Monday, June 11, 2012

True Salve for the Raw Soul

Sometimes I feel lousy--emotionally all jagged and out of sorts. It's hard to even be around people, let alone talk to them. To actually speak to someone about how I'm feeling in such moments? That's the last think I want to do. To open up to the one person in my life I most want to impress and reassure--my wife? Now that just feels all wrong!
And yet, when I read this passage from an obscure 19th century text, I sense that this writer tapped a deep well of wisdom:

"When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile... if he can meet mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness." This author writes, further, that “It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness, for she is his flesh, and his bone, designed to be an help unto him, both in temporal, and spiritual things; one into whose bosom he can pour all his complaints without reserve, who is willing (being designed) to take part of his burden, to soothe and encourage his feelings by her gentle voice."

Porn's pull can feel irresistible during our down times--when we are borne down with trouble, perplexed with care and difficulty, when the mind is going to despair. The escape of sexual fantasy can seem like the very thing that will hit the spot in such moments. To reach out instead can feel like a bad idea. We can barely imagine pouring into the bosom of our one-and-only all our complaints without reserve in the hopes that the solace of her affection and kindness will calm down our soul and soothe our feelings. The idea that she'd be willing to take part of our burden and soothe and encourage our feelings by her gentle voice--wow! How would that be?! I ask you, does the emotional intimacy and forthright way of relating described in the above passage sound possible? Appealing? Scary? Gratifying for sure, if only you could manage to pull it off?

When we crave, a part of our brain lies to us, telling us that porn itself is the way to touch an intimate (albeit anonymous!) other, in the ultimate, tender way described above. The brain is rightfully registering, "that's exactly what I need" and wrongfully concluding, "I'm gonna get it by way of these pictures."

Our brains have linked sex to intimacy, and rightfully so. But porn pretends to offer sex but delivers absolutely no intimacy, which empties the equation not only of all its deeper meaning but also of its capacity to satisfy us in a way that is lasting and settling to the soul. No wonder we crave it more and more over time. Porn is to the soul what liquor is to the alcoholic's body: empty calories that quench a craving and tell us we just consumed exactly everything we really need.

We don't see people healing a porn addiction by having hotter sex with their real-life partner. But we do see couples becoming more emotionally intimate as partners--that we see all the time. Then that opens the door to better sex, because sex has become so much more than scratching an itch or quenching a thirst. Reaching and touching have become amazing realizations of, full manifestations of, the deep feelings and sense of connection each partner has toward the other.

Next time your soul is raw, take the risk and reach out for the true salve. Connecting emotionally with your partner is a process that will take time, but someday you'll look back on it as the very thing that contributed as much or more to your happiness than any thing else in your life.

Whether you've already arrived at that destination, are well on your way, or just starting on this journey, please call and let me know how it's going. I genuinely care about you and your progress! My confidential cell phone number is 801-564-7566. I'd love to hear from you and be able to cheer you on as you make climb. Sometimes I'm in session or with the family, so if I don't answer please leave a message and I'll call you back soon. Some of the calls I get turn into one-time, half-hour chats. Others turn into the beginning of a counseling partnership. I relish both kinds because I love nothing more than watching people find their way to freedom from addiction! It is, to quote the luggage salesman in "Joe Versus the Volcano," the central preoccupation of my life.

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