Mental and Spiritual Health Conference Challenge

Mental and Spiritual Health Conference Challenge

Twice a year we have the wonderful privilege of hearing from our leaders to receive spiritual guidance and counsel. Each year the messages of these amazing men and women seems to have a greater impact on my life. Maybe you're like me and sometimes feel they prepared their message specifically for you. Conference is a spiritual feast that nourishes your soul when so many other responsibilities and life tax your soul.

However, if you are like me and many others, conference can also be anxiety provoking and overwhelming. There are times a leader’s message doesn't seem to align with scriptural or spiritual guidance received in the course of seeking answers to prayers. Other times, the feelings of anxiety become overwhelming as you have spent the last weeks, months and even years doing all you can to be met with a message of "do more." Sometimes a speaker doesn't seem to understand the complexities of life with their overly simplified solutions, which then elicits the guilty, self-reflective, self-punishing idea that maybe you don't have enough faith.

Elder Holland warned about this risk;

"My brothers and sisters, except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call “toxic perfectionism.” We should avoid that latter excessive expectation of ourselves and of others and, I might add, of those who are called to serve in the Church—which for Latter-day Saints means everyone, for we are all called to serve somewhere." Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually

Although I think most don't believe our leaders are infallible, this is this cultural assumption—that ALL things spoken in conference are "right", "true", "doctrine", or "scripture" and are meant as an infallible guide for your personal life. Unfortunately, this cultural belief feeds the toxic perfectionism spoken of by Elder Holland. Therefore, this conference I encourage you to get the most out of every message by taking the mental and spiritual health conference challenge. Here it is:

1. Verbally remind yourself that God is working though imperfect people with their own perceptions, bias, family culture and predispositions.

2. Verbally remind yourself that not everything—in fact most things—spoken in conference are NOT doctrine, but rather personal experiences of imperfect people making sense of an infinite and eternal gospel.

3. Verbally remind yourself to conscientiously check in with your Father in Heaven if the message is meant for you and is something you should prioritize in your life.

4. Verbally acknowledge that even leaders say things that are confusing, unclear and even wrong. Trust your ongoing relationship with God and allow clarity to come from HIM.

5. Verbally acknowledge if you come away from conference with the idea that you need to do more, be better, work harder, read more scriptures, sacrifice more. Most likely it’s the influence of toxic perfectionism and not the spirit of Christ.

6. Verbally promise yourself that you will not assume a speaker’s words are more important or correct than your personal relationship and revelation from God.

7. Verbally acknowledge that emotions are NOT the same as spiritual confirmation or revelation.

8. Verbally remind yourself to be present, feeling and thinking about your own experience during conference.

The gospel is joyous. We should be rejoicing and feeling God’s love and learning how to emulate that love. His love is healing, not hurtful or depressing.

Donate

The Unintelligent Parent

The following is an excerpt from Relief Society Magazine: Guide Lessons For April 1927 Lesson IV Social Service (Fourth Week in April).

Emotional Problems of Childhood—Jane and Henrietta 

Serious and difficult emotional problems are presented by the two adolescent girls, Jane and Henrietta. Both were the victims of unintelligent parents. The basis of these problems is not uncommon in adolescent development because of lack of understanding by their parents; one girl was on the verge of a mental breakdown, and the other was contemplating suicide. Both suffered these serious emotional upsets because of the lack of sex education and guidance.

It will be remembered from the introductory discussion of emotional problems that the individual has three dominant instincts or urges—the ego, or self; the herd, or social; and the sex or love instinct. The three instincts all seek expression, and if thwarted or frustrated cause emotional disturbances the individual expresses his ego urge by accomplishing certain ends and experiencing the joy and satisfaction of expression. He satisfies his social urge by gaining the confidence and approval of his family, playmates, and friends. In the studies of the emotional problems of childhood, it has been pointed out that the failure to gain normal expression or the failure to gain approval seriously affects the development of the child. His defeats, and unhappiness, and sense of failure deeply affect his emotional life, limiting his development, and making his conduct abnormal.

In our home and school life the tendency has been to ignore inquiry into the other important instinct, sex. The subject has been a taboo. Because sex has been recognized as a compelling life force, but its aspects have not been generally understood, the whole subject has taken on an atmosphere of morbid secrecy.

