Today is our final blog in our series on faulty core beliefs. Over this blog series we’ve looked at the faulty core beliefs that can sabotage recovery from porn addiction and sex addiction. We’ve explored the most common faulty beliefs that tell us we don’t need to change, we don’t want to change and we can’t change. We’ve looked at how these faulty beliefs almost always have their roots in childhood, but over the years we unconsciously privilege other situations that reinforce our faulty beliefs. And this means that over time they can become part of our identity. For example, we don’t just think “I can’t give up this addiction because I have no will-power” – we have a list of other things we’ve failed to succeed in to back up our belief. And we reinforce it even further by telling ourselves “I’m a weak person – it’s my identity”. But faulty core beliefs are lies. They’re messages we’ve picked up over many years that can be rewritten.
Today we’re going to look at how you do that. We’re going to start with general core beliefs and then we’ll move onto shame based beliefs.
Beating porn addiction
The first thing you need to do is identify them. What are the negative messages that you tell yourself? If you were to get a piece of paper and write at the top “I am…” what list of words would you write underneath?
Once you’ve identified those beliefs, you need to dig into where they came from. “Who says that I’m stupid, that I’ll give up? that I’m different? – who gave me those messages? Where did they begin? Was it a parent? Or teachers? Or a sibling? Or bullies in the playground?”
Draw a column next to the list of words you previously wrote and write down who said it and when.
Now you’re going to dig a little deeper into the context of the comments. In other words, why they said it. What did they exactly mean by that? When they said, stupid, or give up, or different – what were they actually referring to? What was the context at the time? Were they comparing you to someone else? Or some external standard that was relevant of the time. Think also about what the agenda might have been? Was it actually much more about them, than about you? For example, you might write something like “I was called stupid because I didn’t like maths at school and my mum, who was an accountant, thought it was really important because she wanted me to be like her”. Make some notes of this because it may help you to see that the reasons they had were almost certainly ones you don’t agree with and are not relevant in any way today.
Finally you’re going to re-write it. Look at the negative belief and then rewrite it as a positive – the opposite. Once you’ve done that you can write down all the times when this was true. In other words, write down all the evidence that proves you’re intelligent, committed, hard-working, caring and so on. What you’re doing here is proving that the old faulty belief can’t possibly be a globally accepted fact because you have evidence to the contrary. Remember – faulty core beliefs are lies and that will be much easier to believe when you can ‘prove’ they’re wrong.
Beating shame to overcome sex addiction
So how do we begin to overcome shame. As we said in our last blog, shame is a universal emotion, but it’s one that’s especially toxic and damaging to addiction recovery because it tells you that you don’t deserve a better life. Here are 4 things you can do to beat shame:
- Identify it. First you have to identify what you’re feeling as shame. Recognise it for what it is. It is shame that creates the feelings, they are not truths in themselves. In other words you’re not bad or broken, or defective – you’re experiencing shame. And it is shame that is telling you those things. And remember, shame is a universal emotion. You’re not alone, or defective for feeling shame. It’s as universal as sadness and joy. But a lot more destructive. And unlike sadness and joy, shame thrives in secrecy. The more we keep it to ourselves, the more it multiplies.
- Share it. Share your feelings with a trusted friend or family member, or with a therapist or counsellor. Once you start talking about feelings of shame you’ll find others start sharing their shame experiences too. And research has shown that as you share it, it dissipates.
- Find the source. Like we were saying earlier about other faulty core beliefs, it’s really helpful to identify where the feelings came from. How they began. Who gave you those shame messages or where and when did you first experience it. And once identified, like other faulty beliefs, was there a context back then that simply isn’t true today?
- Re-write it. Again, this is like other faulty beliefs but it’s often harder with shame ones. Start by rewriting it as a positive: “I am lovable. I am worthy. I am reliable. I am a good person. I am a valuable human being”. It might be hard to do this, but have a go.
Regrettably it’s much harder to overcome and re-write a shame based core belief than any of the others. And that’s because we are far more likely to believe that they’re true. And, to a certain extent, perhaps they are. Or rather, they’re partly true.
The shame of compulsive sexual behaviours
In our last blog on how shame fuels addiction, I was saying how the majority of people who experience shame as a result of sex or porn addiction, don’t feel it because of the behaviours per-se, but because of the consequences of those behaviours. So you may be reading this thinking – “but I am a bad person because what I did hurt others that I care about”. And If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s just found out about your addiction; someone who’s feeling hurt, angry and betrayed, they may be calling you a whole load of names right now that are fuelling your shame. In your mind, your behaviour may have proved all those shame messages you’ve tried to run from for many years.
In these situations it’s very difficult to simply ‘re-write’ those messages into something positive, but what you can do is re-frame the messages from shame to guilt. In other words, you find the place where you can say “I did something bad, but I’m not a bad person”. Guilt is about recognising our faults and weaknesses and it can be a positive incentive to change. Guilt is about what we do and we can change what we do. Shame is about who we are and that can rob us of the power to change. So letting go of shame is not about letting yourself off the hook, it’s about changing the message to something you can do something about.