Alexandra Katehakis’ recent article in this blog about the cycle of sex addiction points out how an insidious pattern of behavior like sex addiction can develop. There is a lot of detail that can be added to any such explanation about addiction, of course…and many books have been written to do so. In this post I’d like to highlight one aspect of behavior that perpetuates the addictive cycle—the inability to “receive” what is needed from others.
It is a fundamental tenet of Gestalt therapy that the ability to receive is important. When a person has a yearning, but lacks the ability to take in what is desired, the yearning is guaranteed to persist. This is the case for most people I see who come in with sex addiction—as well as for most of the rest of us.
Receiving is a very active process. It requires noticing the responses of others, giving credence to their intention and good will, and acknowledging their efforts and delight in wanting to see us happy. All this and more is needed in order to “receive well”.
Of course, becoming a “good receiver” is not necessarily an easy task for some of us. We will have to address the feelings of shame that make us feel unlovable. That means healing destructive trauma from our past and engaging effectively with healthy people in the present. It’s a process with many facets…which is one reason why recovery takes time.
By the way, please note that I’m not meaning to suggest that life is all about receiving. Giving love to others is important in life also, but it is hard to give what we have never let ourselves receive.
P.S. For another entry about the importance of receiving, click here.