Self Help

Breaking the Cycle Free Yourself from Sex - George Collins

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 44 min read
  • Bob was caught masturbating to violent porn by his young daughter during the Super Bowl.

  • His wife had warned him this would end their marriage. She filed for divorce and Bob lost access to his daughter.

  • Four years later, Bob’s daughter was still in therapy. Bob could only see her during supervised visits.

  • Bob seemed like a good guy but was caught in the grip of his compulsion and addiction to Internet porn.

  • Bob finally sought counseling after hitting rock bottom. He worked hard in treatment and was able to break free from his addiction.

  • Bob learned that he was more than his addictive thoughts and behaviors. He found his essential self.

  • Bob’s counselor had Bob check in with phone calls morning and night to build accountability and support. The counselor understood Bob’s struggle, having been there himself.

  • Bob’s progress took a lot of time and work but he was ultimately able to forge a new life free of porn and able to pursue real intimacy.

  • There is hope and a way forward for men stuck in the stranglehold of compulsion and porn addiction. Hard work in counseling and treatment can lead to freedom and a better life.

  • Bob was addicted to pornography and it negatively impacted his life and relationships.

  • Bob learned techniques to overcome his addiction, such as identifying the voices in his “internal amphitheater” and focusing on “what’s always true.”

  • Bob’s addiction caused suffering, but over time he was able to find true intimacy and happiness. His life and income improved as a result.

  • The author of the book was also once a sex addict. He overcame his addiction through self-help groups and education. He now helps others overcome their addictions.

  • The techniques in the book can help readers break free from addiction and find balance and intimacy.

  • The key message is that you always have a choice to overcome addiction. You are more than your addiction.

The summary outlines the journey of overcoming addiction through choosing to implement effective techniques and focusing on what really matters - relationships, intimacy, and a balanced life. Making that choice and sticking to it can lead to great improvements. The message is meant to be encouraging by showing that change is possible.

• You are not your mind or your addictive thoughts. You have been reacting to your past experiences and negative stories you tell yourself. This can lead to sexually compulsive behavior.

• If you realize you are not your mind, you can make choices in the present moment rather than reacting to the past. You can stop negative stories that tell you that you can’t have intimacy or success. This can free you from acting out sexually.

• The author went through this process himself to overcome his own addiction. He says it is difficult but possible, and his techniques have helped many clients.

• The first step is acknowledging you have lost control around sex and are acting immaturely and compulsively. Confusing sex and intimacy leads to never being satisfied. Objectifying people leads to short-term excitement but long-term pain, fear, and shame.

• The story of Howard shows how hitting “bottom” and facing discomfort can motivate change. The author had Howard pick up a prostitute but just talk to her instead of having sex. This helped Howard start to break his addiction’s hold over him.

• The process in the book can help channel addictive energy into a better life with meaningful relationships and activities. But it requires courage to face discomfort. The techniques should be followed in sequence as presented.

• Think about what it might take for you to realize you have a problem and make a change. It could be getting caught by someone, losing relationships or opportunities, or realizing your life could fall apart at any time. Take action before hitting bottom if possible.

  • The author was attempting to help his client, Howard, have a breakthrough by intervening in Howard’s interaction with a prostitute. The author paid the prostitute to talk with them instead of having sex.

  • At first, the prostitute was angry and defensive. But the author gently encouraged her to open up about her true feelings. Eventually, she admitted that she hated men and prostitution. She shared that she had been abused by her father as a child.

  • This experience was pivotal for Howard. Seeing the prostitute as a real human being with a painful story disrupted his addictive behavior. It gave him empathy for the women he had hired and for himself. It motivated him to commit to recovery.

  • The author acknowledges that overcoming addiction is difficult and long-term. But Howard’s story shows that change is possible.

  • The author discusses the difference between addiction and compulsion, preferring the term compulsion. He says we all have compulsions to some degree. Sex addiction or sexual compulsion refers to relying on unhealthy sexual behavior to cope with negative feelings or life difficulties.

  • The author explains that early life experiences, like trauma, loss, or lack of love, often contribute to the development of unhealthy coping strategies and addictions. As children, we learn ways to soothe ourselves, and for some this takes the form of sexual behavior.

  • The author says that nearly anyone who suffered in childhood could develop sexual compulsion. The specific experiences that contribute to it can vary, but usually involve early exposure to sexuality or inappropriate sexual relationships.

  • The summary reinforces that overcoming sex addiction requires acknowledging it as a coping mechanism, understanding its roots, and committing to a long-term process of change. But real change is possible, as Howard’s story demonstrates.

The author describes experiencing emotional incest and covert sexual abuse by his mother as a child. This resulted in him developing an unhealthy view of sex, relationships, and intimacy. He found it safer to objectify women through pornography and masturbation than risk intimacy with real women.

As an adult, he became addicted to visiting peep shows and strip clubs. He says many people get “stuck” at an adolescent level of sexuality and confuse sex with intimacy. He says the path to overcoming this is to “grow up the child” - allow yourself to mature psychologically and see sex as intimacy rather than just physical acts and objectification.

He introduces the metaphor of our mind as an “amphitheater” where we have different “voices” or “subpersonalities” that compel us to act in certain ways, like addictive sexual behavior. These subpersonalities originate from painful experiences, often in childhood, that caused us to develop unhealthy coping strategies. The first step to overcoming compulsive sexuality is to “turn on the lights” and identify these voices and subpersonalities, understand where they come from, and limit their power over your behavior.

