Warrior

_Often the wounded make the mightiest warriors._

 

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

 

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Re-Imagining Sex in Recovery: A Paradigm Shift is Possible

Re-Imagining Sex in recovery

Today I am thrilled to share with you two excellent resources related to sexual addiction recovery and sexual health. First, I want to share with you a chapter from Life After Lust called Connected Sex: A Paradigm Shift for the Sexually Addicted. This is the first time I have publicly shared this chapter in its entirely. I hope you find it mind-expanding and life-altering.

Second, skilled and knowledgeable specialist in sexual addiction treatment, Valerie Hamaker, has created a valuable online course series on healthy sexuality and  sexual addiction recovery. I highly recommend this series! It is a great resource for recovering individuals and couples, as well as professionals. I recently added her first two lessons on Healthy Sexuality to my Introduction to Sexual Addiction Treatment class in the SATP program. It is high-quality content that is well worth the investment. Will you help me spread the word about this excellent resource? (Click here to learn more).

May these resources help you experience deeper healing and increased sexual health.

Chapter 22

Connected Sex:
A Paradigm Shift for the Sexually Addicted

From Life After Lust, Copyright © 2017 by Forest Benedict

Skill to Master #21: Learning to emotionally connect with my partner

Skill to Master #22: Practicing a healthy, connected sexuality

It may go without saying but sex is a significant topic for recovering sex addicts. As a sex addiction therapist, I tell my clients that successful recovery necessitates a new view of sexuality. Rather than seeing sex as a numbing agent, instead, sex in recovery is a connecting agent. This transition in thinking and practice is difficult, since sex addicts inherently have a dysfunctional relationship with sex, rooted in an intimacy disorder.

A Sex Addict’s Sex Life

There are many ways in which a sex addict’s perception of sex is distorted and unhealthy. In her TEDx Talk on Sex and Intimacy, Dr. Sue Johnson superbly explained the dynamics of connected and disconnected sex. Her explanation of sealed off sex is characteristic of the sex addict’s experience because it lacks emotional intimacy, is solely sensation and performance focused, and leaves individuals feeling lonely. Sex addicts may also seek out solace sex, where the focus is on reassurance rather than sexual passion. The significance of both of these sex styles is that they are rooted in insecure attachment patterns, which are common among sex addicts. Dr. Linda Hatch similarly describes the sex life of sex addicts, writing:

Even when the sex addict is having sex with a partner or spouse, it is often the case that the addict is not “all there.” He or she may be lost in fantasy or just going through the motions. Many addicts feel they are having satisfying sex with their partners when in fact they are not really able to be present.

I often describe this dynamic to my clients as “using your partner to masturbate.” Sex for the sex addict is an experience of emotional disconnection. The sex addict sees sex as a drug and distraction, not a profound point of connection. The sex addict hijacks sexuality to get their self-focused high. This distorts the very purpose of the sexual experience.

Sex for the sex addict is lust-driven, not love-driven. Regardless of whether a sex addict objectifies a stranger or their partner, connection never results.

Another pattern that some sex addicts experience is called sexual anorexia, which occurs when a person avoids sex and emotional connection completely. Alexandra Katehakis explains that “where sex addicts ‘act out’ or ‘binge’ through promiscuity or high-risk behavior, sexual anorexics starve themselves by ‘acting in,’ denying themselves the pleasure of relationships, dating, loving touch, and genuine connection with others.” Sometimes, both acting out and acting in dynamics are at play, creating a sexual bulimic like cycle of sexual binging and purging.

As you can see, there are many potential scenarios that explain the sex addict’s misguided use of sex. Difficulties ensue when sex is used solely for coping, not connecting.

All About Intimacy

In their book The Couple’s Guide to Intimacy, Drs. Bill and Ginger Bercaw explain that “one of the greatest challenges facing couples in recovery is learning how to be emotionally and sexually intimate after the relationship has absorbed a direct hit.” A couple reeling from this type of relational trauma has a lot of hard work ahead.

As recovery progresses, sex addicts have the opportunity to see sex with new eyes. They can learn to appreciate a depth to sex they never knew before, experiencing what Katehakis describes as the “sensuality of connected closeness.” Connected sex, or synchrony sex, is a bonding experience that includes openness, play, and sexual passion. As connected sex becomes a new ideal, the addict will find that this transformation requires something quite unexpected: a foundation of emotional connection. This is the key to a quality sexual relationship.

The core of good sex is safety and connection, but these are two areas in which sex addicts experience extreme deficiencies. Most couples working toward fostering emotional intimacy will need extensive work with an attachment-based sex addiction therapist. Learning to deeply connect with their partner is an essential skill for sexual addicts in recovery.

This type of learning requires guidance, work, and a plethora of patience, but with the right help there is hope. Active recovery is necessary for any couple working toward increased connection. If the addict is engaging in their acting-out behaviors, the addiction becomes a competing attachment, hindering the couple’s closeness. Thus, sobriety is a starting line for the couple’s successful connection journey.

Often recovering sex addicts, whether in a relationship or single, abstain from masturbation as part of their sobriety. This makes more sense when sex is seen as a connecting experience rather than a solo act. When masturbation is lust-driven, compulsive, or sought out for emotional comfort, this behavior plays a key role in the addictive cycle. Still, there are varying views on the topic of masturbation in recovery, which is another reason why seeking guidance from a sex addiction therapist is recommended.

In early recovery, it is common for sex addiction therapists to prescribe a period of sexual celibacy from all expressions of sexuality, including with their partner. This orchestrated season of abstinence can have many benefits for the addict, partner, and couple, including taking the “sexual pressure off of the relationship so the couple can work on play and communication.” This period can offer a detox from unhealthy and unhelpful beliefs about sex, clearing the way for other forms of connection.

