Date Rape

I had the first interview with Jaycee Lee Dugard on my DVR.  I watched it last night and it prompted me to write a post about a topic I see too often in my office.  Jaycee wasn’t on a date when she was raped, but the story made me think of several of my clients from the past who have been date raped.  Jaycee’s story is incredible and a lot of things she said in her interview are things I say to my students when they have been through a traumatic event such as rape.  I can’t imagine being Jaycee’s counselor.  I’ve never counseled someone who has undergone so much trauma over such a long period of time.  She stated in the interview that she wanted to tell her story to help other survivors of sexual abuse.  I know the statistics are high for women who have been sexually assaulted.  In college the numbers go up.  Date rape is more common than people realize because it goes unreported most of the time.

I want to point out some of the things that Jaycee said in her interview in hopes that it may help those of you out there reading this who have survived some type of sexual abuse.  Obviously, Jaycee’s story is an extreme one which is why it so amazing that she can speak about what happened to her at all.  If you are not aware, she was kidnapped at age 11 and held prisoner in Phillip Garrido’s back yard for 18 years.  Jaycee was raped repeatedly for several years and had two children  by Garrido in her teenage years.  She stated in her interview that she is not angry and doesn’t feel rage toward Phillip or his wife, Nancy.  She stated that she is unwilling to give him any more of her than he has already taken.  I can’t imagine how hard that is for her to not feel anger.  Although, I agree, it only means he wins if she continues to be angry.  Anger and rage take a lot of energy.  That energy can be put to better use because it isn’t hurting the person you want it to hurt.  Students always ask me how to let go of the anger.  The answer isn’t easy or simple.  It is a matter of refocusing your thoughts and feelings.  Those feelings of anger and rage will come unexpectedly and threaten to take over.  When that happens it is a matter of distracting yourself and focusing on the blessings you do have in this life.  I know Jaycee focused on her mother in those dark times.  She also looked at the moon and remembered the pine cone she last touched before she was taken which were symbols of home.  She stated today she focuses on her daughters and being back home.  I believe she is also grateful just to be alive.

I also tell students to let yourself grieve.  This person has taken a lot from you.  They’ve taken your trust in people, your innocence, and sometimes your virginity.  There isn’t a way to get some of those things back.  It is okay to cry when you need to.  It is healthy to recognize the loss, and it will take some time to adjust.  Most students tell me they just want to forget it happened.  I will tell you from my experience that isn’t possible.  I recommend telling your story.  I see people who have locked this secret in their heart for years.  They haven’t told anyone or maybe only confided in one other person.  It can consume your thoughts if you’ve been too afraid or ashamed to share.  I think it was healing for Jaycee to write down her story and then talk about it in an interview with Diane Sawyer.  I can’t explain the science behind why talking about the trauma is healing.  I just know it seems to help those who do open up.  Some people tell me it is validating that someone hears them and believes them.  It takes away some of the burden and helps them to realize it wasn’t their fault.  Some people are better at communicating their feelings through journals, music or art.  Any way that you can let some of those emotions out is helpful.  I think the best part about telling your story is you may be able to help someone else.

Jaycee mentions in her interview that she felt she was keeping Philip Garrido from hurting other little girls.  If she stayed with him he wouldn’t have to seek out other girls to rape.  This is what prompts many women to report their rape.  Even though it is extremely difficult, in their mind it is worth it because it may save someone else.  I know a lot of rape survivors who go on and counsel others going though the same thing.  By reaching out to someone else, you can get outside of your own pain.  It helps the brain to feel that at least something good is coming out of this horrible thing that happened.  We all know that life isn’t fair.  Bad things happen to good people.  I can ask why all I want, but the reality is that it could happen to anyone.  Jaycee thought this man was only going to ask her for directions.  She didn’t sense any danger when she was suddenly kidnapped.  In a date rape situation this happens all the time.  You trust the person you are with.  You don’t sense the danger.  You believe this person will listen if you say no or get the hint by your body language that you want to stop.  Unfortunately, there are many people out there only concerned about what they want and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

If you are blaming yourself for being raped, please stop.  It is not your fault.  Your mind is going to play tricks on you.  We all want to feel in control.  Our brains tell us, “if only” all day long.  It is not your fault that this person chose to violate you.  In Jaycee’s interview she says it is his shame, not hers.  He is the one with the problem, not her.  She was an innocent victim who survived and is now thriving.  She told her story so other victims could learn to feel the same way.  I plan to buy and read her book, “A Stolen Life: A Memoir” that comes out today.  I believe it may be helpful to many survivors of sexual abuse.  I encourage all those out there who have survived being raped to continue to work on healing yourself and I hope in time you are able to find peace.

