You did this to me!

These words, this belief, are the biggest relationship buster I hear in my office.

If a wife cheats, if a husband is cross-dressing, if a child is using drugs – those who are affected by someone else’s behavior personalize it. They believe that the other person is doing something to harm them, to piss them off, or to otherwise inconvenience them. There is the expectation, unrealistic as it may be, that “If you love me, you will (or won’t) do ............”

This totally doesn’t make sense when you, the identified victim of the behavior believe that the other person does indeed love you.

The missing piece, of course, is that you are loved and your spouse, child, parent, or friend is doing something that is apart from you. In the case of a cheating spouse, the affair happened because of any number of possible reasons, none of which are about you NOT being good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, or loved enough. There are issues in the relationship, but that’s not it.

When your child does something with which you disagree, it is NOT because you are not loved or because you were a lousy parent. Kids do lots of things that may or may not be good for them. I remember a world history class during which the professor pointed out that Britain’s best kings’ sons were the worst kings and vice versa. It’s not about how much the children loved their parents.

Cross-dressers and transsexuals live in their own special hell when their loved ones accuse them of not caring enough about them to put aside their very identities and live a lie. In my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection, I discuss the paradox of selfishness versus charity – which is which?

It comes down to equality versus power and control. There can be no Connection where there is a power difference. How can you say you love someone and then demand that they prove their love for you by changing who they are? How can you feel your own worth when it is dependent on what another person does?

Cross-dressing, drug use, and cheating may seem like very different behaviors coming from very different motivators - and they are. The common theme is the meaning we put on those behaviors. When my self-worth is measured by what you are doing, we will never Connect and what’s more, nothing you do will ever be enough for me to feel that I am good enough, smart enough, or successful enough. I am giving you all the power. When I can’t start from a place of trust that you love me, then nothing you ever do will be enough for me and we will live in a state of disconnection and never achieve true intimacy.

The key message here is that no one can do anything TO you. Someone can do something and then how it affects you is your choice. The way we think leads to how we feel. When we change our belief that someone is doing something to us, our feelings will change. Use the Serenity Prayer:

God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

There is a huge debate in the therapeutic community, especially among sex therapists, about the existence of sex addiction. As a sex addiction treatment provider, I am sometimes drawn into these debates, but they often prove non-productive because for some reason, while the pro-sex addiction crowd is generally open to discussion and the inclusion of others’ ideas, the nay-sayers seem entrenched in their beliefs and unwilling to entertain any thinking other than their own. As far as I’m concerned, a rose by any other name..........Call it what you will, there is a certain chemical process in the brain that occurs with stimulation from any number of sources, such as cocaine, gambling, or masturbating to internet porn. There are definable thought processes, behaviors, and feelings that are common among all addicts and form an identifiable pattern. Finally, there are treatment protocols and interventions that work well with addicts, no matter the drug of choice.

Below, I’ve laid out some myths and facts. As in any field, there are people who practice ethically and those who don’t. This is why we have license and certification processes – to help distinguish between individuals who have some education and experience in a particular area and those who are selling snake oil. The facts below are as I and other competent and ethical sex addiction treatment providers see them. It’s up to the general population to use their critical thinking skills and common sense to go from here.

Myth Reality
Men use sex addiction as a way to avoid taking responsibility for cheating. Some men may try to do this, but it doesn’t make it so. Addicts DO take responsibility for their behavior and working a recovery program is how they commit to changing their lives.
Labeling a behavior “sex addiction” is just a way for uptight people to make moral judgments on others’ behavior. There is no particular behavior that is used to label someone as a sex addict. Sex therapists aren’t concerned with making judgments – we generally go by the guideline of “safe, sane and consensual.” It’s the nature of the thinking and behavior that make it addictive. If it’s “obsessive, compulsive, out of control behavior done in spite of negative consequences to self or others,” then it’s addictive.
Saying you treat sex addicts is a way to make a lot of money. I’m going to make money as a therapist no matter what I call it. I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addictions Professional, Certified EMDR practitioner, and Board Certified Sex Therapist. If someone has a problem with sexually compulsive behavior, I am qualified to treat it no matter what the name.
Because sex addiction is not in the DSM-IV-TR, it is not a diagnosable disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is what therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. The criteria for Substance Dependence lists several behaviors associated with substance use which, if three or more are present, a diagnosis can be made. When we substitute “sexual behavior” for “substance use,” we find that a diagnosis can be made, even though it has not been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association.
Calling someone a sex addict means the person won’t get treated for a “real” mental disorder, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Bi-Polar Disorder. Licensed clinicians are qualified to make diagnoses and will usually be able to differentiate between disorders. Many people can have co-existing disorders and a variety of interventions may be used in treatment.