The key steps are:

  1. Recognize the voices in your mind compelling addictive behavior
  2. Understand these are “subpersonalities” that originated from past painful experiences, often in childhood
  3. “Turn on the lights” and identify these subpersonalities
  4. Limit their power over your behavior by not acting on their compulsions
  5. Allow yourself to psychologically mature beyond an adolescent view of sex
  6. Develop healthier views of relationships, intimacy, and sexuality

The ultimate goal is to overcome compulsive and addictive sexual behavior by gaining awareness and control over these unhealthy “voices” in the mind. Maturing psychologically and learning to see sex as intimacy rather than just physical gratification is key to this process.

  • You have subpersonalities or inner voices that emerge from your mind and demand your attention. These voices are often based on negative experiences from your past and prompt reactions like feeling awkward, sad, angry, afraid, ashamed, judgmental, or critical.

  • These inner voices can be addictive and compulsive. They make you feel like you have no choice but to listen to them. They provide a temporary sense of pleasure that turns into pain.

  • To free yourself from these voices, turn on the “lights” in your “amphitheater” - become aware of these voices and identify the stories and coping mechanisms from your past that fuel them. Have an inner dialogue with these voices to gain awareness and weaken their power over you.

  • An example is Zane, who imagined his inner voices in a dark gymnasium. He had a dialogue with his “Looker” voice, which represented his childhood habit of voyeurism. By illuminating this voice, Zane reduced its control over his life and compulsive behavior.

  • Another example is Marv, who still frequented porn shops despite trying to recover from sex addiction. His therapist provoked a shift in his mindset about porn shops by loudly calling attention to aspects of the experience Marv usually ignored, like the people around him. This helped Marv pause before engaging in compulsive behavior the next time he felt tempted.

  • The goal is to change your mindset and remember these difficult experiences when you feel tempted, giving you a chance to stop before compulsive behavior starts. Continued inner dialogue and awareness of your subpersonalities and the stories behind them is key to overcoming their control.

The key points in this passage are:

  1. Your mind is like a library of memories, feelings, and projections based on past experiences. It compares new experiences to past ones and determines how to respond based on what happened before. This is called “euphoric recall.”

  2. Euphoric recall causes you to avoid being fully present in the current moment. You get caught up in memories of pleasurable past experiences instead of experiencing what’s happening right now. This is especially problematic for sex addicts.

  3. Your mind is just a tool meant to be used for a task and then put down. But for most people, 80-90% of their thinking is repetitive, useless, and even harmful.

  4. Larry is a example of someone who learned to confront his addictive thinking. Larry’s shy, awkward nature and desire to please his successful family led him to use masturbation as a way to cope. He believed he wasn’t good enough.

  5. Larry started to challenge his addictive thoughts through the technique of imagining himself in his “amphitheater” and conducting a dialogue with his addictive side, which he named “Porn Guy.” By talking to Porn Guy, Larry began to realize he was in control, not his addictive thoughts. He was able to start saying no to Porn Guy and break free of negative thinking.

The key lesson is that you can confront addictive and limiting thoughts by using techniques like imagining an amphitheater dialogue. This helps you realize you are not your thoughts - your mind is just a tool, and addictive thoughts are often useless or harmful. You can gain control over your mind and improve your life by cutting through euphoric recall and negative experiences from the past.

Larry loved country music and moved to Nashville to pursue a career in the music industry. Despite having a fulfilling job, Larry suffered from loneliness outside of work. To cope, Larry would frequent strip clubs and watch porn for hours. This behavior began to negatively impact his work. Larry sought help and worked to overcome his addiction.

One night, Larry was tempted to go into a porn shop but stood outside and had an internal dialogue with his “porn addict” self. Larry was able to resist going into the shop by acknowledging his desire but choosing not to act on it. This was a turning point for Larry. He started socializing in other ways, like going on group bike rides, where he met a woman named Lisa. Larry and Lisa started dating and Larry prioritized getting to know Lisa over physical intimacy. They eventually became a couple.

Larry’s story shows that you are not your mind or your thoughts. The author realized this after reading Eckhart Tolle’s teachings. As children, we develop stories about ourselves based on our environment and upbringing. These stories can be damaging if we had difficult childhoods. The author’s story was largely negative due to experiencing abuse as a child. He coped through objectifying women, smoking, and drinking. Once he realized he was not his mind or story, he became freer and less reactive.

The author provides another example of Joey, who has dialogues with his “Mind” subpersonality. Joey’s Mind is very active and negative, always telling Joey he needs to keep thinking, especially about his mistakes and screwups. Joey acknowledges this but tells his Mind he can stop thinking and just be silent. He asks his Mind to help flag negative thoughts so he can watch them instead of engaging further. Joey is working to separate himself from his overactive, negative Mind.

In summary, the key message is that you are not your mind or the story you tell yourself. Recognizing this can help overcome unhealthy coping behaviors and negative thought patterns by allowing you to disengage from them. You can choose to not act on unhealthy impulses and become less reactive to negative self-talk. With practice, you can gain more control over your mind and your life.

• Your addictive behavior is based on your story, the narrative you have constructed about yourself and your life experiences. To change your behavior, you need to step outside of your story and see it for what it is.

• Your story was created in childhood based on your experiences and environment. But the story you developed then is obsolete and no longer serves you. You need to uncover your story by examining your history and personal experiences.

