By Eddie Capparucci, Ph.D., LPC, C-CSAS
If you are a follower of my work, you know I believe the road to recovery from addiction goes through our childhood. I developed this conclusion based on three factors that face many who struggle with sex and porn addiction.
- Unresolved childhood pain points that still haunt them today
- An inability to sit and process emotional discomfort
- Being emotional undeveloped
Harold had a childhood many would consider normal. His parents did not divorce. His siblings did not pick on him. And he got along with most peers during his school years. However, Harold faced numerous challenges that weighed heavily upon him in his young life.
While his parents were caring and kind, they could not handle emotions and discouraged their children from sharing or expressing them. When he was 11, Harold’s dog was struck and killed by a car in front of his house. Kneeling before his beloved pet weeping, his parents remained standing on the front porch, and their only words of comfort were, “we’re sorry.” After burying his dog in the backyard alone, he went to his room and cried for a time before turning to his computer and watching porn. Later, there was a knock on the door, and his mother poked in her head, asking him, “do you want anything for dinner?” No additional words were ever spoken about the death of Harold’s four-legged friend.
Just as in the past, once again Harold’s parents had missed a perfect opportunity to teach the young boy how to deal with the pain he was experiencing. Instead, he learned to escape the emotional discomfort by soothing himself with porn. And today, as a 44-year-old married father of three, he still turns to porn when he finds himself dealing with any form of emotional distress. Over the years, he has worked with numerous counselors and attended various support groups but always quits. He is not committed to changing.
There were numerous episodes like this in Harold’s life where he felt emotions such as rejection, isolation, inadequacy, fear, weak, and cheated. In all these circumstances, Harold was never provided the guidance and nurturing to help him deal with these losses healthily. Instead, he ignored his pain by engaging in comforting behaviors such as porn and food.
To make manners worse, Harold was also not taught the skills to develop healthy emotional relationships. A parent’s investment during early developmental years is critical in shaping a child’s life as an adult. This is a time when a character foundation is established that determines whether an individual will create and nurture healthy relationships or struggle to bond with others. However, Harold’s parents knew nothing about nurturing a child’s emotional self. They, too, had not been taught those skills, continuing a generational pattern of emotional avoidance.
Harold missed essential building blocks that would have resulted in him being able to emotionally bond with others – connection, attunement, emotional regulation, trust, autonomy, naming emotions, and love-sexuality. This void left him lacking confidence when it came to creating relationships or being vulnerable. He tended to be withdrawn and aloof. Add to this the rejection he experienced by girls through grade and high school, and you have an individual who maintains emotional comfort by holding back his feelings.
Today, Harold still leans on the coping strategy of keeping his emotions at bay by escaping into pornography and food when distress appears. His wife, Ann, who hungers for connection with her husband, out of desperation, had an emotional affair several years ago. Her infidelity only exasperated Harold’s feelings of inadequacy and pushed him further into his isolation shell.
Despite counseling, Harold and his wife still struggle to create a relationship centered on emotional intimacy. It has been a difficult road as Harold continues to battle his unresolved childhood pain points, inability to sit with emotional discomfort, and lack of emotional development.
Instead, he allows his Inner Child to continue to run the show by refusing to deal with emotional distress and using an old childhood coping strategy of escaping through porn and food. Harold’s battle will continue until he commits to learning how to effectively manage his Inner Child.
Eddie Capparucci, Ph.D., LPC, C-CSAS, specializes in treating Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB). He is the creator of the Inner Child Model, a trauma-based approach for treating PSBs. He is the author of Going Deeper: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction and Why Men Struggle to Love: Overcoming Relational Blind Spots. Visit his website at www.innerchild-sexaddiction.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.