For many years now I’ve noticed that in the Fall – October and November – I and a lot of people I know complain of feeling tired and with that tiredness comes a sense of depression. As a therapist, I’m aware of clients coming to see me and wanting my help with this. That’s my job, right? To help people with depression and fatigue?

Over the centuries, people have become distanced from their Connection with the earth – the growing cycles, the interplay of plants and animals, and the seasons. We have become disconnected from our own biology as well. We all have that Caveman Brain that is ruled by instinct, the autonomic nervous system, and emotions. We can mediate it with our prefrontal cortex, or Enlightened Brain, but it helps to know the source of our emotions and drives.

In the case of the tiredness we feel in the Fall, it makes sense that this is the time when the days are growing shorter, when the frenetic planting and growing is done and the harvest is in and we can rest. It is a time to unwind and be still. Our Caveman Brains know this but our Enlightened Brains are still in “Go go go” mode and so the natural fatigue we feel is interpreted as something being wrong. Without knowing what it is and being able to fix it, we then feel depressed.

When I recognize this and allow the process, I’m okay. I give myself permission to take naps, to do a bit less, and to enjoy the cooler weather and shorter days (even here in Miami). When I reassure my clients that there is nothing “wrong” and that this is just a part of the seasonal cycle, they feel more peaceful and can experience the regenerative energy of this brief time before the holiday madness engulfs us.

If you or your clients or your friends have been feeling a bit tired or drained, it’s okay. There is nothing to fix. Relax with a good book (The Wind in the Willows is my favorite), take a break, and Connect with what you love. The days will lengthen once more and as nature stirs, the plants slowly waken, the rivers flow with melting snows, then so will your life force energize with the New Year!

Be In Light
Carol Clark

I was watching the news the other night and marveling at the extent of what to me is irrational thinking and behavior. Specifically, those people in Texas who believe that President Obama is massing our forces to take over Texas and/or stay in office beyond his proscribed term.

What would make people actually devote time to protesting this seeming absurdity? What would make the Governor of Texas actually buy into this?

As any of my students could tell you, the greatest motivator of human behavior is the need to belong to the group.

People will repress their personal values and override their innate intelligence in order to belong to their group. The result can sometimes be the creation of a positive problem-solving team, a group that affects healthy change, or a disciplined military force that protects our way of life.

The result can also be destructive gangs, mind-deadening cults, mob violence, and just the paranoic flight from rational thinking that distracts people from very real issues.

Examples of this need to belong to the group in spite of overwhelmingly painful or destructive consequences can be found around the world. The people in Africa who engage in female genital mutilation will cite a myriad of reasons, ranging from fear that unmutilated genitals will smell bad to fear that if a baby’s head touches the clitoris during birth the baby will die. The most compelling reason, however, is that any female child who is not mutilated will be exiled from the community and be good for nothing except prostitution. Closer to home are the men and women who serve in law enforcement and will keep silent about a fellow officer who violates that very mandate they all swore to uphold: “Protect and Serve.”

This premise that “Crazy is Normal” comes up on a daily basis in my practice. When I’m working with couples and they are fighting over something seemingly insignificant (yes, crazy), I will discuss this need to belong to the group and then explore with them from where that originated. Let me connect the dots.

In childhood, we take in messages about ourselves in relation to others. We don’t yet have the capacity to distinguish that what is going on externally is not a judgment on our internal identity, and so we develop beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unimportant” and then carry those beliefs into our adult lives, often unknowingly. For instance, when a well-meaning parent says “You need to bring that B up to an A, just work harder, I want to see that A next time!” and the child takes in “I’m not good enough to please my father/mother and never will be.”

As we engage in relationships with others, we look for groups that will accept us, in spite of those negative beliefs. I once asked someone in Scientology what was the motivation for being part of an organization that alienated her from her family and cost her a great deal of money and she replied, “They accept me as I am.” Of course, there are many other conditions for acceptance that she had to fulfill, but they continually assured her that she was good enough and important enough to belong with them, which was and is her greatest motivation.