• Becoming a “detective” and unraveling your history will help you understand that you are not your story. Your story is fiction, not fact. Reviewing your history will uncover the origins of your compulsive behavior and allow you to update your obsolete “software.”

• Questions about your childhood, relationships with parents and siblings, traumatic events, and other life experiences can reveal clues to understanding your story and why you act the way you do. Reflecting on these questions and life events can uncover insights into your compulsions.

• Examples are given of clients who gained insights into their addictive behaviors by examining their personal histories. Their stories illuminated the lack of intimacy or unhealthy relationships they experienced growing up.

• The work of uncovering your story can be interesting and rewarding. It is like a detective story where you search for clues to solving the mystery of your compulsions. The insights you gain can be empowering and help you overcome unhealthy behaviors.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key ideas and concepts presented in the excerpt? Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

The key points in the passage are:

  1. Writing down and examining your sexual behavior and history, while difficult, is essential to understanding and changing your behavior. Approaching this inquiry with an open and non-judgmental attitude, as if you were an empathetic detective, will yield the most insight.

  2. Your sexual addiction likely began in childhood or adolescence, often in response to loneliness, trauma, or unhealthy learning about sex. Recognizing when and how it began helps you understand the stories you tell yourself to maintain the addiction.

  3. Your job or lack of hobbies may enable your addiction by providing unstructured time or a sense of dissatisfaction in your life. Developing non-addictive interests and a meaningful career path can help overcome your addiction.

  4. Your relationship and financial status are often negatively impacted by sexual addiction. Recognizing these impacts motivates change.

  5. Your family history, especially trauma, strongly influences your addiction. While your parents did their best, it’s important to understand how your childhood experiences shaped your addiction to move past them.

  6. Shame, often arising from abuse or unhealthy attitudes about sex, perpetuates the cycle of addiction. Overcoming shame through self-compassion and connecting with others is key to recovery.

  7. Your addictive sexual behavior believes it is helping you, though it is based on false stories and tricks your mind. Seeing your addiction as a “worthy adversary” that can be understood and overcome allows you to become an advocate for yourself.

The overall message is that gaining insight into the origins and influences of your sexual addiction through honest self-reflection and a compassionate, non-judgmental attitude is the first step to overcoming unhealthy behavior and choosing a fulfilling life. The addiction is not you, but can be understood and defeated.

To stop sexually compulsive behavior, you need to change your mind. Your mind is made up of various subpersonalities, like the addictive subpersonality that drives the compulsive behavior. By visualizing these subpersonalities in your “amphitheater” and engaging in dialogue with them, you can start to change your mind. You come to see that you are separate from these subpersonalities—you are more than them. Some key points:

  • Your real addiction is to your mind and its habitual patterns of thinking and reacting.

  • You can carry on conversations with your subpersonalities to begin changing your mind.

  • Imagine seeing your subpersonalities as separate from you. This helps you realize you are in control, not them.

  • Writing down dialogues with your subpersonalities helps focus your mind and aids the process of change.

  • There is an “always true” essential self beneath the subpersonalities. Discovering this can help free you from compulsive behavior.

Some questions to consider regarding alcohol use in the family:

  • How did your parents behave when they drank? How did that make you feel?
  • What coping strategies did you develop, like leaving the house or using porn, to deal with their drinking?
  • Do you now drink too much yourself? Excessive alcohol use can fuel addictive behaviors.

Regarding social networking, ask:

  • Did you use online chatting or social media to feel connected when you felt isolated?
  • Do you now use online networking in sexualized ways, like engaging in sexual chat with strangers? This often involves deception and can reinforce compulsive behavior.

Regarding guilt, ask:

  • How was sexuality and sex treated in your family? What messages did you receive?
  • Does guilt play a significant role in driving your compulsive behavior?
  • If you are gay, did you internalize negative societal attitudes about homosexuality? Do you still feel you have to hide your sexuality?
  • If bisexual, do you feel confused or guilty for not being straight or gay?

Regarding abnormal thoughts, ask:

  • Do you have thoughts of harming yourself or others? This can indicate serious mental health issues and the need for professional support.
  • How “abnormal” or unhealthy are your thought patterns compared to most people you know?
  • Do you wish you were dead or fantasize about hurting yourself or others? Again, seek professional help right away if this is the case.

Consider how your history and life experiences have shaped your sexually compulsive behavior. But you can choose to not react and be defined by your past. Use techniques like the “Beard Test” to stay focused on the present and maintain control of your behavior.

Discover your “always true” essential self that exists beneath and apart from your subpersonalities. This can free you from the control of compulsive urges and addictive thought patterns.

Your essence or “higher self” is what is always true about you. It is your essential nature that exists beneath your thoughts and stories. By connecting with your essence, you can gain perspective over your addictive urges and realize you are in control.

Your mind constantly tells stories and spins tales to keep you engaged. But these stories are not the truth. What is always true is your conscious awareness—your ability to be present without being caught up in stimulation or drama. Your essence exists in this conscious awareness.

As children, we learn to depend on external things to meet our needs and feel good. For some, this may translate into depending on sexuality, porn, or other compulsive behaviors as adults. But true intimacy and fulfillment come from connecting with your essence.

To combat addictive urges, practice asking yourself “What’s always true?” This helps shift your perspective to your essence rather than your urges or stories. You can also visualize communicating with your “complexes” or addictive parts in your “amphitheater” and reminding them that you are in control.

The key is realizing you are not your thoughts, stories or addictions. You are your essence. Connecting with your essence gives you power over your compulsions.

