is who we are.
But, be relaxed and confident. You are right where you need to be when you take the journey into your heart. This is where destiny is forged. No need for hurry. There’s no place, no day that you are required to do more than you can do in peace. It may sound “booga- booga”— but always be aware that there is a guiding light, a divine presence that walks beside you to witness and to celebrate your destiny. You are special and your willingness to be present in your heart is witness to this great discovery of destiny.
Dag Hammarskjold once said “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours”. Destiny is an intriguing dynamic. It equates prospect and purpose. It suggests inevitable conclusion in the course of events. There is a certain mystery to it. There is a sad reality that not everyone is given equal opportunity to rendezvous with destiny. Yet, what some have put into the framework of their hope and vision has inspired many. T.S. Eliot reflected that “A man’s destination is not his destiny. Every country is home to one man and exile to another. Where a man dies bravely at one with his destiny, that soil is his.”
It’s the soil of suffering and struggle that characterizes the content of destiny for many throughout the world. Yet there are those who have miraculously championed the pathway for human dignity for all sojourners who struggle. In unlikely circumstances of squalor and suffering they have embraced the vision of Thoreau who said “if one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life that one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
For most, fear dominates like a pack of wolves chasing you through the woods. Destiny can seem so fleeting, so distant, so dichotomist, and at times phony. It’s important to not be dominated by thoughts that you won’t make it. Remain present in the here and now. In truth, it’s all you have and all you need. Destiny is about living in the connection of every moment of your life.
Picture yourself creating the reality of your desired future. See yourself moving forward like a steady ocean liner plodding its way across the sea. When you experience doubt, always know that you do not have to be afraid if you know who it is and the energy that’s present and walks beside you.
Charting your own path means that sometimes you will be lonely because you are creating destiny. In one sense, it is true that no one is there because you are the only one who can create your specialness. But if you look around there are others who have gone before you and there are those who are present in the here and now who going through the same experience. Know they are there applauding your courage to be you. They are prompting you that you are doing it and that you are not alone. When trouble comes, look inside not out. Everything you need to fulfill destiny is inside your heart. You are capable. With courage, stand for principle and fulfill purpose. The very nature of fulfilling destiny is one of freedom. The freedom that comes from your destiny will free others of their own bondage. Destiny is a healing dynamic that creates conviction within. This is the unexpected success that Thoreau is talking about.
While you embrace your dreams, take time to connect with the energy and vision of others who are creating their own destiny. Their destinies will be similar yet different from your own. You will discover a tipping point whereby others will collectively connect their energy with yours and provide a conglomerate healing force that will permeate the universe. Collective destiny ignites a firestorm of energetic love and positive flow that triggers the power of dream and destiny in countless others. It is through you fulfilling your destiny that you will provide the energy for others to create their own. Peace becomes an emerging theme when people fulfill their own destiny. Judgment, comparison and control will diminish in the presence of destiny. Always know that the peace that passes the understanding of many comes from the destiny that lives inside the heart. Know that your life matters and that every life matters. There is no deprivation in destiny. There’s enough destiny for everybody to know the freedom and the power of creating their dreams. When reality of destiny appears in sufficient amounts there is no longer a need for control and domination of one over another. To be at peace and in harmony with all living things is an ideal pursuit that is the personification of a fulfilled destiny.
By Ken Wells
In the human experience, sexual expression takes a myriad of forms, limited only by the bounds of imagination. As the field of human sexuality progresses, more and more sexual behaviours have been catalogued and acknowledged as normal variants. As myriad as the range of sexual behaviours are the various manifestations of sexual addiction. Addiction, with its obsession, compulsion, tolerance, cravings and withdrawal, may distort any form of human sexual and romantic expression, and turn what is potentially joyful and intimate into something compulsive and problematic.
Much work has been done to understand the various manifestations of sexual addiction. It is apparent that certain behaviours present in clusters that may accompany specific forms of psychopathology. In this chapter, we review the various common presentations of the disorder, considering first those medical and psychological disorders that present similarly and must be ruled out before making the diagnosis of sexual addiction.
