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Shame

The dictionary definition of shame “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable, improper, ridiculous etc done by oneself or another”.

Shame is so much more than this dictionary definition. The feeling of shame sticks to you like glue. It is hard to pick off and when you do try to pick it off it can leave marks behind. It can linger around every decision that you make. It can whisper in your ear that you are nothing, you are disgusting, no one is going to love you or even like you if they KNEW. So the weight of shame silences you and pulls you down and down. Lies begin to be a normal part of life as you attempt to cover up the behaviour you are ashamed of. My shame was pornography.
I have found that the only way to break the cycle of shame is to talk. To tell people about what you are struggling with. This is not easy to do! But the more you do it, the more it helps you and helps others who are struggling with their own shame.

I managed to break my silence just over 2 years ago – it was very scary but also one of the most freeing moments of my life. I had been looking at pornography for many years and this had led to low self-esteem and body image worries. The discovery of pornography in my developing years as a woman distorted my thinking and beliefs of sex and how I should act. I was young and naïve and assumed what I saw through the pornography was real life and that is what I needed to do to be loved. This caused me a lot of heartache and damage over the years.

3 years ago, I read “Surrender to God” by Kay Warren. She explained in one of the chapters that she used to be addicted to pornography. She led a double life – a good Christian on the outside but behind closed doors she was a completely different person. I was gobsmacked. It was the first time that I realised I was not the only woman who had looked at pornography and was using it to cope with life. Reading that book was the start of significant healing in me. A year later I attended a conference and one of the key speakers was talking about porn and sex addiction. I am a trained counsellor and for some time I have been wondering about specialising. That conference allowed me to see that my personal story of porn addiction can help other men and women who struggle with this area. I completed a Diploma in Sex Addiction Counselling in January 2017.

So what broke the cycle of looking at porn? Well it was a variety of things, here is a brief summary:
• Talking about my feelings
• Letting go of guilt linked with past sexual behaviour
• Knowing my triggers and temptations
• Changing in lifestyle – exercise / eating well / hobbies / friendships etc
• Going for counselling
• Growing in my faith
• Reading about addiction

What is counselling?

The word “counselling” can drum up all sorts of thoughts and feelings in a person. When I am in a social gathering and get asked that inevitable question of “so, what do you do?”. My reply that I am a counsellor, can have a mixture of responses. Sometimes I can see the person looking away and the tumble weed drifting past or I have someone generally curious about counselling. If you are reading this blog, I am assuming you are of the latter!

I became a counsellor because I was interested in people’s stories. The story of their life. I wanted to be alongside them in the messiness of life and be a listening ear, a support that can help them see a path through the wilderness. I have been a qualified counsellor now for 7 years and have seen many people start off broken, confused, bereaved, bewildered, hurt, ashamed or curious. Each person’s story is unique and so there is no “one solution fixes all” in relation to counselling. I personally feel the most important part of counselling is the relationship you have with your counsellor/therapist. You need to be able to trust your counsellor. To know they are on your side, that they are your cheerleader, that they want to see you thrive and increase your resilience to make changes in your life. Most people that come in for counselling want to see some change in their life. The counsellor is there to witness that change.

As each person is unique, so is each counsellor’s style of therapy. They will draw on core beliefs of how people can change, but they will approach those beliefs in different ways. Some will give you homework to work on outside of sessions, some will use creative techniques in the sessions such as drawing, play doh modelling, sand tray work, some will use physical movement to help with healing of trauma, some will use psycho education to improve how you talk with your partner or family members or children. Each counsellor will listen, not judge, accept you for who you are, keep things confidential and will celebrate with you when change happens. Counsellors are human and carry their own fair share of hurts and bruises so don’t worry you are not alone when you tell your story to a counsellor.