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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

Overcoming Shame Habits and Building Empathy | Porn Addiction's Emotional Effects

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Overcoming shame habits can free us from porn addiction by removing an underlying source of the addiction itself. Read on to find out how this works.



Sometimes we as addicts have troubles looking outside of ourselves. We may experience difficulty listening to others' troubles and being present for their physical or emotional needs.


This is not because we are inherently selfish, but because our past trauma and shame habits can make it hard for us to connect with others and look outside of ourselves, thus leading to unfortunate selfish acts, such as addiction.


Empathy and porn addiction sometimes do not coexist very well. This can be a hard truth for many of us addicts to face, but until we do we cannot change. We hold a lot of fear and shame inside, in other words we are afraid that the bad things that happened in the past - neglect, betrayal, failure - will happen again, and we question our worthiness of love.


We get stuck in an endless cycle of detachment and anger, rather than facing the underlying feelings of insecurity and unworthiness (shame habits) that follow us around everywhere we go.


We addicts desperately want those around us to feel loved and cared for. We want to be good and do good. It’s just that our own insecurities get in the way, and we don’t know how to overcome them; to get out of the cycle of fear, shame, and addiction that leads to selfish acts.


It’s not that we’re selfish, just temporarily damned in our progression, much as scripture states sinners are “damned to hell” - trapped in a cycle of suffering until we experience a fundamental change of heart through voluntary humility and God’s grace.


To feel true empathy, we addicts must find a new way of thinking and acting. Our own selfishness will continue to bar us from meaningful relationships until we can humble ourselves enough and be self-compassionate enough to put down our “shame-shield” that blocks us from love, and realize that we and those around us are all worthy of love in God’s eyes.



Shame Habits Keep Us From Feeling Empathy

It’s the weekend. You started off right by taking care of your newborn throughout the morning so that your wife could sleep, even though you’ve been pulling overtime this week at work and are already lacking sleep yourself.


When your wife wakes up, she is grateful for the extra sleep you afforded her. You’re both having a pleasant conversation about the day, until you say something that seems to upset your wife.


You try to explain that you didn’t really mean it that way and she doesn’t have to feel so hurt. Doesn’t she know that you love her? I mean, afterall, didn’t you show that by taking care of the child all morning?


Her temper escalates at your reaction. You ask her to calm down and say that you’re sorry for upsetting her, and ask why this is becoming so heated all of a sudden?


Your wife’s emotional baggage and beef about your relationship over the last 7 years of marriage slowly starts to unload. Then, you start to unload on her too.


Soon, she begins to cry and get angry, saying “you never listen to me!”.


…Funny thing is, you were under the impression that she was not the one listening to you…


After 30 minutes of arguing in front of your son about things that are increasingly unrelated to the initial incident, you half-heartedly apologize and storm off to read over emails from work.


You think, “Doesn’t she know that I have things to do? Jeez, why couldn’t she just let it go? Now I’m frustrated and can’t focus on work.”


You're angry, blaming, and filled with resentful pride. At the same time, there is another voice inside you that says “Gahh, I’m such an idiot! Why do I always screw things up? My wife should probably just divorce me. I’m a s$%* husband anyway.”


Everything seemed to be going so well. You tried to serve your wife by taking care of the baby all morning, even though you worked overtime this week, and it feels like now all of that doesn’t mean crap, because your wife is in the other room crying because of you.



What happened?...

The simple answer is, shame habits got in the way.


When your wife became upset at something you said, you immediately reacted by downplaying her emotions and getting defensive. Instead of empathizing with her feelings, and stepping into her shoes, you felt threatened by her and ashamed of saying something that upset her.


Many of us react to offense with offense. We do this because we do not know that if we would simply show the other person that what they feel matters, and be present with them and their feelings for just a few minutes, many situations would resolve quite quickly.


When threatened, many of us addicts go to the only place our brain believes is “safe”: inside of ourselves. We detach, shut down, lash out. We do this because we fear that if we admit to our mistakes others will reject us.


This stems from fear and shame - habitual streams of thought that from the outside look like pride, haughtiness, anger, or a victim-mentality. But these defense mechanisms hold a deeper truth: that we simply feel inadequate.



How Shame Habits Develop

When I was a kid, I was so overwhelmed with anxiety and insecurities it was hard for me to look outside of myself. I was so busy making sure people liked and approved of me, that I was often blind to what other people were feeling.


Sometimes I said and did things that were hurtful and insensitive. I almost never did this to purposely hurt someone emotionally, but rather as a confused means of coping with my inner pain.