Sex education is the responsibility of the home. The first questions of the origin and development of life are asked in the home. The relation between parents, the relation between parents and their children, the attitude of brothers and sisters toward one another, and toward their friends, are all phases of sex relationships, and depend on wholesome; home guidance to lead the child to normal, healthful attitudes.

The method of sex education will not be the subject of this discussion, for the subject itself deserves special attention and study. The purpose of studying the problems of Jane and Henrietta is to observe the real dangers and pitfalls that endanger adolescents if, through lack of home guidance, they have wrong information concerning sex, and unwholesome attitudes because of their misconceptions.

Jane at nineteen was at the beginning of a mental breakdown she was suffering from what is known as an anxiety neurosis. This condition was the result of a secret worry that she had tried to crowd out of her conscious life. In spite of her effort to forget her worry, the unconscious mind kept harboring and remembering until she came near a breakdown All her anxiety, and nervousness, and weeping, and unhappiness, were the result of wrong sex information given her by her mother. She had at twelve, and again at sixteen met an experience not at all uncommon in childhood. Her mother had observed that she masturbated—practiced self-abuse—and had used the unintelligent method of correcting her by telling the child that she would go crazy if she did not stop the practice.

The mother filled the child's life with fear, shame and inferiority. The (girl felt herself unclean and unfit for friendships and love. The shame and self-reproach continued, for at no time was she given frank, sound, sex information.

Her other home guidance was also harmful. Her mother was most rigid and severe in her regulations concerning her friends and social life, and this close supervision intensified her feeling of weakness and impending dangers.

When she was given a frank explanation of the function of sex by the physician she consulted, her danger was past. Her doubts and fears disappeared as soon as the atmosphere of secrecy and accompanying feeling of shame were removed.

Our author states that this practice occurs frequently among children, and should call for attention but not anxiety. The hazard is not the effect on the mind or body, but the fears and anxieties aroused by the method of correction. Parents should not express horror or instill fears to meet this behavior difficulty. Sympathetic understanding, patient teaching, and frankness by the parents will lead the child more readily to overcome the practice, and will not undermine his confidence and self-esteem.

Henrietta at sixteen found life dull, and contemplated self-destruction. Her thinking then led her to consider finding pleasure and securing pretty clothes by pursuing a course already adopted by her sister. Her poverty, her lack of normal childhood amusement, made the course of abandoning her moral principles seem exciting and attractive.

It is not fair to pass judgment on Henrietta and girls in her position, for the attitude they develop. Youth is a time for amusements and gaieties, and if no wholesome recreation is afforded young persons, it is quite natural for them to seek it in thoughtless and unwise channels.

The developing sex impulse in adolescents needs to be better understood by parents. In homes where boys and girls meet frequently to play and dance and enjoy youth together, there is no great occasion for alarm. Where this harmless, natural association is denied, either by lack of a pleasant home or by too rigid puritanical standards, the frustrated impulse may lead to real difficulties.

Henrietta's difficulties were both the lack of frank instruction, and the lack of constructive direction. The importance of children gaining their information regarding matters of health, of the life processes, and the ideal of parenthood in a sane, natural way, cannot be over-emphasized. In homes where questions are evaded and the subject of sex physiology and development is left a mystery, the child's curiosity is not only stimulated but he develops a morbid attitude toward the whole subject. He then gains his information from sources such as his gang, and lurid magazines, and his entire conception of the part of sex in life becomes distorted. It becomes an unspeakable subject, one from which he gains an unwholesome pleasure in discussing and contemplating its unsavory aspects. The very mystery that his parents place upon the subject makes his attitude abnormal, morbid and unwholesome.

The child who receives frank answers to his early questions, and who has his own development explained to him in terms of ideals of parenthood is protected from this unpleasant and harmful speculation. Fore-armed with sound, accurate information from the parents whose sincerity he does not doubt, he will be able to dismiss the misinformation that he will later hear from his crowd or gang. He will also be spared the emotional upset when he finally realizes that his parents have deliberately given him false information.

