Title: Breaking the Cycle
Author: George Collings
Publishing Information: New Harbor Publishing Inc., California: 2010. (212 pages.)
Reviewer: Joshua T. Mears PsyD, LP
Review Date: May 2015
Breaking the Cycle by George Collins brings an interesting and perhaps unorthodox look into recovery from sexual addiction. By “unorthodox” I am specifically meaning that as a Christian Psychologist from a WELS Lutheran background I am particularly trained to filter resources from a confessional Lutheran worldview and at first glance this book does not fit the bill.
The author is a psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapist and (without getting too technical with psychological jargon) this suggests that he attempts to encourage interventions that are based on early childhood experiences and unconscious personalities that set the table for sexual behavior. For example, “In my childhood, my mother frequently paid me twenty-five cents to massage her shoulders. I hate your father, she would say over and over again, often adding you’ll always be my little man. One day she asked me to massage her breasts…My mother’s behavior continued in ways that resulted in me feeling a deep sense of shame and being pathologically close to her.” Collins goes on to explore how this sexually abusive relationship with his mother manifested in an unhealthy sexually addictive mindset in his adulthood. Although there is some very valuable information that can be gleaned from examining a sexual history and how that information continues to automatically develop into compulsions for the sexual addict, there will be some readers that do not appreciate this style or his emphasis on early childhood experiences. What about the person that does not have any incidents of sexual abuse or adverse early life experiences surrounding their developing sexuality? Does over-analyzing our childhood experiences reduce our ability to focus on the here and now?
However, for those who struggle with pornography, especially those who have read through a plethora of material and books that look at sexual triggers and thought restructuring models from a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) perspective, perhaps this book is a valuable resource. For a pornography struggler that has used many of those CBT techniques without successful outcomes perhaps Collins’ book is a refreshing look and a different set of interventions that can be valuable and insightful. For example, the chapter 2 exercise of identifying the voices in your amphitheater is a great exercise that allows a person to examine not only cognitive thought patterns but also more deeply appreciate the many different personalities that make up your core addictive self.
There are some clearly flawed patterns of thinking when you compare Collins’ model of recovery with a Christian worldview. Collins does not appreciate that the subpersonality that he is describing within the addictive self is more accurately defined as the sinful “old Adam.” He states repeatedly that “you are not your mind” in an effort to build hope and internal self-control, but we know that we are very much owned and consumed by a sinful fallen nature. Collins also does not appreciate the value of how Christ is the true source of strength, intimacy and guidance within any set of interventions. But these are some of the common sources of contention that we must wrestle with as we utilize resources that do not originate from a confessional Lutheran source. Nonetheless, with a trained eye on how to integrate a Lutheran worldview within recovery, this book can be a very valuable resource. For example, using the “turning on the lights in your amphitheater” exercise is a wonderful tool that when modified from a Christian perspective could allow a pornography struggler to insert Christ into an incident of temptation and allow our Savior to be the true voice of compassion and grace within this addiction.
So, I would recommend Breaking the Cycle for a pornography struggler that may feel exhausted and overcome with other resources that have not been effective with changing the fundamental pattern of addiction. At the same time, I suggest that using this book would be best in consultation with a trained Christian therapist or with your pastor, who can assist the reader to fully incorporate and filter some of the exercises to keep the source of truth and grace very apparent.