I know that many people will raise objections to this article. However, masturbation is a natural behavior practiced by 95% of adults, as well as by fetuses in the womb and most animal species. Clearly there is an element of human sexuality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masturbation ). My answer to the question is yes. But with a few conditions.
Let’s start with the next stages of recovery from addiction. The conventional limit prescribed for abstinence, depending on the philosophy of the prescriber, is from 3 months to 2 years. In the therapeutic environment, there is a general consensus that in the case of sexual addiction it’s good to have a break for some time, and give your brain the time it needs to stabilize the chemical economy and to have some time to look at sexuality from a slightly different, fresher perspective. But this is not necessary and insufficient for the healing process to take place. Some couples coming out of a sex-addiction habit decide, nevertheless, to engage in an active sex life, based only on new, sound principles, but this requires a lot of discipline and honesty. The principles of healthy sexuality were discussed in the article:http://www.feedtherightwolf.org/2014/12/make-love-not-porn/ . In short, if you want sex to become a healing experience, it should be based on love, respect and intimacy. In addition, you should exclude situations in which sex can become a way of recovering from problems and tensions. In fact, all behaviors associated with sex are in their nature just a way of escaping a problem and avoiding building a deeper relationship with your partner. Bearing all this in mind, it is worth deeply considering the possibility of taking a “break” from sexual activity for some time, so that the unhealthy patterns that inevitably occur at the beginning of an intensive recovery do not hurt us or the people closest to us.
Personally, I opted for a 6-month abstinence and I have no regrets. I spent this time learning to love the other person (love that is not based on sex), to gain a deeper knowledge of my partner as a real human being and not some sex object, and to develop a sense of security and closeness between us. It seems to me that I needed it more to heal my own wounds and make sex a healthy part of my relationship. It took me the next three months to learn about a new healthy sexuality, become more disciplined, and to know when I want to get away from myself through sex and when I want to build more intimacy and love. If you don’t know yourself well enough it is very easy to be dishonest about intent or to deceive and injure yourself or your partner. I have given all the numbers to make it clear that it was a difficult process that took me a long time. In a sense, this process is still ongoing.
To sum up, recovery from sexual addiction can be divided into two processes: unlearning old, destructive ways of doing things, and learning new healing patterns. These processes are intertwined, but based on my own experience, as described above, we can say that at the beginning unlearning old ways of doing things prevails, but after some time, we devote more and more energy to learning new, healthy reactions. All of it takes a long time – in my case it was 9-10 months before I felt that I could stand fully on my own two feet and that my sex life was back to normal. Then, for over a year I didn’t masturbate, even in the periods in which I was not having sex for many weeks due to being apart from my partner.
So, where am I going with all this? In my opinion, the number one condition is – you cannot be a “beginner”. Healthy masturbation requires self-control, self-awareness and honesty with yourself. If you feel that these qualities are not yet your strengths, you should devote more time into developing them. Trying healthy masturbation, when we do not understand what a healthy activity is within the area of sexuality, can become a great excuse for continuing the addictive behavior under a new name. That’s why, if you feel that your sexuality is still out of control, I do not recommend this action. Work through the underlying issues that are at the root of your addiction. If you don’t, there is a good chance that returning to any sexual activity will once again trigger your compulsive behavior. Returning to masturbation in such a situation, may just unnecessarily prolong the whole process of your recovery.
Condition number two is: mindfulness. John Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as a special kind of attention: conscious, not judgmental and pointing to the current moment. What does this mean in practice? Zero eye closure. Zero fantasizing. Zero stimulating yourself with graphic materials. Only you and your body. Feel it fully, instead of escaping into a world that does not have anything to do with you at this point. Observe how you feel during this process, try to fill it with a new, healthy quality, make it a positive experience. Also take a look at how you feel afterwards – it will give you an answer to the question of whether you made the right decision.
Condition number three is: love, respect and intimacy. First of all, make sure your partner, if you have one, feels safe with this situation. It will be a sign of respecting the boundaries in your relationship. Doing something that could destroy the long build-up of trust in your relationship is not a good idea. In addition, respect your values too – if you believe that masturbation is by definition something unhealthy and that you do not want to return to it, save yourself the guilt (the next article will be about how to maintain a long-lasting sexual abstinence and not go crazy). Second of all, love and closeness. If you feel that emotional tension and masturbation might be a good way to get away from yourself and your problems, be aware that it doesn’t fit into a healthy sexuality model. You cannot be close to yourself, if you want to be far away. If you want to escape from yourself, you do not love yourself, because if you did, you would take care of those emotions in the right way, instead of wanting to run away from them. If you have a regular sex life, saving your sexual energy for your partner can be a wonderful expression of your love. Frequent masturbation, which doesn’t allow you to enjoy your sex life in a relationship, or makes you tired and lack the strength to achieve your goals, is an unhealthy exaggeration and also breaks the conditions listed above.
Healthy masturbation can be a good alternative for people who are not currently in a relationship, and who wish to satisfy their sexual needs in a non-addictive way. It must be remembered that there is no one recipe for everyone in this issue. We are different in the paces of health, we have different strengths and challenges. Therefore, each of you must find out what you want and why, and carefully analyze your healing process to find new alternatives to addictive behaviors to avoid hurting yourself or others. This is the most important rule and should always be at the top of your list of priorities.