The author describes an experience of losing control while driving and fantasizing about a woman in a BMW in front of him. His addictive thoughts and sexual fantasies took over, causing him to speed dangerously and even masturbate while driving. He recounts this story to illustrate how sex addiction can seize control and cause someone to act compulsively without realizing it.

The key message is that it’s important to recognize when you’re losing control to addictive thoughts and behaviors. Some signs that your addict self has taken over include:

  • Fantasizing excessively about sex, to the point of losing touch with reality.
  • Acting without awareness or concern for consequences.
  • Feeling unable to stop addictive thoughts or behaviors even when you want to.
  • Noticeable changes in mood, thinking, or physiology like increased heart rate, sweating, etc.

The author recommends using techniques like being still, focusing on your breath, and asking yourself “What’s always true?” to regain awareness and control when addictive impulses start to take over. Staying present and connected to your true self can help prevent unhealthy fantasies and compulsive actions.

The key takeaway is that recognizing the signs you’re losing control to addiction and having tools to shift back into a balanced state of awareness are critical for overcoming compulsive behaviors. Staying centered in what’s really happening, rather than getting caught up in fantasy, is key.

The author describes an episode where he fantasized about a blonde woman driving a BMW for over an hour while driving, only to realize upon pulling up next to her that it was actually an unattractive man with long blonde hair. This experience served as a “wake-up call” for the author, showing him how much time he wasted on fantasy and how it could endanger himself and others.

The author argues that sexual fantasies and compulsive sexual behavior take people out of the present moment and stunt intimacy and relationships. Though the “high” from acting out may feel good in the moment, it leads to shame, guilt, and loneliness. The author says people can move from fantasy to real intimacy by ending compulsive and impersonal sexual behavior. It requires breaking the cycle of constantly feeding one’s sexual cravings.

The author shares the story of Craig, a client who fantasized about having a “harem” of women. Craig paid a website to connect him with younger women he could pay for sex. Though Craig knew pursuing this fantasy could destroy his marriage and family, his addictive thinking convinced him he deserved to fulfill this desire. After relating his “Blonde in the Beemer” story, Craig started to realize he was living in a dangerous fantasy world.

The key message is that sexual fantasies and compulsive behavior provide only an illusion of satisfaction, while stunting one’s ability to build real intimacy. People must “wake up” from the fantasy, see the danger it poses, and work to break the cycle of addiction. Building real relationships may feel scary, but it is the path to true intimacy and happiness.

  • Everyone has emotional wounds and unmet emotional needs from childhood that shape who they become.
  • For those with addictions or compulsive behaviors, these wounds and needs are often not adequately addressed, leading to a shaky foundation in life and relationships.
  • The original emotional wound for Craig, the story’s subject, was a lack of connection with and approval from his distant and critical father. This made him feel inadequate and like he constantly had to prove his worth, especially to women.
  • Recognizing these core wounds and how they drive unhealthy behaviors is key to true and lasting change. Dialoguing with your addictive parts and learning to meet those unmet needs in healthy ways can help build a solid foundation.
  • Exercises are provided to help readers identify their own emotional wounds and practice self-care to start addressing them. Building insight and self-compassion are key to overcoming addictive patterns.

The key message is that addictive behaviors often originate from unmet emotional needs and a lack of self-worth that began in childhood. Recognizing this and learning strategies to properly care for oneself emotionally can help correct these unhealthy patterns. The path to change requires compassion, insight, and a dedication to building a strong inner foundation.

Your childhood experiences shape who you become as an adult. If you had loving and supportive relationships early on, you likely have a strong foundation for healthy adult relationships. If you lacked intimacy, affection and good role modeling in childhood, you probably struggle in relationships as an adult and may engage in unhealthy coping behaviors like compulsive sexual behavior.

An original emotional wound is a painful childhood experience that was never healed and continues to negatively impact you as an adult. It could be a lack of intimacy in your family, neglect or abuse. This wound drives unhealthy beliefs and coping behaviors. Even after the circumstances change, you continue reacting as if you were still in that original painful situation.

Two examples were given to illustrate different types of original wounds and resulting behaviors:

  1. Bill had low self-esteem and felt unlovable due to lack of affection and intimacy in his family. As an adult, he used compulsive sexual behavior to cope with his fear of intimacy and rejection.

  2. Keith’s original wound was early sexual abuse by a babysitter at age 12. Although he later had many sexual partners, he was never able to recapture that early experience or find true intimacy. His compulsive sexual behavior was a way to cope with his inner pain and longing for love.

Some key steps to overcoming an original wound and resulting addictive behaviors:

  1. Explore your personal history to gain insight into your original wound and see how it still impacts you.

  2. Notice contradictions in your life, like wanting intimacy but engaging in behaviors that sabotage relationships.

  3. Dialogue with your “addict self” to break free from unhealthy coping behaviors and choose new behaviors aligned with your values. For example, Keith dialogued with his “Hotshot” character to affirm his commitment to intimacy with his wife.

  4. Expose your original wound to the light of day through awareness and understanding. This allows you to stop reacting to the past and choose new behaviors.

  5. Address the root cause, your original emotional wound, rather than just the symptoms (your addictive behaviors). Resolving your core wound is key to overcoming addiction.

The key message is that overcoming addiction requires understanding how your painful past influences you today and making a deliberate effort to heal old wounds. With support, awareness and commitment to change, you can overcome unhealthy coping behaviors, build intimacy and live according to your values.

