NLP is an approach to doing psychotherapy that was all the rage
in the 70’s and early 80’s. It is a model of the structure of your inner, subjective experience and how that experience influences behavior. It provides a framework for eliciting the way you experience reality with a focus on reorganizing that experience so you, as a human being, can optimally function in work, love and recreation. NLP is designed to elicit information from the subjective (inner) world, to see the limitations these experiences impose on each individual and to direct strategies to the conscious and unconscious processes for the purpose of facilitating change towards a happier, more satisfying life.

Addiction, in all its forms, is a social epidemic and certainly represents an obstacle to a life well lived. NLP’s methods, skills, and strategies (too numerous and complex to detail in this paper) allow for the construction of a wider and more effective repertoire of

internally generated alternatives to addiction.

As is the case with any major dysfunction or illness, sex addiction, or the process of being a sex addict, erodes your internal repertoire of choices, until life becomes determined by basically one primary factor: access to sex and to the “erotic haze” that accompanies it. Stated in a different way, the acquisition of a sexual “rush” determines your lifestyle and imposes severe limitations on your experience of yourself and your life.

NLP offers “technology” for therapists to deliberately internally “install” various strategies and processes, allowing you the required range of choices needed for you to move toward an addiction-free, satisfying sense of well being in your life. It both increases your awareness of your internal processes in measurable ways and provides specific methodologies for using information obtained through your conscious/unconscious processes in the manner of one who has “enlightened self-interest.” If internally no new choices or alternatives are generated in you, you will repeat – ad nauseum – choices and behaviors that obviously no longer work in the present, but which at some point in time, appeared to have produced results.

One of NLP’s precepts is that all behavior makes sense in the context in which it was originated (called “Positive Intent of Behavior versus the Manifested Behavior). Behavior, no matter how bizarre if may appear to be (I think of fetishes), makes sense when it is perceived in the context of the choices generated by the individual’s particular model of himself and the world. Addiction is not a matter of making a wrong choice, but of not having sufficient internal choices – thus you act on old instruction or generally outdated information that has no bearing on the present except that the present contains the trigger that sets the old behavior in motion.

The more entrenched the behavior is, the more likely it is to be connected to early survival skills – the need for protection, nurturing, feeling enlivened yet safe, or the need to explore the world as an individual separate from Mother (the sexual need for novelty and excitement). You can see that, somehow-or-other, things went developmentally array in your childhood and the survival-seeking pleasure of existence was not provided in the way you needed it to be provided.

The result is that you go to sexual excitement (remember of definition of sex addiction) to get non-sexual, emotional needs met. I suspect that the original positive intent of your behavior was to feel safe, valued, recognized, wanted and alive. When compared to the “Manifested Behavior” – the addiction with all of its dreaded consequences, you can clearly see that behavior that had an original positive intent in the past now manifests as behavior that doesn’t satisfy your needs in a real, consistent, self esteeming enhancing way, but rather produces most of the distressing internal and external circumstances of your life.

One of NLP’s contributions to sexual recovery is that it allows you to access and employ your internal resources in order to have a repertoire of feelings and behaviors that you can refer to which can appropriately take the place of compulsive sexuality by fulfilling some of your needs in realistic, sustaining ways.

“Reframing” is an NLP stalwart strategy. To “reframe” a stimulus (e.g. sexual urges) means to change the meaning of the stimulus and thus to change the way you behave towards the stimulus.

To “reframe” the past means to look at it differently in light of new information and growing maturity. When I was in therapy, I could only bemoan growing up in the chaos of life with two alcoholic parents. I would regale the therapist with tales of the HORROR of it all! At some point in my development, I began to have a series of positive memories about my parents. Although dysfunctional after their illness took over, there were, in fact, many years of togetherness, closeness and fun. I have also come to recognize that they were not bad people, just people with a bad disease. Despite it all, they managed to march to the tune of their own drummer in terms of their lifestyle choices and engendered in me enough love of learning to be able to write this book! So…voila! You can change the past, depending on which frame you choose to put on it.

NLP uses a “Six-Step Reframe” to work with a variety of unwanted behaviors, thoughts, feelings and attitudes. I encapsulate for the sake of simplicity.

Identify the behavior to be changed. In other words, what do you want and what stops you from getting there at this time. You may, for instance, was to enjoy sexuality as an experience shared with a cherish partner that leaves you feeling enlivened rather than depleted and self-hating. What stops you from getting there? Why, your addiction, of course.
Establish communication with the part of you that generates the behavior. This is the part of you that revels in the experience of intense sexual pleasure and can’t figure out, for the life of you, why you would ever want to stop. You need to understand that the addict part is part of your early survival skills and will only change if presented with additional internal alternatives to the addiction that responds as successfully, or preferably even better to the original needs.
Separate the original, positive intention of the behavior from the actually manifested addictive behavior. Almost all of the techniques for recovery covered in this book include a process of “dissociating” from the addiction.
Create alternative behaviors to satisfy the intention. Ask yourself: in what other ways might I feel safe, enlivened, protected? How might I give vent to my leanings toward mystery, novelty and risk that aren’t sexual? Ask the “wise man” inside you for 3-5 ways of dealing with life other than with the use of sex or pornography.
Check again with your “addict” part to see if he’ll accept at least one of the new choices.
Ecological check. The therapist asks you to check if there are any parts of yourself that appear to object to the preceding negotiations and, if not, if you then feels that all of you is willing to support trying new behavior that supports the original intention of the lustful behavior.

In summary, the Six-Step Reframe represents some of the most significant models of NLP, the creation and behavioral installment of an internal repertoire of choices to deal effectively with life events, the belief that individuals have all the resources they need to lead satisfying lives, that the therapist’s job is to help the client in accessing thee internal resources and that all behavior, no matter how bizarre, makes sense in the context in which it was originated. It further demonstrates that there is a positive connotation in all dysfunctional behavior. This connotation is the pivotal point for turning current negative behavior around by offering an array of choices that responds more appropriately to the original needs. Finally given the opportunity, the human being moves toward well being which can only occur in the context of the continual creation of new internal alternatives and choices.

Author's Bio: 

Dorothy Hayden, LCSW, has been treating sex addiction for 15 years. With 30 articles and one e-book, "Total Sex Addiction Recovery -- A Guide to Therapy", she is considered a "thought leader" in the field. She has been interviewed by HBO, CNN and "20/20" about cybersex and sex addiction.