Ken, 38 years old, arrived late for his first appointment – but he nearly didn’t make it at all. Arriving from a business trip, the pressing question on his mind centered on whether he could make it to my office from the airport without hiring an escort. This particular day, Ken succeeded. He described his life and marriage as a constant struggle. Keeping his secret life from his wife consumed most of his mental energy. Ken felt lost and without hope. He had spent countless years and hours seeking illicit sexual experiences. Attempts to stop only lasted for short periods of time. Any freedom from sexual acting out lasted for only a few short months at the most. Depressed and feeling hopeless, Ken felt imprisoned by his urges and cravings for more sexual experiences. Not with his wife, but with nameless women who sold themselves to desperate men such as Ken.
Ken’s story, unfortunately, may not be as unique as you imagine. At the heart of his behavior we find a man who has lost control – no longer living by his own clear decisions but by blind forces within his psyche. Whether escorts, internet pornography or any of the choices on the menu of sexual acting out, a man’s life can be consumed with repetitive, costly and time consuming efforts to seek out sexual liaisons, experiences and activities outside of marriage.
In many respects, Ken represents an example of the confusion and chaos we find in any addictive disorder. We see a diminished ability to make healthy choices and limited capacity to discontinue compulsive behaviors. And we find a motivational system that has been crippled and hijacked by lust and an insatiable sex drive. We catch a glimpse of the real prison that keeps a man locked up and unable to choose his own way.
One of the greatest challenges men face comes down to managing internal drives and instincts. Instincts are powerful forces that drive behavior and help shape our identity as men – what it means to be “male” and what it means to be masculine!
Probably the most powerful internal drive relates to our sexuality. So what we do with sexual energy, in part, defines our manhood.
If we let our “instincts” drive our behavior, in the extreme, this means that we behave according to feeling states and emotional drives – without much thought or direction! I believe this leads to dysfunction, since our lives become shaped by blind forces and not by choice.
The most destructive examples of living by instincts involve addictive disorders – especially sexual addiction. With sexual addiction, the brain is hijacked by sexual energy, lust and urges. Men who hire escorts, who spend countless hours on the internet looking at porn, who visit strip clubs and massage parlors, have lost the power to freely choose the course and direction of their lives – much like an alcoholic becomes powerless over his behavior.
Instincts, if not mastered, compromise a man’s ability to choose his life and therefore to offer his best to the woman he loves, to his career, his friendship and ultimately to himself.
The basic assumption here involves the very real idea that our inner life and personality can deteriorate – and that we can cease to focus on building healthy relationships but rather on meaningless, chaotic behaviors that destroy the spirit and soul.
Why? Because we lose our ability to choose – and therefore to define our lives!
And I believe there can be a point where escape from this chaos becomes increasingly difficult – where living by instincts, always at the mercy of unconscious forces so dominates a man’s life that the choice to live differently all but disappears!
We need strategies as men to regain our ability to choose in all areas of our lives – to reclaim our manhood and destiny!
An excerpt from a book I’m writing on sexual addiction: “Killer Instincts: Saving Our Manhood Before It’s Too Late.”