One way to understanding how a person operates while in the cycle of sex addiction is to look through the lens of Transactional Analysis, which is a theory of psychology that considers the ego states that we operate from when we interact with ourselves, others, and the world. Those ego states include Parent, Adult, and Child (or PAC), and we typically move in and out of these egos (or roles) depending on the demands of the situation at hand and our development in childhood. This post will focus on the child ego state.
Like the other ego states, Child can have positive and negative attributes. Examples of positives include being creative or imaginative, having fun, and not taking things too seriously. On the other side of the coin, the negatives include: not taking anything seriously; not taking responsibility for our thoughts, actions, and feelings; excessive day dreaming; or being egocentric (having a concern exclusively on the self or everything about me). Child can also be defiant because he/she does not want to take responsibility, or is pushing back against being in a one-down position in relationship to a Parent (this can be anyone who takes on the Parent role). This comes across in statements such as “I don’t have to”, “you can’t make me”, or any other declarative statement you can imagine a young child saying when being defiant.
Addiction can be thought to live in the Child ego state because of the apparent selfish nature of the behaviors (doing without regard to how it will hurt others). What we have to consider is that we often do no move in and out of the ego states intentionally or consciously. Without awareness of how we transact (from which ego states and when), we can “slip” into an ego state automatically. Once there and without awareness, we act out in childish ways, not taking responsibility for ourselves. In this unhealthy Child ego, we do not have awareness of how we interact, do not freely chose our reactions, and do not have the capacity for healthy intimacy.
One way we can start to move away from an unhealthy Child ego state is consider and examine the way we interact with others in our daily lives. What triggers us to feel one-down or “less-than”? For example, an adult son may feel like a small child when his Mom shames him for not showing up at the family Christmas party by saying “why wasn’t your butt there”. If this son is not aware of how he felt about this, he may blame his Mom saying “you made me feel like a child” or act out in defiance. Additionally, he might use an addictive sexual behavior to decrease his shame or turn sex acts with other women into a passive-aggressive way of getting back at his Mom (through the use of power and control).
Another way that we shed the unhealthy Child ego state is to find healthy ways for the child to play. Anything creative from coloring to writing fictional stories are ways to let the Child play in creative ways. Taking a break from working or doing adult chores to play with your kids or do something fun also helps. The key of course is everything in moderation.