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  • Writer's picturemichael dale

Orgasm - A Jungian perspective on porn addiction.

Updated: May 1

This article is celebrating its tenth year in the public domain. 

The kind of porn we are watching is often a dead giveaway about the kind of energy that is lacking in our lives. For example...

Many of us disregard the use of porn as harmless but studies by Cambridge University scientists have revealed,


“Pornography addiction leads to [the] same brain activity as alcoholism or drug abuse.” (The Independent).


Where porn differs from alcohol and drugs is that for the majority it is a secret habit, or at least a habit practiced in solitude. Drinking or taking drugs generally takes place in the company of others and a person would be considered “addicted” or at least to have some kind of a ‘problem’ if regularly getting high or drunk alone. Porn addiction however is subject to no such scrutiny.


What’s more the physical signs of porn addiction are much harder to notice. If we overindulge in alcohol or drugs signs of inebriation are obvious. Though if we overindulge in porn there is no physical evidence, we still appear completely ‘normal’. This makes it easy to get away with and also makes us believe it’s not that serious.


Sex education has also been reduced to an awkward biology lesson. In truth many of the males in my generation never learnt anything about sex from our parents, we grew up on the erotic story sections of tabloid newspapers and porn magazines.


But what’s it all about? Why do we need porn? How does it serve us psychologically?


For a start human sexuality has been repressed for thousands of years. As with any other marginalized need or aspect of ourselves when we deny it, it does not go away, it just goes underground and gets very distorted and animalistic.


A good example of this is "Life Of Pi" by Yann Martel. The tiger in the boat with the young man represents the primal masculine life force energy that his upbringing has repressed, which arises from his unconscious to help him survive the experience of being stranded at sea. His only choice is to learn to live with the tiger or be consumed by it.


Porn addiction has a similarly distorting impact on our sex drive. The urge to masturbate is almost uncontrollable at first and we endlessly fantasise about sex. We also become obsessed with having the kind of sex we see in the porn we watch and invariably end up paying for it or becoming enmeshed in alternative sexual outlets such as swinging, sex parties and paying prostitutes to act our fantasies. In this sense, our sex drive becomes like the tiger and we become like Pi in his makeshift life raft hanging on by a thin rope wondering what the hell to do!


However, don’t forget the tiger (his primordial masculine life force energy) emerges from Pi’s unconscious for a reason – To help him survive being stranded at sea!

So what is the sex drive of a porn addict trying to help him or her to survive?


The answer in no small part is the spiritual void synonymous with life in modern consumer society (a void that has grown exponentially in the ten years since this article was first written). In truth, addicts of all kinds are often some of the most spiritually inclined people on the planet!


Quite frankly all this sounds completely mad but let’s take a good look at the evidence. Renowned Jungian analyst and author Robert A. Johnson asserts, “Addiction is the negative side of spiritual seeking”. This suggests it is no accident we are in the clutches of a global addiction epidemic. A significant percentage of the world’s population is desperate for a sense of soul, seeking deeper meaning beyond the bleak reality of consumer life in a digital dystopia. Therefore addiction is the dark side of the quest for the soul – The negative side of searching for a connection to something greater than ourselves – a quest for connection to something greater than ourselves, a sense of the mysterious divine life force from which all existence emanates (for many, this longing transcends any particular religious doctrine or belief system).


At the most basic level what we see in porn is the chance to experience orgasm. In modern society, orgasm is often the only avenue for experiencing a brief, yet somewhat euphoric or spiritual connection to our life force energy. Though fleeting, it remains our primary way of connecting with the divine creative essence within ourselves—the divine world that resides within.

Despite the shame and that horrible hollow feeling, for many porn users masturbation is also our only means of self-love. It is our only means of escaping the endless demands of life and just being in our bodies and our fantasies.


Now we’ve all heard about the soul in countless poems and love songs but does it exist or is it merely woolly sentimentality?


In his illuminating book “We: Understanding the Psychology Of Romantic Love” Robert A. Johnson shares that “Jung’s psychology leads us back to the soul as a concrete reality. Jung said that the soul is “both receiver and transmitter,” an organ of the psyche* that receives the images of the unconscious and transmits them to the conscious ego-mind… The soul manifests itself, and the unconscious, by means of the forgotten language of symbols: the images that flow from the unconscious in the form of dreams, visions, fantasies, and all other forms of imagination.”


According to Jung, the soul is no superstition – it is an organ of the psyche and the intermediary between the internal worlds of the unconscious, represented by the feminine and the external world of the masculine: the human realm of the conscious ego mind.


In the external world, we can be truly perfect only in our imperfections. Our internal world is the divine realm where images and symbols of perfection hold true, in a sense we are all perfect on the inside because we all arise from the same divine life force energy. Thus the soul being the intermediary between the unconscious and the conscious ego mind communicates through images and symbols of perfection. The ego being the ego takes these symbols literally compelling us to be perfect and do everything perfectly, which can be exhausting at the best of times.


