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Addicted to Sex?

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Addictions come in many shapes and sizes. Some are more obvious, such as drug or alcohol addiction; others we may not commonly consider to be addictions, such as the addiction to being right, or to receiving approval. Yet all addictions have this in common: They are an attempt to escape our inner discontent through external stimulus or distraction. Sex is a very common addiction. Like all addictions, it is not the act in itself but the way we use it that matters: Sex can be used as an escape, or if we choose, as a celebration of life, an expression of joy on the path of self discovery.

Sex becomes an addiction when we cannot bear to be with ourselves. If we are constantly looking for someone to feel attracted to or fall in love with, someone to save us from ourselves, then sex has become an addiction. Instead of connecting internally with what we are feeling, we prefer to lose ourselves in fantasies that seldom reflect reality.

Addiction creates dependence, which in turn creates fear and anxiety. The only way out of this is to see through the addiction, to revert the energy that propels us towards the object of our desire by turning it inward, and seeking to be with ourselves with the same intensity we sought to be with another. By strengthening the bond with ourselves, we create strong and solid roots, a base from which we can share our life with a partner, without getting lost in the drama and suffering generated by the frustrated search for external satisfaction.

Thirty years ago we were breaking barriers; the taboos around sex were being challenged and reinvented, but it's not about that anymore. Now it is time for us to take responsibility for our own happiness, and instead of seeking to take satisfaction from our world, to focus on what we can give. If we have a sexual addiction, we are taking from others -- using them for entertainment, like a toy. It's time to grow up.

Making love is about sharing -- it's about giving and receiving, about intimacy and vulnerability. Do not deny desire: Repression will only increase the pressure, and there will come a time when we can ignore it no longer. Focus instead on cultivating the inner fulfillment that will truly complete us; that is ultimately far more satisfying than the fleeting relief of physical pleasure. Then your sexuality will become a joyful sharing of that internal experience: It will be innocent and transparent, rather than full of need and desperation.

The first step to disarm this addiction is awareness. If you are looking for it, sex will tempt you everywhere: on billboards, in the street, online. To move beyond this, we must first become aware the we are not our thoughts. The mind will always find something to hook onto externally -- a challenge, a conquest, a flirtation. So let's learn to rise above the mind.

Observe the mind: When a thought arises, it generates a physiological response that triggers the need for satisfaction as our hormones spring into action. Desire ripples on your skin, the mind bombards you with images. But the satisfaction will be fleeting: It will soon be gone.

To no longer be a prisoner of sexual desire, to discover the power and joy of finding fulfillment within ourselves is a wonderful thing. It requires commitment, but it is definitely worth it. And there is nothing to lose: This is not so much about modifying our behavior as it is about modifying our focus -- about saying yes to ourselves, making ourselves more important than the outside and discovering the source of inner satisfaction, the love, joy and appreciation that comes from embracing our present reality instead of chasing a future fantasy.

For what we think will bring us fulfillment is in reality what keeps us from seeing the truth: that fulfillment has been here and now, all along.

Isha Judd will be touring the US and Canada in May for the launch of her new book, Love Has Wings. Learn more at www.ishajudd.com.

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