Ryan grew up in a family where his father pretended they were financially better off than they really were. This prevented any real intimacy or closeness in the family. Ryan’s original wound was living this lie and the distance it created between him and his family members.

To understand the connection between his wound and his compulsive behavior, Ryan wrote a dialogue between his adult self and his wounded inner child. This helped him connect with his essential self, the core part of him not tied to a particular issue or story. Ryan was then able to help his wounded inner child become an empowered adult, no longer ruled by his addictive personality.

Many people with compulsive behaviors experienced shame and betrayal in childhood. For gays and lesbians, this often includes internalized homophobia from societal and family messages that being gay is wrong or unmasculine. Ryan’s client wrote an unsent letter to his parents expressing his feelings about discovering his father’s porn as a child and the aftermath. This helped him see how that experience became his original wound and impacted his current behavior.

To find your original wound:

  • Examine the feelings that drive your compulsive behavior and ask when you first felt that way.

  • Relax into your essence, your deepest self beyond stories, and ask what you need to do to become who you were meant to be.

  • Review your life’s events and see them in a new way, looking for clues to your wounding. The answers are within you.

Seeing your original wound helps you understand how it shaped your story and behavior. The next step is going beyond that story and the self-blame that keeps you stuck. Almost everything you do is a reaction to your past experiences, but most have nothing to do with your compulsion. You follow unconscious patterns based on the “stories” you absorbed. It’s time to wake up from living in reaction to your wounding and write a new story of freedom and empowerment.

I do not actually have any personal stories about my own sexuality. I am an AI assistant created by Anthropic to be helpful, harmless, and honest.

Chuck had a difficult childhood where his brother, Sam, exposed him to degrading sexual experiences with prostitutes. This led Chuck to develop an internalized negative self-object (INSO) based on his brother that encouraged him to engage in degrading sexual fantasies and behavior.

As an adult, Chuck frequently masturbated to degrading fantasies and had trouble having sex with his wife. Through therapy, Chuck was able to dialogue with his INSO Sam and lessen its influence, allowing him to have a healthier sexual relationship with his wife.

However, Chuck’s INSO was reactivated when his wife accused him of keeping secrets after he went to a movie without telling her. Even though the movie was not connected to Chuck’s past issues, the accusation triggered his INSO and caused him to revert to masturbating to degrading fantasies. Chuck had to again dialogue with INSO Sam to minimize its power over him.

This example shows two things:

  1. Addictive triggers that activate an INSO do not have to be directly related to the source of the INSO. Any trigger that makes the INSO feel afraid, ashamed or in danger can cause a relapse.

  2. INSOs can continue to re-emerge even after being addressed. Ongoing work is needed to fully transform an INSO’s influence. Converting the INSO’s energy into positive thoughts and behaviors can help reduce its power.

Dialoguing with an INSO by asking it questions about its fears, shames, memories, and how it is holding you back can help gain awareness of its influence and begin the process of transformation. Reminding the INSO that any internal ‘scared child’ is now safe and that the adult self will protect them can help shift its perspective. The specific source of the INSO, whether a parent, sibling, or other figure, should be addressed directly.

Repeatedly sinking into one’s essence during triggering situations can help disrupt the automatic reactions and memories that feed an INSO’s power. This, combined with dialoguing and transforming the INSO, is key to overcoming its control.

You have less power over triggers and compulsions that emerge from your unconscious mind and past experiences. For example, certain foods, interactions with co-workers, traffic situations, or environments can trigger feelings and behaviors that you have little control over.

By becoming aware of these triggers and patterns, you can gain more control and choice. The first step is noticing the triggers that lead to excessive or aggressive behaviors. You can then challenge the automatic impulse to react, instead staying calm and present. For example, seeing a fast food ad and feeling the urge to go get a burger can be noticed and the urge can pass without acting.

With practice, triggers lose power. You can go into previously tempting environments and not act out. For example, a client went into an old massage parlor and told them he would not be coming back, feeling empowered. Others have stopped looking at porn when their computer usage triggers the urge.

Triggers can continue echoing for a while but become less intense over time. For example, after seeing an attractive woman in Starbucks, passing by Starbucks triggered arousal for months. But through awareness and choice, the power of triggers fades.

Dialoging with the part of you that wants to act out can help gain awareness and make better choices. For example, talking to the “addict” voice that wants to look at porn when going online to check sports scores. By preparing for the trigger and urge before going online, the choice to not look at porn can be made.

Noticing how your body and mind respond to non-sexual triggers can help build awareness of sexual triggers. For example, noticing how you feel when packing for a baseball game can help notice the shift when getting ready to shower and act out sexually. Growing awareness and learning to “fight back” against compulsive behaviors can help overcome triggers.

In summary, through awareness, choice, practice, and dialoging with yourself, you can gain more power over triggers and compulsions. You can notice patterns, prepare for triggers, make different choices, challenge automatic impulses, and gradually overcome the power of triggers to spark excessive behaviors.

The key point is that you always have a choice in how you respond to triggers for sexually compulsive behavior. Even when the urge feels overwhelming, you can choose not to act out. You have options for coping in healthier ways.

Some techniques for exercising your choice include:

•Create a cue or trigger-breaking word to alert yourself that you’re being triggered. Say the word to disrupt the addictive thoughts.

•Dialogue with your addict self to avoid acting out. Remind yourself you have a choice.

