Partner's Workshop: Stage Six; Lesson Four
Understanding Sex/Love Addiction (2 of 3)
The Positive Role of Addiction in Your Partner's Life
In the previous lesson, we discussed a situation where a girl had relied on compulsive overeating to manage her stress. In that example, eating was used for a specific reason: we all eat. Eating, in and of itself, is not wrong. It is not immoral. It cannot be abstained from. Eating is a universal value which provides comfort to all of us in one way or another. In a healthy person, eating relieves the uncomfortable feeling of hunger. In the unhealthy person, that role is expanded to include eating as a way of relieving other emotional discomfort as well. The pleasure derived from eating could be from the amount, the taste, the texture...it can even be derived from NOT eating — choosing instead the value of self-control over the value of self-indulgence or of self-preservation. No matter what the reason, eating plays a part in all of our lives. This emphasizes the premise that addiction is not found in the behavior itself, but in the emotional processes that surround that behavior. In the above example, eating could have just as easily been replaced by any behavior the child had been introduced to: alcohol, sports, relationships, sex...
Once the pattern of using a specific behavior as a stress relieving tool develops, they become more and more adept at using this behavior to manage their stress. They become a master at this particular behavior and usually expand their mastery into other similar behaviors (or similar patterns with unrelated behaviors). Let's take the behaviors of masturbation/fantasy. Masturbation and fantasy have many healthy roles to play in a healthy person's life: self-exploration; self-awareness; stress-management (yes, stress management...there is nothing wrong with managing your stress — even through "addictive behaviors"; the key is to manage your stress through a balanced approach that does not include behaviors with destructive consequences); self-esteem, etc. The danger in masturbation/fantasy comes when the act begins to jeopardize long-term values for the sole benefit of temporary, short-term relief. The danger comes when the act is reduced to nothing more than the simple need for immediate relief or immediate pleasure. When this occurs, the masturbating/fantasizing are being used just like any other drug. The temporary chemical changes that are taking place inside the person's brain (thus inducing the heightened, trance-like state) have the same characteristics as artificially-introduced drugs such as alcohol, cocaine or morphine. This principle is discussed in Jon Marsh's autobiography, "He Danced Alone". A relevant passage is provided for you here:
A normal person, in a state of sexual arousal, has an increase in the level of biochemicals — drugs, if you will — circulating within their brain. Adrenaline, endorphins — this is powerful stuff. Stuff you CAN get physically addicted to. You've heard of runner's high? It's the same concept. Your brain produces chemicals that affect the way that you feel. Imagine a cocaine addict having a tiny coke dispenser installed within his/her brain. To get high, he only needs to think about cocaine, to trigger the dispenser. At first, he wouldn't need to think about it too often, as small amounts of the drug keep him satisfied, but as time passes the small amounts are no longer having the same effect. What's more, the reliance on these drugs have actually begun to deteriorate other values in that person's life — thus causing an even greater need for the drug. The only way that he can continue feeling good is to think about the cocaine for longer and longer periods of time, thus causing larger and larger amounts of cocaine to be released into his system.
Sexual addiction is like having your own coke dispenser installed right there in your brain. The thoughts and fantasies that associate sexual addiction produce emotions (technically, produce a release of the biochemicals that influence emotions). To the person experiencing these emotions however, there is little difference between feelings that are created through artificial means (e.g. fantasy) or through actual life experience. Their immediate perception is that they feel better — and at that point, nothing else matters. Of course, as their reliance on thoughts and fantasies grow, their ability to develop healthy strategies to relieve stress diminishes. Their values become more and more distorted until eventually, the behaviors which provide immediate emotional comfort are deemed real and important, whereas those which provide long-term satisfaction actually begin to produce stress. Unfortunately, additional fantasy then relieves that stress, and the separation of your core values has taken place. Your fantasies become associated with who you are; while who you are gets relegated to the role of fantasy.
