Can Guilt be Good? Guilt vs. Shame in Overcoming Porn Addiction

Can Guilt be Good?I grew up camping near King’s Canyon just outside of a small mountain town called Camp Nelson. My family has been camping there since my great grandmother was a little girl. The campground is filled with pine, sequoia, and other varieties of redwood trees, many of which seem to stretch over one hundred feet tall. There are two streams that meander through various campsites and eventually merge at a swimming hole near the western edge of the campground. 

 

Just beyond that swimming hole is a magical stretch of forest where thousands of ladybugs scatter the rock walls during mating season. More sequoias tower over the cliffs, some which have given way to the harsh elements of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, only to make convenient bridges and beautiful water features in the streams below.

 

My cousins and I used to follow the stream in that direction to fish and we would dream about following the stream as far as it would allow us one day. One year when we were camping we realized we had reached an age at which we actually could follow the stream as far as it would allow us, and so we did.

DISAPPOINTMENT, GUILT, AND SHAME

I remember being astonished at the beauty and creativity scattered throughout nature with every bend of the stream. After following it just past the point where my prior youth had kept me from being able to go I looked up and saw it – a highway.

 

As exciting and beautiful as the journey was getting there, I had a profound sense of disappointment.

 

What happened to all the promises of adventure, excitement, and beauty my imagination seemed to have guaranteed me about where this river would go and what I would see? All of that hopeful expectation was interrupted and dismissed by a highway.

 

This disappointment, although unexpected, was not unfamiliar.

 

It was a similar type of disappointment I had felt every time I had allowed my imagination to convince my better judgment that consuming porn would solve my boredom, stress, anger, anxiousness, loneliness or any other emotion. 

 

One important distinction to make between these two is that my discovery of the highway didn’t produce a sense of guilt or shame, it only produced disappointment; however, upon discovering that the consumption of pseudo intimacy through porn is not a sufficient solution for managing my emotion, I was not only left with disappointment, but an even stronger sense of guilt and shame.

 

FINDING ANOTHER PATH

Let’s go back to the moment I saw the highway obstructing the beauty and adventure I had anticipated for so long.

 

In that moment I could have made the choice to allow that highway to convince me there is no more beauty to be seen and no more adventure to be had, that I shouldn’t waste my time exploring new trails because then I would be risking another round of disappointment. Or, I could acknowledge that the path which led me to the highway is one path, and allow that disappointment to move me toward other ways through the forest whose beauty and splendor I would have missed out on had I privileged the fear of disappointment over my desire to discover more beautiful, awe-inspiring trails.

 

This tension between letting fear decide my fate and my desire for experiencing something better is similar to the tension found between the guilt and shame we are often confronted with after discovering that porn does not accomplish what we thought it would.

 

Shame is that voice saying, “there is no more beauty to be seen, no more adventure to be had. You are stuck where you are.” Guilt is that voice saying, “Although it is scary, and although you may experience disappointment, I am moving you toward restoring relationships with yourself, with others, and with the world around you. There is a better beauty to be seen and experienced.”

 

At one point or another in our life (or at many points in our lives, if we’re being honest) we go down paths which lead to disappointment, such as consuming porn. This does not make us “bad”, “unworthy”, “hopeless”, or any other negative accusation that weighs us down – those accusations are the shame talking. However, these paths do leave us with an opportunity to make an important decision – will we listen to the accusations of shame and allow ourselves to live as though they are reality, or will we accept guilt as our good friend encouraging us that there are better paths we can follow and it is never too late to explore their beauty?

 

Live in California?

We’d love to connect.

Contact us today to get started.

 

Spencer Posey
spencer.d.posey@gmail.com

I am based out of Ventura County, California where both my wife and I were born and raised. I am grateful to serve the members of the Ventura County, and surrounding communities through my work as a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. My more specific professional interests include helping others find freedom porn addiction, helping couples embody hope and trust in their relationships, employing EMDR services, and providing psychoeducation surrounding the study of interpersonal neurobiology. On a more personal note, my non-professional interests include running, camping, and exploring new culinary experiences with my wife and friends.I am a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (#121457), supervised by Jeremy Mast, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#90961).

No Comments

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.