Recovery Workshop: Lesson Eleven

Assessing Your Compulsive Behavior

There are many ways to assess your addiction/compulsive behavior. Which assessment you choose should depend on what you are planning to do with the results of that assessment. If your goal is to quantify that you have an addiction and therefore require help...don't bother. In such a case, the only screening you need is this:

"Are there aspects of my life that I want to change."

If there are, change them. It really is that simple. Not the 'changing part' — that can be complex...but the assessment part. That can be quite simple. Why? Because no screening tool exists that will be able to provide you with a more practical assessment of your combined awareness and motivation — two critical aspects required in recovery. It works like this: if you (or others) recognize that there are issues in your life but you will only take action should those issues be validated by some external source...then your fate is already sealed. Whatever changes you make will not take root. You will already be headed down the wrong path...under the guise of recovery. And so, if you are looking towards an assessment as a way of validating that you have a problem...stop. Screenings and assessments can be valuable, but not for this purpose.

In personal coaching, we offer two comprehensive assessment tools to help identify an individual's values, boundaries, behaviors, motivation, prognosis, etc. We use these tools to help identify the primary goals of recovery and to establish measurable objectives for assessing one's progress throughout the transition to health. Will these tools do you any good? Probably not. They are used in the context of a structured coaching approach. They were created for that specific purpose.

If you have already found the motivation to change whatever patterns that need changing, then your purpose of assessing your addiction will fall under learning more about your addiction: its patterns, consequences, boundaries, etc. The following assessment is geared towards helping you do that. Note that it does not exist to assess whether or not you have an addiction (that concept is irrelevant to recovery), it exists to help you expand your awareness of the patterns themselves.

Lesson 11 Exercise:

I. Behavioral Assessment

Review the following patterns commonly associated with the sex/love addictions. Pay particular attention to the elements surrounding those behaviors that you have previously engaged in. The purpose of this assessment is not to determine whether or not you have a problem — or even how severe that problem may be — it is only to begin removing the emotions surrounding these behaviors so that you can begin working with them on functional terms.

Also, this list represents many common behaviors associated with compulsive ritualization. You will want to define your own rituals in the manner outlined below. For instance, if your rituals involve incestual molestation or writing love letters to strangers; even if your sexual behavior is limited to having sex with your partner — the potential for compulsive ritualization is there. Explore it. Openly, honestly and courageously. You are here to destroy these patterns in your life, not to protect them.

Fantasy

What is it?

Fantasies are something that we all experience. They are necessary, healthy and can actually promote personal growth and facilitate learning. In addiction, they are the truest form of "instant gratification" and tend to expand into many other areas of a person's life (e.g. business, family, future). Fantasies allow a person to change their mood, balance stress, experience success...all with nothing more than the thoughts they have in their mind. The difficulty with too much fantasizing is that the differences in reality and fantasy are often great. Such a contrast often creates an emotional imbalance when comparing the two...and by now, we know where emotional imbalances lead. To further acting out.

In the context of this workshop, fantasies will be considered those sexual/romantic thought patterns that consistently distract you from your daily routine. The range of fantasy spans widely. Some experience it literally hundreds of times each day for just a few seconds each time (as in the case of a man in a shopping mall — with each woman walking by triggering brief sexual images); some experience fantasy as an event ("scheduling" an hour or more to do nothing but fantasize); and still others fantasize as a distraction from mundane work. As you review the behaviors associated with fantasy, look for general patterns that might translate specifically to your experiences — then focus on the boundaries, values and cues that you associate with fantasy. For instance, while Playboy may be used as a trigger for fantasy in one person...a romantic novel may be used in triggering another. Fantasy is your mind's need to escape, at least temporarily, from reality. To experience life in a way that you would not have otherwise. There is nothing wrong with this, until it begins to affect that reality in a negative way.

Obsessions are one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in recovery and one of the hardest to identify PRIOR to their development. They are the purest form of the "all or nothing principle", as they allow the obsessed person to focus on a single element in its extreme, and tend to process everything associated with the particular element as black and white. This is especially difficult in love addiction, where the target is a particular person with whom a relationship has already developed. Such relationships tend to be extremely chaotic and emotionally exhausting for the target of that obsession. Typically, obsessions allow a person to balance the stress in their lives by focusing on a single (or several) element(s). This makes their lives easier to manage — scratch that — this allows them to perceive that their lives as easier to manage, though they continue to experience the pressure, anger, anxiety and other negative emotions not usually experienced in fantasy.

Obsessions, in a sexual/romantic context, involve the compulsive need to think about certain people, situations and/or behavior. Even if they want to stop (or slow down) these thoughts, they are unable to. Obsessions distract the individual from focusing on a balanced life, and so as the obsession grows, the life becomes more and more out of balance. Relationships are destroyed, other values are lost. The person's reality becomes consumed by one or two major events in their life. Such obsessions may involve pleasure (in the case of "new love" and/or infatuation); they may involve pain (in the case of not being able to trust a partner); or they can even include an obsession with NOT having sex or being in a relationship (e.g. sexual anorexia, preoccupation with maintaining one's virginity).