The facilitator in my 12-step group puts it this way: “hurt people hurt people”. There’s not a single soul on this earth who has done wrong that has not already suffered an injustice or experienced deep emotional pain. And this does not mean they necessarily had a traumatic childhood, or that they were abused. Sometimes it simply means that life, for them, with the way their brain is wired, has been hard and hurtful.


This does not give excuse for bad behavior; it simply gives reason to have compassion and understanding, while holding an addict accountable for their actions.


Because of difficult experiences - anxiety, depression, bullying, unkindness, betrayal, neglect, abuse, rape - some are driven to hate themselves. They loathe certain parts of themselves and wish to God that they could be someone else - someone better.


Everyone has a different way of coping with these feelings of shame - the feeling of not being good enough.


For some, they turn to anger - pretending they are not insecure and instead lashing out and attempting to intimidate others.


For others, they become depressed - believing that they are not enough, and never will be, so why try?


Others turn to addictions such as gambling, alcohol, porn, sex, co-dependence, drugs, or any other destructive behavior their brain can get hold of.


Still others go much deeper and darker, turning to things like theft, rape, or murder.


All of these have one thing in common - the individual fears that they are not worthy of love and not capable of loving (to whatever degree). Knowing this is the root of bad or selfish acts does not justify those acts. Again, it simply helps us understand.


And, as an addict, if I can admit to the real reasons I am acting selfishly, then I can begin to change.



What Shame Habits & Lack of Empathy Feel Like for Those Around the Addict

As a spouse, family member, or friend of an addict, we can often feel like we are watching the same bad movie play over and over and over and over…and over and over again. We can tire of watching them repeat the same cycles with different variations. And on top of that, we often get the raw end of the deal.


Addicts can be deceitful, manipulative, selfish, and altogether annoying. One moment they are saying incredibly kind things to our face, and committing to transformation, and the next they are acting out their addiction behind closed doors or screaming in angry denial of the very mistake they admitted to the week before.


You just…want…it….to…stop.


And the truth is, so do they.


If you can stick things out with an addict, they can become one of the best people you have ever known. If they will get professional help, go to weekly meetings, get in a 12-step program, and start admitting to their crap (get some HUMILITY), then you will witness an amazing, loyal, and powerful individual be born within them.


It can be so hard to see this sometimes. But you have to understand that an addict has a lifetime of bad habits and fearful thought patterns to overcome. It doesn’t all happen in a day. In fact, it’s more often slow and arduous (and yes, painful).


Addicts need to begin truly seeing their insecurities, fears, and feelings of inadequacy. They need to come to grips with those feelings. They also need to accept that their life has become unmanageable and their way of doing things is not working anymore. They need God and Christ to change their heart.


But you cannot force them to take these steps. You cannot make them see the shame habits and thought patterns that are blocking them from loving themselves and others. Only God can help them do this..



So, what can you do to help an addict?

  • Show them that they are worthy of love.

  • Hold them accountable for their choices & expect them to follow through on their word.

  • Be firm, but not angry.

  • Don’t accuse. Just state your feelings.

  • Forgive yourself when you become angry. Beating yourself fuels further anger.

  • Ask yourself what you can do to be better & work on it.

  • Release control & obsession over details and the addict may be less controlling and obsessive in return.

  • Show deep empathy and care. Put yourself in the addict’s shoes. Ask them to do the same for you. Be firm in this request and have self-respect.

  • Practice centering your life on Christ, and let all changes for you (and the addict) come through reliance on His Atonement.

  • Pray. Sincerely and frequently.



How To Overcome Shame Habits

If you want to overcome shame habits that are getting in the way of your relationships here are a few things that can help:

  • Pray and ask for Christ to help you let go of shame habits and learn true, powerful empathy so you can help the people around you.

  • Recognize when you have a victim-mentality or self-centered thoughts and replace these by putting yourself in another’s shoes. Think about what they are experiencing, want, or need.

  • Be vulnerable and open about your feelings of insecurity with the right people. Own up to these feelings rather than resorting to anger or pride. When appropriate, ask them to help you see the truth or determine steps you can take to change.

  • When your mind automatically begins thinking about your own feelings, shift to incorporate others’ feelings in your thoughts. Imagine what it would feel like if you were them.

  • Reflectively listen. When someone tells you about something difficult for them, don’t try to downplay it, fix it, or put a positive spin on it. Instead, listen intently and then summarize their feelings in a sentence. Such as, “You feel really overwhelmed right now.” Then, wait for them to tell you more.

  • Thank others with sincerity. Think of the effort it took and imagine that you were them.


Practicing these habits will help you feel more empathy in your life, overcome selfishness, and recover from addiction.


I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Please give it a HEART, and if you have questions or comments I would love to hear from you. You can submit them below or shoot me an email: jake@nomoredesire.com


God bless.






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