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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

Trauma, Attachment, Shame & Porn Addiction

Updated: Jun 8



Beautiful plains with mountain range and sunrise

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Therapist Jeanine Gardner,  from Circles of Grace, part of LifeStar Salt Lake. She shared extremely valuable insights about how trauma, attachment, shame, and porn addiction are all interconnected, and how to heal trauma and insecure attachments to overcome porn addiction. 


The Role of Attachment in Addiction

One of the most enlightening parts of our conversation was Jeanine's perspective on addiction. Many people immediately think of substances like drugs or alcohol when they hear the word "addiction," but Jeanine pointed out that addiction is fundamentally about avoiding pain. This avoidance can manifest in many ways, including gambling, food, and pornography addiction.


Jeanine explained that our need for connection is deeply rooted in our biology. When this connection is disrupted, it can lead to various attachment styles that may contribute to addiction. For instance, someone might turn to pornography to fill an emotional void or avoid pain. This behavior, while initially a coping mechanism, can lead to feelings of shame and unworthiness, further exacerbating the issue.


Understanding and Overcoming Porn Addiction

Jeanine's insights into pornography addiction were particularly profound. She highlighted how attachment issues and shame can fuel porn addiction. When individuals feel disconnected from their primary caregivers or fear judgment from their community, they may seek solace in pornography. This can create a cycle of shame and secrecy, making it harder to break free from porn addiction.


To quit porn, Jeanine suggests that we must first address these underlying attachment issues. It's essential to create a sense of safety and understanding with others and within ourselves, recognizing that our past coping mechanisms were necessary at the time but no longer serve us. By doing so, we can begin to get rid of porn addiction and move towards healthier ways of coping with pain and seeking connection.


The Interplay of Trauma, Attachment, and Shame

Jeanine also delved into how trauma, attachment, and shame are intertwined. Trauma isn't always about big, life-threatening events; sometimes, it's about the little moments of misattunement in our childhood that can have lasting effects. These moments can create attachment ruptures, leading to feelings of shame and unworthiness.


One powerful quote Jeanine shared was from Bessel van der Kolk's book, The Body Keeps the Score, which states:


“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health.” 


This underscores the importance of creating safe, supportive relationships in the healing process.


Shame and Addiction: Breaking the Cycle

Shame is a powerful and often debilitating emotion that many people carry, sometimes without even realizing it. Jeanine explains that shame can be inherited or developed through life experiences. Understanding the origins of our shame is a crucial step in healing. It’s about tracing it back to its roots, which could be in our family history or our early experiences, and recognizing how it influences our behavior and self-perception.


Jeanine encourages practices that help counteract shame and foster a healthier way of thinking. Simple daily practices, such as mindfulness, pausing to check in with your body, and affirmations, can be powerful tools in this journey. These practices help to make the unconscious conscious, bringing awareness to the thoughts and feelings driving our behaviors.


Building Safety and Healing

Creating safety is crucial in the journey to break free from addiction. Jeanine stressed the importance of attachment repair, which involves going back and addressing those moments of misattunement from our past. This can help our nervous system understand that the threat is no longer present, allowing us to move forward and make healthier choices.


Jeanine also incorporates somatic experiencing therapy in her practice, a method developed by Peter Levine. This approach focuses on the body's physical responses to trauma, helping individuals process and release these responses to foster healing.


Experiential Therapy and Psychodrama

In the episode, I shared an inspiring example of experiential therapy, highlighting a practice where one takes on the perspective of someone who has shown them unconditional positive regard. This exercise can be profoundly moving and transformative, as it allows individuals to see themselves through the eyes of someone who loves and respects them unconditionally.


Jeanine frequently uses psychodrama in her sessions, a method developed by Moreno. In psychodrama, clients reenact past experiences and respond to them differently, often having conversations they couldn’t have in real life. This can be done in group settings or individually. The goal is to create a powerful and transformative experience that allows the body to complete its unfinished responses and integrate these experiences in a healthier way.


The Role of Epigenetics in Trauma and Addiction

One of the fascinating areas Jeanine explores is epigenetics – how trauma can be passed down through generations via genetic markers. This field of study reveals that trauma can leave a biological imprint that affects future generations. For example, studies on Holocaust survivors and their descendants show higher rates of PTSD, demonstrating that trauma can be inherited biologically, not just through learned behavior.


Jeanine emphasizes that understanding epigenetics is crucial for mental health professionals. It’s not just about acknowledging that we might inherit trauma from our ancestors; it’s about recognizing that we can also change these genetic expressions. Practices like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can actually thicken the prefrontal cortex and help reverse some of the damage caused by trauma and addiction. This concept of neuroplasticity gives hope – our brains and bodies can heal and change.


Healing Through Connection and Awareness

One of the most significant impacts of recent global events, like COVID-19, has been increased disconnection and isolation. Jeanine observes that this has exacerbated mental health issues, especially among young people. Reconnecting with others and ourselves is vital for healing. Regular check-ins with our nervous systems, practicing mindfulness, and building supportive communities can help counteract the stress and disconnection we experience.


Jeanine’s message is one of hope and empowerment. By understanding the complexities of trauma, attachment, shame, and addiction, and by using practical, daily practices to foster healing, we can change not only our lives but also potentially the lives of future generations. The journey might be challenging, but the potential for transformation is immense.


Jeanine Gardner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional with Circles of Grace. She holds a Masters in Social Work from Utah Valley University, and is trained in multiple specialties including Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodrama and Experiential Therapy, Gottman’s methods, Somatic EMDR, and more. 


Jeanine Gardner’s approach to therapy is compassion-focused, warm, direct, and research-based. She seeks to create safety as she walks with her clients on their healing journey. To learn more about Jeanine Gardner and Circles of Grace, go to Circlesofgrace.health. There you can discover therapy services and life-changing workshops and retreats to help you heal relationships and overcome mental and emotional trauma.



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