Romantic Delusions are a rather rare form of both fantasy and obsession. They occur when an individual begins fantasizing about developing a romantic relationship with a particular person and becomes obsessed in the pursuit of that person. The original attraction and associated fantasies become what the individual now considers "reality". He/she believes that the person targeted is the true love of his/her life. Like obsessions, the behavioral pattern becomes a complete focus on the reciprocation of this love, and his/her perception of reality is lost in the process.

Common Patterns Associated with Fantasies, Obsessions and Delusions:

I. Fantasies
  • 3-5 second sexual fantasies that occur as part of a daily routine (up to hundreds of such fantasies daily — especially when in public places)
  • Numerous daily sexual/romantic fantasies involving a particular person, memory or act (can consume several hours each day)
  • Setting aside time to fantasize where such time is considered an actual event in the person's life (e.g. an hour in the bath tub; fifteen minutes over the lunch hours; Friday evening in the apartment, etc.). The key here is that it is considered an event similar to going to the movies or taking the dog for a walk.
  • Consciously using triggers to promote fantasy — as in the use of pornography, romantic novels, "people-watching", chat rooms, e-mail
  • Increasing sleep patterns to trigger an increase in fantasy/dreams (e.g. naps, early to bed)
II. Obsessions
  • Infatuation, when the infatuation involves the loss of one's own boundaries and balance
  • Constant worry over the fidelity of a romantic partner (checking gas mileage, following them, hiring investigators, asking others to seduce their partners to see how they will respond)
  • Not wanting to lose the love of a romantic partner (e.g. placing constant pressure on the partner to "prove" his/her love; voicing frequent need for reassurance; overanalyzing day to day events)
  • Wanting to get a partner to fall in love with you (e.g. exhibit overly generous symbols of your affection/interest in the relationship; displaying/voicing a willingness to sacrifice your own boundaries for this person)
  • Inability to emotionally let go of a former romantic partner
III. Romantic Delusions
  • "Love at first sight" fantasy is often triggered through public places, television (and other media), social engagements
  • Person frequently lacks the interpersonal skills necessary to develop and sustain healthy relationships, displaying instead a pattern of "instant intimacy" with others.
  • Extreme fear of rejection leads to fantastic displays of hyper-romanticism [e.g. the writing of intensely intimate and passionate love-letters to relative (or complete) strangers in an attempt to overwhelm them with emotion — as well as to decrease the opportunity for immediate rejection; sending poems, flowers, gifts "anonymously"]
  • Extreme fear of rejection leads to extreme measures in efforts to alleviate that fear. This is usually accomplished through information gathering (e.g. searching through the target's trash, breaking into their apartment, stealing their mail, following them without their knowledge). These types of behavior will be discussed further in the Stalking section.
  • Unrequited advances often lead to rage in the person exhibiting the romantic delusions for "not being understood", and for "not being given a chance". This rage often lasts until a new target is found.

Elements Frequently Associated with:

Fantasy
  • Fantasy (duh!)
  • Accomplishment [when achieving temporary relief from an emotional imbalance (stress/depression, anxiety)]
Obsession
  • Fantasy (in creating an unending series of possible scenarios)
  • Suspense (in not knowing how the situation will turn out, what the truth really is, etc.)
  • Power (affords the individual the perception of control over a situation, though this is not an accurate perception as the obsessing often underlines the lack of control that a person has)
Romantic Delusions
  • Fantasy (in selecting a target)
  • Power (in not facing initial rejection)
  • Suspense (in not knowing whether or not his/her target will reciprocate his feelings

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Fantasy, Obsession and/or Delusions are the Primary Behavior:

Fantasy
  • Sensory (especially physical/visual)
  • Depending on the fantasy, just about any elements can be included in such chains
  • Orgasm (especially when masturbation is involved)
Obsession
  • Accomplishment (when partner caught in a lie; evidence discovered; admission of guilt; when acknowledgment of a romantic gesture is made)
  • Past (when previous partners have cheated and the memories of such create emotions towards a current partner)
Romantic Delusions
  • Danger (when stalking, married targets are involved)
  • Accomplishment (when feelings are reciprocated)

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With:

Fantasy
  • Pornography
  • Stress (especially related to low self-esteem, trauma and/or depression)
  • Boredom
  • Feeling unappreciated, taken for granted
  • Media (TV, songs, books, Internet, etc.)
  • Love
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Visual attraction
  • Social situations/Public places
Obsession
  • Conflict (especially as it relates to boundaries involving trust and honesty)
  • Love (especially highly passionate, intense relationships)
  • Affairs (both yours and those discovered/suspected involving your partner)
  • Breakups
  • Low self-esteem
  • Previous obsessive relationships
Romantic Delusions
  • Stress (especially related to low self-esteem, trauma and/or depression)
  • Visual attraction; Mental attraction
  • Social situations/public places
  • Media [television/movies (falling in love with an actor/actress through watching an interview, movie); songs (falling in love with a singer because of they way he/she sang a song), Internet (chat rooms, sites with personal stories), newspaper stories with a personal touch, etc.]
  • Poor social comfort zone (Intense shyness)

Boundaries Frequently Violated By:

Fantasy
  • Intimacy
  • Identity
  • Meaning
Obsession
  • Autonomy
  • Self-respect
  • Intimacy
  • Identity
  • Love
Romantic Delusions
  • Identity
  • Integrity
  • Safety
  • Social Acceptance
  • Order

Masturbation

What is it?