On the pathway to connected sexuality, there may be many detours. Sexual abuse, sexual dysfunction, medical issues, distrust, trauma, and other factors may complicate the couple’s sexual experience, requiring additional help from a sex therapist, doctor, or other professional. Patterns of sexual avoidance grounded in a partner’s lack of emotional safety or using sex as an attempt to control the addict’s behavior should be addressed with a sex addiction therapist.

The Powerful Potential of Connected Sex

When a sex addict learns to experience sex as the “potent bonding activity” it can be, this is a massive mental shift for them. Instead of using sex as a drug: to escape, numb, or avoid, sex can become a source of satisfaction. Healing from a shame-based sexuality will be part of the process. Learning how to leave lust and objectification out of the bedroom are additional aims of recovery.

The truth is, all connection work in recovery, whether emotional or sexual, will require the help of those who know the way. The Bercaws’ book is an excellent resource for couples impacted by sex addiction. I love the vision they cast of what a recovered sex life can look like:

You can know for perhaps the first time in your entire life what it feels like to embrace a passionate and fully satisfying sex life while retaining your integrity and while being more fully present.

Katehakis casts a similar vision of healthy sexuality, calling it “a profoundly new experience. It has the ring of innocence and simplicity, devoid of addictive adrenalized and dopaminergic intensity. For the first time, the psyche and body do not melt in disarray afterward. Healthy sex can make amends to the self and to the partner. When partners join in an open-hearted and present way, sex becomes a genuine act of love in the moment and leaves both parties feeling good afterward.”

Imagine that: A shame-free sexuality. A satisfying experience of secret-free sex based on love. This is what lust always promised but never delivered.

Dr. Mark Laaser tells a story of one recovering couple who experienced non-addictive sex for the first time. Their time together ended in a loving embrace and joyful tears. This is the prospect of connected sexuality.

As we grow in our willingness to challenge and change our distorted views of sex, we can learn to experience a more fulfilling, connected, and healthy sexuality. A paradigm shift is possible.

 

References:

Benedict, F. (2016, October 20). Connected Sex: A Paradigm Shift for the Sexually Addicted.

Bercaw, B., & Bercaw, G. (2010). The Couple’s Guide to Intimacy: How Sexual Reintegration Therapy Can Help Your Relationship Heal. California Center for Healing. 7, 11.

Hatch, L. (2012, February 15). Why is Sex Addiction Called an Intimacy Disorder? Retrieved from http://www.sexaddictionscounseling.com/why-is-sex-addiction-called- an-intimacy-disorder/

Johnson, S. (2015, July 28). The New Frontier of Sex & Intimacy. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiVijMLH2-k

Johnson, S. (2017). Three Kinds of Sex. Retrieved from http://www.drsuejohnson.com/attachment-sex/three-kinds-sex/#more-185

Katehakis, A. (2014, August 12). The Devastating Pain of ‘Sexual Anorexics’ Retrieved from https://www.psychologytodahttps://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex- lies-trauma/201408/the-devastating-pain-sexual-anorexics

Katehakis, A., & Schore, A. N. (2016). Sex addiction as affect dysregulation: a neurobiologically informed holistic treatment. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Laaser, M. R. (2004). Healing the wounds of sexual addiction. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 182.

Reid, R. C., & Woolley, S. R. (2006). Using Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples to Resolve Attachment Ruptures Created by Hypersexual Behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 13(2-3), 219-239.

Sexaholics Anonymous. (1989-2002). Sexaholics Anonymous. SA Literature. 40-42. Elements Behavioral Health. (2013, November 15). Sexual Anorexia Within Sexual Addiction. Retrieved from http://www.hypersexualdisorders.com/sex-addiction/sexual- anorexia-within-sexual-addiction/

Weiss, R. (n.d.). Sex Addicts and “Sexual Sobriety”. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2012/08/sexual-sobriety/

Zapf, J. L., Greiner, J., & Carroll, J. (2008). Attachment Styles and Male Sex Addiction. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 15(2), 158-175.

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

Female Fantasy Addiction: The New Infidelity

Female Fantasy Addiction_ The New Infidelity

This week I have the privilege of sharing a guest post written by women’s addiction recovery coach and best-selling author Lacy Bentley. You may remember, I interviewed Lacy on Female Sex, Porn, & Love Addiction in March. I was honored to write the Foreword to her new book Overcoming Love Addiction as well. We met in person for the first time last month when we both saw Dr Donald Hilton speak on The Sex Industry and Public Health: It’s Impact on Exploitation, Healthy Sexuality, Empathy and Addiction in Salt Lake City.

Lacy Forest Hilton

I have much respect for Lacy and am grateful for the work she is doing in the world helping women heal from addiction. I hope you enjoy her article on female fantasy addiction and share it with others who would benefit.

Female Fantasy Addiction:

The New Infidelity

By Lacy Bentley

I know, I know, we can’t control every thought that comes into our minds. Temptation is all around, and oh so tantalizing. For some of us, that tantalization comes in the form of a sexy picture of our favorite screen actor, or his role in the latest Rom-Com. For some, it is a scene in a romantic novel, with or without sex. For others, it is the friendly banter or touch of a nice guy at work or church. After the initial thought or emotion (aren’t they pretty much simultaneous?) we actually have a fraction of a second to take charge. But, why worry about it? Why not explore this inner fantasy world a little, and celebrate our inner sexuality? And, if not, how do we lengthen out that fraction on a moment to engage in decision making about the temptation?

American culture vacillates rapidly between free love and prudish terror. The pendulum swing leaves us disoriented and unsure of what healthy sexuality really is. Let’s start there. Sex isn’t a bad thing, and sexual arousal is healthy. In fact, the random noticing of an attractive individual just means your radar is still intact. The hope is that your radar is not always going off, and that you are not distracted from the very real life and relationships right in front of you. This is the “why” part of “Why worry about it?”

So often, women become distracted from what needs to be done by lots of things. Let’s look at a few of these every-day potentials for stray thoughts:

  • Other things that need to be done
  • Looming deadlines
  • Social media, text messages, or email alerts
  • A kid’s needs
  • Fatigue
  • Worry
  • Stress
  • Conversations with that really sweet, cute guy at work…

And off our powerfully creative brains go, making up wonderful neuro-cocktails for our fantasizing pleasure.

So, what’s the harm of spending a few minutes (ahem, hours…) in our made-up world? No kids crying, no snotty noses, no deadlines, no burned cookies, just us and Mr. Fabulous. He knows just what to say, how to say it, and he mops the floor! Okay, maybe that’s just my fantasy. But seriously, it’s not like you’re doing anything, right? It’s just a daydream. Nobody even knows, and certainly no one is getting hurt, right?

Not so fast…This kind of fantasy, even if it doesn’t take a turn into full-blown mental porn, impacts every relationship we have. The longer and more drawn out the distraction from reality, the greater the impact.

  • Hubby can feel the distance. The further into the fantasy we go, the less and less satisfying the flawed, real man in front of us becomes. Soon, we find ourselves comparing, upset, and thinking about how Mr. Fabulous would handle the kids or play with our hair, or do the dishes without expecting sex. 
  • The kids feel it. They know when you are annoyed at having to break out of the fantasy world to cook dinner or take them to practice. They start to feel more and more like a burden and less like the valuable souls we have a responsibility to. They also notice when you are not really paying attention to the conversation or activity you are supposed to be engaged in.
  • Your girlfriends and sisters feel it. Lust, sexual energy, comparison, it all seeps out of our skin in waves that others may not be able to identify but can certainly feel. For many women, the fantasy spills over into flirting with a waiter or valet. It is manifest in the movies we watch, the conversations we have, and the book on our nightstand. It distances us from the real people trying to connect with us. They may not mind it, as they are very possibly in the same space. Then again, the disconnect and lack of conversational involvement will eventually become apparent. Real relationship connection cannot survive this disconnect. Those around us looking for real friendships won’t stick around long before heading in another direction all together.
  • Your target feels it. He may not know what it is, or he might, but he senses something. If he is a man of integrity, he may be unaware of what he’s sensing, and just keep boundaries in place, even distance himself subconsciously. If he is also a man in addiction or fantasy, this energy can easily become detrimental to committed relationships and family dynamics for you both. When we are warned not to play with fire lest we get burned, this is the very inferno we need to avoid. Indulgence in fantasy will make that task increasingly difficult. 
  • Those around you can often sense unchecked emotion. Again, they might not know what it is, but they feel something is off. This could lead to issues at work, assumptions, and rumors. Even if there is no conscious awareness, disconnection and distraction are off-putting. Plus, we can’t always control how those side glances are interpreted. 

So, as tempting as it is to dive into this inner world, and explore what it might hold, the risk is high, and the impact is out of our control. Not to mention, coming back to reality after the distraction is hard! 

One last reason why indulging this inner world will not end well: even in our minds, an affair is an affair. Think about it. Are you neutral, or celebratory of your intimate partner spending this much time thinking about conversations, romantic dinners, and even sex with a pretty co-worker? Just because his porn is on the internet, and yours is all in your head, does that excuse it? One woman lamented to me how her husband had recently relapsed into soft-core porn. The following day, she made a comment about an underaged actor taking his shirt off in a then-highly-popular teen romance. Excuse me? Can you imagine the backlash if a 40-year-old man made that comment about a 17-year-old actress? What if he had a seductive photo of her on his phone screen saver? How is that not okay, I asked her, but she can have this young man, who, remember, is still a minor, for her phone’s screen saver?

Women get away with way more than men do, and don’t see the double standard. That does not change the fact that fantasizing about intimacy, even if it is “just” romantic fantasy, is an emotional affair. Your emotions are involved, you’re quite possibly aroused on some romantic or sexual level, and most likely comparing your partner to your fantasy. That will not keep a relationship healthy and deeply rooted for long. Fantasy destroys natural love, the outgrowth of commitment, and life-long companionship. All of this fades as the unchecked sexual desires of an entire generation run rampant, first in the mind and heart, then the streets of promiscuity, sexual indiscretion, and life-altering STIs. Fantasy feeds eventual behaviors. As women, we are powerful creators. We need to be responsible with what we create.

There is hope, and you can navigate this well.

I talked previously about that fraction of a second where choice exists. Jumping into that space takes practice, and I’m not going to lie: it’s not easy to even want to! It does get easier though, the more space and time you get from the distractions. I also want to make one clarification here. Thinking about what style of curtain, what color of paint, or which new car you are getting is not the same thing as fantasy—unless it keeps you from living your real life. That is planning, goal setting, even healthy creation. Visualizations are powerful. That’s why we use them to help us grow into the successful women we want to be. This is all the more reason to be careful how that energy is spent. We do become what we spend time creating in our minds. Create intentionally.

Here are a few recovery hacks I’ve used, then longer term solutions I hope you’ll consider.

  • Keep a tally on the back of your hand, or inside of your wrist of how often you think about a certain person. I know this was written from a heterosexual standpoint, but that in no way means targets for women can’t be other women.
  • Report your tally to a responsible friend each day, and what you intend to do as you work intentionally to cut back on fantasy (hopefully to zero!)
  • Intentionally increase the spirituality in your life. This can be through meditation, the types of books and music you listen to, and the movies you watch. 
  • Fill your idle time with something uplifting, like a quote or verse of scripture to think about each day.
  • Intentionally strengthen the social, romantic, financial and sexual connection with your intimate partner.
  • Use a proverbial bucket of ice water by calling it what it is: fantasy. It’s not real, it’s not actual relationship or connection, and it is keeping you from the real people in your life. If you or the individual in your head are in committed relationships, romantic or sexual fantasy about this person is also an emotional affair. Call yourself out and choose honest responsibility.
  • Use real ice, or a trinket in the palm of your hand to keep you in the present moment.

Let’s talk longer term solutions now. If your only issue is fantasy, excellent. Get yourself a mentor or coach to help you break the habit. If it is more nefarious, and involves other behaviors that trouble you, you’re going to want professional help from someone who gets what you’re dealing with. A therapist is needed if you have serious historical abuse or trauma. Otherwise you might like a coach or paid mentor. The important part is that you get someone on your team who knows how to help you in the ways you need, and who’s personality you enjoy. You need to agree on fundamentals, like:

  1. Is God important to recovery?
  2. Are the behaviors I want to work on also important to this therapist/coach/recovery mentor?
  3. Do I feel a connection with this therapist/coach/recovery mentor?
  4. Do they encourage me to build a foundation of support in my day-to-day life?
  5. Am I willing to pay for the support I need? (Trust me, no one thinks they can afford recovery. If you really want it, you’ll figure this out, then you’ll move mountains to work with the person you know is right for you. Cost is an excuse when you underestimate the need).

Ultimately, this is your decision. Do you want the life-long, deep, honest, full connection available to those willing to learn to maintain it, or not? Then, are you ready to do what it takes to get it, no counterfeits, no self-sabotage, and no excuses? If you answered yes to both questions, you’re probably ready to find your match in recovery support. Who comes to mind? Look at a few options, then decide. In the meantime, I’d love to send you a copy of my women’s recovery guidebook, now an International Best-Seller, “Overcoming Love Addiction.” It’s free, just shoot me an email at Lacy@HerRecoveryRoadmap.com. You can just sign up using the red box at the bottom of the page on my website, www.herrecoveryroadmap.com.

Yours in Recovery,

Lacy Alajna Bentley

View More: http://marielongphotography.pass.us/brieanne-and-lacy

ABOUT LACY: Lacy is a women’s addiction recovery coach, best selling author, and mom of four teenage boys. She is also a former pornography and Hentai (pornographic anime) user, who used these sources to help her define what “desirable” and “real” womanhood looked like from the age of 13. Now, she knows better, and wants to help other women heal, while empowering parents to have the tough but necessary conversations with their daughters. For a free PDF copy of her book, email her at Lacy@HerRecoveryRoadmap.com, or sign up on her website by filling out the red box at the bottom: www.HerRecoveryRoadmap.com. Lacy also runs women’s online mentorship and recovery groups, and you can contact her about those through the email above.

 

Posted by Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

Sacramento Recovery Intensive for Sexual Compulsivity & Betrayal Trauma

Phase 1 Intensive August

If you are struggling with sexual compulsivity or suffering from betrayal trauma, I invite you to join us in a couple of weeks for a powerful weekend of hope and healing with Leslie Haws, LMFT, CSAT and myself.

This will be the 3rd Phase 1 intensive I have co-facilitated. It is a life-changing event and I highly recommend it.

We hope to see you there!

Please share this with anyone who would benefit.

Thanks.

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

The Potential to Change: Join Us In Just 3 Days

The potential to change

Fourteen years ago, I drove to Sacramento for a recovery event that changed the course of my life. This Saturday, I am leading a recovery event in Sacramento that could change the course of many other men’s lives. In just three days I will share stories and strategies from my book Life After Lust that have strengthened myself and many others in recovery. This event will bring hope to those caught in addiction, those long in recovery, and those just wanting to connect with themselves and grow.

I am SO excited!

I love how life gives us opportunities like this to turn our pain into purpose. As I creatively and strategically prepare for this event, I am both grateful for this opportunity and excited to plant powerful seeds that I trust will sprout into amazing fruit that will impact the world. Who knows, maybe some of these men will catch a glimpse of the hope of recovery, master what they learn, and someday lead others into healing and a changed life. It may sound unbelievable but I’ve seen such miracles. I’ve lived such miracles. If you want to see what potential is packaged in a handful of hours, join us this Saturday in Sacramento. I look forward to meeting you there, in just 3 days.

Click here to sign up (If you can’t make it this time, sign up here for announcements of future events)

**** PS: The Life After Lust Audiobook will make it debut at this event and be available in some venues this Saturday as well!

 

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

 

A Day of Recovery & Healing from Sexual Addiction & Betrayal Trauma (Sacramento, June 9)

A day of recovery and healing

If you’re struggling with sexual addiction or betrayal trauma, I invite you to join me in Sacramento on June 9 for A Day of Recovery & Healing. I have the privilege of co-leading this life-changing new event with my colleague Leslie Haws, LMFT, CSAT, for recovering individuals and couples.

The event will be split into two tracks. I will lead the Life After Lust Workshop, combining strategies from my book with exercises aimed at strengthening recovery and clarifying a vision for a hopeful future. Leslie Haws will concurrently present to the partners, sharing information and tools critical for healing from betrayal trauma.

Supercharge your recovery in a confidential setting with 6 hours of meaningful experiences, powerful lessons, and mind-altering information.

The cost of the workshop is $120/Person and $219/Couple.

Workshop is June 9 from 9:00am-4:00pm (with a lunch break).

Will you please help us get the word out about this important event?

To reserve your spot, follow the directions on this simple Day of Recovery & Healing Registration Form. Click here for additional information.

Don’t miss this exciting new event! We hope to see you there.

 

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Recovery = Mastery (Exclusive Life After Lust Audiobook Clip & Event Announcements)

Life After Lust Announcements & Audiobook Clip

In this VLOG episode I shared an exclusive clip from the Mastery section in my upcoming Life After Lust audiobook. I hope you find this clip encouraging and empowering. Also, I shared two new events that I am co-leading in Sacramento, for couples and individuals seeking deeper recovery (see flyers below).

Click here for event details:

A Day of Healing and Recovery – June 9, 2018 (Life After Lust Workshop)

Phase 1 Intensive – April 27 & 28, 2018

Please share these events with anyone who would benefit. I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for future VLOG episodes.

Wishing all of you depth and hope in your recovery journey.

Forest

 

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

 

 

Forest Benedict Interviews Dr Jonice Webb on CEN & Addiction

Forest Benedict Interviews Kristen Jenson, Best-Selling Author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures-2

On Monday I had the privilege of interviewing Dr Jonice Webb, bestselling author of the Running On Empty books. I was thrilled to talk with Dr Webb, since her pioneering work on Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) has impacted me both professionally and personally. This unprecedented video interview is a followup to our written Psych Central interview in July called What No One Ever Told You About Sex Addiction. In this video we both share our unique expertise, providing a relevant conversation on CEN and addiction recovery. I highly recommend this interview to anyone wanting to understand the long-term impact of their childhood experiences and what recovery can look like. May this interview deepen our healing from early life hurts as we all grow toward recovery and wholeness.

Please note: After having the audio professionally cleaned up, some distracting mic noises remain in the video. For this reason, I am including a transcript of the interview below the video:

Forest Benedict: Hello, this is Forest Benedict, LMFT and author of Life After Lust and today I have the great privilege of interviewing Dr. Jonice Webb, author of Running On Empty and Running On Empty No More. And just to share a little bit about who she is, she has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and has been licensed to practice since 1991. She’s the author of the bestselling books Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and the newly released Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. Dr. Webb is a pioneer in the area of Childhood Emotional Neglect. She has been interviewed about the topic on NPR and her work has been cited or quoted in The Chicago Tribune, CNBC, Yahoo, Psychology Today, The Elephant Journal, and many other national and international media. She writes the popular Childhood Emotional Neglect blog on PsychCentral.com and is an expert partner and weekly blogger on YourTango.com. Dr. Webb trains Psychologists and Therapists on Childhood Emotional Neglect and how to heal it. She also created the groundbreaking Fuel Up For Life Childhood Emotional Neglect online recovery program. And so definitely grateful to have her here today. 

And just for those that are watching I wanted to explain a little bit of the backstory as to how she and I connected. And so it was actually when I was writing my book Life After Lust that I had quoted her and used some of her materials as a resource because I’ve definitely seen a connection between Childhood Emotional Neglect and sex addiction. So I reached out to her and just asked for her permission to use that as a resource in my book. And she allowed me to, which I was grateful for.

Dr Jonice Webb: I was happy to.  

Forest Benedict: I know, it was so great. I really appreciate that. And then I think the way it worked is I sent you a copy of the book and you liked it and invited me to do it’s kind of a dual interview on Psych Central “What No One Ever Told You About Sex Addiction.” So we talked more in-depth about this connection between CEN and sex addiction. And that was popular, it sounds like it was over 7000 views?

Dr Jonice Webb: Oh yeah, I think well beyond that.  

Forest Benedict: Oh, awesome. Which is amazing to me. I think there is some talk of this but not as specifically as we’ve talked about. And so that’s pretty amazing to see. And I’ve since added your books Running on Empty and Running On Empty No More into our LifeSTAR program here in Fresno and I’ve found them to be incredible resources for the people that I work with. And personally. You know I feel like I definitely relate to this on a personal level. So anyways that’s kind of how you and I connected. Anything you would add to that as far as how we’ve been able to connect and collaborate? 

Dr Jonice Webb: Well I think we have some overlap in our followings and the people who follow your work and people who follow my work. And it’s been really nice to introduce my people to your work and your people to mine. I think it’s just been a really positive collaboration all the way around for everybody. So, I’ve really appreciated it. 

Forest Benedict: Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s great too because looking at your book, obviously it doesn’t address sex addiction directly, but when we talk about the origins of sexual addiction, or probably really every addiction, that those that have experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect really are made vulnerable to all types of addictions. So in that sense it really is an essential topic to explore. And so I really appreciate you. 

Dr Jonice Webb: Thank you. Same here. 

Forest Benedict: So, just for those that maybe aren’t familiar with the term CEN or what that’s about, can you explain what that means? CEN?

Dr Jonice Webb: Absolutely. So, CEN means Childhood Emotional Neglect and it essentially happens to a lot of people who have no idea that they grew up with it. Basically, all it is is when you grow up in a household where feelings are not responded to enough, they’re not noticed, like as a child your feelings are not really treated as if they matter. And that can be because your parents are too busy, because they’re too self-focused, because they’re struggling themselves, or because this is how they were raised, which is actually the largest number of parents. But if you grow up with your feelings treated as if they’re kind of irrelevant or don’t matter, you grow up to treat your own feelings that way. Essentially, you have to wall off your feelings as a child. Your brain does this for you just as a coping mechanism. It walls off feelings so that your feelings will not bother your parents and your family and yourself. And then you grow up lacking this vital resource that helps us all have a happy life and a healthy life and thrive, and that is your emotions. You lack that contact with your emotions that you really need to have. And that’s what Childhood Emotional Neglect is.

Forest Benedict: I would imagine that that would lead to a lot of problems as an adult. As a child it may feel like this is normal. You know, this is the way we deal with feelings or don’t deal with feelings. What would be some of the affects of that into adulthood? 

Dr Jonice Webb: As you grow up without access to your feelings you can have this…the reason I named both of my books Running On Empty and Running On Empty No More is because of the empty sense that you grow up with. It’s a feeling like something is missing and you’re a little bit different than other people. You feel a little bit left out wherever you are and like other people have something that you don’t have, but you have no idea what it is. A lot of people struggle to even put what I just described into words, they just feel it. In addition to that because you’re lacking your feelings, you have trouble connecting with people in a rich and meaningful and deep way, the way that emotions…you know, emotions are what make connections and so when the emotions are not there enough, it’s hard to connect enough. So you can end up feeling kind of empty and alone and directionless or having trouble finding your way just because your emotions should be directing you, motivating you, and driving you and they’re walled off. So those are the main parts of it. 

Forest Benedict: Yeah, I found that a lot of people that I work with, people that deal with sexual addiction, they already have a sense that something’s wrong with them. They already have this deep sense of shame, that something’s broken within them, something’s uniquely flawed in them. And so it sounds like what you’re saying is that maybe some of this feeling could could be more than just due to the addiction and the choices they’ve made but really goes much earlier than that into childhood. 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yes. Absolutely. I think most people who develop addictions, many of them had very loving well-meaning parents, some of them didn’t, but many of them did. And it’s a puzzle, how did this person get this addiction? And it’s because this sort of emptiness inside of them is pulling for something to fill it. And you can fill it with food, you can fill it with shopping, you can fill it with gambling, you can fill it with time spent online, you can even fill it with Netflix. You can fill it with all kinds of things but it’s really just the essential lack of your emotions that you’re trying to make up for and cope with. 

Forest Benedict: So is it kind of like through doing those experiences, you feel something? Like people that use pornography addictively, it does make you feel things, right? Is that part of what it is? This experience, even though it’s unhealthy and addictive is actually helping me feel something? 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yes, absolutely. In Running On Empty I talked about one person who used skydiving to get a sense of a thrill or some kind of emotion. And people don’t even realize that they’re seeking a feeling, that they’re trying to fill themselves with, they’re trying to just feel something. 

Forest Benedict: That does make a lot of sense. When I think about the recovery process, I already conceptualize recovery from an attachment perspective and that the deficiencies in attachment and connection really do make people vulnerable to addiction, like we’re talking about. So, the language I use is “self-connection.” It sounds like these people that have CEN lack self connection and that it can really lead to disconnection with other people and themselves and lots of unhealthy types of behaviors to try and fill that lack of connection. 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yeah, exactly. And that was the reason I wrote my second book Running On Empty No More because it’s really about once you start to recognize that you have emotional neglect in your childhood you realize that you’re having trouble connecting with people and they’re having trouble connecting with you because they can’t connect in with your feelings and it keeps the relationship either one way or shallow or unrealized in its potential, I guess you could say.

Forest Benedict: And that’s why I’m so grateful that you wrote that second book because I think what happens to people when they read Running on Empty is they’re like “Wow, how does this play out?” Running On Empty is great and you could tell me if this is how you see it but I’d say Running On Empty is more of how do I heal and connect with myself and then Running On Empty No More is how does this apply to my relationship with my parents and my kids and my partner. Is that how you look at it?

Dr Jonice Webb: Yes, that’s 100% accurate.

Forest Benedict: Okay, cool. And we could feel so lost in how to do that. I mean obviously once we realize CEN is a problem we’re like, “Okay, how do I talk to my parents about this in a way that’s…I know you don’t intend for us to blame our parents…this could stir up quite a bit of anger towards our parents.

Dr Jonice Webb: Some people deserve blame though.

Forest Benedict: Can you share more about that?

Dr Jonice Webb: Parents who really are just bad parents because they either don’t care or they’re too self-involved. I’m really not against people blaming their parents when their parents deserve it. A lot of people who have CEN have it because their parents grew up this way too. Their parents grew up with their parents under responding to their emotions and so they are kind of blind to the emotion world and so they don’t see their children’s emotions just like they don’t see their own. Those parents I don’t think deserve blame. They’re just doing the best that they can with what they have. So, there’s two different groups there.

Forest Benedict: Yeah, that makes sense. And so your book guides people through how respond to parents in both of those scenarios? 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yeah. I talk about the three different kinds of parents, which are, first, the self-involved. The second group are struggling and those are people who are struggling financially or taking care of a family member or depressed or something like that but really trying to be a good parent but just don’t have the bandwidth. And the third group are the ones I just talked about, the parents who were neglected themselves as they were growing up. And depending on which of the three groups your parents fall in, you may or may not decide to try to talk with them about it. And of course the first group, the self-involved, are the hardest parents to try to talk with. These are all different kinds of considerations take into account.

Forest Benedict: Yeah, that makes sense. And these will be very difficult conversations to have for most of us, trying to talk about something that was never talked about. And so it’s so helpful to have your book and obviously some people will need more help than that, maybe be getting into therapy with a CEN therapist.

And what about talking to your kids or maybe you don’t talk about it but how does this relate to parents? I certainly am very aware of this as a parent. I really don’t want to do the same thing to my kids. I am already aware of this as a father and a therapist. How do I make emotion a topic of conversation and learn to respond to them in a way that won’t emotionally neglect them? 

Dr Jonice Webb: It depends on what age the kids are. There are certain things that you can apply to all age kids from the smallest to adult children even. Those things that you can do are to ask more questions. Initiate more contact, whether it’s just talking with them or calling them. And using more emotion words. That fits with every age group. You can do it with toddlers. You can do it with adults. Just keeping emotion words in mind and trying to use them more is a way to connect and start introducing that concept of feelings into the relationship.

Forest Benedict: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and it definitely feels like you would need to have done some of your own work first. How can you see your children’s emotions if you don’t even know what your own emotions are. Is that what you see, that people really do have to start with their own work, start naming their own emotions before they can start to see those in other people?

