Core wounding and the roots of sexual temptation

Excerpt from Biblical Sexuality & the 21st Century

by: Rev. Jayson Graves, M. MFT

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Even if you deal with depression or other soul pain if you will, anxiety, at a moderate level it can be at the very least an incredible nuisance, something that feels unshakable. I’ve dealt with both in my life. Depression has been a very real thing for me. I’ve done everything I possibly can, and it’s still there. I’ve taken medications. I don’t anymore. I’ve taken supplements that I still take. I’ve exercised my fanny off, literally. I’m a semi-professional triathlete and so I take it really seriously. It’s a demanding sport. The endorphins that it’s given me have been really good for me. I’m doing some neuro therapy. It’s training my brain waves. I’m still in the sanctification process and I plan to be for the rest my life until I’m 6 feet under.

I’m trying to do everything I possibly can, but guess what. It’s still there. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve released it. I’ve chosen to focus on the positive, but it’s still there. These days I liken it to, have you ever seen the movie, A Beautiful Mind? The movie with Russell Crowe. He is this brilliant scientist and he goes a little crazy and starts to have these hallucinations and these psychotic experiences where he sees people. He has these people who are following him around. He gets paranoid. It’s terrible. He finally starts to get better at the end of the movie… Sorry. Spoiler alert here of you haven’t seen. At the end of the movie somebody comes up to him and says, “How did you get rid of the hallucinations?” He said, “They’re still there.” Then the camera pans over to these people that had been tormenting him, these psychotic hallucination people and they’re looking downtrodden. They’re sitting in one place and commiserating. Well, they’re still there but I just don’t listen to them anymore. That’s a great image for sexual temptation.

I can tell you that that’s what it’s like in that place too. With the depression and the sexual temptation, it’s still there. I just don’t choose to listen to it like I used to. At the end of the day Jesus didn’t even get to choose his own temptation. What would make us think that we could? We don’t get to choose what we’re tempted by. We can make choices that affect the intensity and the frequency of those temptations. We can agree or not in our behavior with those temptations, but we don’t get to choose them. What Jesus shows us though is that he does get to choose what we do about them. That’s the good news. That’s where we can go with temptation. Not only does this not define me, but also I want to make the right choices. I can do the best choice. Even when I don’t make the best choice or when I make mistakes– guess what? His grace is sufficient for me. I don’t have to beat myself up and downward spiral even more. I just get back up again.

Psychological roots. Where do they come from? They come from developmental needs from primary developmental relationships. We all have developmental needs to be met growing up. When they don’t get met or they don’t get fully met, or when there is a perception that they weren’t met…  When there’s abuse or neglect in the face of those needs being met we can come away in our developmental process with developmental gaps. These gaps in our development show up or manifest in adolescence and adulthood as all sorts of relational pain, dysfunction, brokenness, inadequacy, insecurity… 

What happens then is just like the person who experiences neurological roots and those chemicals involved — dopamine, adrenaline and oxytocin. That cocktail is about four times as strong as heroin. That’s why it feels so good. Just like that person has been scarred by that and is further medicated with those drugs in their head we can use sex to medicate against these wounds and the pain that these developmental gaps cause in our life, the pain that we experience from unmet needs. Where do they come from? The point is that we don’t want to blame anybody. That never helps.

The fact is that our key developmental relationships are always going to be the ones that are the most influential over us like our parents, peers, siblings and other formative figures like teachers, coaches, and pastors. These people were not perfect. We are not the perfect parents. We’re not the perfect pastor. We’re not the perfect teacher or coach. We’re not the perfect peers. So our humanity lands on those over which we have influence. We’re saving for our kids college fund right now, but were saving even more for their therapy funds. The neglect can come in the form of even something as simple as; many people are raised without ever hearing the words, I love you. It’s astonishing.

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