Welcome to the Modern Triad Podcast. There’s no doubt about it. Porn and sex addiction are here to stay. But, what can we do about it? Where can we go for help? I’m Rodney Collins, and I’ll offer you a starting place. We’ll talk about addiction, struggles, and whatever else comes up along the way. The Modern Triad Podcast offers neither medical advice nor psychotherapy and is for informational purposes only. Listeners are advised to seek professional help where appropriate. This podcast may not be suitable for minors.
Hi there. Rodney Collins back here from merry old London, England. Glad to be back with you. This week we’re going to finish up the final point of the Modern Triad, the BADS - Boredom, Anger, Depression and Stress. Now, these emotions represent a subset of the emotions that addicts feel as part of their addictive cycle. If you haven’t already, see the free video on the addictive cycle that’s on the phocus.com website, and this will provide you with a review of the other emotions and how they fit into the addictive cycle. The idea is that these emotions establish a filter through which sex addicts view the world.
Let’s discuss each emotion in a bit more detail beginning with boredom. Now, I think many people view boredom as actually the absence of emotion, but frankly I believe it actually is a cover for a lot of emotions that rest underneath. So, when people come to my consulting room and they say, ‘you know, I’m bored. I come home from work, and I sit there and for three or four hours there’s not much going on.’ As their story develops over the weeks that ensue, I find there’s often an awful lot of anger, an awful lot of shame, an awful lot of fear and other emotions that reside underneath. So, it’s almost as though the boredom is a cover or clamp that sort of keeps life safe in a way.
Moving on to anger, for me anger is a sign that there’s something wrong. It’s a sign that either others need to behave differently and we have to find some way to communicate to them that there’s something about their behavior we don’t like, that we find offensive. Or, there’s a need for a shift in perspective within us in terms of the way that we view the world. Something needs to shift so that we can sort of rid of ourselves of this anger that boils underneath.
Depression. Now, most of us think of it as sadness. That’s the lay person approach to depression. But clinically, depression also includes other things like negative thinking if you’re caught in a trap. Cyclical thinking, the idea that you can’t get beyond something. You always tend to go back to it, ruminating about that person that crossed you earlier in the day, etcetera, as an example. And, impaired thinking where sometimes our logic really just falters because there’s a bit of a cloud that descends upon us, so we can’t really see through things as well. Moodiness, physical changes as well, they should be thrown into the mix. That’s depression.
Stress is a response to environmental demands that are placed on you that you perceive as being excessive in some way, and it’s a body’s natural response to those demands to try to sort of get you over the hurdle but also to alert you to the fact that something supranormal is going on. Now, based on my clinical experience these are the four emotions that are most relevant for the sex addict, these are the emotional filters through which the world is viewed.
Now, the bored sex addict has removed himself from all unnecessary interaction with others. He has also lost the ability to plan for the future and to build relationships. For him, life’s instead intense when with others, and there’s a certain retreat into oneself without purpose when alone. That’s boredom to me. If we dig a bit deeper and we look into anger, the sex addict with an emotional filter of anger sees the world as a series of slights and injustices. So, being cut off in traffic is always deliberate. It’s never an accident that has taken place. The lateness of others is forever a lack of respect being shown towards one, and it’s never really the result of some sort of unfortunate accident. You know, someone could arrive late because the subway or tube was down. They could arrive late because they got a very important phone call. It have nothing to do with you. Yet, it’s always perceived as being directly linked to you.
The depressed sex addict often views interaction with others as challenging, and that’s because depression takes up an awful lot of energy and there’s this tendency just to shrink our world down into as small an environment as possible in order to better deal with it. And finally, the stressed sex addict experiences a world that frequently asks too much of him. As a result, he’s trapped within a perpetual state of hyper-awareness that’s exhausting. And, this is something to keep in mind because it’s very hard for us to be at our best when we’re tired all of the time. So, trivial requests are often perceived as unreasonable demands. And, this can also lead to an effective paralysis as wrongly assumed, insurmountable demands of life tend to overwhelm us.
Now, we’ve been talking a great deal about emotions. Perhaps, before we go any further we should take the time to define the term. What is it that we exactly mean when we say ‘emotions’? Emotions are internal feelings that seek expression through the body. We’re all familiar with the red face of embarrassment. That’s, you know, that feeling that’s inside that’s sort of seeking to get out somehow because it’s uncomfortable. Or, perhaps the shortness of breath that we experience because of a surprise. Something startles us in some way. I want to underscore something that is crucially important. It comes up with so many of the men that I tend to work with. And, that’s the fact that emotions are not the enemy. We’ve somehow gotten the idea that we need to somehow shut off our emotions or repress them somehow in order to be functional in the world.
Instead, I would say no. That’s not true. Emotions serve as punctuation for our experiences in the world. They let us know what’s important and what’s not. As a result emotions help us to form our memories. So, in fact memories are a combination of stored content that’s weighted in the brain by the emotion that’s felt at the time. So, something that’s important that has a lot of emotion attached to it is weighted more heavily in the brain. So it tends to be easier to recall it unless it’s at the extreme end where it’s traumatic and we might repress it just because it’s too much for us to handle.
Emotions are impacted by addictions as well as supportive of them. So, depression can be caused by alcohol or stress and can be made worse by negative consequences of acting out at the same time. I think also we should keep in mind that emotions are really an excellent means of communication when they’re clear. They add emphasis and clarity. But, if the emotions are not clear they can be a bit confusing, so if your words don’t match your emotional presentation, well, it’s very difficult for people to figure out what to do with that. We all know this. You go to a job interview. You sit there and in a very monotonous voice you say, “Oh, I’d really like to work here. I’d really like to spend time with the people in this office and work towards building something great.” A little more excitement, please.
