Porn Addict as an Identity—is it Helpful?

Shoes in the sand and shadow

The way we think about ourselves as people is incredibly complex. We can certainly harm, confuse or liberate ourselves with the way we are using labels and identifiers. The same is true for a label or identity of “porn addict”. Is this a helpful term? Potentially—for some it fosters a desire to change, yet for others it creates hopelessness.

Understanding Identity

So let’s start by understanding identity. Fearson suggests there are two key ways to understand identity:

“An “identity” refers simply to a social category, a set of persons marked by a label and distinguished by rules deciding membership and (alleged) characteristic features or attributes. In the second sense of personal identity, an identity is some distinguishing characteristic (or characteristics) that a person takes a special pride in or views as socially consequential but more-or-less unchangeable.”Woman with red hair

We can see that if you used the first (social) definition of identity, then “porn addict” as an identity could help you fit into a recovery program and find comrades in the fight.

However, the second (personal) definition of identity for a “porn addict” assumes a set, unchanging list of attributes! This is potentially very dangerous for someone who wishes to bring about change in his or her life.

Our identity is based on perceived, sensed, and attributed data points from others and society in our lives. Ultimately what we understand to be our identity will point to a set of other important constructs that will determine how we will live in the light of a porn addiction.

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For example, schemas (automatically assumed patterns), beliefs about the self, values that are held, the big story we tell to ourselves, and the goals we move towards as a result.

If you hold schemas (patterns in your mind) that suggest that addiction isn’t curable and only gets worse, you are far less likely to put effort into changing it. If you have a schema that tells you that people will support and comfort you when you are in need, then identifying as an addict might actually help you!

What are the patterns you assume to be true about addiction, support, change and porn use? If you write them down you may surprise yourself.

Next, what do you believe about yourself? Our experiences shape the beliefs we keep in relation to ourselves. If we were neglected, we may not think it matters much what we want (recovery?).

If we have been repeatedly shamed, we may not be able to tolerate an identity label such as “porn addict”. Ask yourself, “What do I truly believe about my worth, needs, opportunities, and options?” Write your answers down.

A Look at Values

A further aspect to identity is your values. Guiding our lives from the background, our values dictate what we gravitate towards. Values can often be in conflict with our beliefs due to painful experiences in our lives.

If we hold values of honesty, integrity, stability then “porn addict” could propel us towards change. If we value self-service, satisfaction and hedonism, then “porn addict” could actually fit our values and make change harder!

As people we weave these different strands into a grand narrative—an over arching story for our lives.  Stories range from “to be great and accomplished”, to “being free to do what I like”, to “serving others and living for God”, to “there is no rhyme or reason—do what I like, when I like.” What is your grand narrative? How would you put into words a summation of your schemas, beliefs, and values?

Positive Internal Dialogue

Your internal dialogue will accord with all of the above. We uniquely think and speak to ourselves in ways that can reinforce an identity, or challenge it. So is an identity that includes “porn addict” helpful to you? Maybe. What is your conclusion from the discussion above? Does it inspire change for you, or promote apathy and self-disgust?

Man in showerTo start making changes to your self-talk and identity it is very helpful to set goals. Set goals for your life in general, porn addiction recovery, relationships and more. Making these goals practical will help you follow through and harness the power of self-neuroplasticity.

This is the process of using intentional effort and commitment to harness the brains own capacity for change. When we pay specific attention in a directed manner we facilitate the neural growth of our brain.

So decide whether to identify (in part) as a “porn addict”, then set goals no matter who you are, and put serious effort into forming your brain in ways that set you up for success.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How has changing your self-talk to positive, impacted your recovery?


Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.


References:

[1]: Fearson, J. D. (1999). What is identity as we now use the word? Retrieved February 7, 2017, from https://web.stanford.edu/group/fearon-research/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/What-is-Identity-as-we-now-use-the-word-.pdf
[2]: Schwartz, J., & Gladding, R. (2012). You are not your brain: the 4-step solution for changing bad habits, ending unhealthy thinking, and taking control of your life. New York: Avery.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 13, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com