Crimes Against Nature
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Some state laws still refer to some sexual crimes as "Crimes Against Nature". That anachronistic bit of language provides an interesting clue for understanding compulsive and addicted sexual behavior if you think of the "crime" as an act against the best interest of your own human nature. Put differently, acting out sexually is a crime against your own human nature. It is at cross-purposes with your own basic needs. That is never a victimless crime.
So what are your basic needs? A few years back a psychologist named Seymour Epstein published a wonderful article in which he detailed the ideas psychologists through the years have had about the basic needs of people. He found four. They are the need to...
Maximize pleasure and minimize pain
Maintain a relatively stable, coherent conceptual system
Be in relatedness to others
Overcome feelings of inferiority and enhance self-esteem.
Think for a moment about the time you were active in your addiction. In the light of that, let's consider each item on Epstein's list in turn.
Maximize pleasure and minimize pain: Certainly the immediate effect of sexually addictive behavior is pleasurable. But that is followed by pain. The very fact that you are in recovery speaks to your recognition that, on balance, your addiction brought you more pain than pleasure. Acting out is, in this sense, a crime against your human nature.
Maintain a relatively stable, coherent conceptual system: People want to see themselves as likable, productive, moral, and valuable. But addictive behavior violates all of those. Addicts hurt or reject others, squander their resources, violate their morals and values, and engage in empty pleasure-driven behavior. Thus, they put themselves into conflict. The healthy, authentic self is brutally contrasted with actual behavior. Acting out is, in this sense, a crime against your human nature.
Be in relatedness to others: People need meaningful and intimate contact with others. But sexual acting out objectifies the addict and the object of the addict's obsession. You cannot have a human relationship as an object or with an object. Thus, the need to be connected and related to others is blocked by sexual acting out. Acting out is, in this sense, a crime against your human nature.
Overcome feelings of inferiority and enhance self-esteem: Shame is the common core of all addiction including sexual addiction. Feelings of inferiority and worthlessness are the personality consequences of shame. When the addict acts out, there may be a brief and/or phony boost in other esteem or performance based esteem or euphorically based esteem. But these are thin, fragile, and poor substitutes for bone fide self-liking and self-love. As you know, in the long run, sexual acting our increases feelings of inferiority and damages self-esteem. Acting out is, in this sense, a crime against your human nature.
When you take this sort of inventory of the relation between your addictive behavior and your human needs, you can clearly see how you commit crimes against your human nature each time you act out. It also guides you toward meeting your basic human needs.
I suggest that you commit Epstein's list to memory as a part of your continuing and growing commitment to yourself. That commitment to yourself is the essential commitment of recovery. From time to time, compare your thoughts and actions to these four needs. You will see again and again that, when you stay on the path of recovery, you act to meet your basic needs. When you slip in your thinking and actions, you act against your needs.
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