Masturbation, in the context of this workshop, is to be considered the purposeful act of genital stimulation by manual or artificial means for the express purpose of producing physically satisfying stimulation. Though it is generally considered a selfish, unhealthy act, masturbation can be used in a variety of healthy situations both alone and in the presence of a partner. Masturbation can actually be used to promote intimacy within a relationship.

For someone who is struggling with issues involving compulsive masturbation, however, such "healthy situations" should not be sought early on in recovery. Instead, an initial abstinence should be sought, until the compulsive nature of the behavior has been resolved. Another group for which "healthy masturbation" will not apply is anyone whose religious convictions forbid such acts. With such dictated values, the conflict between what is natural and what is forbidden is too great, and so the decision to act in such a way will produce significant emotional imbalance — which, as we know by now, often triggers the addictive process. Because healthy masturbation is not an option, these two groups will have an added burden in recovery, as they will need to generate additional strength from higher prioritized values. This is not an easy burden to overcome, but one that is certainly achievable.

Common Behaviors Associated with Masturbation:

I. Self-stimulation by hand, mouth, etc.
  • manually stimulating one's own genitalia
  • kissing, sucking or otherwise stimulating one's breasts
  • consciously contracting one's pelvic muscles to produce sexual stimulation
  • digital stimulation through the anus
II. Stimulation by artificial means
  • use of vibrators, accu-jacs or other mechanical devices
  • use of running water, washing machines, food, etc.
  • use of household items like jewelry, curling irons, broom handles, etc.
  • use of animal fur, stolen objects, fetish objects
III. Stimulation by the use of living beings as physical objects
  • use of spouse as a sensory stimulator only (no emotional intimacy experienced with spouse during sexual act)
  • use of incapacitated beings (e.g. drug-induced, invalid, dead) for passive sexual gratification (versus aggressive gratification as found in rape, molestation, incest)
  • use of birds, cats, sheep, dogs, etc. (separate from bestiality)

Elements Frequently Associated with Masturbation (from the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion):

  • Sensory Stimulation
  • Orgasm
  • Accomplishment (when fulfilling the "need" to achieve orgasm)

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Masturbation is the Primary Behavior:

  • Fantasy
  • Pornography

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With Masturbation

  • Life Stressors
  • Emotional imbalance (especially depression, anger)
  • Objects (especially visual stimulation, access to lotions, objects)
  • Unfulfilled romantic/sexual encounters

Boundaries Frequently Violated By Masturbation:

  • Self-respect (when behavior is followed by guilt/shame)
  • Intimacy (when not emotionally sharing the experience with others)
  • Autonomy (when behavior is compulsive, feeling like life is outside of own control)
  • Order (when time spent masturbating interferes with the completion of life goals, time management)
  • Safety (when masturbation includes dangerous and/or injurious acts)

Pornography

What is it?

Pornography, in the context of this workshop, is to be considered the act of viewing any recorded sexually graphic material for the purpose of sexual and/or romantic stimulation. It should be noted that the presence of genitalia or sexual activity is not necessary for the visual stimulation to be classified as pornography (again, in the context of this workshop only) as our primary goal is to identify the underlying patterns of behavior, rather than to learn the technical classifications of each behavior.

Like masturbation, but in a much more limited scope, pornography can actually be used to promote intimacy and sexual health within a relationship. The scope of this, however, is so small that it is not recommended for anyone struggling with any sexually-compulsive behaviors until they have made the transition from recovery to health. One of the biggest consequences that pornography brings to the equation is its ability to zap the person of their emotional energy. This makes relationships (especially when those relationships involve intimacy) extremely difficult to maintain. It also effects their ability to produce the energy and strength needed to make the changes that need to be made in recovery.

Pornography is an exceptionally difficult behavior to deal with, due to its ease of access (both overtly and subtly). Additionally, one's ability to remember the images viewed (and the emotional connections that were associated with those images) create an instant "porn library" inside their head that is available for fantasy and masturbation...even when those images are no longer physically available.

Common Behaviors Associated with Pornography:

I. Stimulation by the use of pictures
  • explicit pictures found in magazines such as Playboy, Playgirl, Hustler, trading cards, Internet, etc., involving sexual genitalia or sexual acts
  • pictures found in books, catalogs, magazines, comics, newspapers, etc., which are not necessarily created to be sexually enticing, but nevertheless are perceived by the viewer as such (including computer-generated images)
  • pictures of yourself, your partner or other people/animals engaged in sexual acts
II. Stimulation by the use of sexually explicit video
  • erotic movies produced for public viewing (e.g. theaters, television, CD, streaming video)
  • home movies produced by self or other private citizens that involve sexual acts or nude modeling
  • replaying, freeze-framing or putting into slow-motion those scenes which are found to be erotically stimulating
  • stringing multiple pictures together to simulate sexual action or movement
III. Stimulation by the use of sexually explicit art
  • cartoons, comic strips, doodles
  • drawings, paintings
  • sculptures

Elements Frequently Associated with Pornography (from the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion):

  • Sensory (visual)
  • Accomplishment (in the attempts to find the most stimulating images)
  • Orgasm

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Pornography is the Primary Behavior:

  • Fantasy
  • Masturbation
  • Romantic Delusions

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With Pornography:

  • Life Stressors
  • Emotional imbalance (especially depression, anger, anxiety)
  • Boredom
  • Curiosity
  • Masturbation (when orgasm cannot be achieved without additional stimulation)

Boundaries Frequently Violated By Pornography:

  • Self-respect (when behavior is followed by guilt/shame)
  • Intimacy (in the objectification of the people involved)
  • Autonomy (when behavior is compulsive, feeling like life is outside of own control)
  • Order (when time spent engaged in pornography interferes with the completion of life goals, time management)
  • Integrity (when family members, coworkers discover your behavior)

Promiscuity

What is it?