Henrietta had further difficulty besides the lack of instruction. Her home had given her no opportunity for the outlet of her emotional interests. The release of this emotional energy is important to give the individual normal stable personality. The inherent craving of individuals for emotional satisfaction is termed the libido. If the libido finds expression for its great store of energy in harmless channels, the individual maintains a normal attitude towards life, and normal interests in the affairs of everyday living. If the libido finds no opportunity for release, that is, finds no emotional satisfaction in the daily associations, and in the regular scheme of living, the libido will find an outlet in some other channel, which may have undesirable effects on the person.

In terms of Henrietta her libido found no wholesome outlet. Her natural craving for emotional satisfaction was frustrated. Her parents did not realize how important these satisfactions are, until the effect of her barren emotional life was explained to them.

The libido can find expression and satisfaction in many channels. Affection and appreciation in the home are sources of emotional release. Games, parties, outdoor sports, recreation, new clothes, success in work, are all easily recognized as sources of emotional satisfaction, and releases of emotional energy.

Henrietta responded to the treatment prescribed, and her nearsighted plans of securing clothes and pleasures by sacrificing her standards was forgotten. She was not scolded, nor lectured, nor criticized. No attempt was made to change her attitude by discussing her responsibilities and duties. Her thwarted emotional life made an intellectual appeal futile.

The treatment outlined was agreeable work away from home, where she found pleasure in her work and in being with children. Her earnings made it possible for her to gain other small pleasures in the way of recreation. Her days that had been spent in pent up brooding were now changed to active happy ones.

It is apparent that wholesome activity, recreation and pleasant associations are normal releases of the emotional life. Associations should be varied. There is some danger of too strong attachment between parents and children or two children. A mother, especially a widowed one, might devote herself too entirely to her only son or daughter. Two friends of the opposite sex at. too early an age may make emotional ties that are upsetting when the necessity rises for separation. Two friends of the same sex may also become too dependent on each other for their later happiness.

There are types of individuals who do not mingle with groups readily or frequently. Such social expression as possible should be encouraged in these persons, but it must be remembered that the emotional energy can find expression in channels other than amusement. Creative work of any kind has been identified with emotional life. Any expression, whether through poetry, painting, music or other creative work, gives the person a real emotional satisfaction. This expression through creative effort, known as sublimation is the sex impulse released through other channels.

The program of sex education is based on frank information given by parents to children, and also on the direction of the emotional energy into channels of work, recreation, activity, and of its sublimation to satisfying, useful forms of expression.

Reference -- The Challenge Of Childhood by Ira S.Wile, pages 215-227

Questions and Problems

1. Why is frank sex information to children important?

2. Why should this information be given in the home ?

3. What is meant by the libido?

4. How can the libido find expression in normal channels?

5. What are normal emotional satisfactions for adolescents?

6. What are the dangers of lack of emotional expression?

7. What treatment was outlined for Henrietta?

8. What is meant by sublimation?

-------------------------------------------

1. The Relief Society magazine : Organ of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/reliefsocietymag14reli#page/102

2. The Challenge Of Childhood. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.274695/2015.274695.The-Challenge#page/n227

He Restoreth My Soul Chapter Two

A review and response to the book "He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD (Neurosurgeon).

This response addresses chapter two, "What Is Addiction?" pgs. 7–12.

Ambiguous, Opinion and Tangential

It would be reasonable to expect that a medical doctor specializing in neurosurgery, in a chapter called, "what is addiction?" would include a well-informed, formulated, medically-sound definition and explanation of addiction. But the reader is void of any such clarity. Instead, Hilton interjects ambiguity, opinion and tangential reasoning, which has little to no relevance to addiction or porn as an addictive behavior. The inadequacy of this chapter is embarrassing, let alone completely baffling for a medical doctor to have authored.

Defining Pornography

Hilton presumptuously and arbitrarily defines pornography as, "anything that induces an inappropriate sexual interest for that person."

This statement is potentially one of the most blatant evidences of Hilton's ignorance and inexperience on the topics of addiction and pornography. Nonetheless, his lack of experience aside, as a trained medical professional, I am confused as to how he can assert this as a "functional definition." It lacks complete functionality. As mentioned in chapter one's response, he leverages familiar terminology within the LDS culture but fails to deliver substance. This is far from a functional definition.