The tragedy in this is that once the separation of your values begin, and you learn to manage this "artificially", it takes more and more fantasy to maintain the same level of comfort that is initially produced. Longer sessions of fantasy help, for a while. But eventually, there comes a time when even a state of nearly constant fantasy won't do it. Introduce: masturbation. And in particular, the orgasm. Complete physical and emotional ecstasy — without having to pay a single dime. The original thoughts once used to manage your stress are now expanded to include a whole new set of behaviors. Each of which will follow the same pattern described above. Over time, even the orgasm will not allow you to successfully manage the value conflicts and the increased stress that you will experience, and so you learn that the more illicit, the more dangerous, the more prolonged the exposure to sexual stimuli...the more "drugs" that are released into your system. It's not quite as simple as that, but imagine: an endless supply of mind-altering chemicals, with unlimited access, available to you with nothing more than a thought or by viewing a single image.
Once your behavior is fused with your identity — that is, once the behavior itself has taken on the illusion of being a value in your life — the process for using that behavior becomes much like baking cookies. This is not to undermine the seriousness of sexual addiction, but more to provide a working model for how each behavior plays its own role in the overall scheme of using sex to manage your emotions.
Important Concept to Understand!
Consider for a moment your favorite cookie. Is it chocolate chip? Oatmeal raisin? How about a macaroon? Whatever the cookie, it is certain that each has its own recipe. Each has its own unique blend of ingredients and cooking instructions that will combine to produce the cookie itself. Even similar cookies — chocolate chip, for instance — vary greatly in style, taste and preparation. The behaviors associated with sexual compulsion are the "ingredients" with which your partner's bake their own cookies (their 'behavioral chains'). Each recipe caters to their individual tastes. Caters to the most satisfying — the most comforting — cookies possible.
But what are the ingredients they have available?
To help you understand the elements involved in producing the cumulative high associated with compulsive/addictive behavior, we have created a wheel called the Sexual Compulsion Wheel. This wheel consists of nine of the more common factors involved in producing the emotions that are associated with compulsive behavior. For the remainder of this lesson, we will be exploring each factor, along with three additional filters that will combine to provide your partner with a means of measuring their compulsive behavior.
By doing this, they will have the ability of systematically breaking down their compulsive behaviors, measure their progress and will gain the ability to begin separating these behaviors from their identity. An example of the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion:
Again, keep in mind...the elements shown here are some of the more common ones involved in developing the cumulative "artificial high" that is associated with compulsive behavior. They are not the only ones.
Nine Common Elements of the Sexual Compulsion Wheel
The sexual compulsion wheel is a tool that can be used to help your partner visualize their behavior outside of their emotions. It is not intended to be scientifically precise, as many of the variables are subjective and will apply to only your partner, their behaviors and their emotional interpretations of that behavior.
Now, we have talked about how arousal could be seen in the context of your partner baking a cookie. The wheel being shown is composed of nine common traits ("ingredients") found in most sexually compulsive acts ("cookies"). Each ingredient is capable of triggering their sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system — the same system responsible for the release of the mood-altering chemicals that are at the immediate core of impulse control and compulsive behavior (as opposed to the underlying patterns). The key to understanding this wheel is to not only see each element as a separate entity, but to also consider the range and potential effects that each element possesses when used in combination with others. Each element carries with it no particular order or weight; when evaluating your partner's specific behaviors, the combination of these elements make-up your partner's behavioral recipes — their "cookies", if you will.
Nine Common Elements Associated with Compulsive Behavior
I. Sensory Stimulation
Sensory stimulation consists of the five senses: touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. Each carries its own unique flavor and so each will be explored individually.
To most, touch is considered the foundation of our sensory abilities. Our bodies are loaded with millions of touch receptors that transmit the feelings of pleasure/pain to our brains. The combination of how long these sensors are stimulated, the ways in which they are stimulated, the intensity of the stimulation and the amount of receptors stimulated directly correlate to the body's arousal response.