Pain, Pain Go Away!!

Sometimes pain is like rain, it just keeps on coming…when it rains, it pours!  Our lives can be like this at times.  Sometimes we will have a drought with no pain for awhile.  It lulls us into complacency and denial.  We think life is great and we’ve finally found a way to be happy.  Then the forecast changes and the outlook sucks for an undetermined amount of time.

Why is life so hard?  I’ve asked myself this question many times.  It is hard for me to comprehend why we have to go through what we go through.  I have to admit, some of us will go through more than others.  Fair?  Nope.  Reality?  Yep.  I’ve asked God many times why I’m facing certain challenges or forced to wait so long for something I want.  The best answer I’ve been able to find is that it usually does make me stronger, wiser, and better able to relate to other people who are in pain.  I can look back at my painful memories and it helps me to know how to encourage other people through their pain.

As a counselor, I sometimes feel guilty if I haven’t had a certain experience, yet I’m trying to help someone else through it.  Thank God I don’t have to experience everything to be an effective counselor.   A good friend of mine just had a baby.  A couple weeks after he was born the doctor heard a heart murmur.  A routine check-up quickly became an ongoing nightmare of tests and surgery with many  more tests and surgeries to come in the future.  They found that her son had a hole in his heart and his aorta was not functioning properly.  Being in the hospital watching your child suffer and go through so much when they are so small and vulnerable is like being in hell.  I don’t have to be a mother to empathize with and support my friend.  You realize who your real friends are when tragedy strikes.

It is hard to be there for others while they are going through pain, but that is usually when people need their friends most.  There isn’t anything I can say that will make my friend’s son better, but just knowing that I care and can give her a hug may help her get through those dark moments.  It may also be helpful for me to run errands or make a meal for her while she is so focused on her son right now.  There are plenty of things people can do for others while they are in pain, even if you don’t really know what its like to feel their pain.

However, I do realize now that my own painful experiences have made me a more compassionate and empathetic person.  I believe this is why 12 step programs are so effective to helping people stop addictive behaviors.  Someone is there who understands the pain of recovering from addiction.  They can help guide others through it.  The person helping also may begin to feel a sense of purpose for the pain they had to go through.  Pain can be a  powerful connection for people.  Misery does love company.  Many great songs, poems, books, plays, movies and art are written and created out of extreme places of pain.  They become so popular because so many people can relate in some way to another persons pain.  It helps me to process my pain by listening to music or reading a book.  It seems wrong, but it helps me to know I’m not the only one who wins the bad lotteries in life.

The best way to handle pain is to try to stay balanced.  There is a time to feel to feel sorry for yourself, but there is also a time to pick your head up and keep moving forward.  Its okay to be sad and to cry.  Its also okay to have a good time and pretend things are okay for a few hours or a day.  Don’t sit in pain too long and don’t avoid pain for too long either.  Neither of those things is good to do for a prolonged period of time.  It is also okay to depend on others.  It is humbling to ask for help, but sometimes this is the best thing for us.  Pain has a way of cutting through what you want and forcing you to see what you need.  Letting someone else take over can be a valuable lesson that again helps us to be more thankful.  I know now that lots of beautiful things can come out of painful experiences.  Like a rainbow forms when the sun finally peaks back out after a storm.  If you are going through extreme pain now, hopefully someday soon you will be in a better place.  Maybe you will be able to see the reason for all the pain in time.  Until then, deal with it in the best way you know how and know that you aren’t alone.  Life does have its ups and downs.  I do believe what has gone down, eventually will go back up!

Addicted to Love

I’m just kidding right?  Are people actually addicted to love?  Well…yes, but it’s complicated.  “A love addict is someone who chooses people to love who cannot or will not love them back”, from the book “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody.  This book does a great job explaining what love addiction is and how to recover from it.  I will be summarizing some of the concepts Pia Mellody presents in her book.

Love Addicts are dealing with two different fears.  The first one is very obvious, the fear of being abandoned or left.  This causes them to hold onto the relationship with an iron grip.  The unconscious fear that is also involved is the fear of real intimacy.  When Love Addicts reach a certain level of closeness, they panic and will do something to create distance in the relationship.  This is often because in childhood they were abandoned in some way and never reached a level of closeness with a caregiver.