First, "anything that induces an inappropriate sexual interest" is completely subjective, cultural, individual and familial. Who defines "inappropriate"? The bishop? A therapist? Parents? Society?

For example, a 19-year-old woman meets with me regarding her confusion regarding "inappropriate" sexual thoughts and behavior. For the last three years she had been concerned with particular thoughts and behavior, which she at first thought were normal and "appropriate." However, after talking with her bishop a few years ago, he expressed a heighten concern and took "preventive" measures to prevent the behavior from escalating.

Although the young woman wasn't spiritually concerned and was only talking with her bishop because she felt it was the right thing to do, the bishop’s response made her feel she was committing a serious sin. Now, three years later she is experiencing anxiety and spiritual confusion. What complicates this situation more is how her new bishop at college has responded to the behavior. The young woman said the bishop "was not concerned in the least" with her thoughts and behavior. In fact, he emphasized that it was normal and not something to be concerned about.

In another example, one young man sought treatment for his "pornography addiction" and "inappropriate sexual interest." This young man at 14 experienced a life transition when his parent remarried and the step parent moved in with a 16-year-old daughter. In his words, she was beautiful and he was experiencing "inappropriate sexual interest." At an age when his erections are unpredictable and frequent, it was difficult for him to keep his mind "pure." He had no desire to be inappropriate, and he didn't act out any feelings; in fact, he ended up locking himself in his room most of the time to avoid any potential "thoughts." Based off Hilton's definition, this young man is experiencing porn.

Many adolescence and adults believe they are experiencing pornography based on the subjective definitions of other people. One couple had an agreement to not go to either the beach or the gym. The wife expressed concern that her husband seeing other women in bikinis would trigger inappropriate thoughts. The husband had the same concern for his wife going to the gym and seeing men lifting without a shirt.

Second, Hilton fails to understand the contradictory nature of his opening paragraph when he further states, "Each person knows in his own heart what is a temptation for him, and that is the true test." What?! That is your functioning definition of pornography?! He just made a highly subjective statement of "anything that induces an inappropriate sexual interest" then leaves it up to the individual to determine what is inappropriate. Hilton's profound lack of understanding human nature, cultural influences and family dynamics on an individual is glaring. As you will discover, this lack of understanding feeds into every aspect of his book.

Third, it’s no surprise Hilton’s "functioning definition of pornography" is incoherent and unscientific because there is NO functioning definition of pornography.

If you ask a thousand people to define pornography, you'll get a thousand different answers. It is the only treated "illness" that has no specific definition of the problem or recovery. Mark Kim Malan, Ph.D. addressed this significant problem in A New Taxonomy: Scientific Misuse of the Term "Pornography", the following are extracts from his paper.

"Since the term ‘pornography’ has no agreed upon scientific definition, and since it has evolved into a term associated with pejorative bias, what terminology can scientists use to replace the term ‘pornography with a more accurate unbiased variable?

Efforts to answer this question led to examining not only the many various definitions of the term ‘pornography’, but also when it is used as various parts of speech. Such usage effectively expands and multiplies its definitions. Usually the term is used as a noun to define an object, for example when a photograph is called pornography. But also, it is sometimes used with an adjective to describe an object, usually in a pejorative way. An example would be the term ‘political pornography.’ A third approach is using the term to express individual subjective interpretation of an object. In this case pornography is modified into an adjective to describe another noun. The statement, ‘The Edsel, was simply a “pornographic automobile design”,’ would qualify as such an expression."

Dr. Mark Kim Malan continues to explain in his paper,

"Historically the term ‘pornography’ has an unreliable history of usefulness as a scientific term. Instead, it is a social construct of the human mind. Its social use is vague, inaccurate and is often co-opted for use as rhetoric by those who use it to further their social or political agendas. Over time the term has taken on negative connotations, and is now, also used as a pejorative term, in expressions of disapproval. The term ‘pornography’ is like using the term ‘lemon’ to describe an automobile. It describes a negative quality of an object in the minds of many people.