Self-stimulation, or masturbation, involves an individual's attempts to stimulate his/her own touch receptors in a manner that produces sexual arousal. This stimulation may include the use of his/her own body, another's body, inanimate objects, animals, etc. The goal to masturbation is to manipulate your body into altering your emotional state. It is often accompanied by fantasy and orgasm. From a sensory standpoint, intercourse is significant in that it allows for simultaneous access to large amounts of touch receptors in areas where they are highly congregated. Unhealthy intercourse is frequently integrated with power, danger and accomplishment.
Manipulating your body's touch receptors does not have to be pleasant to be effective. Pain is an extremely powerful tool in provoking the body's chemical responses. Masochistic practices such as spanking, biting or scratching — aside from the psychological associations — provide a physical means for altering moods.
For men especially, sight elicits strong emotional feelings. One needs only to look at the billion dollar advertising industry to recognize the significant role that sight plays in human arousal. Beauty pageants, advertising, entertainment — each of these industries attempt to manipulate their audience's mood by offering visually attractive stimuli. Add to this the strip clubs, pornographic movies, tapes, cards, magazines...the ways that visual stimuli is pushed into the mainstream is proof of the incredible power that sight has to sexually arouse others.
Voyeurism, the act of secretly watching others engaged in sexually-oriented situations, can even produce such a powerful response in the voyeur that incarceration and social humiliation are routinely chanced. Aids such as telescopes, binoculars, magnifying glasses, computers are routinely used to enhance the visual images available to them. Danger, suspense, fantasy and accomplishment are strongly associated with voyeurism; fantasy and orgasm with pornography.
Smell involves the body's use of pheromonal-type sensory receptors to heighten sexual arousal. Technically, pheromones are hormonal substances produced by certain animals to attract sexual partners. In humans, olfactory sensors can also be stimulated to produce a heightened state of sexual arousal. Perfumes, used articles of clothing, vaginal fluids: these are examples of stimuli that the sexually compulsive person might use to further alter his/her mood.
Like smell, taste receptors provide the opportunity for further sexual stimuli through acts such as oral sex, pleasurable foods (especially as they are integrated with the sexual act itself), or the licking of a woman's panties during masturbation. Each scenario allows for the sense of taste to heighten the arousal response.
Last year, American's spent well over $100,000,000 to hear others performing sexual acts over the telephone. Who out there hasn't listened to an unsuspecting couple having sex in the next room of a hotel, or in the apartment above you? It's natural. And for some, extremely erotic. For others, the exact opposite. During sex, they don't want their partners to say anything, as it will distract from the experience — more proof of the power of sound.
Like the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion as a whole, each sense in the first rung can be used to illicit arousal on its own, or, through a combination of senses. Many times the senses will be intentionally managed — to reduce certain senses, so that other senses will become extraordinarily sensitive. Blindfolding, for example. The act of reducing the visual stimuli, often serves to heighten the other senses — like sound and touch. All of these combinations serving as ingredients for your partner's particular "cookies".
Fantasy, as it applies to sexual addiction, exists as two separate entities: imagery and delusion. Both can be debilitating.
Using fantasy to create images for sexual gratification is most commonly associated with masturbation, but can also be used with every other component of the compulsive wheel. As the addict masters the use of fantasy, the images approximate that of reality. That is, the illusion of reality becomes so strong, that it triggers the same physiological responses as if the sexual/romantic behavior was actually taking place.
This type of imagery fantasy can be done anywhere, anytime, and can involve absolutely anything. This often translates into a tremendous loss of time and energy in the person fantasizing, and to do so frequently would involve the inevitable loss of that person's ability to reach their full potential. Frequently, this person would suffer from the inability to establish intimacy with long-term partners, would have difficulty in maintaining relationships (though intense, passionate relationships might be common — and would tend to end suddenly). In a worst case scenario, they would begin to lose touch with reality, and find it difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy. At this point, a state of delusional fantasy might exist.