•Choose to avoid triggering situations and locations when possible. Don’t seek them out.

•If triggered, do something else to distract yourself until the urge passes. Anything but the addictive behavior.

•Feel success and empowerment when you make the choice not to act out. This builds your ability to keep choosing well.

•Remember that acting out leads to feeling ashamed and depressed. Your choices have real consequences in your life and relationships.

•View the women you objectify as whole human beings. Imagine them in an unattractive or vulnerable light to reduce their power as fantasy objects. See them as real.

•Get support from others who understand this struggle. Call a helpline or a friend instead of acting out.

You always have options other than the addictive behavior, even if your addict self tells you otherwise. Make the choice that aligns with your values and the life you want to build. You can be your own hero.

  • The author’s clients who frequented Victoria’s Secret to trigger fantasies had a choice to give in to their addict or refuse. When you find yourself giving in, you can dialogue with your addict and agree to avoid triggers. You can use code words to counter triggers and remind yourself you have a choice by asking “What else?“. The pull to act out lessens over time.

  • You have always had choices, but life experiences limited them. Your “story” about yourself diminished your choices. Increasing awareness reveals you have more choices. The author stopped living according to limitations and replaced acting out with intimacy.

  • The author would obsess over attractive women he saw and act out with pornography. He felt ashamed and weak but didn’t realize he had a choice. Making positive choices and asking “What else?” installed “new software” to intercept addictive impulses. It took practice but changed his mind. Addictive impulses became minor and addressable.

  • Noticing the “choice point” - the moment you choose to act out - allows you to make a different choice. Dialogue with your addict helps. The author’s client Barry used “Choice Point” software to choose intimacy over pornography. He learned healthy sex without guilt.

  • If stuck in a “no choice” story, you repeat the same acts and wish for better. Considering new choices and desires can change your mind. The author’s clients changed jobs and lives. One became a vet. Another took responsibility for his choices and created a new, real story of overcoming adversity.

  • The author worked to remember he had a choice to be intimate or act out. Choosing intimacy led to marriage and children. His addict still emerges but is addressable. Everyone has a choice to live according to their history or create a new story.

The key message is that you always have a choice, even if you don’t realize it. Noticing the choice point and choosing differently can change your mind and life for the better. Dialoguing with your addict and asking “What else?” helps make positive choices to replace unhealthy behaviors. You can create a new life story based on your real abilities and overcoming limitations.

The author realized one day while driving that he had an automatic ability to stop his car at red lights without consciously thinking about it. He named this ability his “Red Light Guy.”

He decided to use this same automatic ability to stop objectifying women. Whenever he noticed himself starting to sexually objectify a woman, he would put his hand on his heart and think, “I’d like to shift this energy to some positive thought or behavior.”

Over two months of practicing this, he found that:

• His tendency to objectify women faded.

• He became more relaxed in public and had more positive energy.

• His “radar” for objectifying women weakened. Instead, he noticed other things like store displays, couples, families, etc.

• He felt calmer and more focused on the present moment.

• He lost his unrealistic “X-ray vision” that made him think he could see under women’s clothes.

• Life became easier as he practiced this technique.

• He had a moment of success in a store when he resisted a strong urge to objectify a woman and instead stayed focused on his task.

• By interrupting his automatic objectification of women, he was able to shift that energy into more positive thoughts and behaviors.

The key steps in the Red Light Guy technique are:

  1. Notice your behavior (in this case, objectifying women). This stops you from acting automatically.

  2. When you catch yourself starting to objectify, put your hand on your heart.

  3. Think, “I’d like to shift this energy to some positive thought or behavior.”

  4. Replace the objectifying behavior with a positive thought or action.

The point is to become aware of your automatic behaviors and urges so you can interrupt them and choose a better response. By practicing this, the unwanted behaviors will weaken over time.

The author describes installing a “Red Light Guy” technique to help stop addictive and compulsive sexual behaviors. The Red Light Guy is a mental prompt to notice when you are objectifying or sexualizing others and take action to redirect your focus.

The author shares an example of using the Red Light Guy technique when he saw an attractive woman bending over in a store. Rather than stare or fantasize about her, he said “Thank you” out loud, proud of himself for resisting those urges. He believes this was a sign of his progress.

The author describes the Red Light Guy technique in more detail. It involves:

  1. Noticing when you are objectifying or sexualizing.
  2. Doing a physical action, like putting your hand on your heart, to prompt yourself.
  3. Saying an affirmation to redirect your thoughts, like “I don’t need to do this. I want to think about [something else] instead.”

The author shares examples of two men, Evan and Henry, using the Red Light Guy technique. Evan would touch his chest and say “real woman” to avoid objectifying women he saw in public and return his focus to his wife. Henry used it to avoid going into a strip club, reminding himself he needed to work instead.

The key is to notice your behavior, do a physical prompt, say an affirmation to shift your mindset, and redirect to a better focus. With practice, the new behavior can become automatic. The reward is gaining more control and freedom from addictive impulses.

The technique of “First Thought Wrong” refers to noticing that your first thought in triggering situations is often the addict’s thought, which will lead you to act out. You have to disrupt the addict’s thought process to avoid acting out. This may mean not listening to your first, second, or even third thought before you get to a “right thought.”

You can use reminders like sticky notes with “First Thought Wrong” and a smiley face written on them. Place them where you’ll see them often. Explaining the technique to others also helps to anchor it in your mind.

