Over the past decade of working with men who struggle with unwanted sexual behavior one thing that has stood out to me is their common struggle with identity.
I’m talking about…
- The pastor who struggles with being the leader his church can look to in all matters of guidance.
- The dad who struggles with being the example of sexual integrity his kids can look up to.
- The husband who struggles with being the Teflon “man of God” his wife can lean on.
- The son who struggles with living up to the aspirations of his parents.
Identity is key for everyone and when we struggle with it, the repercussions can be felt in all areas of our lives. And yes, one of those areas is in our unwanted sexual behaviors or other forms of medication we chase to shut out the pain and anxiety of that struggle.
Understand that most of us have grown up in systems, families, and communities that assigned us roles and with those roles certain expectations.
These roles weren’t given to us because we asked for them, but because people decided to assign them for their (often) own selfish reasons.
The boy who is seen as the family star athlete needs to be so his father can live out his own unrealized fantasies vicariously through his son’s accomplishments.
The charismatic and unwavering confident pastor better be that way 24/7 so his congregation can lift him up as the idol they can all follow and aspire to be like.
The quite sensitive man who struggles secretly with same sex attraction must exude overt masculinity and keep those struggles quiet so as not to upset the proverbial family apple cart of those who just would never understand.
And the take charge overachieving honor student better keep getting those grades and accolades so his parents always have something to brag about to their friends.
The problem is of course twofold.
First, we know that with these roles comes attached a significant amount of conditional love and affirmation we all desperately crave.
Second, we recognize that there is no way we can meet the demands of these roles because they are not true of who we really are and so ultimately we will let people down and lose the affection and attention we desire.
How then do we maintain the false identity we’ve adopted throughout our lives when that identity is constantly threatened?
This is the big question we carry around that serves as a constant source of tension and anxiety creating a pain we rather not face and have to deal with.
We seek an escape, and for many that escape is porn and sex.
One of my favorite authors, Mark Manson puts it this way… “The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.”
- The reality of who we really are threatens our identity.
- The pressure of life and unfulfilled expectations threatens our identity.
- The inability to meet every demand thrust upon us threatens our identity.
- The fear of lost love and acceptance threatens our identity.
And so we avoid these realities by escaping into fantasy worlds created for us online and in our minds.
We escape, so we can continue with our facades and stay connected to the unhealthy systems and communities we’ve relied on to feel normal and accepted.
Here’s the crazy thing though.
As we continue to spiral down the rabbit hole of our unwanted sexual behaviors the tension we feel and need to medicate increases as our choices continually remind us of how fraudulent our lives really are.
It’s the classic vicious cycle and one that is extremely hard to escape from.
Here’s what we need to understand.
If you want to find freedom from porn and unwanted sexual behavior you need to be brave enough to detach yourself from those false identities you’ve clung to and be willing to be seen for the person you truly are.
A person with flaws and pain.
A person who will fail from time to time.
A person who needs unconditional love, not conditional acceptance.
And finally, a person who is far from perfect but authentic enough to own that fact.
Because we need others to love us on our terms and not theirs. We need healthy challenging and encouragement from others who are willing to see us for the flawed authentic beings we truly are.
Stop living a lie.
Stop chasing a false identity.
Start embracing the real you and find others who are willing to do the same.Read More