Your mind can be a powerful and sometimes destructive force. It can lie, it can rationalize bad behavior, and often for those of us living with addictions, it can continually chase a past experience it considers to be “perfect.”
We call this phenomenon “euphoric recall.” A lot of men in recovery are familiar with the concept, even if they haven’t heard the term. Everyone experiences a little bit of euphoric recall from time to time. Perhaps you keep getting on roller coasters, hoping you will get the same incredible rush you felt the first time you rode one. Or maybe you keep comparing everyone’s tomato sauce to your grandmother’s. To a small extent, this is typical behavior. Euphoric recall becomes a problem when it translates itself into compulsion.
For many men, the tendency to act out sexually can be traced back to a desire to recapture a past experience. This may manifest as seeking out porn clips that remind you of a pleasant sexual experience from years ago. It may also simply manifest as always trying to recapture the initial thrill you felt when you were first becoming sexually aware.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that because you can’t really revisit the past, you build up the past experience in your mind. There’s no way to actually go back and compare today’s reality with the fantasy of your past. So in other words, no matter how great an experience you are currently having, your mind can trick you into thinking it’s as good as “the one.” This can lead to repetitive and compulsive behavior because you’re trying over and over again to regain that past euphoria.
If you’re experiencing euphoric recall, it’s very likely that you are also experiencing shame. For more info on shame, check out our blog post, “Shame and What It Can Teach You.” When time and again, your mind has you convinced that you have to keep acting out, chasing something you can never really recapture, you might be left feeling like there’s no way out.
If you’re a parent, you might be familiar with the concept of “transitional objects.” These are things that children carry around with them all the time for comfort, as they progress through the stages of childhood. A security blanket or a teddy bear are common transitional objects. For many porn addicts, porn and masturbation have become your transitional objects. They’re your mind’s way of soothing itself in response to stressful situations.
Understanding euphoric recall helps reinforce understanding the fact that you are not your mind. Sexual experiences should be good things in your life, but the mind of a sex or porn addict keeps telling him to feel shame or fear in response to sexual experiences. Put some distance between yourself and your mind, and consider that these instances of euphoric recall are harming you. When you can begin to see that you are not your compulsive thoughts, you can break out of the cycle, and begin to live more in the moment.