The soul itself is represented in the conscious ego mind by an image of perfection as well. For most men, it is the image of a goddess, a queen or a princess. Jung called it the anima due to its ability to animate and bring meaning to a man’s life. In women, it is usually the image of a god, a king or a prince. Jung called this the animus.


In his book “We” Johnson points out that many of us used to happily experience our soul internally by worshipping images of perfection through the various religions. Images and expectations of perfection hardly ever got entangled in our daily lives or relationships.


The masculine ego, however, being the easily corruptible entity it so often is, soon took over religion and forced the feminine soul, the mystical side of life into hiding. Religious sects like the Cathars (not to be confused with the Catholics) who worshipped only the Divine, the inherently feminine side of life and spurned the mundane, the sexual, and the day-to-day side of life as sordid, were wiped out.


In his book “Ecstasy: Understanding The Psychology Of Joy” Johnson gives another example, the culling of the cult of Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. The Romans turned Dionysus into Bacchus –the horned god of drunkenness – and orgies that were originally collective acts of worship became drunken sex parties. The goat-headed image of the devil we have today evolved from Dionysus and the repression of sexual freedom and ecstasy. Ecstasy derives from 'ex-stasis' to step outside the self, it was said to be a moment when the wall between the soul and the ego-self is lowered and divine love can enter our hearts. 


Whenever any aspect of our nature is repressed it just remerges differently. Lo and behold in the 12th century a new kind of ‘love’ relationship emerged in Europe called ‘courtly love’.

‘Courtly love’ as Robert A. Johnson explains in his book "We" involves a gallant knight being so inspired by a noblewoman’s beauty and grace he would ride in her honour and go on to great deeds. Sex was never involved! Anyway, French troubadours got wind of these great stories and soon enough the mad cult of romantic love was born and took the Western World by storm.


The abiding imagery of the knight and the noblewoman is still so inspiring to us. They seem so selfless and pure but actually, they were just complete narcissists! You see the knight was merely projecting his anima, his soul, onto the noblewoman and the noblewoman was doing the same thing to him. Both were vicariously living out their souls through one another.


Now, that’s all very well for knights and noblewomen, but the legacy we are left with is highly dysfunctional at best. When we fall in ‘love’ with someone at first, it’s mainly just a projection. The other person is just offering us a glimpse of our inner god or goddess, our soul. Initially, this is an amazing experience but completely unsustainable, though many of us do everything in our power to maintain it: go to the gym five times a week, dye our hair, get plastic surgery, spend loads of money on fancy clothes, cars, and other gadgets… try every conceivable sexual position and practice. Alas, the projection – the fantasy – will inevitably erode, and the life force energy it promised will inevitably wither because, after all, neither one of us is a god or a goddess; we are human beings.


The fantasy fades and we are left with pee sprinkles on the toilet seat, menstrual cycles, flatulence and all the other human stuff. I know you don’t want to hear it but according to Johnson, this is where 'Human Love' can begin. The sustainable kind of deeply nurturing, wholesome, being loved for who we are kind of ‘love’. If we allow it that is, and we are lucky enough to be in a relationship with someone we are actually compatible with. This is also where for many of us porn comes in to save the day. Porn is the perfect outlet for anima and animus projections and many other psychological complexes and a perfect tool for avoiding all that boring mundane stuff (10 years on from writing this AI-powered sexual partners are now almost a reality. Our craving for our Anima/Animus truly knows no bounds!).


For example, Western society’s current obsession with youth leads the majority of men to channel their anima projections into porn involving teenage girls. Women on the other hand are often more inclined toward a male Adonis in his twenties.


All of the six packs, plastic surgery, breast implants, lip implants, bum implants and everything else are merely men's and women’s desperate efforts to be each other’s anima or animus – to become the projection, the illusion, the fantasy. A perfect example of this is the recent film “Snow White And The Huntsmen”. Snow White’s stepmother’s obsession with eternal youth leaves the entire kingdom baron. Her kingdom represents the internal world of within.


The problem is that the anima and the animus are almost completely lost to us internally. Thus we constantly see fragments of them in anyone (and anything, cars are one example) we find even remotely attractive. Weirdly this is our soul’s way of drawing us into our internal world, of drawing us into our internal life, but it's not working. The metaphor is completely lost on a lot of us and we are just getting more and more numb and superficial.


As I mentioned anima and animus projections frequently dissolve and then reappear. This is where porn is so powerful; through porn, we can easily perpetuate the anima/animus illusion and perpetually avoid honest relationships and all that boring mundane ‘normal’ life stuff. Through porn, we can effortlessly shift our anima/animus projection from one fetish to another (say from American teens to Asian teens, to Europeans. Latino men to Black men, to Caucasian men, BDSM, to Brazilian sex parties, wife swapping to milf) thus ensuring the projections survival and never facing the daunting task of going within and finding an authentic sense of soul for ourselves, our true anima or animus.