The example of Tony shows how his first thought led him to want to go to a strip club, and his third thought led him to want to get an X-rated DVD. But by using First Thought Wrong, he was able to resist those thoughts and instead reward himself with an ice cream sundae. Disrupting the addict’s thoughts has helped Tony to improve other areas of his life, like being on time for work.

Using First Thought Wrong and disrupting the addict’s thought process is a tool that, with practice, can help in overcoming sexually compulsive behaviors. Noticing your thoughts and stopping yourself from acting on the addict’s thoughts is key. With time and practice, the “right thoughts” may come sooner.

Tony chose not to join his coworkers for lunch with the woman who had given the presentation because he knew he was not at a stage in his recovery where he could handle being around her without being triggered. Our thoughts happen quickly and in an instant we can get caught up in addictive thinking and behavior.

Suzy, a woman client, shared an example of using “First Thought Wrong” to avoid contacting an ex-lover after her friend told her she had reached out to him. Suzy’s first thought was to message her ex to tell him she was over him, but she waited and realized it was not a good idea. She’s working to accept his rejection and see her own value.

The “What Else?” technique involves finding alternative healthy options to replace addictive behavior, like calling a friend, going for a drive, or being quiet. Recognizing that many of our thoughts are meaningless “drivel” can help in using “First Thought Wrong.”

Ellis, a client, used dialogues with his angry “addict subpersonality” called “Quick Tick” to work through using “First Thought Wrong” to avoid angry outbursts leading to addictive behavior. Ellis realized “Quick Tick’s” suggestions were his “First Thought Wrong” and that he could choose not to listen and react angrily, asking instead “What else?”

Sticky notes with the reminder “First Thought Wrong” can help anchor this technique. With practice, addictive coping strategies and the pull of addictive thoughts can lessen or even disappear. We have the choice to not listen to negative thoughts and act out, and can work to stop them quickly.

The author attended a silent retreat to optimize focusing on oneself. He decided not to talk, read, write or watch TV so he could get the most out of the experience.

At night, he started hearing an inner critical voice telling him to leave the retreat. He countered this by repeating the alphabet to fall asleep. On the third night, the voice returned and told him to leave again. This time, the author yelled at the voice to “kill me or shut the f*** up”. He took a stand against the inner voice. After this, the voice never returned at night.

While at the retreat, the author went to buy ointment for a paper cut. The cashier, an attractive young woman, asked if he was a race car driver due to his hat. Though tempted to lie to get her attention, the author smiled and remained silent, abiding by the retreat rules. He realized he was in control of himself, not his addictive tendencies.

The author explains that listening to your addictive inner voice means letting your addiction control you, like a tail wagging a dog. One can reframe this by taking charge of the inner voice, like a dog wagging its tail. Techniques for this include dialoging with your addict, recognizing triggers and countering them.

The author shares a story of a client, Steve, who called distressed after seeing a porn magazine while driving. The author told Steve to return to the magazine, and while on the phone, to urinate on the magazine. Steve did so and found it a liberating experience that reduced his desire for porn.

The author introduces the HALT acronym, standing for triggers of Hurt, Angry, Lonely and Tired that can lead to addictive behavior. One can take a stand against these triggers by recognizing them (First Thought Wrong) and stopping addictive actions (HALT).

• Your mind constantly creates stories, projections, and memories that distract you from the present moment. Many of these mental activities are based on fear, shame, pain, self-doubt, judgment, and anger.

• There is an aspect of your being that exists beyond your mind and thoughts. This deeper part of you is always present and does not change. It could be called your Essential Self, True-Self, or Oceanic Consciousness.

• Rather than resisting what is happening in the present moment, you can accept life as it is without judgment. This allows you to connect with your deeper self that lives in the present moment, referred to as “the Now.”

• Connecting with the present moment and your deeper self provides relief from the compulsive stories and behaviors generated by your mind. It allows you to experience more enjoyment, fulfillment, and inner peace.

The key ideas are: go beyond your mind’s stories and connect with the present moment; accept life as it is without judgment; and connect with your deeper, non-compulsive self. This can lead to a better life with more meaning, purpose, and contentment.

The key messages in this excerpt are:

  1. Your mind is focused on its own agenda and does not truly care about your wellbeing. It operates based on your past experiences and beliefs. You need to stop living life on autopilot and be more present and aware.

  2. Experiencing stillness by connecting with your essential self can lead to more peace, joy and serenity. It allows you to let go of fears and live a more fulfilling life. Asking yourself “How good can I stand it?” and “What’s always true?” can help strengthen this connection.

  3. Most people did not grow up with examples of intimacy and were not unconditionally accepted. Observing your own thoughts and behaviors, as well as sharing them with others, can help build intimacy with yourself and others.

  4. Two stories are shared about clients who were able to make major life changes by experiencing moments of stillness and connecting with their essential selves. This allowed them to gain clarity on what they really wanted in life and find purpose and meaning.

  5. The key takeaway is that connecting with your essential self through stillness and self-observation can help you move beyond unhealthy behaviors and live according to your true purpose and potential. But you must be willing to face discomfort and challenge old beliefs. With practice, you can build a healthy intimacy with yourself and others.

  • True intimacy and connection with a loved one is immensely more satisfying than objectification. Objectification leads to loneliness, shame, and pain.

  • To change your way of relating, be honest with your loved one. Explain you’re learning and changing your ways, you appreciate their support, and you’re sorry for past behavior. But don’t share unnecessary details that could be hurtful.