Delusional fantasies exist when a person's perception of a relationship (or themselves) is greatly exaggerated from reality. Most commonly, delusion fantasies consist of highly intense, passionate relationships which are carried out under the guise of love. Frequently, this fantasy is not reciprocated by the target of the affection. Examples include: the man who "falls in love" with a woman he sees on television; the woman who, on a first date, declares her unyielding love and intent to eventually marry this person; a boy's sincere belief that he has found yet another "soul mate" — which makes this person the sixth 'soul mate' in the past five years. Some other examples include the woman who believes that her love will change the abusive patterns of her partner; the man who refuses to commit himself to his current partner because "the one" might be right around the next corner; the examples are endless.
Delusion fantasies, when they have progressed to the extreme, are often one-sided, obsessive and destructive. Sometimes playfully passed off as hyper-romantic, other times harshly judged as stalkers, the person who uses delusion fantasies to create a false feeling of love does so for the intense feelings that accompany those thoughts. They seek love's mind-altering characteristics and will distort reality to achieve it.
Danger is the calling card for your body's "fight or flight" response. When danger is perceived, your autonomic nervous system engages by releasing adrenaline into your body, thus causing such changes as heightened awareness, increased strength, rapid heart beat, pupil dilation, etc. At times, this response becomes so powerful that temporary paralysis sets in — as with the fear reaction of staring down the barrel of a gun, or being violently raped.
Those suffering from compulsive sexual behavior often find many ways to enhance their arousal by including danger in their activities (or in the rituals leading up to the sexual act). Some examples are: the voyeurist, the exhibitionist, the rapist — those who perform their acts with a distinct risk of getting caught; the compulsive masturbator who brings himself to orgasm while driving on the interstate at seventy miles an hour; the lover who asks her partner to hold a knife to her throat, or to make love on the edge of a tall building, or in a public place, or in her home when she knows her husband could arrive at any moment, or with a complete stranger. There are many, many ways of adding danger to the sexual act — and all are rewarded by the adrenaline rush that accompanies the danger.
As danger is to the fight or flight response, suspense is to what could be called the "gambler's high". Like a gambler, sexually compulsive people have learned to reach mind-altering highs in the rituals that precede the sexual/romantic act. The waiting, the wondering...they combine with fantasy to produce a state of euphoria which often transcends the concept of time. A voyeur waits, waits, waits by a window — all the while thinking things like, "Will I see her tonight? Will she close the blinds or leave them open? What time will she go to bed? Will she undress in front of the window or in another room? Will she masturbate in her bed?" Each thought triggering further arousal. And, when the answers to those questions are negative (as in, she DID close the blinds...she DID undress in another room), further stress is created — increasing the need to "score" the next time — and thus, receive an even greater relief. Like a gambler, the voyeur will return to the "machines" that have been good to him — the places that have produced the most "jackpots".
An exhibitionist waits in his car, or hotel room, or apartment, or bicycle for the right set of circumstances to arrive. The circumstances that will allow him to expose himself to an unsuspecting and/or shocked victim. Some days, he will have gone the entire day without a single "hit"; other days, he will have struck the "jackpot" several times. The key to suspense is in realizing that a "jackpot" does not have to be hit to achieve a mind-altered state. The excitement of not knowing what will happen can also produce such an arousal.
One of the most powerful ingredients in the sexual compulsive wheel is that of accomplishment. The promiscuous woman who beds a new lover; the business man who gets masturbated in a public rest room; the voyeur who discovers a couple having sex — these are all examples of sexual accomplishment. The feeling is no different than when value-oriented goals are achieved — except these goals frequently come with guilt and are short-lived. Still, short term feelings of success can become quite intoxicating — especially when the alternative is to face a reality that is filled with perceived failure. Accomplishment's allure is also found in the thoughts following a behavior. Consider the behavior of a compulsive masturbator.