This leads to a dilemma in relationships.  Love Addicts crave closeness but are unable to tolerate healthy intimacy.  This leads them to often unconsciously choose a partner that is unable to be intimate with them.  This person is called a Love Avoidant.

A Love Avoidant is the opposite of a Love Addict in their fears.  A Love Avoidant is afraid of intimacy.  Their unconscious fear is abandonment.  This is often because a Love Avoidant grew up in a home where they were enmeshed with a caregiver.  This means the caregiver sucked the emotional energy from them instead of giving to them.  They also feel abandoned because they were too busy taking care of the parent and no one was there to take care of them.  They now are afraid of getting too close to someone because they might lose control but yet still want to feel loved.

You can see why there is an attraction to each other.  This is how the cycle works.  In this scenario the Love Addict will be female, the Love Avoidant will be male.

1.  The Love Addict enters the relationship because she is attracted to the seduction and apparent “power”  of the Love Avoidant.  The Love Avoidant enters the relationship because he will feel guilty if he says no.

2.  The Love Addict feels high as the fantasy of finding “the one” is triggered.  She feels relief from the pain of loneliness, emptiness, and not mattering to her partner.  The Love Avoidant attempts to be relational behind a wall of seduction to avoid feeling vulnerable and to make the partner feel loved and special.

3.  The Love Addict shows more neediness and denies reality of the Love Avoidant’s walls.  The Love Avoidant feels engulfed anyway and puts up a wall of resentment or anger and becomes critical of his partner.

4.  The Love Addict develops awareness of her partner’s walls and behavior outside the relationship and her denial crumbles.  The Love Avoidant uses resentment or the sense of being a victim to gain the emotional distance he needs from his partner.

5.  The Love Addict enters withdrawal and obsesses about how to get the Love Avoidant to return or how to get even.  The Love Avoidant continues to seek intensity outside the relationship in order to feel “alive” and have a life of his own.

6.  The Love Addict compulsively acts out obsessive plans to get her partner to return.  If that doesn’t work she will try to leave.  The Love Avoidant returns to the relationship out of guilt or out of fear of being left.

7.  The cycle repeats for both sides.

A Love Addict who feels the seductive pursuit of the Love Avoidant experiences an emotional “high”.  When the Love Addict gets too close it creates fear in the Love Avoidant.  When he bolts and runs,  it creates fear in the Love Addict.  Then the Love Addict chases the Love Avoidant out of fear the Love Avoidant starts to feel powerful or in control.  This may cause him to start pursuing the Love Addict again.  If the Love Addict stops chasing this will trigger fear in the Love Avoidant and he will return at this point.  The moment the one being chased turns and they’re facing each other, they’re both experiencing positive energy at the same time.  It is what keeps them together.  As the relationship continues, that time of mutual positive energy gets shorter and shorter until it’s reduced to a split second before they’re back to fighting again and creating negative energy.

Even though a lot of people consider not being able to leave someone as normal or being in love, it is actually a very dysfunctional form of obsession.   Many people feel the right partner will complete a missing part of them, finally making them feel whole.  This is a fantasy.  You have to learn to love, protect, and care for yourself.  You can realize your own sense of self-worth and feel complete on your own.  A healthy relationship is not based on needing someone and feeling worthy only because this person “loves” you.  A healthy relationship allows each person to nurture the other in a way that promotes their personal growth and taking responsibility for themselves to increase their self-esteem.  When you love yourself  and increase your self-confidence it will drive out the fears that cause unhealthy patterns.  I will write more in another post about how to work on self love.

If this post described you, I recommend reading “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody for more information.

When Sex becomes Addiction

I’ve read that addiction is a state of mind that permeates one’s life.  It’s like you are running frantically to stay one step ahead of fearful feelings.  Like someone scurrying through life to avoid getting drenched by a dark rain cloud that is in constant pursuit.  To start recovery means to stop running, sit still, and get drenched in the rain.

An addict does everything possible to avoid pain.  Addictions are a way to fill an emptiness or a hole that is left from feeling unloved.  Sex becomes a way to connect to someone.  At first it seems like a perfect way to fill the void.  A lot of addicts at first have a fantasy that if they just meet the right person all their problems will just go away.  Usually the problems compound in relationships.  Sex addicts feel ashamed and therefore put up a wall between themselves and others.  They continue to feel alone even in the most intimate situations with other people.  They may keep pursuing different sexual partners to find that fulfillment but keep coming up empty.  Even though they want to stop having meaningless sexual encounters, the compulsion to continue the behavior is very strong.

