• Dr. Michael Johnson

    Psychologist, Specialist in Problematic Sexual Behavior

  • Dr. Michael Johnson

    Specializing in Sex Addiction Treatment in Austin, TX

Thomas Jefferson, Time Travel, and Depression Brains

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Sex addicts are often depressed. The addiction develops in the effort to cope with depression and the depression deepens in response to the guilt and shame produced by the addiction. Part of depression happens in our thinking. These are thinking symptoms.

When we get into our depression brains, our depression brains lie to us. Depression tells us lots of lies. The depression brain tells us, "When I feel better I will do more." That is a lie. The truth is "When I do more, I feel better". The depression brain also tells us lies about our value. It tells us we are no good, can't do anything right, or that no one will ever love us. These are all really junky shame based depression brain lies.

The depression brain lives in the same skull with the addiction brain. The addiction brain tells lies too. The depression lies and addiction lies make a powerful cocktail. The depression brain tells us we are unlovable and the addiction brain tells us that therefore we are justified in doing any old sexual thing we want. "After all", says the addiction brain, "I deserve a little something (even if it's not love) now and then". The depression brain is so busy telling lies that it doesn't notice the inherent contraction between its lies and the addiction brain's lies.

So how do you deal with the lying depression brain when it sneaks into your thoughts while you are not looking? Simple but not easy - the cure to untruth is truth. What gets tricky is that sometimes the healthy brain gets tired and starts to believe the lies of the depression brain. That is why an important part of recovery (from depression, sexual addiction, and the rest of the thought bending, shame based disorders) is to know the truth about your authentic, healthy self. And you don't get that truth all at once. But at the outset you need to know the truth even if you don't understand or completely believe the truth. Sound confusing. Well, you've already done the same thing in other ways.

When you were first shipped off to the schoolroom as a child, the kindly folks there started filling your head full of stuff you did not understand. They told you that a foot had 12 inches and a yard had three feet. You believed them. Turns out they were right, but you had no way of knowing that at the time. You were running on trust at the time. You took that as an article of faith. In your kid brain you took that as an article of faith. That simply became true. When you were a child, you did not ask questions about the foot.

Later you learned that there were external, independent, verifiable facts that supported your belief that a foot was a foot. Then if someone told you that a thing was one foot long, and you doubted that, you got your foot stick out of your school stuff and checked it out. But that is not how you came to believe in the foot. You simply believed it without any evidence what-so-ever excect that people you trusted said so.

Your belief in your value and your rights are the same in a way. If you are like most shame-based folks, you came to think you were a mess inside because people you trusted told you that you were in one way or another. That too simply became true. In that case, the people who taught you that you were a mess were mistaken. They were not using their adult foot sticks to measure your value. They were using their own distorted brains, believing that the untruth was true, and passing the untruth on to you.

That is why, in recovery, you need someone to trust. That someone may be your Higher Power, therapist, your group, your sponsor, a good friend - it doesn't matter so long as that person or those people think straight about you and you believe that they speak the truth. In the beginning you can only take your value as an article of faith. Beginning to think of yourself as valuable so you can correct your depression brain requires an act of faith. As you come to know yourself better you will become convinced of your value. But at the outset you begin with an article of faith.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (sic) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Actually, Jefferson borrowed a bit from John Locke who wrote, "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions." in 1690. Locke died is 1704. He didn't mind what Jefferson did.

People in our society think these things are true. Maybe they are. I believe those things are true. I like those things. But there is no solid, scientific proof beyond question that those things are true. I think that is why Jefferson referred to the "Creator" in his proposition. He knew that believing these things was an article of faith. If you ask your depressed brain if it believes in the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, your depressed brain will probably tell you that it does. That is a good way to sneak up on your depressed brain. When the depressed brain perceives its own contradiction, a little bit of truth and light sneak in. After all, if those things are true, it must also be true that you (each of us) deserves those things. Tricking the depressed brain is good sport and helps the authentic brain hold more resolutely to the truth.

Sometimes I like to travel in time. I sit in my office with a client and I suggest that we take a time trip together. We go back to the day of my client's birth. In our imaginations, we stand together in the maternity ward where he or she was born. I have an old fashioned picture of a maternity ward in my brain and I use that picture when I make this trip in time. I see a wall of safety glass separating us from all the babies. I see a room beyond the glass filled with brand new babies in their baby beds. I ask my clients to find themselves among those babies and to think what she or he would think of that precious, new baby. No one would think that baby was not lovable and delightful and beautiful and a marvel of nature. All babies are. No one would say that baby is worthless. No one would doubt the quality of that babies character. No one would. No one ever does. That baby had no depression brain yet - that baby had no addiction brain yet. That baby did have the baby version of an authentic brain. And that's all. Everything else came later. No part of that baby knew how to lie or conceal or feel shame just at that moment. All that came later - as the baby learned what it learned from the world.

That moment is the foot stick of personal value. Locke and Jefferson would light cigars, slap each other on the back, and proclaim that that baby was certainly entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They would agree that that baby was worthy, lovable, and deserving of a fine life. They would simply know that was true. They would need no further proof. Neither do you.

You can simply know that is true in your brain. You can believe it in your heart later. For the moment act according to what you know in your brain. You are worthwhile and you deserve to be here. When you do that, the depression brain heaves a sigh of relief and grows a bit smaller.








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