Usually, compulsive masturbation combines sensory stimulation and fantasy to reach the predetermined goal of achieving orgasm. Let's say that a particular masturbation session lasts one hour and the goal of orgasm is reached, thus providing the combined high of those three rungs of the wheel (fantasy, sensory stimulation and orgasm) as well as the additional high from having succeeded in accomplishing a goal. The pleasure obtained from the sexual act quickly diminishes after orgasm. The feelings of accomplishment give the person a booster shot — allowing the euphoria to continue. The same person who sets out to reach orgasm. and does not, will still feel some of the pleasurable effects (sensory stimuli, fantasy), but rather than reinforcing those feelings with success, they are accompanied by failure, which creates an even greater need for orgasm. This is the scenario of compulsive masturbators who do so to the point of injury or complete physical exhaustion.
This same "goal-oriented" behavior can be found in the pleasure received when bringing a partner to orgasm. Often, it can be taken to the extreme in that the sole purpose of the sexual activity becomes the partner's achievement of orgasm — to the detriment of intimacy and pleasure. Some focus so intently on the need for accomplishing orgasm in their partners, that they cannot themselves orgasm until their partners do.
Returning to the "cookie" reference, one only needs to ask themselves, "What good is baking your favorite cookies, if you don't get to eat them (or see others enjoy them)?" The answer is, there is some pleasure derived from the baking itself, but you baked those cookies with a goal in mind — for someone to eat them. And, until that happens, the pleasure obtained will be short-lived.
Holding power over another living being can be quite intoxicating. As can voluntarily placing yourself under the power of another (sadomasochism). In the most violent forms, like rape and sexual murder, the sexually compulsive person can be stimulated by the most gruesome acts — ejaculating into the wounds of a stabbing victim; performing sexual acts on dead bodies; a middle-aged man forcing anal sex on an infant. Fortunately, these such extreme hideous behaviors are rare, and are performed by a minute percentage of the population. But in milder forms, the physiological response obtained by controlling others can be seen in the hiring of prostitutes, abusive relationships, exhibitionism, stalking and nonviolent rape...of course, the term "milder" is used in reference to the person performing the behavior, not necessarily to the victim. In this context, nonviolent rape refers to the perpetrator making no threats of bodily harm to the victim — and is not to imply that it is a more tolerable form — only that, from the standpoint of power, there is a distinction.
Each of us carries our own history. Some of us have been molested by our fathers, some by our mothers. Some have grown up in an environment of control, humiliation and/or degradation. Some have had a stable, nurturing environment. Some a strictly religious environment. No matter how you were raised, there is the highest probability that it effects who you are today. Good or bad, your past is used as a filter for your current experiences. For most, this is a natural and unnoticed part of life; for others, certain behaviors and situations take on a much more significant role...and amplify the emotions that accompany these situations.
Carrie was raped by her uncle when she was sixteen. The following ten years were lost to frigidity, until she married an understanding, patient man who helped her to regain a sense of her own sexuality. After several years, Carrie began to enjoy sex, but was unable to reach orgasm. Though she loved her husband, she found herself engaged in a series of illicit affairs with men she hardly knew. Affairs that, surprisingly, led to orgasm rather frequently. In time, she learned to orgasm while with her husband, but only by fantasizing that he was raping or molesting her. It was a secret that she was too ashamed to admit and too powerless to control. For Carrie, reliving the early rape produced intense feelings. These feelings, accompanied by sensory stimulation, fantasy and orgasm, reinforced the anxiety/relief cycle that is so prevalent in compulsive behavior and addictions.
It is important to understand that the feelings generated by the past do not have to be pleasurable to be effective — merely intense.
Poly-addictions, or multiple addictions, can be easily understood with a return to the compulsive wheel. The goal of sexually compulsive people is to use the ingredients on the wheel to create the psychological and physiological responses that will most effectively alter their state of mind. Obviously, since it is rarely the behavior that is key, but the process itself — adding additional behaviors to that process may help to create a more intense pleasure, or a more lasting relief. Alcohol, drugs...these are common additions to the sexually compulsive world. But it certainly is not limited to these alone. Any non-sexual behaviors that can be used to intensify or expand the mind-altered state would classify as a 'poly-addiction'. And no, this is not intended to say that this type of behavior actually qualifies as an "addiction", though frequently this does become the case.