Dr Jonice Webb: Any parent should be aware of what they’re feeling and if a parent lacks that ability…the better you get at being in touch with yourself, the better you’re going to be in touch with your child. They just go hand in hand. 

Forest Benedict: I’m sure that would also apply to your partner. If you’re in a relationship with someone, the more you can connect with your own feelings and even name them, then you can communicate them better to your partner and also see their feelings and respond to them. The type of therapy that I would recommend to people would be EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy) or something that helps them learn how to attach, learn  how to deal with this scary and undefined realm of emotions. 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yes. Absolutely. And sometimes with couples I will give, because I see a lot of couples in my practice, I’ll give them a worksheet to take home where they guess what their partner is feeling at certain times during the day. When they advance enough they can start checking with their partner and see if they were right. As long as they’re both doing it, they can educate each other really quickly about what’s really going on and it can be incredibly connecting and helpful. 

Forest Benedict: That sounds really really helpful to have an exercise like that where you’re learning how to do this. Have you found that people with CEN have difficulty engaging in this process? Realizing, “Wow. I want to work on this. I realize that this is an issue.” It seems like there would be shame about it, like “Oh man, what’s wrong with me?” Or have you found that people are more taking ownership and deciding “Hey, I really do want to change this.” 

Dr Jonice Webb: I think it varies a lot. And part of it, if there are any therapist’s watching this, part of it is how you introduced it to your clients. But I think really important factors that help people want to deal with this are the fact that it’s not their fault, they didn’t choose emotional neglect. They need to stop blaming themselves. And also the fact that it’s not an illness, it’s not like a disease. It’s just a lack of connection with your emotions and a certain lack of skills, which are the emotions skills, and all of that can be fixed, so it’s completely fixable. This is why I wanted to write this second book because I wanted people to see exactly what it’s like when an individual or couple or family is healing from emotional neglect. Because when you can see how much you have to gain it’s very motivating.

Forest Benedict: It sounds like through self-connection and through connecting with others, the process brings you to life. Once you feel emotion and see it and begin to connect with people, it seems like that would be profound.

Dr Jonice Webb: It is. I liken it to watering a plant that has been without water, like not quite enough water its whole life, and then you start adding the right amount more and more. The more water it gets the more it just kind of fills out and becomes what it should be. And I’ve watched people go through that so many times it’s just amazing and wonderful. It’s energizing.

Forest Benedict: It must be very fulfilling work when you see people engage in the process and actually begin to enjoy their lives more. 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yeah. So do you talk with your clients about CEN and do you have problems getting them to connect to the idea and want to work on it? Because I would expect that you would. 

Forest Benedict: Well, I use your book. I let you explain it through your book. I give them questions as a way to engage with your book. But it’s definitely difficult. I don’t know if this is actually answering your question but I find that it ruins their childhood, or their view of their childhood, but in the best way. In a way that they need to see in order to get the healing that is to come. So again, I let you introduce it through your books and then I definitely engage them in the conversation. And then the processing of how this applies to them and then how how they can use this information to recover. 

I do think that the people that take this seriously and really see recovery from an attachment standpoint and realize, “Okay, recovery isn’t just me stopping the unhealthy behaviors but recovery is me connecting with myself, with my partner, with my Higher Power. That connection really is the opposite of addiction. That’s really what the healing is about. And that’s profound. That really is what recovery is about.” The clients that grab hold of that idea and understand it really do get the deepest healing. 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. 

Forest Benedict: Any therapist watching this, especially those dealing with people struggling with addiction, especially sexual addiction, should definitely use your books as a resource. And don’t you have training for therapists as well?

Dr Jonice Webb: Yeah, I have a training on GoodTherapy.org which people who are a member can watch for free. And that’s a two hour training and then in June I’m going to be doing a CEN recovery retreat at Kripalu Retreat Center in western Massachusetts. And that is for laypeople and therapists and it offers continuing education credits for social workers and psychologists. 

Forest Benedict: Okay, that’s great. I feel like I understand the concepts. But I also would benefit from the training as a therapist. I’m certain I would also benefit from doing my own work in this area because I definitely relate to that on a personal level as well. 

Dr Jonice Webb: I think a lot of therapists grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect and it led them to become therapists because they grew up feeling like what’s missing, something’s wrong. And then they started discovering what it was by going into the mental health field. And then they end up finding this CEN topic and saying “Yes! That’s it!” It fits together.  

Forest Benedict: Yeah. That makes sense. That’s awesome. And that would be so essential for a therapist to do their own work in this area. There’s definitely times when I feel overwhelmed by the client’s emotions and if I’m not really aware of my own emotions and able to connect with them and not feel like their emotions are bigger than me. That’s a pretty big deal for a therapist to have done their own work and to not be intimidated by the client’s emotions. 

Dr Jonice Webb: It is, yes, a very big deal. I agree. 

Forest Benedict: Great. Well, thank you so much for sharing. That gives a really good, broad perspective on what CEN is and what the healing can look like. Is there anything else that we didn’t touch on that you think people exploring this topic should really be aware of?  

Dr Jonice Webb: Yes. If someone is watching and wonders if Childhood Emotional Neglect could have happened to them, which is possible because it’s so unmemorable and so invisible. So it’s hard to know. I created a questionnaire called the CEN Questionnaire, and it’s on my website, that anyone can take. It’s free. You just sign up and it joins you to my newsletter. And also you can take the questionnaire for free at your convenience. And that’s at EmotionalNeglect.com.  