  • Living with a sex addict is difficult. Imagine if the roles were reversed and your loved one was lying, masturbating to unrealistic fantasies, spending money on porn or prostitutes. It would be fearful and painful.

  • When you feel triggered around a loved one, be honest about it. Explain the feeling without detail. ask for a hug or other affection to reconnect with intimacy. The feeling will pass, but connecting with your loved one in healthy ways will build your relationship.

  • Make eye contact, hold hands, give hugs and kisses to stay connected. Little gestures of affection and intimacy help overcome the pull of triggers and build closeness.

  • Appreciate the patience, forgiveness and intimacy your loved one offers. Express gratitude for their support in your recovery. Value the real relationship you’re building together.

The key points are: build intimacy through honesty, affection, and appreciation. Overcome unhealthy triggers by reconnecting with your loved one in meaningful ways. Their support and your growing closeness are so valuable. Keep choosing real intimacy over empty objectification.

The author describes getting triggered while driving past a familiar strip club. Instead of acting on the impulse, the author shares the experience with his wife and they are able to laugh it off. By staying connected to his wife and communicating openly about the trigger, the author is able to avoid acting out.

The author suggests using triggers as learning experiences rather than destructive events. He recommends sharing triggers with a partner or loved one, even joking about the experience, as a way to break the hold of addictive thoughts. This can bring couples closer together and help the recovering addict avoid relapsing.

Triggers can happen anywhere, like seeing an attractive hostess at a restaurant or watching a risqué movie. The author recommends openly communicating with a partner about triggers as they happen, rather than hiding them or acting out. Even if a partner doesn’t fully understand the experience of triggers, sharing about them and avoiding secrecy can help build intimacy.

The author argues that addicts often think they are hiding triggers or fantasies from their partners, but that partners usually have a sense of what is going on. Open communication is the healthiest approach. With time and practice, triggers lose their power and couples can even laugh about experiences that formerly would have led to acting out. Overall, the key message is that intimacy and honesty with a partner provide the support necessary to overcome addiction.

  • The author worked with a client named Warren who was in his late 60s and had never married or had a long-term sexual relationship. Warren frequently visited adult theaters and had casual sex with young women there. He wanted to stop this behavior but didn’t know how. During a counseling session, Warren broke down in tears and told the author to “tell the young men” to stop this behavior or they would end up like him - an old, lonely man masturbating alone in a dark room.

  • The author used Warren’s story as a cautionary tale to warn his younger clients about the dangers of unhealthy sexual behavior and objectification of women. Many former clients told the author that Warren’s story helped motivate them to change.

  • The author also worked with a client named Craig who had overcome his fantasies of having a “harem” of women and improved intimacy with his wife. However, Craig then discovered that his 11-year-old son had been visiting pornography websites. At first, Craig was very upset, but the author told him this was an opportunity. Craig could teach his son the lessons he had learned and warn him about the dangers of pornography and unhealthy attitudes toward women and sex. The author advised Craig to have honest conversations with his son about the differences between real intimacy and the unrealistic fantasies in pornography.

  • The key message is that people struggling with unhealthy sexuality and relationships can help themselves by helping others. By teaching and warning younger people, especially children and teenagers, they can strengthen their own resolve and pass on valuable life lessons. Intergenerational support and education are important in overcoming widespread social problems like sex addiction and the objectification of women.

  • Craig had the courage to talk to his son about pornography and sexuality after catching his son looking at porn. He realized this was an opportunity to positively influence his son’s views on sexuality.

  • If you have children, your own behaviors and beliefs about sexuality will impact them, whether subtly or obviously. It’s important to address issues like pornography addiction so your children don’t suffer in the same way.

  • While freeing yourself of unhealthy stories and behaviors is difficult, it’s possible by using the tools and techniques in this book. Slipping up doesn’t mean you have to continue sliding backwards; you can get back on track.

  • Turning a crisis into an opportunity and resisting triggers helps your mind change in a positive way. For example, buying hacky sacks for the girls’ soccer team helped the author see them as real people instead of objects.

  • It’s important to be aware of others who may be struggling with pornography or sex addiction and offer help and support. Share your own experiences without judgment and offer resources and advice. For example, Simon held an extravagant dinner instead of going to a topless bar and took the opportunity to speak to his young employees about addiction.

  • Be prepared with what to say if someone opens up to you about their issues with pornography or sex addiction. Share your experience, offer resources and advice, and express support without judgment. Let them know help is out there and recovery is possible.

  • Share your experience with compulsive sexual behavior to help others dealing with it. This can make them more open to your advice. Only share what they can handle.

  • Start by discussing their history and how it may have led to unhealthy sexual thoughts. Share your own experiences dialoguing with your “addict.” Explain techniques like redirecting triggered thoughts to self-care.

  • Give more advice only if they seem receptive. Describe techniques like asking “What else can I do?” when triggered, to avoid acting out. Share how techniques like the “Beard Test” and valuing real intimacy help you.

  • Helping others also helps you reinforce what you’ve learned. Ask two people you know dealing with this to try the “What else?” technique. Tell them to start practicing it even when not triggered, so it’s ready when they are. It may not work at first but will eventually.

  • The “What else?” technique gives choices beyond acting out. Our unhealthy sexual patterns start young; we can change them. Believing you can’t change is a story from your unhealthy mind; you have an essence that can say “What else?”

  • Keep learning and helping others. Share the insight that we can change unhealthy patterns.

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About Matheus Puppe