Jeff is a quiet and contemplative 28 year old male, recently married
with no children.
During our initial meeting Jeff easily disclosed his personal life,
providing a wealth of background information regarding his education
Jeff works as an accountant with a moderate size firm and shared openly
his desire of making partner within a short time frame. Further
disclosure indicated that Jeff had served a Mormon mission overseas in
Southeast Asia where he had acquired a taste for cooking, learning
languages, and studying history through the art of war.
After returning stateside, Jeff met his wife who at the time was
attending night classes at a local community college.
Following our initial few sessions I noted that Jeff experienced
certain emotional fluctuations, at times appearing humble and gracious,
almost contemplative, followed by periods during which time he was more
effusive, fun loving, and gregarious.
Jeff openly shared that he felt comfortable with his friendships and
gave the impression of being happy, if not content. He discussed his
work in the church, which was satisfying and provided social
connections he might not otherwise have sought.
As time wore on, we established greater trust and Jeff began to
describe feelings of inadequacy, almost to the point of depression and
Once during a very emotionally intense session, Jeff openly cried and
described a brief period during his early adolescence where he felt his
life was filled with shame and guilt.
Using this point as a springboard, I soon discovered that Jeff has been
struggling with an addiction to pornography, something that has plagued
him for the better part of his life.
We examined this concern openly, with Jeff admitting he had been
introduced to pornography at an early age, sometime in early
adolescence around age eleven or twelve. He had continued viewing
pornographic literature through adulthood, though he thought his
marriage would dissuade him further.
As we deepened our commitment to understand his feelings, I discovered
that Jeff had experienced periods in his life where he went without
viewing pornography, although those moments seemed insignificant to him
at this point.
Jeff described viewing pornography as something that made him feel safe
and secure and brought him comfort in a “weird” sort of way.
During one session, he suggested that, “with pornography there were no
uncertainties, you always knew what you were going to get.” Upon
further exploration, Jeff described a recurrent cycle with “times when
I felt really in control and I was able to focus on other things like
work, financial issues, and my commitment to the church,” yet as he
further elucidated, “there were other times where I felt out of
control, like I could not stop.”
We discussed this “shame cycle,” noting how it felt like periods of
“acting in” and “acting out” followed by intense feelings of guilt and
As our relationship strengthened Jeff and I explored his need for
In a quiet space during one session I suggested to Jeff that his
addiction to pornography is “Not
About the Naked People,” but rather, “about his sense of self,
the mask of his outward bravado,” and most importantly, “his need to
cover the difficulties he experiences with interpersonal
We explored this point further, deepening our quest to understand
Jeff’s deep yearning for a sense of security in life. It was as Jeff
recognized, “a security that was somewhat elusive and perhaps outside
his reach.” Oftentimes addiction to pornography is more about relieving
emotional pain, stress, and shame. As we turned the corner on his
feelings, we came to terms with Jeff’s emotional downturns and
recognized the awkward and ineffective thinking that suggests addicts
are immoral people who must learn self-control.
When we found ourselves in the midst of a good working session, Jeff
would often speak about what it was like to feel shame and guilt
following his foray into pornography. He developed keener insight and
came to grasp the manner in which he undermined himself with feelings
of weakness and inadequacy.
After weeks of therapy coupled with active reading by Jeff, we began to
notice a change in his core beliefs.
In one particular session, Jeff intoned that he felt ready to break the
cycle, ready to confront his own “art of war” that would bring him to
the brink of winning the battle.
Ultimately, as time wore on, he gained confidence in himself;
understanding that it simply was not about the naked people. In fact,
his addiction was about a much deeper emotional issue that had thrown
chains around his life. In turn, we both came to understand that
therapy provided a set of keys to open these chains, chains that had up
until this point in his life held him hostage in his own emotional