Consider a woman who remains celibate until her wedding night, then sleeps with ten men in the first year of her marriage. Or the husband who, after seven years of faithfulness, begins a string of sexual encounters with other men in the local park. Or a young girl who sleeps with over thirty boys before she even graduates from high school. All of these behaviors are considered to be promiscuous. In the context of this workshop, promiscuity will be considered any sexual activity that involves another human being and resembles any of the behavioral patterns described below.

Promiscuity is one of the more dangerous and life-altering behaviors associated with the sex and love addictions, because the consequences are often extreme: pregnancy, abortions, AIDS, murder, rape. Few men can forgive themselves for passing on an STD to their faithful wife. Few women can ever let go of the lifelong guilt that comes from having an abortion, or from giving up their children for adoption. Other consequences of promiscuous behavior include STD's, getting robbed, blackmailed and more. Even when such consequences are never realized, those engaging in promiscuous behavior must still deal with the emotional drain that comes from maintaining numerous relationships, worrying about possible consequences, guilt/shame (when infidelity is involved), etc.

Promiscuity plays an important role in people's lives. Most commonly, it allows those with low self-esteem or those who have been emotionally neglected to feel needed, desired, and useful. For others, it allows them to relive past abuse situations and still others, promiscuity fulfills nothing more than a masturbatory-like sexual release.

Common Behaviors Associated with Promiscuity:

  • Multiple long-term simultaneous affairs
  • Numerous short-term affairs (may or may not be simultaneous)
  • Multiple (more than one) sexual partners on a single day
  • Multiple (more than five) sexual partners over the course of a single year
  • History of multiple sexual encounters with people you've known less than a month
  • Indiscriminate sexual encounters with others after getting drunk/high
  • Actively searching for sexual encounters when traveling on business
  • Establishing "a woman in every port"
  • Engaging in prostitution (when the reasons for participating involve anything beyond financial — like a desire for attention/emotional pleasure from pleasing others)
  • Hiring of prostitutes/call-girls
  • Routine same-sex sexual encounters in public places (e.g. rest rooms, parks)

Elements Frequently Associated with Promiscuity (from the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion):

  • Sensory Stimulation (especially physical)
  • Accomplishment (when searching for a partner and when engaging in sexual activity)

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Promiscuity is the Primary Behavior:

  • Danger (especially women getting involved with complete strangers)
  • Suspense
  • Poly-addiction (especially alcohol/substance abuse)
  • Orgasm (more frequent for males than females; especially male-to-male encounters in public settings)
  • Fantasy
  • Past (especially when sexual abuse/emotional neglect is involved)

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With Promiscuity

  • Alcohol/Substance abuse
  • Past history of sexual abuse (especially incestual abuse)
  • Past history of emotional neglect (either parental, or long-term partner)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Emotional imbalance (especially depression, loneliness)
  • Opportunity (people, places, times and things)

Boundaries Frequently Violated By Promiscuity:

  • Safety (involving STD's, pregnancy, potential violence)
  • Honesty
  • Self-respect (guilt and shame are often extreme when attempting to engage in sexual behavior with committed partner)
  • Intimacy (in all but the rarest occasions, the intimacy that can be experienced with the spouse is sacrificed for the passion and intimacy experienced with the promiscuous partners)
  • Family

Affairs

What is it?

Affairs, in the compulsive context of this workshop, are to be considered any romantic and/or sexual relationship with another person outside the boundaries of a committed relationship, that also fall into the outlines presented below. It is important to note that not all affairs are of a compulsive nature, and those which occur as a result of true love and companionship do not fall under the scope of this workshop. An example of this would be an isolated, long-term love affair between two people outside the boundaries of one or both of their committed relationships. The roles that these partners play in each other's lives is one of mutual respect, sharing and intimacy — in essence, they perform the roles frequently associated with a married couple.

Common Patterns Associated with Compulsive Affairs:

I. Simultaneous, sustained affairs
  • includes multiple affairs over extended periods
  • simultaneous affairs are often staggered across different stages of the relationship ("passionate and exciting"; "established and comfortable"; "looking for a way out" ; "I hope I never hear from them again")
  • often includes many different behavioral variations (letters, e-mail, online chats, phone calls, face-to-face, etc.)
  • pattern of emotional infidelity usually begins before marriage
  • initial emotional intensity that quickly fades as the affair progresses
  • extremely draining on resources (mental, physical and/or financial)
  • marriage often falls into same "staged" relationship (initially intense and passionate; current absence of sustained intimacy)
  • opportunistic affairs are rarely passed up
  • intense guilt, shame
  • associated with frequent lies and secrecy
  • frequently feels as if they are having affairs on the same people that they are having affairs with
II. Single, sustained affairs
  • involves pattern of isolated affairs over extended periods of time
  • each relationship often perceived as "true love"
  • intense emotional investment throughout the course of the affair
  • tendency to perceive own marriage partner as flawed, affair partner as perfect (until marriage is threatened)
  • affairs usually end when affair partner begins to make what is perceived to be unreasonable demands (e.g. divorce) or the marriage is otherwise threatened (e.g. the affair is discovered)
  • opportunistic affairs are rare
  • extreme guilt and shame when affair is discovered
  • until the affair is discovered, partners rationalize that the affair is "not really an affair, but more of the right people at the wrong time"
III. Opportunistic, spontaneous affairs
  • includes numerous, brief affairs with a variety of partners
  • highly passionate
  • highly sexual
  • low/no intimacy
  • often triggered by infatuation/opportunity

Elements Frequently Associated with Affairs (from the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion):

  • Sensory Stimulation (especially Opportunistic Affairs)
  • Accomplishment (both when entering into the affair, and when "successfully" concluding the affair)
  • Fantasy (especially delusions associated with Affair Types I and II above)

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Affairs are the Primary Behavior:

  • Suspense
  • Danger
  • Fantasy
  • Past

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With Having Affairs

  • Extreme self-esteem (either high or low)
  • Emotional imbalance (especially depression, loneliness)
  • Opportunity (people, places, times and things)
  • Unfulfilled intimacy/sexual encounters with partner
  • History of sexual/emotional abuse
  • Substance abuse

Boundaries Frequently Violated By Having Affairs:

  • Honesty (when affair is discovered or even suspected)
  • Self-respect (in continuing to lie, maintain secrets)
  • Intimacy (in all but the rarest occasions, the intimacy that can be experienced with the spouse is sacrificed for the passion and intimacy experienced with the affair partner)
  • Safety (involving STD's, pregnancy, spousal reactions)

Prostitution

What is it?

There are two main issues involving prostitution within this workshop. Those who procure prostitutes (aka call girls, massage therapists, personal dancers, strangers, etc., when such roles include sexual contact in exchange for money/services/supplies) and those who agree to perform sexual acts in exchange for non-emotional compensation (i.e. materials, money, services). The main focus of this lesson will be on the former.

Those who compulsively pay for sexual acts tend to do so for a distinctly varied number of reasons. On the one hand, such behavior can often be traced back to emotional triggers: low self-esteem, intimacy issues, relationship anxiety, etc. The willingness to pay someone for sexual services provides an emotional safety net that allows them to engage in sexual activity without having to worry about rejection, humiliation, performance, etc. Another common trigger for such behavior is convenience. The individual does not want to invest the time or emotions necessary to maintain an affair, so they pay only for what they want, when they want it. A third common trigger is power/freedom — the willingness to pay for the experience of dominating someone sexually, or to engage in uninhibited sexual activity. Quite often, through a twisted sense of values, the thought of performing particular sexual acts on a loved one can be repulsive or shameful. The hiring of a prostitute allows the person to satisfy these needs, while at the same time maintain the "wholesome" images towards their committed partners. A fourth common trigger is the need to engage in illicit sexual behavior in order to gain full arousal. The person is not able to experience extreme sexual release unless the sexual act includes some type of socially reprehensible behavior such as paying for hand-jobs in public restrooms, paying others to role-play elaborate sexual fantasies, engaging in sex with a "prostitute", etc. For such people, it is the very nature of the illicit act that triggers such an intense experience. Take the very same person, remove the illicit elements from the act, and the desire to continue the sexual experience ends.

As stated above, unlike most compulsive behaviors, where there is usually an easily identified pattern involved...prostitution runs the gamut in terms of how and why it is used. Additional triggers like curiosity, opportunity, boredom, loneliness , etc. can just as easily be identified — though they are not usually associated with the compulsive need to engage in prostitution.

Common Behaviors Associated with Prostitution:

  • Attending weekly massage appointments that include sexual stimulation/gratification
  • Hiring of street prostitutes
  • The use of call-girls while away on business trips
  • Paying strangers for sexual encounters in public places (e.g. rest rooms, parks, cars)
  • Offering free services in exchange for sexual favors (e.g. fix your car, forgive a debt)
  • Scheduling a personal dancer to entertain you alone at home
  • Trading drugs/other items of value in exchange for sexual favors
  • Paying for lap dances; strip shows (where touching occurs; money is exchanged)
  • Spending hours cruising through known prostitution areas; hanging out in public places where illicit behavior is known to occur

Elements Frequently Associated with Prostitution (from the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion):

  • Sensory Stimulation (especially physical)
  • Danger
  • Suspense
  • Fantasy

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Prostitution is the Primary Behavior:

  • Poly-addiction (especially alcohol/substance abuse)
  • Orgasm (more frequent for males than females; especially male-to-male encounters in public settings)
  • Past (especially when sexual abuse/emotional neglect is involved, or when sexual violence/promiscuity was observed in parents)
  • Power
  • Accomplishment (in successfully securing a prostitute)

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With Prostitution

  • Emotional imbalance (especially depression, loneliness)
  • Past history of parental neglect (especially emotional) or parental domination
  • Past history of sexual anxiety/performance anxiety
  • Low self-esteem (especially as it relates to physical performance, appearance)
  • Relationship difficulties (especially high stress; low intimacy environments)
  • Opportunity (travel, places, times and things)

Boundaries Frequently Violated By Prostitution:

  • Safety (involving STD's, pregnancy, potential violence)
  • Security (involving criminal arrest)
  • Honesty (especially as it relates to time management, financial disclosure)
  • Intimacy (in all but the rarest of situations, intimacy within the committed relationship is sacrificed)

Rape & Sexual Violence

What is it?

Rape

For the purpose of this workshop, rape will be considered only in the context of the need for the perpetrator to achieve sexual gratification and/or to overcome extreme social anxiety or ineptness. Rape in an effort to exert power or domination does not fall within this scope. Nor does a person who merely fantasizes about rape. Additionally, the act of rape will be considered to be any action that involves the unconsenting sexual penetration of another person in an effort to achieve sexual gratification.

Sadism/Masochism

For the purpose of this workshop, sadism will be considered the act of deriving sexual stimulation from the infliction of intentional physical or emotional pain on another person. This does not include the playful roleplaying of occasional mildly sadistic behavior (e.g. blindfolding, limb-tying, spanking) between consenting partners, but rather, the consistent need for such behaviors to be present in order to achieve sexual gratification.

Masochism will be considered to be the act of achieving sexual stimulation as a result of being the target of intentional physical or emotional pain. This does not include the playful roleplaying of occasional mild sadistic behavior (e.g. blindfolding, limb-tying, spanking) between consenting partners, but rather, the consistent need for such behaviors to be present in order to achieve sexual gratification.

Sexual Violence

For the purpose of this workshop, sexual violence will refer to any act of violence, mutilation, desecration or other behavior involving significant physical damage, injury or death. These behaviors may also be classified as sadistic, but for this workshop, the difference will be in the extent/permanency of the damage involved.

Common Patterns Associated with Rape, S&M or Sexual Violence:

I. Rape
  • Engaging in intercourse with a woman who is unable to give consent due to age, mental capacity, drug-induced state or an altered state of awareness (e.g. sleeping, unconscious)
  • Adult copulation (or other sexual act) with a child
  • Forced anal/vaginal penetration with foreign object (e.g. broom handle, bottle)
  • Finger penetration of an infant
  • Forced sexual acts with someone who has refused consent
  • Forced sexual participation through the use of threat. coercion or power
II. S&M
  • Humiliation role-playing
  • Dominating or being dominated by another
  • Using whips, paddles, belts, etc. to inflict pain
  • Painful spanking, pinching, biting, hair-pulling while engaged in sexual activity
  • Electrical shock or other painful stimuli to genitalia
  • Blindfolding, bondage, kidnapping or other behaviors which intentionally restrict freedom
III. Sexual Violence
  • Flesh burning
  • Amputation of fingers, feet, hands, limbs
  • Stabbing for the purpose of ejaculating into the wounds
  • Choking partner to death while engaged in intercourse
  • Excessive punching, kicking partner into sexual submission
  • Murder with the purpose of having sex with the body

Elements Frequently Associated with:

Rape
  • Power
  • Danger
  • Fantasy
  • Suspense
  • Accomplishment
S&M
  • Sensory (especially physical)
  • Fantasy
  • Past (especially related to dominating/being dominated; humiliation)
  • Suspense
Sexual Violence
  • Power
  • Danger
  • Accomplishment

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where S&M, Rape or Sexual Violence are the Primary Behavior:

Rape
  • Sensory (physical))
  • Orgasm
S&M
  • Power
  • Danger
  • Orgasm
Sexual Violence
  • Danger
  • Suspense

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With:

Rape
  • Pornography (especially when bondage, rape is involved)
  • Opportunity (situation presents itself)
  • Delusional infatuation/attraction to target
  • Increased stress
  • Poor social skills
  • Loneliness/isolation
  • Sexual/romantic rejection
S&M
  • Curiosity
  • Past experience with sexual trauma/physical abuse
  • Extreme skewing of sexual boundaries
  • Extremely poor relationship/intimacy skills
  • Increased stress
  • Previous exposure to S&M behavior through pornography, video, past sexual partners
  • Past history of emotional neglect/parental rigidity
Sexual Violence
  • Extremely poor social skills (intense shyness; avoidance; fear of rejection)
  • Severe depression/social pathology
  • Poor relationship/intimacy skills
  • Sexual boundary issues
  • Past history of severe physical/emotional abuse

Boundaries Frequently Violated By:

Rape
  • Autonomy [especially in relation to safety (victim) and prison (rapist)]
  • Safety (victim)
  • Integrity (when behavior is discovered)
  • Identity (when comprehending the nature of your actions outside of the feelings they produce)
  • Social acceptance (behavior frequently leads to further isolation and secrecy)
S&M
  • Self-respect (especially when being humiliated/dominated)
  • Intimacy (becomes more and more difficult to establish healthy sexual intimacy with partner)
  • Identity (when comprehending the nature of your actions outside of the feelings they produce)
  • Social acceptance (behavior frequently leads to social isolation and secrecy outside of S&M circles)
Sexual Violence
  • Autonomy [especially in relation to safety (victim) and prison (perpetrator)]
  • Safety (victim)

Voyeuring, Exhibitionism & Stalking

What is it?

