Shame is such a powerful emotion. The problem is, it can lead to seemingly contradictory behavior, particularly in the context of addiction. Shame’s close relationship with pornography consumption can cause porn addicts to fall into cycles of shame over their addiction, followed by giving into their addiction, followed by more shame.
As with most addictions, porn addiction typically has roots in other deficits. Because you are hurt, lack something, or desire something, you might turn to porn as a coping mechanism, hoping that it will provide the feeling or fulfillment you seek.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that porn is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Rather than helping with the problems it is supposed to solve, it simply makes them worse, particularly in the case of an addictive cycle.
The Link Between Porn and Shame
As the widespread use of pornography is a relatively new phenomenon, there is only a limited amount of research on its connection with shame. Despite this, there is a lot of anecdotal knowledge among counsellors and psychologists about the connection between, and combination of porn and shame.
This link has been documented as far back as 1989. In the book “Contrary to Love,” Patrick Carnes, the grandfather of the sexual addiction treatment movement, identifies shame and guilt as fuelling the despair in addiction.
An addictive cycle looks like this:
The addict experiences despair.In
order to alleviate this feeling, they seek relief by acting out.Upon acting out, they feel shame and guilt.These feelings increase the feeling of despair.
While this cycle was discussed in the context of sexual addiction, porn addiction operates in much the same way. As you can see, the efforts of the addict only serve to temporarily deal with the feeling of despair.
So you can see how shame only deepens the cycle of porn addiction. Rather than equipping the addict to deal with the source of their problem, porn simply makes it worse for them.
In order to deal with porn addiction, you need to discover and deal with the root issues, not as a way to excuse the behavior, but to find where you need healing to start the process of recovery.
Shame Buried Out of Sight
A common denominator among some porn addicts is an early form of relationship trauma. These can range from abuse (sexual, physical, verbal, mental, etc.) to parental disregard or a variety of combinations.
With all of these issues, you can see a similar feature. Typically, the child will not find validation of their distress. Often their problems are minimized, ignored, or not acknowledge. As a result, they do not find healing, which perpetuates and often magnifies the pain they felt.
And when not dealt with, this lack of validation will cause the adult to seek it out elsewhere. Porn is an easy “fix” for this. So if you were never validated by your mother, you might find that porn stars are very validating. In some ways, they are.
But that validation is just an act. A fake, exaggerated facsimile of genuine human connection. The validation offered by porn doesn’t work because it’s not real. But the imitation is close enough that it subconsciously fires the reward circuits that keep you trying to get that need met.
Porn acts as an outlet for repressed emotions, wounds, and unrequited yearnings. Instead of having these needs met, porn is so accessible and provides enough temporary pleasure that it becomes an easy outlet or sort of balm or salve for these wounds. However, it never actually heals them, instead it requires more and more while returning less and less.
It is a lie. It cannot meet your needs.
Of course, this is not the same for everyone with an addiction to pornography. People can have a healthy childhood and still get hooked. But even in those cases, they experience this cycle of shame and addiction.
What’s the Problem With Shame?
The effects of shame are well documented. In 2015,