Multiple addictions are common, and most frequently occur in those who have failed in previous recovery attempts. After being forced to control their compulsive sexual behavior, they begin managing their emotions with other compulsive behaviors (most often eating, shopping, smoking or drugs). Once the recovery attempt fails, they now have two (or more) problematic behaviors. And until the underlying pattern is resolved, the behaviors continue to pile up. Eventually, the person believes that he/she is incapable of managing their lives because just about every aspect of it is dominated by compulsive behavior.
The behaviors associated with multiple-addictions can serve to heighten the overall sexual experience. And vice versa. Sexual experiences can also heighten the relief gained by other forms of acting out.
We all know what it is, and we know how intoxicating it can be. And because it plays such a large role in sexually-compulsive behavior, it deserves its own rung on the wheel — though technically, it is a byproduct of other elements.
That is not to say that all sexual acts require orgasm to achieve mind-altered states...absolutely not. Many sexually-compulsive acts not only do not require orgasm, but it is the absence of orgasm that produces pleasure — as in the situation of a male partner wanting to prove to their mate that he is "different" from other guys, and will forsake his orgasmic needs. Additionally, the physiological changes that are produced during the time of orgasm are real. They are powerful. And they are addictive.
This overview of nine traits involved in sexually compulsive behavior is not meant to be inclusive nor exhaustive. In the near future, you will be completing your own compulsive wheels, and may have other behaviors that you want included. That is fine. Some people actually expand their wheels to include the entire range of their compulsive behavior (not just sexual) — that is fine, too.
The Three Filters of the Compulsion Wheel
Continuing the cookie analogy from earlier, to know which ingredients make up the best cookies is not enough. You must also know the amount of each ingredient (habituation), the temperature with which to bake (intensity) and for how long (time). Similarly, with each element of the compulsive wheel, you must take into consideration how long a behavior is performed, how well you perform it and how often. These considerations make up the three filters of the compulsive wheel: time, intensity and habituation.
TimeUnderstanding the role that time plays in the preparation and participation of a compulsive behavior is essential to understanding the extent of the stimulation generated from that behavior. Each person has their own threshold for the amount of pleasure to be extracted from any one sexual or romantic event. The closer an addict comes to reaching this threshold without going over, the more stimulating the experience will be for them. Once the threshold is passed, any additional stimuli tends to serve as the antithesis to pleasure, replacing the aura of pleasurable feelings with a negative stress response. This time threshold is most often associated with sensory stimulation, but can be identified in other compulsive elements as well. Each ingredient of the sexually compulsive wheel must be filtered through time to be measured accurately.
IntensityIntensity refers to how well you have mastered the techniques involved in performing a specific behavior. Anybody can touch themselves, but knowing where to touch, how to touch — that's what creates the mood for which you strive. The same can be said for danger, or suspense, or having an orgasm — anyone can create these elements, but the more skilled a person becomes at doing this, the more stimulating the experience will be.
Consider my own experience with fantasy. When I first began to fantasize for the sole purpose of altering my mood (versus the casual fantasies that everyone experiences), the images I was able to create were spontaneous and superficial. Usually, they were triggered by pornography, or from some real-life person who I had taken a mental snapshot of in my mind. The experience can be likened to watching a television set — I had little control over the content and I knew that what I was seeing was not real. When I fantasized, I was limited to the real images of people that I had access to and I knew that the fantasies I was having were just that — fantasies. As time passed, I began to fantasize more and more. With practice, I was able to turn what was once merely a pleasant distraction into a significant tool for altering my feelings. Fantasies were no longer limited to a kind of psychological dream state, but rather, they began to actually transcend reality. No longer was I content to just fantasize, but I brought myself closer and closer to believing that those fantasies could be real. Oh, the power of our minds.