Now, this last point is important because sex addicts often live in a world where there is little emotion or where it exists within a very narrow range. You know. Sex addicts might experience anger or boredom. They might be stressed or depressed, but really emotional life should be much fuller than that. An important aspect of psychotherapy is to assist you to regain a fuller range of emotional life, so one can feel happiness, elation, surprise, love, concern, fury. Emotions can be either regulated or distorted. Now, regulation is done through contact with other people. We’re all aware of this concept of talking someone down who’s angry.
So, you had a hard day at work. You come home, and your partner’s there and notices that you’re a bit out of sorts. Notices that you’re not demonstrating much eye contact and he or she says to you, “Is everything ok?” And, that allows you to become aware of your situation and allows you to offload a bit and to say, hopefully constructively, to your partner, “Actually, it wasn’t a great day today at work. So and so let me down on a project.” And, that begins a process of back and forth that hopefully takes you from an emotional Richter scale of five down to a two. Or, how about a one even? Very important, this emotional regulation. We’re basically relational creatures.
So, that’s regulation but emotions can also be dealt with through distortion and this is chiefly done through psychological defense mechanisms. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on psychological defense mechanisms. Again, there’s more about them on the website, so go there if you want to find out more. But, I will just say that the most common defense mechanisms used by sex addicts are splitting, projective identification, intellectualization and repression. And, these are all ways of taking typical aspects of reality and distorting them so that you can cope with them more easily within yourself. Everyone uses defense mechanisms but using them too often or too rigidly is problematic. And, the basic idea here is that the gap between your perception of reality through the use of defense mechanisms becomes too different from what’s actually happening out there in the real world. We want to keep that gap as narrow as possible.
Setting is also important when it comes to styles of relating emotionally, so what’s appropriate in one setting may not be appropriate in another. So many people block or repress emotion at work and this is done chiefly for two reasons. One is to help them think logically. You know. When there’s an excess of emotion, it’s harder really to think logically and rationally about choices that have to be made but also to maintain a professional persona. So, if a client upsests you, you know, it’s not always the best idea to let them know that right away. Sometimes you have to hold back. I would say still we don’t want to overuse defense mechanisms at work, but I can understand sometimes we have to behave a bit differently at work than we might in other locations.
Now, carrying that strategy to other realms within your life might be problematic, however. For example, once you get home it’s important for your partner to know how you feel. It’s also important for you to know how you feel within the relationship, about friends, about your career, about life goals, et cetera. Decisions are much harder to make in an emotionless world because you don’t know how you feel about things or what’s important to you, so we must have access to our emotions. You know, imagine trying to choose a vacation holiday, a new home or, dare I say it, a partner if the most you can feel is ‘like’ instead of a passionate ‘love’ about something.
Perhaps we should spend a moment on the difference between conscious emotion and unconscious emotion, as well. As the name implies, conscious emotion is emotion that you’re aware of. So, that anger that you feel when someone doesn’t hold the door that you’re passing through behind them, you know, that’s a very conscious emotion. You’re aware of what’s happening there. Or, perhaps the happiness of seeing your child as a newborn for the very first time, you know. That’s something people never forget. You’re very conscious of it. Now, unconscious emotion is emotion that has been repressed out of consciousness because it’s too strong to be felt fully at that moment in time. We’ve all heard stories where someone responds to the death of a loved one with little emotion, as though nothing has happened at all. They’ve essentially repressed the pain of the death out of consciousness to be dealt with at some later point.
We’ve also heard of stories where people who’ve been involved in violent crimes or soldiers who’ve been off in combat duty have had flashbacks when reminded of difficult past events. Now, these are examples of repressed, unconscious emotion rushing back into conscious awareness in an uncomfortable way. Often there’s something in the environment that serves as a trigger for the flashbacks. Something has reminded the soldier of her difficult memory like a scene in a film or perhaps a related smell. She has been taken back to that place against her will and what has been repressed comes rushing forward.
So I mentioned that the BADS - Boredom, Anger, Depression and Stress - are the emotional filters that are most important for the majority of the sex addicts I’ve worked with. Now, any emotion though is valid for consideration as long as it’s problematically distorting the addict’s view of reality in a way that supports the addiction. So. other emotions that often come up in consultations include isolation, loneliness and anxiety. Isolation and loneliness are closely related feelings of an undesirable separateness from others distinguished, perhaps, by the degree by which you believe you’re being excluded, versus a more general or existential sense of separateness that exists with loneliness. So, basically I’m saying here with isolation there’s this sense, somehow, that people don’t want me or people don’t accept me, whereas loneliness is this more generalized feeling of just not being a part of the world.
Ok, so I hope that’s clear. That completes really what I wanted to say you today about the BADS and the emotions. Hopefully you’ve learned a bit more about how each emotion fits into the lives of sex addicts. I hope you’ve also picked up a few hints about what you can do to manage your emotions better if this is a problem. Big hint. Learn to communicate with others in a way that allows you to better regulate yourself emotionally, and if your problems are more serious there’s always therapy as an option, of course.
Now, emotions are the currency of life. Don’t spend them irresponsibly. Don’t save them away for the rainy day that perhaps never comes. Express them as needed to add the color to your life that you deserve even though it may have been missing for a very long time.
As always, let this be the day you decide to turn things around. No one’s watching. No one else will know. But, it could make all the difference in the world. I’ll speak to you next week.
This was a podcast provided by Rodney Collins of phocuslife.com. For additional information contact the website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.