How to become conscious of feelings rather than acting out

A reader asked what they can do when they experience emotional paralysis. Expressing emotion is so difficult if you lacked what psychologists call the “holding environment” in early childhood – that safe space in which you could be as irrational and emotional as you needed to be without judgment, punishment and with the loving, constant support that anchors self-esteem.

People who never experienced this become isolated and internalised – a disturbingly common scenario – and the resulting frustration, rage, sadness and pain cause them to act out as adults, generally in the form of psychosis or addiction. The only way out is to learn to identify, manage and express your own feelings. This is a beginning. Further information can be found here.

The critical thing is to learn to share the way you feel, and the best way to do this is to find a therapist you like and trust or turn to someone you know has your best interests at heart, and then find a therapist you like and trust. You don’t have to expose your psyche in its entirety – take it as slowly as you need to, but reach out.

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Signs and characteristics of porn / sex addiction

- Lack of nurturing and attention when young

- Feeling isolated, detached from parents and family

- Compartmentalization of relationships from other areas of life

- Outer facade of “having it all together” to hide internal disintegration

- Intense hidden pain / grief

- Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost

- Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship

- Inner rage over lack of nurturing, early abandonment

- Depressed

- Highly manipulative and controlling of others

- Perceive sex as a basic human need, on a par with food and water

- Sense of worthlessness without sex

- Feelings that a sex makes one whole, or more of a man or woman

- Escalating tolerance for high-risk behaviour or perversion

- Intense need to control self, others, circumstances

- Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems (drugs, alcohol, food, etc.)

- Insatiable appetite in area of difficulty (sex, porn)

- Using others, sex and relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain

- Driven, desperate, frantic personality

- Existence of a secret “double life”

- Refusal to acknowledge existence of problem

- Defining out-of-control behaviour as normal

- Defining wants as needs

It breaks my heart to think of all the porn addicts who were once emotionally neglected or abused boys. I remember my emotionally abused brother, first exposed to hardcore pornography – with my parents’ approval (“boys will be boys”), when he was eleven – he gassed himself in 2001 – and another sweet and funny little boy (glasses, shorter than average and from a lower socio-economic background, mocked and bullied at school, exposed to domestic violence and what I suspect may have been alcoholism and sexual abuse). Both highly intelligent, they grew up into emotionally extreme, tormented, depressed, unmanangeable porn addicts.

This is Patrick Carnes, a leading researcher in the field of porn addiction …

… and Gary Wilson, author of Your Brain on Porn: