You may be aware that SA Lifeline Foundation recently published the updated Understanding Pornography & Betrayal Trauma Manual. This publication is one of SA Lifeline’s proudest accomplishments.
The manual includes clear guidance from top experts in the field, and straight-forward explanations that bring clarity to complicated issues. It is also unique in that it offers counsel from a diversity of perspectives: top qualified sexual addiction therapists, scientists who have spent years devoting their research to the subject, spiritual leaders who have offered guidance, and individuals who are working recovery and understand from their own experience what it takes to recover.
This manual can serve as an invaluable resource for families, individuals, and anyone who finds themselves in a position working with those who are struggling with sexual behaviors or betrayal trauma.
Once a month, we would like to share a short excerpt from the manual here on our Women’s Blog and open it up for discussion. We hope you will find this helpful for your own information as well as another resource to educate others in your life who may need help understanding your situation.
This particular post focuses on how we can best connect with our children in regards to the sensitive issues of sexual behavior and pornography use.
We encourage you to attend our upcoming Parent Panel discussion on January 27th to learn more about the best things YOU can do to protect your children from the effects of pornography.
Section 6: WHY is it Important to Connect With Children?
Connections are Potent Preventative Medicine.
Fostering good connections with our children is potent preventative medicine for a host of ills. Making connections is simple and easy. For example, when we check in at the end of the day with our children, consider asking questions that reflect interest and love:
- What was the best part of your day?
- Was there anything that worried you, or caused you to be afraid?
- What was the hardest thing about today?
- What one thing are you most grateful for today?
Teach them to look for Heavenly Father’s hand in their life daily.
Start making simple connections each day with children when they are very young; don’t wait until they are teenagers. You can make it a habit, a consistent part of your lifestyle. Connect about anything–there are unlimited ways and topics. Pornography is one of a host of topics to regularly connect on.
Why are making such connections so important? Because the brief time of making a connection is also an opportunity to express emotions–even negative emotions. Once out in the open, parents can help children learn how to process those emotions and deal with them in healthy ways. This is a core principle, because nearly all addiction begins with someone’s inability to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way.
Teach children the principle that our feelings aren’t inherently good or bad, but rather how we deal with them can be labeled good or bad, meaning healthy or unhealthy. For example, don’t shame them for crying, saying “Real boys don’t cry;” don’t shame them for getting angry, saying “Real girls don’t get angry.” Seek to understand their hearts; help them to understand themselves; don’t avoid or smother the tough challenges; let those see the light of day, and deal with them together
In the old advertisement for FRAM oil filters, drivers were encouraged to replace inexpensive oil filters now instead of waiting too long when major engine repairs would be needed: “You can pay me now, or pay me later!” Likewise, parents can choose to expend a modest amount of effort to teach children now how to express and deal with negative emotions in a healthy way, or if they delay too long, that “cost of repair” may, in fact, become quite high.
How we deal with our emotions–whether positive, negative, or somewhere in between–is a central theme and ongoing challenge of mortal life. Negative emotions can include feeling humiliation, bossed around, discouragement, loneliness, being blamed, anger, disappointment, sorrow, fear, stress, grief, and dozens of others. When people don’t know how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way, no matter their age, they tend to look for ways to escape those feelings, or self-mediate the imbalance. But we know that this always backfires. They do something we call “acting out,” which are behaviors such as using drugs, alcohol, pornography and illicit sex, all of which causes dopamine to be released in the brain and giving themselves an immediate pleasure reward. The cycle of addiction quietly marches to the relentless beat of this drum.
A parent might appropriately share their own emotions and experiences, and talk through how they dealt with certain challenging situations or people. If parents never share such emotions, then children may not learn how to deal with the breadth of human emotions in a healthy way. So that is why we take time to make connections with our children. Then after such an exchange, sometimes praying for the child, next to them at the side of the bed, can be powerful in developing trust and testimony. Even when met with resistance, the parent should make it easy to be available to just listen.
It is important to understand that pornography is used to cope with or numb negative emotions. The user is using lust, causing dopamine to be released from the brain, as a way to escape from feelings they don’t know how to deal with in a healthy way.
One way to express this addictive cycle is with the following simple equation: A leads to B; B leads to C. A=negative emotions, B=lust, C=acting out. The key to understanding and healing addiction is to focus on the “A” part of the equation: negative emotions. For some of us, it may be quite a leap to accept that we have negative emotions, because we may be so accustomed to “dealing” with them through our own “addictions” such as ultra busy-ness, food, compulsive exercise, sleep, prescription drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy or obsessive behaviors.
Creating an atmosphere where negative emotions can be safely expressed and worked through without shame, is crucial to helping any type of user find real recovery. Without addressing the “A” part of the equation, we may just be relying on “white-knuckle sobriety,” where relapse tends to come all too soon.
Connection is the opposite of isolation. Isolation is a real enemy. Many things may cause isolation including feeling shame, anger, frustration and fear; being isolated often feeds unhealthy acting out behaviors; unhealthy acting out behaviors feeds addiction, and can become a vortex or downward spiral. But gladly, long experience has shown that working the 12 Steps is an effective path out of isolation–and thus the eventual path out of addiction.