As a previous 12 stepper I know that this message will be hard for some to swallow.
I remember the relief I felt when I joined a new 12 step group and the illusive enemy that kept destroying my life was identified as lust.
I felt like I had an enemy to battle. I felt like I could truly slay the beast, now that I knew who the beast was.
I was told a lie though. Lust is horrible. Lust is evil. But it is only a half truth.
The real enemy is me.
My entitlement and my desire to control are the issues. Lust is one of the ways that I choose to manifest my entitlement and control.
Lets consider this for a moment. A man has sex with his wife. 12 hours later he indulges in pornography and masturbation. Is it lust? Is that the whole story? Is he so addicted to sex that he cannot go 12 hours without a hit?
So why can’t it be just lust? According to research done around cognitive behavioral therapy our thoughts lead to our feelings and our feeling lead to our actions. Lust is a feeling.
In Why Does He Do That? Lundy Bancroft writes, “The abuser would like us to accept the following simple but erroneous formula: “Feelings cause behavior'”. Our feelings do not cause our behavior. Lundy later writes that our “attitudes and our habits do”. The way to change our attitudes and our habits is to acknowledge what they are and then change how we think.
Trying to deal with your sexually infidelity by tackling lust is like trying to kill the weeds in your yard with a lawn mower. It will look nice for awhile. You may trick yourself, your wife, and the neighbors, but the weeds are not dead and they will come back in full force. You have to get at the root.
The root of lust is abusive thinking.
You may now be thinking, it’s not abusive thoughts, its lustful thoughts. Lustful thoughts definitely play a role, but it is not the core. Why are you or were you okay with having lustful thoughts? What led to that? That is what we need to answer. Until you can honestly answer this question you will never heal the abusive mentality behind the sexually perverse behaviors.
The details will look different for everyone but the ingredients are the same. Entitlement and control are at the core. How those manifest themselves will be up to the abuser. If you are anything like me, you immediately rejected this idea. You, after all, aren’t a bad man. You are kind to others. You serve others. You take your kids to the store when you don’t have to. You work hard. You are a respected member of your community or congregation.
Buuuuut, you also lie (sometimes, but its usually not on purpose). You occasionally view pornography (but only when you are really tired or hungry or had a bad day). You blame your wife for stuff (actually you don’t do that she just thinks you do). You keep secrets (but only if it will spare pain for others).
If you haven’t caught on the stuff in parenthesis are the lies we abusers like to tell ourselves.
The hard truth that all of us men need to accept is this: We choose everything we do. No one and nothing is forcing us. We have given ourselves permission to act. Even when we seemingly “react”. We, through our entitlement and control, have decided that whatever we are doing is okay.
But what about the completing emotions we feeling. Some of us actually want to change. There is hope. You can change your entitled, controlling, abusive mentality. It will take a lot of honesty, the right kind of help, and time.
For help on reframing your thinking schedule your free session here.