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Why Are We Addicted to Sex?

Another celebrity has been discovered engaged in unsavory sexual behavior. This time it's U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner. In recent memory, it's been Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, John Edwards and more. Not long ago, it was a president nearly impeached. The question should not be: Why do they do it? The question should be: Why do we engage in sexual behaviors that are painful, unsatisfying, risky or humiliating, and how can we help ourselves and others achieve the well-being and wholeness that will render such behaviors obsolete?

First, let's be honest. Many act stunned that famous men take such perilous actions. Having worked hard all their lives to achieve a certain level of skill or stature, why would prominent men be compelled to risk it all with behaviors almost certain to be revealed, behaviors that we condemn? While that's an interesting question, isn't it more significant that so many are condemning celebrities for behaving in ways considered more acceptable when practiced by ordinary folk? Take any group of people, for example, and ask them privately: Have you had an affair? Have you lied to your spouse? Have you ever had an "illegitimate" child? Have you engaged in online sexual activity or phone sex? Have you hired prostitutes or strippers privately or in business environments? Have you used pornography or peep shows? Have you ever masturbated in risky situations?

Whether we are consuming sugar, drugs, power, people, things or sex, we are addicted to the "fix," and what we are attempting to fix is ourselves and our lack of wholeness.

As a counselor for 30 years, I am very familiar with the sexual behaviors of men and women, and more often than we like to admit, the behavior we engage in is considered "unsavory." Many married men are having sex with women who aren't their wives, and many women are having sex with these men, most often with their full knowledge of the man's marital status. Married women do the same. Someone is buying all those sex magazines and videos, and someone is posing for them. Someone is using the online sex sites. Someone is consuming child pornography. Someone is faking orgasm (or grinning and bearing it, hoping that it will soon be over).

Who are the people doing these behaviors? It's us. So why are we so shocked to discover our "leaders" doing the same thing?

How little loved and fulfilled we must feel. How confused we must be by sex drives that seem to have their own energy. How out-of-control we must feel when our drives and pain trump our common sense. How much guilt we must suffer because we know what we are doing will hurt ourselves and others. Why do we engage in these practices?

Because we are empty inside and are trying to fill ourselves up.

Whether we are consuming sugar, drugs, power, people, things or sex, we are addicted to the "fix," and what we are attempting to fix is ourselves and our lack of wholeness. Infidelity is often a fix for the pain of un-fulfilling relationships; the use of pornography and prostitution, for feeling unwanted; the abuse of children, for feeling powerless and unable to function successfully in a relationship of equality. Masturbation or unconscious sex within relationships is often a fix for feelings of anxiety and emptiness.

Let us stop condemning others and let us start understanding -- not just others, but ourselves. What do we need in order to free ourselves from addictive sexual behaviors? How can we develop the wholeness and well-being that allow us to be in relationships of love and connection, or to live in peace with ourselves if we have no partners? How do we change our relationship to sex itself?

Here's a way: By experiencing ourselves as two whole beings having a sacred union with one another; experiencing ourselves as one whole being having a sacred union with ourselves. Many of us have settled for less, but we don't need to. We can:

•Connect our sexuality with our spirituality
•Dedicate ourselves to being honest and open in our relationships, so that we can experience true intimacy and trust.

Sexuality binds on the physical plane what is already bound on the spiritual plane. So these planes must be integrated in order for us to have healthy, satisfying and blissful sexual experiences with ourselves or one another. In our intimate relationships, we crave oneness, and integrating our sexuality and spirituality allows us to achieve that.

In addition, we need trust. The key to deeply fulfilling sexual relating is relaxation, and for this to be present, our relationship to ourselves and our partners must be fully intimate, honest and open. Each of us must know that our most tender feelings will be respected, that we are not being used, and that we don't need to be hurt to please.

When I was a young woman, I engaged in promiscuous behavior. I got drunk and looked for love in the all the wrong places. Because of this experience, I know the pain and desperation that underlies what we judge as "unsavory" sexual behaviors.

But suppose we could, in fact, have love? Suppose we were in relationships in which we felt intimate and safe? Suppose we could love ourselves when we were unpartnered? Suppose we could overcome the feelings of desperation, loneliness and rejection that often accompany being alone? Suppose we were willing to leave relationships that weren't working, instead of hanging in there for comfort or security, while "stepping out" for excitement, affection or satisfaction? Suppose we were willing to become fully vulnerable, accountable and willing to heal our psychological wounds, in order to be available for relating? Suppose we were, therefore, capable of co-creating partnerships supporting deeper levels of closeness? Suppose our partners were available, too, for this kind of relating? Would we be skulking around the Internet, looked for illusions? Would we roughly touch ourselves in the dark in an effort to relieve ourselves from the aching pain of aloneness? Would we be drinking, or smoking marijuana or using drugs to "make love?"

When I see people like John Edwards, my heart cries for both him and his deceased wife. What was the pain in him that drove him to infidelity? What was the pain inside my former husband, who did the same to me? Why are we so judgmental? Why, instead, are we not compassionate?

If we are to end the behaviors that we condemn, we need to be honest about ourselves and support one another to heal. Otherwise, we just judge ourselves and one another, and nothing changes.

Let's get beyond shame and hidden pathology. Let's have compassion and start looking for solutions to the distortion of our sexuality. Let's get the help we need to heal, and let's get beyond the separation of sex and spirituality. We all need to experience the sacredness of every aspect of our lives. We all need to free ourselves to love. And we all need to support one another when we stray from that goal.

Let's stop acting shocked, and let's get shocked into action.

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