Many sex addicts also use alcohol and drugs  as part of the sexual ritual.  Alcohol and drugs can give a sex addict courage to meet their next sexual conquest, remove inhibitions or heighten romantic delusions.  For many sex addicts, sex without drugs or alcohol is almost impossible.  It helps them relax and not really think about what they are doing.  Other sex addicts use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain afterward when the reality of the sexual encounter hits them.

Addiction to sex is much deeper than really loving to have sex.  Addiction produces shameful feelings.  If you engage in something you love you usually feel really good afterward.   Sex addicts have the same characteristics as other addicts.  They have tried to stop their behavior and can’t.  They have withdrawal symptoms when they don’t engage in their addictive ritual.  They feel very shameful about their actions.  It is negatively affecting their work, school, or social life.   Here are some questions to think about if you are concerned you may be a sex addict.

Do you feel compelled to have frequent sex either with a partner or by masturbating?

Are you confused by your sexual behavior?

Do your sexual fantasies or obsessions about romantic involvements interfere with your concentration or your abilities?

Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?

Has your sexual behavior ever made you feel hopeless or suicidal?

Do sex and romance usually involve alcohol, drugs, or compulsive eating or not eating?

Do you have trouble just being friends with men or women because you think about being sexual with them?

Do you usually feel remorse or shame after having a sexual encounter?

Do you feel anxious, depressed or irritable when you try to stop your sexual behaviors?

If you answered yes to several or all of these questions you may want to learn more about sex addiction.   The websites below have a lot of useful information.  There is no cure from sex addiction.  A person who is no longer engaging in their addiction is in recovery.  Recovery is the process of standing in the rain and dealing with pain.   Without help many people are “white knuckling” their recovery.  Facing the pain alone without the guidance of how to get through it is an almost impossible task.  There are counselors specifically trained in sex addiction that can guide you through the beginning of the recovery process if you feel you are struggling with this type of addiction.

Am I a sex addict?

I get asked this question sometimes.   Many people love sex and think about it a lot, but does that make you a sex addict?  The answer is most likely, no.  Its a complicated topic.  I found in my training that addiction goes way beyond enjoying something and thinking about it all the time.  So here is a little bit of what I learned in my training in case you are wondering…am I a sex addict?

The definition of dependence is this:

1. Tolerance:  You need to engage in more sexual activities or engage in different types of sex to obtain the same desired effect.

2. Withdrawal:  You feel very irritable, anxious, and upset if you stop having sex as often as before.

3.  There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down on sexual activities.

4. A great deal of time is spent thinking or engaging in activities to meet sexual needs.

5.  Important occupational, recreational, and social activities are given up to pursue sexual activities.

There is a definite loss of control.  Many addicts cope with stress by using sex to relieve tension.  They have a determination to find ways to maximize sexual behavior opportunities. They usually have concerns or guilt about sexual behavior.  They have feelings of unworthiness because of their sexual behaviors.  They vacillate between feelings of exhilaration in middle of the sexual act to feelings of degradation after the act is over.  The sexual behavior usually is increasing in intensity and frequency.  There is definitely a pattern and usually a ritual surrounding the addiction.  Example, if an addict always use a bar to find partners, the bar is going to become part of the ritual.  The addict won’t have the same effect if they find someone while walking around in Wal-Mart.

Also many times core beliefs are involved as well.  Many addicts have this belief system:

1.  Believe they are basically a bad, unworthy person.

2.  Believe no one could love them as they are.

3.  Believe their needs will never be met if they have to depend on others.

4.  Sex is their most important need.

These definitions are simplified.  When I first started studying sex addiction I had no idea of knowing how complex it is.  Like an eating disorder it is a process addiction and addicts have to learn how to live in moderation.  Unfortunately most sex addicts also experience huge amounts of shame and also usually have a lot of abuse in their childhoods.  Gaining recovery isn’t easy.

I want to assure most people out there that they most likely don’t have an addiction.  If you think this does describe you, please seek some professional help.  There are counselors trained in sex addiction.  Visit this website for information:

Most of the information I have given here came from my training with Dr. Patrick Carnes.  His books on this subject are listed on my book page.

I will be posting more about sex addiction along with internet porn addiction in future blogs.  I hope to get more information out there to help others.