Voyeuring

For the purpose of this workshop, voyeuring will be considered the act of seeking sexual/romantic stimulation by watching others engaged in a variety of sexually arousing states (e.g. undressing, showering, erotic dancing, sexual activity). Though voyeuristic scenarios can be mutually arranged, the targets are most commonly not aware of the person watching them. When this is the case, such behavior is usually classified as a second-tier sexual addiction as legal charges can be filed should the voyeur be caught. That does not mean that it is necessarily more or less severe that an addiction that involves only masturbation or pornography, however. Additionally, voyeuring tends to be a more male-dominated activity.

Voyeurs have numerous fantasies involving their immediate targets (or potential targets) — ranging anywhere from romantic love to violent sexual acts. They often spend many hours in search of a target, and frequently engage in high-tech surveillance (e.g. binoculars, mini-cams, telescopes, night vision goggles). To the voyeur, much of the stimulation is created in the ritualistic fantasies that come while waiting. Similar to a gambler, it is the possibilities of what he/she may see that generate the beginning of the mind-altering experience. Voyeuring is frequently linked to pornography.

Exhibitionism

For the purpose of this workshop, exhibitionism will be considered the act of exposing one's genitalia to others for the purpose of one's own sexual arousal. Though exhibitionistic scenarios can be mutually arranged, the most commonly associated behaviors involve the "accidental" or deliberate act of displaying genitalia in an effort to shock, surprise or arouse an unsuspecting target. When this is the case, such behavior is usually classified as a second-tier sexual addiction as legal charges can be filed should the exhibitionist be caught.

Exhibitionists often have accompanying fantasies that involve the reactions of their victims that range from victims having an overwhelming urge to engage in sexual activity with them, to absolute shock and disgust (though believing that they secretly liked what they saw). In a bizarre twist on reality, the great majority of exhibitionists often believe that their victims actually get aroused at the sight of their genitals. Exhibitionism is frequently linked to both Pornography and Voyeuring.

Stalking (Romantic)

Previously introduced as Romantic Delusions, the stalking being referred to here involves a romantic involvement where the stalker is seeking information and/or an emotional connection with the target. Such stalking occurs when an individual begins fantasizing about the possible development of a romantic relationship with a particular person and becomes obsessed in the pursuit of this person. The original attraction and associated fantasies become what the individual now considers "reality". He/she believes that the person targeted is indeed, the true love of his/her life, and the only goal is to create a situation where that love can be reciprocated.

Most often, such patterns tend to be found in individuals who suffer from social anxiety, low self-esteem and/or intense fear of rejection. Frequently, these individuals display a long history of perfectionistic, obsessive relationships dominated by jealousy and criticalness. Early in the relationship, partners can often feel emotionally overwhelmed, and the developing relationship can become an enormous drain on their energy and time. If, however, they too suffer from low self-esteem, this attention can be quite intoxicating and leave them with the intoxicating feeling of being "swept off their feet". Maintaining relationships for the romantic stalker is quite difficult, as they tend to have a low threshold for behaviors that fall outside of their idealistic image of "the perfect partner". To the romantic stalker, the focus on this one target allows them to escape from their own stressful reality. Their life is metaphorically condensed into the pursuit of getting this one person to accept them/love them. Achieving this, they believe, will help to balance their entire life — past, present and future.

Stalking involving force, threat, coercion or violence in the attempt to exerting power and control over an individual is not considered a behavior associated with the sex/love addictions.

Common Patterns Associated with Voyeuring, Exhibitionism and Romantic Stalking:

I. Voyeuring
  • masturbating in front of a mirror
  • peering into a stranger's window in hopes of catching them involved in sexual activity
  • using binoculars/telescope to survey sexual activity in a motel/hotel/apartment complex
  • setting up secret video surveillance of a public rest room, dormitory shower, apartment
  • sneaking into a neighbor's home to watch them undress
  • watching your partner having sex with others (with or without their knowledge)
  • going to a strip club to watch women undress
  • looking at hidden cameras available on the Internet (e.g. "Voyeur-cams")
  • hiding in a closet to watch a family member come out of the shower
  • climbing a tree to see into the backyard of a neighbor skinny-dipping
II. Exhibitionism
  • "flashing" strangers from outside the window of their home
  • taking pictures of your genitalia and placing them in an area where they will be found (e.g. a mailbox, school yard, windshield)
  • calling a stranger to your car for directions (or to give them a ride), then masturbating when the stranger arrives
  • calling attention to yourself to a stranger (or group of strangers), then pulling down your pants
  • riding your bicycle through a public park with your genitals "accidentally" exposed
  • on a first date, walking out of the bathroom nude in hopes that it will put your date "in the mood"
  • opening your blinds so that passersby may become aroused by "accidentally" seeing you getting dressed
  • lying out by the pool with an easily detectable erection
  • purposefully erecting your nipples before entering a public place
  • erotic dancing for personal satisfaction, rather than financial gain
  • having your partner hide in a closet while you engage in sexual behavior with another
  • having your genitals "accidentally" become exposed while sleeping, gardening or other everyday activities
  • raising your skirt/spreading your legs under the table of a restaurant so that others can see your panties/genitals (women)
  • nude sunbathing, skinny dipping, hiking when there is a remote chance/desire (or greater) of being seen by a stranger
III. Romantic Stalking
  • Watching the news and a human-interest story comes up involving a woman whom you fall "instantly in love" with. Rather than approaching her, you spend your time following her without her knowledge, photographing her, her family, her friends. You develop a "relationship" with this woman, even though you have yet to meet her.
  • Walking down the street, you pass by a man who smiles at you in a very genuine and sincere way. This smile triggers fantasies about finally finding the perfect man and so you secretly follow him to see where he works. The next day, you follow him home from work. Then you park outside his apartment to see what he does on the weekends.
  • Hiring a private detective, searching the Internet or engaging in other types of information gathering without the target's knowledge
  • A male works closely with a female coworker on a project and becomes intrigued with them. He believes that she might be "the one" and so he begins secretly searching her computer/e-mail; going through her purse when she is away from the desk; smelling her jacket, her chair; licking the toilet seat after she finishes using the co-ed rest room; masturbating with items that he has stolen from her desk.
  • Extreme fear of rejection leads to fantastic displays of hyper-romanticism [e.g. the writing of intensely intimate and passionate love-letters to relative (or complete) strangers in an attempt to overwhelm them with emotion — as well as to decrease the opportunity for immediate rejection; sending poems, flowers, gifts "anonymously"]
  • extreme fear of rejection leads to extreme measures in efforts to alleviate that fear. This is usually accomplished through information gathering (e.g. searching through the target's trash, breaking into their apartment, stealing their mail, following them without their knowledge).
  • unrequited advances often lead to rage in the person exhibiting the romantic delusions for "not being understood" and for "not being given a chance". This rage often lasts until a new target is found.

Elements Frequently Associated with:

Voyeuring
  • Sensory (visual)
  • Fantasy
  • Suspense
  • Accomplishment
Exhibitionism
  • Power
  • Fantasy
  • Suspense
  • Accomplishment
Romantic Stalking
  • Fantasy (in selecting target; developing plans for "sweeping them off their feet")
  • Power (in gathering information to plan/pursue the relationship)
  • Accomplishment (when target actively engages in the relationship)

Other Elements Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Voyeuring, Exhibitionism and/or Romantic Stalking are the Primary Behavior:

Voyeuring
  • Sensory (in relation to masturbation)
  • Danger
  • Orgasm (while fantasizing/viewing the target)
Exhibitionism
  • Sensory
  • Danger (when attempts are made to shock, disgust the unwitting target)
  • Orgasm (while fantasizing about/actively viewing the target)
Romantic Stalking
  • Danger
  • Suspense

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With:

Voyeuring
  • Pornography [artificial images (photos, tapes) not having enough of an effect]
  • Opportunity (come upon a voyeuristic situation by accident)
  • Infatuation/attraction to someone
  • Increased stress
  • Poor social skills
  • Loneliness/isolation
  • Time accountability
Exhibitionism
  • Past experience with sexual trauma
  • Extreme skewing of sexual boundaries
  • Extremely poor relationship/intimacy skills
  • Increased stress
Romantic Stalking
  • Poor social comfort zone (intense shyness)
  • Social situations/public places
  • Media [television/movies (falling in love with an actor/actress through watching an interview, movie); songs (falling in love with a singer because of they way he/she sang a song), Internet (chat rooms, sites with personal stories), newspaper stories with a personal touch, etc.]
  • Capability of achieving "instant intimacy" in relationships
  • Extreme depression/stress
  • Poor relationship/intimacy skills (though can often come across as extremely intimate, passionate in the early parts of the relationship)

Boundaries Frequently Violated By:

Voyeuring
  • Autonomy [especially in relation to safety (victim) and prison (voyeur)]
  • Safety (both the victims' and the voyeurs')
  • Self-respect
  • Order (in relation to the enormous amount of time that is often associated with this behavior)
  • Integrity (when behavior is discovered)
  • Identity (when comprehending the nature of your actions outside of the feelings they produce)
  • Social acceptance (behavior frequently leads to further social isolation and secrecy)
Exhibitionism
  • Autonomy [especially in relation to safety (victim) and prison (voyeur)]
  • Safety (both the victims' and the voyeurs')
  • Self-respect
  • Intimacy
  • Identity (when comprehending the nature of your actions outside of the feelings they produce)
  • Integrity (when behavior is discovered)
  • Social acceptance (behavior frequently leads to further social isolation and secrecy)
Romantic Stalking
  • Autonomy [especially in relation to safety (victim) and prison (voyeur)]
  • Safety [especially the victims' (when stalking is discovered)]
  • Integrity (when behavior is discovered)
  • Social Acceptance (when target of stalking affects your remaining social circle — work, family)
  • Order (as the obsession with a particular person grows, much is sacrificed in terms of career, social relationships,

II. Initial Life Assessment

Complete the following assessment. The results will be sent directly to the Coaching Supervisor who will review them (if you are in active coaching) and send back to you to use in tracking your progress.

Note: if you have already completed this assessment on your own or as part of the personal coaching process, there is no need to complete it again. However, if it has been more than thirty days since you completed the assessment, click here:

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