One particularly interesting piece of the puzzle is the link between the often-insatiable need to orgasm and the Mother Complex. The Mother Complex (not to be confused with a person’s real mother) is an archetypal process that plays out (usually unconsciously) in every individual’s psyche. It is often depicted in mythology as a battle between a knight and a dragon to save a princess. (All though this myth involves a male protagonist it applies to women as well). Johnson says in his book “Lying With The Heavenly Woman” that The Mother Complex is the desire within all of us human beings to regress to an earlier stage of life in which all our needs were taken care of, the womb. 


Symptoms of The Mother Complex include total apathy and also completely overdoing it. The pinnacle of The Mother Complex is suicide, handing ourselves over to the void to be taken care of. This could be either literal suicide or slow semi-conscious suicide through self-destructive behaviours. In men and women sexual fluid is one of the only ways to differentiate between childhood and adulthood. The urge to release that fluid is particularly prevalent in adolescence. What this seems to be (at the archetypal level) is a need to rid ourselves of our masculinity or femininity and return to our childhood state. A need that continues well into our adult lives due to a lack of any kind of meaningful sexual initiation within contemporary societies. Ironically the frequent release of sexual fluid with many partners particularly for men has become a way to measure manhood but biologically it's the opposite because it reduces a man's testosterone levels drastically!


An awareness of The Mother Complex alone can bring great understanding and many gifts of insight where pain, confusion and suffering presided over previously. This profound truth provided great insight and healing for me on my suicide attempt at the age of eighteen and my pron addiction and other self-destructive behaviours. It is a great tool for dealing with porn addiction. 


MILF and Cougar porn is another example of a complex playing out through porn, this time it’s the Oedipus complex credited to Freud. When we watch MILF porn we metaphorically have sex with our mother whilst killing our father at the same time. We also assuage the fear of castration anxiety, the fear of our same-sex parent castrating us for our desire to sexually possess our parent of the opposite sex, by metaphorically castrating ourselves i.e. expelling our sexual fluid and drastically reducing our testosterone levels.


The kind of porn we are watching is often a dead giveaway about the sort of energy that is lacking in our lives. For example, obsession with teen porn is often a cry to reignite our youth, MILF porn is a cry for some mothering energy etc. But above all, what seems to satisfy the majority of male porn viewers the most is to see another man in what he perceives as the full expression of his masculine life force energy and to picture themselves in that position. Watching porn is like watching a boxing match for many men in that sense but ironically porn is staged. 


The problem as Marnia Robinson points out in her book Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow is also our DNA. We are programmed to ensure our gene's survival, which means mating with as many partners as possible. Experiments on rats showed that when a male rat had sex with a fertile female, he would soon lose interest afterwards. However, if another fertile female was introduced he was miraculously willing to go again. If yet another were introduced he would immediately be willing to go again and so on to the point of total depletion and death. This is why we can masturbate over porn many times in one day though with a long-term partner a single orgasm is usually all we are interested in.


So we have scraped the surface of the Jungian perspective on porn addiction. The most important thing is to let go of all shame and begin to understand that our porn habits offer us a treasure trove of psychological insight that can lead to deep spiritual insights, self-understanding, and psychological synthesis, or individuation, the authentic integration of life force energy. Hiring someone like myself, who has been through the process and holds no judgments, is incredibly effective in starting on the road to recovery.


The moral of the story is that until we give our soul its rightful place in our life and learn to channel our life force energy into appropriate outlets our soul will continue to show up in other people and addictions and destroy our ‘love’ relationships and the rest of our lives. This destruction is the tribute we must pay if we ignore it. As we grow older and more cynical our anima/animus projections dissolve and reappear more and more frequently and life becomes more and more soulless. Many of us become dependent on sex, essentially dependent on the physical act of orgasm through connection with another, and begin to pay people for it. On top of porn, some choose food, money, gambling, adrenaline or drugs. In the worst cases, it’s a combination of all these things and more.


Some people channel their anima or animus into a musical instrument, by giving it a name and blessing it with magical qualities. This can work beautifully as long as we understand our soul is immortal and it doesn’t die with an instrument it can live on in anything and everything. The work of channelling the soul into appropriate outlets holds the possibility for a lifetime of fulfilling creation and meaningful exploration when approached with childlike curiosity.


One excellent outlet for the soul is writing poetry in a particular way, a process laid out in my book Escape To The Homelands Of The Heart (free on Apple book store). Poetry brings a sense of divinity to the mundane and a sense of humanity to the Divine.


Hiring a coach or therapist is a very effective way to begin your journey on a good note. Remember it is the unconscious you must access, the world of imagination, dreams and fantasy. Active moving meditations such as Biodanza and 5 Rhythms are particularly popular and work well too in some cases. We are all of course different and respond differently to different things at different times. 

 

So the question remaining is do you want to continue now consciously playing your part in perpetuating your misery by pinning your soul on to other people in porn films and material things? Or are you willing to begin the work of channelling your soul, your life force energy, into appropriate outlets? As always if you are willing to do the work I am willing to work with you. Do not allow financial limitations or fears to stop you there is always a way.


[*] My friend Professor Keith Wayne Brown correctly pointed out that psyche translated from Greek, means soul. The idea of one being an organ of the other is a concept unique to Jung as far as I am aware.

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