Forest Benedict: That sounds like a great resource. I’m sure I’ve taken that questionnaire. So if people are watching this and even if they don’t think this applies to them, it probably would be good to just explore and see if it might be a possibility that it’s part of their experience. So, you mentioned some of your resources. Where can people follow you or where can people read more of your work. Obviously we’ve mentioned both books but what else is there that you’re providing that people could be aware of? 

Dr Jonice Webb: Well, there’s a lot of information on my website EmotionalNeglect.com. There’s my Childhood Emotional Neglect blog on PsychCentral.com. Also, I’m a partner with YourTango.com so I also have a blog on that website as well. 

Forest Benedict: Okay. And you’re on Facebook as well, right? 

Dr Jonice Webb: Yep, I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, and my handle is @jwebbphd, and LinkedIn. I’m all over the internet.

Forest Benedict: One thing I’ve noticed is you create tons of content all the time. I do that too. I create a lot of content and so I appreciate that about you and I think you’re making a huge impact. I know that we often don’t see all of the results of the stuff that we do online and whatever else. But I hope you trust that you are making a huge impact in the world.

Dr Jonice Webb: Well, thank you. Thank you very much for saying that. I appreciate it. 

Forest Benedict: And I keep sharing your stuff all over the place. I will continue being a Superfan and continue to share with the world the things that you’re creating.

Dr Jonice Webb: Thank you so much.

Forest Benedict: It’s my pleasure. Anytime I find a resource that I think is helpful to clients and other people, it’s meaningful to me to get that out into the hands of the people that need it. Again, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise in this area. I look forward to sharing this with those that need it. It’s been great talking with you. It’s an honor. I wish you the best as you continue getting the word out about your books and the work that you’re doing.

Dr Jonice Webb: Thank you Forest. And I wish all the same for you.

Forest Benedict: Thank you.

Running On Empty Quote

Dr Webb’s resources:

Running On Empty

Running On Empty No More

EmotionalNeglect.com

CEN Questionnaire

CEN Programs

PsychCentral CEN Blog

YourTango.com

Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, & LinkedIn

Therapist Resources

Dr Webb’s Life After Lust review:

Jonice Webb LAL Quote

If you appreciated this interview, please share it with others. For future recovery resources, I invite you to follow me on this blog and on the platforms below.

Wishing you all healing and wholeness.

Forest

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

Lacy Alajna Bentley Interview: Female Sex, Porn, & Love Addiction Recovery

Benedict Bentley Interview Pic

Today I had the privilege of interviewing Lacy Alajna Bentley on female sex, porn, and love addiction recovery. We covered a lot of ground in this interview on relevant and timely topics including the roots of addiction, fantasy, shame, connection, abuse, empowerment, and Lacy’s story and upcoming book. This casual interview is a must-see for females battling sex, love, and pornography addiction (and those who love them). Also in this interview, some exciting news was made public about our collaboration on an upcoming project. I’m so grateful for Lacy’s time and willingness to share her heart so openly in this Life After Lust VLOG episode.

 

To check out Lacy’s website and resources, click here. I also recommend you take advantage of Lacy’s generous offer presented in the video.

Additional recovery resources for women include:

Staci Sprout – Women’s Sex-Love Addiction Resources (and her book)

Marnie Ferree – Suggested Reading (and her book)

Covenant Eyes – Resources for Women Who Struggle with Porn

Jessica Harris – Women & Pornography (and her book)

Forest Benedict – Life After Lust (and LifeSTAR groups)

 

Marnie Ferree

It is my hope that this interview encourages and equips all women struggling with sexual addiction. As stated in the above interview:

“You are not the only one, you are not crazy or beyond hope. Women need to keep reaching out for help. Keep looking, keep trying, because more people are becoming aware of the issue and more resources are becoming available. You’re worth the effort.”  – The Anonymous Female Recovering Addict Who Sponsored This VLOG Interview

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!

Surprised by the News: Men Fighting Toxic Masculinity

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 3.28.09 PM

Last Friday when I tuned into the Staci Sprout‘s Facebook Live show Sex Addiction in the News, I had no idea I would be part of the conversation. It was the third installment of the new show, which Staci created out of her passion to de-stigmatize the conversation around sex addiction so more people can find help (click here to watch).

In this week’s episode, Staci shared about an upcoming movie about female sex addiction, treatment models for teen porn addiction, the impact of growing up as a child of a sex addict, sex addiction in the LGBTQ community, sex addiction and pornography research, and the sex addiction books of the week.

To my surprise, Sprout shared about both my book and Andrew Bauman’s book (The Psychology of Porn), showing a clip from our recent VLOG interview on objectification, lust, and misogyny.

I am humbled by her description of recovering men like us:

I am honored to be viewed in such a light. If you’ve read Life After Lust, you’ll know I am passionate about fighting against sexual exploitation and objectification. I have championed this cause with messages such as this:

Andrew Bauman is another strong voice calling out the worth of women. In his book The Psychology of Porn, he writes:

Being recognized for these values increases my resolve to be continue being part of the solution, as our world heals from the wounds of toxic masculinity. I invite all men to join this cause, which is currently led by many amazing and strong women such as Staci Sprout.

Thank you Staci for starting such important discussions. You are bringing awareness and hope to a world saturated with sexual addiction.

I invite you the join hands with those of us fighting for human dignity and sexual recovery in The Anti-Pornography Movement Facebook Group. To learn from other leaders in the movement against sexual exploitation, check out the upcoming Coalition to End Sexual Exploitations Global Summit in April and the Lonestar Coalition Against Pornography Conference in September.

To join the weekly conversation, visit Staci Sprout’s Facebook page on Fridays at 5pm (PST).

I hope to see you there.

Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP, author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. Please follow Forest on the following platforms: NewsletterYoutubeBlogTwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagramPinterestGoogle+StumbleUpon, and SHARE this valuable content with others. Thank you!