In the past, fantasizing meant picturing a woman in my head, and role-playing one or two short scenes to set the stage for the masturbation. Again, pornography was perfect for such behavior, as it was difficult to achieve reality through fantasy alone. As I began to master the techniques of fantasy, however, I developed the skills to make that woman real. Dialog was no longer made up of one or two sentences, but of entire conversations. The woman's existence grew from a simple visual stimulus, to an emotionally-complex being who, with the addition of other compulsive elements from the wheel (smell, taste, touch...), produced the illusion of reality. This type of fantasy often triggers the romantic delusions found in stalkers and other obsessive relationships — but we'll save that discussion for a little further down the road.
Like the filter of TIME, every element on the compulsive wheel must first filter through INTENSITY before it can be accurately measured in the course of a particular compulsive ritual/behavior.
HabituationNo matter how sweet the chocolate, no matter how rich the dough, eating too much of it (or eating it too often) will result in a decrease in the overall satisfaction that a particular ingredient produces. The same can be said for the elements of the wheel: each has the ability to reach a saturation point. Unlike time, where the closer a person gets to their threshold, the more intense the arousal; habituation dictates that the farther an addict stays away from the saturation point, the more stimulating the experience. In other words, performing the same exact behaviors over and over and over will tend to decrease the overall stimulation that is produced. Altering those behaviors, or introducing new rituals into the existing patterns serve to stave off habituation, and provide a renewed boost to the overall power of the stimulation.
We have now introduced the nine elements of the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion and have identified the three main filters that complete this wheel. It is time to put this information into practice. Take some time to consider the following situations and attempt to view the different elements that make up each behavior:
Jerry is a 45-year-old sales clerk at the local grocery store. He is also an exhibitionist. While working, he picks one customer each day that he is attracted to, and memorizes certain things about them: their address on the check (or other form of identification); their marital status; the type of car they drive. While on his break, Jerry takes his instant camera and snaps several shots of his genitals while masturbating in the back storeroom. These photos he places in an envelope, the envelope he places on the woman's front door (or car windshield) on the way home from work. Then he waits. This kind of waiting is filled with fantasies of how the woman will react — the shock she will experience, or possibly the pleasure...whatever the fantasies dictate. That he is able to see the woman retrieve the photos is one part of the ritual; the other involves the need to ejaculate at the exact time the envelope is opened and the pictures are seen. For Jerry, there is only a three or four second window of opportunity for complete success, and sometimes he would wait up to six or seven hours for this opportunity to present itself — all the while attempting to keep himself at the verge of orgasm, but not past it.
What elements did you come up with? The following are possibilities:
Sensory stimulation — the visual attractiveness of the person; the visualization of his own genitalia; the visualization of watching the woman view his genitals; masturbation
Fantasy — images of what the woman will think when viewing the pictures; possible illusions that the woman will see his genitals and be overcome with the desire to have sex with him
Danger — Taking pictures of his genitals in a public place; someone might trace the photographs back to him; he may be seen placing the envelope on the victim's property; someone might call the police while he is waiting suspiciously for hours in his car for the victim to pick-up the envelope
Suspense — the uncertainty of whether or not she will be the one to find the pictures; the uncertainty of how long it will take before she does; the not knowing what her reaction will be
Power — knowing that curiosity will force her to open the envelope; possessing the information of who she is, where she lives, and what type of car she drives
Orgasm — Masturbating while taking the photos themselves; Timing the ejaculation for when the person views the photos (or, for a lesser stimulation, while engaged in fantasy should the photos not be discovered prior to his leaving)
Accomplishment — experienced only if the ritual goes as planned, and the ejaculation occurs at the same time as the photo discovery
These are only some of the possible elements involved in this
particular ritual. Each element would then be filtered
through time, intensity and habituation to get a more
accurate view of the overall level of stimulation that
Let's take a looked at an example that includes these three filters:
Stephanie is a 27-year-old woman who was violently raped her sophomore year in college. Since that time, she has made numerous attempts at heterosexual relationships, but all have ended as a result of emotional and physical frigidity. Stephanie's only companions were her Siamese cat and her German Shepherd. The affection she felt for these animals was very real, and quite intense. She began to believe that they actually loved her with the same human qualities involved in human romance. When she began to masturbate in front of them, she became aroused in a way that she was unable to do with men. Soon she began to include her pets in more active roles in this masturbation. The cat, with strategically placed drops of milk, would lick Stephanie's genitals. At first, two or three laps was all she could stand, but soon she was able to reach climax by using a slow milk drip. The dog, being a male, was allowed to mount her. She especially enjoyed erecting the dog's penis, then manually masturbating it. She thoroughly enjoyed the pleasure that she was providing to the animal she loved. With her finger, she would do the same to the cat's vagina. The longer the masturbation sessions with these animals, the more comforting and mind-altering the experience became. She actually became more stimulated from the sexual relationship with her pets than she ever could with a human. And though she was able to reach climax, the bulk of her satisfaction came at the point of climax for her animals.
What elements are involved in this type of sexually compulsive behavior?
Fantasy — believing that her pets were in love with her; believing that animals experience sexuality in the same manner as humans
Past — allowing the dog to rape her;
Sensory stimulation — physical sensations provided by the animals
Power — having complete control over the animals; having complete control over the experience
Orgasm — her own; the "orgasms" experienced by her pets
Accomplishment — reaching her goal of pleasing the ones she loves; experiencing passion and intimacy
To Stephanie, these elements would have seemed to occur in a natural procession, but when you take the time to break the behavior down, it becomes clear that her behaviors are nothing more than a progressive attempt to manage her emotions. For instance, she had learned that allowing her animals to watch her masturbate was exciting. But soon, habituation set in and a change in the ritual was needed. As a result, she began including them in the sensory stimulation and an even greater sense of stimulation was the reward. But again, habituation would set in, and the need for yet another change in the ritual was needed: this time, to provide sexual pleasure to them. In regards to intensity, when Stephanie first began to manipulate her cat into licking her genitals, she did so with a few drops of milk. She soon learned (became more skilled at) that a slow, continuous flow of milk would provide for even greater sensations — she learned to control the intensity of the sensory experiences. Finally, regarding time, there is no clear-cut example of how time is involved in the short description of the situation above. Expanding that situation however, would lead to the discoveries of things like: how long her dog could mount her before it became physically uncomfortable; how long her cat could lick her before she became "over-stimulated". These are examples of the time threshold.
Can you relate to either Jerry or Stephanie? Most likely not. You will most likely see their behaviors as bizarre and perverted as they have both created a rather complex series of rituals that provided them with their highest levels of stimulation. To victims, to neighbors and to the rest of society, Jerry's behavior might be seen as nothing more than a nuisance. If caught, he might be labeled a pervert, face social isolation and perhaps even harassment. But to Jerry, the depth and the complexity of his exhibitionist rituals give testament to how distorted his sense of reality has become. The same can be said of Stephanie. Her behaviors have progressed to such a delusional state, that she would no longer feel normal without the animals in her life. To her, continuing the intimacy with her animals is a must; yet the more she continues, the less developed her ability becomes to establish intimacy with other humans. The less skilled in developing normal human values and skills, the greater the need for such bizarre rituals to manage her emotions.
The final lesson of this series will discuss how to subjectively measure "compulsive chains" and why this is important in recovery. Also, you will have the opportunity to create your own "compulsive chains"...just to pull the concepts together.
A. Make a list of the ten biggest stressors in your life that you believe are currently affecting your emotional well-being. For each item, document whether each stressor is mild, moderate, severe or extreme:
1) Facing Possible Divorce....extreme
2) Lost respect among friends and family...moderate
B. Assign each value to one of the following columns: Plays no role in my emotions; Plays a small role in my emotions; Plays a large role in my emotions; Plays an enormous role in my emotions.
No Role: extended family
Small Role: physical health
Large Role: spirituality, sexual intimacy
Enormous Role: family, self-respect
D. In your own words, and considering what you have learned so far...what do you think the role of addiction has played in your partner's life?