Differential Diagnosis of Sexual Addiction
In the field of mental health, despite our reliance on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), not everything that quacks like a duck is truly a duck. We learn from our colleagues in medicine that a practitioner must always consider a differential diagnosis before making and acting upon a diagnosis. We have come to understand that when presented with depression, for instance, we must rule out hypothyroidism, syphilis, Lyme disease, post-concussion syndrome and drug effects, among many other disorders. So it is, too, with patients presenting with problematic, compulsive sexual behaviour. Especially in light of the shame, discrimination and contempt showered by our society on men and women with sexual addiction, we as clinicians must be discerning in our application of the label. Not all that quacks like a sexual addict is a sexual addict.
Definition of Sexual Addiction
In keeping with the nomenclature applied to substance use disorders and gambling disorder, Carnes has proposed ten criteria for the diagnosis of sexual addiction, which include elements of obsession, compulsion, risk-taking, tolerance, withdrawal, cravings, unsuccessful efforts to stop and social impairment. It is important to recognize that there are conditions that present with only some of the diagnostic criteria that must be separated from the rubric of sexual addiction, and other medical and psychological disorders that largely mimic sexual addiction and must be excluded before a diagnosis is made. We next explore these ‘rule out’ conditions.
Medical Conditions that May Mimic Sexual Addiction
Hypersexual behaviour has been associated with a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Before making a diagnosis of sexual addiction, consideration must be given to these medical disorders that are associated with sexual behaviour that is compulsive, inappropriate, uncharacteristic or excessive: Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke and Neurosurgical Injury, Dementia, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, Bipolar Disorder, and Substance Abuse. The diagnosis of sexual addiction should not be made when these disorders are present without extensive consideration.
In this discussion of conditions subject to misdiagnosis as sexual addiction, it is important to emphasize that the concept of healthy sexuality may include sexual behaviours that are frequent or different from the norms of the prevailing culture (such as homosexuality, BDSM, polyamory, etc). The clinician would do a disservice by reflexively labelling such behaviour as addictive. Such behaviors would not qualify as addictions unless all the criteria of obsession, compulsion, risk-taking, tolerance, withdrawal, cravings, unsuccessful efforts to stop and social impairment are present.
The Clinical Presentations of Sexual Addiction
In recent years, multiple typologies have been proposed for sexual addiction.
The most extensive characterization of the phenotypes of sexual addiction has been performed using latent profile analysis of a large database of patient self-reported data obtained through use of the Sexual Dependency Inventory (SDI-4.0).
As described by Carnes, close to two hundred different sexual behaviours have been catalogued as part of the development of the SDI. Using the statistical technique of factor analysis, these behaviours are found to cluster in distinct types, each with characteristic acting-out behavioural patterns. In the derivation of the SDI-4.0, 20 behavioural clusters were identified. It is common for sexual addicts to endorse behaviours in multiple categories. Details are provided in the book chapter.
These behavioral clusters include:
- Fantasy Sex
- Pornography Use
- Phone Sex
- Use of Inanimate Objects
- Anonymous Sex
- Conquest and Seduction
- Group Sex
- Relationship Addiction
- Humiliation & Domination
- Pain-Exchange Sex
- Paying for Sex
- Power Exchange Sex
- Intrusive Sex
- Voyeurism & Covert Intrusions
- Exploitation of Trust
- Sexual Exploitation of Children
- Production of Pornography
- Compulsive Sexuality with Drug Use
Sexual addiction presents in a myriad of ways with recognizable clusters of behaviour. The clinician facing a client with problematic, compulsive or excessive sexual behaviours must be mindful of the medical and psychological conditions which resemble sexual addiction and must be differentiated, with appropriate specific treatment provided. Multicultural sensitivity is necessary, especially when working with sexual minorities.
By Ralph Earle (PhD, ABPP) and Rick Isenberg (MD, CSAT)