Back to our couples who are fighting over who’s not taking out the garbage or washing the dishes, it comes back to the underlying message in this way: If you don’t do the dishes, it means I’m unimportant, or if I take out the garbage every day and you don’t appreciate me, I’m not good enough.

There is a little more complexity to this (see past article Intimacy by the Numbers) but the distancing created by this need to Connect (be part of the group) and the fear of not being good enough or important enough to be accepted leads to the irrational thoughts and behaviors that we see in our relationships and on the news. If we focus on the “Crazy,” we will miss the underlying motivation and therefore the ability to address it in any meaningful way. If I enter into a right/wrong position about whose job it is to do the dishes, I will perpetuate a fight that only serves to disconnect the couple. Just as when we try to convince someone that the president is not going to invade Texas, that person will just dig in and we are going to butt heads.

Instead, when we can discover the underlying meaning and own it, we can then make different decisions and look more rationally at the situation. We can first decide how much energy we are going to give. We can explore what our real goal is and generate different options for achieving it. We can decide if the group (be it a group of two partners or a group of hundreds or even thousands) is the one to which we want to belong.

People acting crazy is really normal. Through our need to belong to the group, we are all Connected. The trick is to not disconnect while seeking Connection.

Be In Light
Carol Clark

I grew up in an alcoholic home and had a drug addicted boyfriend at one time, so I wanted nothing to do with addicts when I became a mental health counselor. The Universe had other ideas for me, however, and when I couldn’t find work anywhere else, I ended up in a substance abuse treatment facility. My father and ex-boyfriend went into recovery around the same time and made amends and I experienced a profound shift in perspective. Over the years, I became a Certified Addictions Professional and when I specialized in sex therapy, working with sex addicts was the next progression for me.
After years of working with couples and individuals, sex addicts and others, I formulated a conceptual framework of treating everyone that was based on Recovery principles. When I realized I was saying the same thing over and over as I educated clients and students about how we create barriers to intimacy by using addictive thinking and behavior, I decided to write it all down and voila! Addict America: The Lost Connection was born. It actually gestated for seven years but it eventually was completed and then translated into Spanish.
Working and teaching in the sex therapy field, I have been exposed to a few sexologists who are fundamentally opposed to the concept of “sex addiction.” They have posited various reasons for this, including opinions that sex addiction treatment professionals are “sex negative,” into “reparative therapy,” and religious fundamentalists. For me, none of this is true. A few other professionals are less oppositional but still questioning. While I try to avoid going head-to-head with anyone who is obviously not really interested in a discussion, I am happy to engage in more academic discourse on the subject. Still, I find myself fighting twinges of defensiveness and last night, as I explored this, I was able to move to a completely different place of perspective, which I want to share.
I am blessed to be able to work with addicts. Addicts, no matter the drug or behavior, go through hell and it takes enormous courage and willingness to change in order for them to begin Recovery. As they learn new ways of living, make decisions about everything from what shoes to wear to where to eat, work, play, to relationship choices, they are evolving to a higher spiritual plane. When addicts are living in Recovery, they are present and grounded. They have made choices as to what kinds of people they want to be and they live congruently with that identity. They have made choices regarding their values and what is important in life and are living according to those values. They are fully able to be in intimate, Connected relationships, whether with a committed partner, a child, a friend, a coworker, or someone just passing on the street. For each moment, there is Connection and awareness of Connection. They have Connected to a higher power and live the Serenity Prayer without rationalization, minimization, or intellectualization. They can truly say, and often do, that the worst day in Recovery is better than the best day in addiction. They are my heroes and my role models. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of their journeys.
We all have it in us to be in addiction or be in Recovery. I know when I am not present, not Connected, and not in harmony with the Universe. I know when I’m rushing around, angry or irritable, and blaming others. That is an addictive place. I also know when I am grounded, in the moment, and have a sense of myself and others in Connection. I know who I am and am responsible for myself. That is Recovery. It is where I strive to live.
Be In Light,
Carol

“Obsessive, compulsive, out of control behavior done in spite of negative consequences to self and others” is the simple definition of addiction. At its heart, addictive behavior is driven by the need to feel good about oneself and to overcome those messages from early childhood which we have internalized – “I’m not good enough,” “I’m worthless,” “I’m a failure,” and “I’m not important” to name a few. When parents are critical, when we are compared to our siblings and found lacking, or when we are simply ignored, we take in these messages and carry them into adulthood and all subsequent events are filtered through them.

While quite a few public servants enter the political ring from a genuine desire to help people, others are seeking external validation to salve internal wounds and often think and behave addictively, as defined in my book Addict America: The Lost Connection.

So it’s no wonder that sons (mostly) of powerful men continually need more and more external validation to prove their worth. They reach their positions of authority because of their continual striving for self-worth, but nothing is ever enough, because they are trying to fill an internal emptiness with external gratification. Therein lies the addiction. Women who are trying to gain validation in a man’s world also fall prey to the addictive cycle.

When we see a governor, senator, or other high-ranking politician who is wealthy and powerful and could do an enormous amount of good and yet sucks up to big businesses that are trying to swell their own coffers (companies run by addicts) while destroying the environment and harming people, we ask, “What is that all about? How does this make sense?” In terms of addiction, though, it makes perfect sense, because these politicians are trying to make the world see that they are important, good enough, worthwhile, and successful enough to finally earn Daddy’s approval. The problem is, it doesn’t work. No amount of money or power will ever be enough to fill that hole in the soul that characterizes addiction, and so the negative consequences are that these people still carry their pain and shame and everyone around them and under them suffers.

We have had some heroes in the political world – Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly come to mind. These are men who entered politics by doing something they enjoy and at which they naturally excel, not from a compulsion to beat everyone else and prove their own worth. The Prime Minister from Australia, John Howard, risked his career to stand up for gun legislation after a mass shooting 20 years ago because he believed it would help his country. (There have been no mass shootings since). These men wanted to make the world a better place, and they did. We have politicians today – men and women - who have that motivation for service and we watch them struggle valiantly against those who are as irrational and selfish as any drunk in the street fighting for his car keys.

We need to personally define success as it relates to our own quality of life, which is an internal value, rather than success as defined by what we think others admire. When we enjoy what we are doing and we are being creative or helping others, we will not be focused on what we don’t have. We can be in recovery, be in the moment, and feel fulfilled.

Let’s pray for that light to come into those political souls and shine on everyone whose lives they effect.

Be In Light

Carol

I am a bit driven. Private practice, teaching at a university, teaching my own sex therapy and addictions programs, supervising students and trying to have a personal life. My husband takes care of everything at home and would get an outside job, but then I would have to do some of what he does and I don't want to, so it works out. Except that I have to make a certain amount of money to pay for everything. I'm generally okay with my life and enjoy what I do and so overall give the impression that I have it all together. My assistant was therefore taken very much aback when I had a complete meltdown after she said "Why can't you just......?" I don't even remember what she was suggesting, I just know that at that moment, to do anything more would have been the proverbial last straw. I couldn't do another thing, no matter how seemingly minor, and I was unfairly angry at her for even thinking I could. Why can't I? Because I can't.

Giving It to God

In the field of addiction, the concept of recovery versus abstinence is one of extreme importance when it comes to quality of life.

Abstinence is simply not taking a particular drug or doing a specific activity. For example, an alcoholic who does not drink alcohol is abstaining from his or her drug of choice. A gambler who does not go to the casino is abstaining from gambling. When the addict continues to live the same lifestyle, it is called being ¨"a dry drunk" or "white knuckling it." Imagine a person sitting in a chair holding tight to the arms in order to not leap up and engage in the addictive behavior. His or her knuckles are white with the stress of trying to maintain control. An addict in abstinence is simply trying to control his or her addiction and the bottom line is that what makes an addict is the inability to control the addiction, or indeed anything outside oneself.

My book, Addict America: The Lost Connection, took me almost five years to write and the messages it contains are by no means original.  I talk about Connection – between individuals, communities, and all life – and how our fears prevent us from experiencing the joy and fulfillment of Connection.

The Kaballah, the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and countless others have all taught us about Connection.  I subscribe to newsletters from Abraham-Hicks, Yehuda Berg, and Andrew Cohen of EnlightenNext and all of their messages are about Connection.

These words, this belief, are the biggest relationship buster I hear in my office. 

If a wife cheats, if a husband is cross-dressing, if a child is using drugs – those who are affected by someone else’s behavior personalize it.  They believe that the other person is doing something to harm them, to piss them off, or to otherwise inconvenience them.  There is the expectation, unrealistic as it may be, that “If you love me, you will (or won’t) do …………”

This totally doesn’t make sense when you, the identified victim of the behavior believe that the other person does indeed love you. 

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