Sexual scientists look ridiculous, at best, and unethical at worst, when we refer to therapeutic depictions of healthy sexual behavior as ‘healthy pornography’. To the public, who colloquially views the term as a pejorative expression, the term ‘healthy pornography’ becomes an oxymoron. To the public, it is a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing the term ‘healthy poison’.

The term ‘pornography’ has socially evolved over time into a negative term. It has become ‘sexy stuff’ with bad press. Now is the time for scientists to break a bad habit of using this socially biased, non-scientific term. As scientists we create problems for ourselves when we adopt unscientific terminology that has culturally evolved, and is loaded with cultural or moralistic bias. We handicap the social effectiveness of our research when we use such terms.

The term ‘pornography’ is not going to go away. The public, politicians, moralists and the press will continue to use it to promote their agendas. Replacing the term ‘pornography’ with ‘sexually explicit material’ is a step in the right direction, but still the problem remains of who decides what is ‘sexually explicit’. This term, like ‘pornography’ is a subjective interpretation of an object, or group of objects.

As a solution, I am proposing this taxonomy of objects and subjective human response, for use in naming, and specifically defining objects as scientific variables. Instead of using the term ‘pornography’, I suggest naming objects and the human subjective responses to them in a more specific and standardized way, using this taxonomy as a guide.

When others use the term ‘pornography’ in dialog with us, we can simply respond by stating facts: ‘The term “pornography” is not scientific. There is no agreed upon scientific definition. It is more scientifically accurate to talk about specific objects and how individuals subjectively respond to them’. It is our responsibility to teach the public to be accurate and think in scientific terms."

Defining Addiction – Wait what just Happened?

The reader is left to fill in a void as wide as the Atlantic as Hilton transition from a "functional definition" of pornography to a "structural definition" of addiction. Is he suggesting any and all pornography is a form of addiction? What is he saying? This is HUGE! Am I an addict?!

Nonetheless, Hilton fails again at any reasonable or coherent attempt to define "addiction." Instead, he quotes a "structural definition" of addiction, from what appears to be a random article in a journal published in 1979! "Addiction represents a pathological, yet powerful, form of learning and memory."  (Memory deficits associated with senescence: a neurophysiological and behavioral study in the rat)

First, this is in no way a structural definition of addiction. At best, it’s an outdated hypothesis describing the potential effects of hard drug use.

Second, literally no clinician refers to, defines or explains "addiction" in this way. Furthermore, this is completely tangential. Hilton is making a false assumption and unsupported conclusion that hard drug use is the same as porn use.

Third, Hilton confuses and uses "process (behavior) addictions," compulsion, chemical addiction and sin interchangeably.

"Applying this definition (structural) to pornography, addiction is simply a repetitive behavior which damages the person and others in his life and which the person is unable to stop." (pg. 6)

Aside from this being a poor and problematic definition of addiction, this more closely describes a process/behavior addiction. Or rather, an unhealthy habit. His statement, "addiction is simply a repetitive behavior which damages … " suggests habit and is also confusing in the context of the chapter and book. Is the action "simply a repetitive behavior" that causes damage? Or is it,

"The impaired thinking alters the belief system, and the acting out becomes the drug that reinforces the impaired beliefs … . [the] Brain chemicals and the adversary synergistically act in an unholy alliance of soul-searing destruction." (pg. 11)

This definition, also problematic and not how medical or professionals refer to chemical addiction, is more closely aligned with substance abuse.

Also, take note of the unnecessary use of the adversary in this definition. This is a foreshadowing of the frequent misuses of the gospel to elicit fear. Hilton solidifies his ignorance regarding human behavior and the gospel with each similar statement. What value does he think he is providing by emphasizing "the adversary synergistically act in an unholy alliance of soul-searing destruction"?

Sin and the adversary's power is a function of our agency, not a biological impairment. This narrative of Satan and brain chemicals isn't unique to Hilton. It’s a popular pop-psychology idea adopted by inexperienced therapists and treatment organizations. For the purpose of drawing in the "religious" element of addiction, this topic is so convoluted and pervasive that I will need to address it throughout the various chapters. In short, this is a perfect example of men wresting the scriptures, mingling science, religion and the concepts of men. It’s damaging and destructive; ironically this misuse causes much unneeded "soul-searing destruction."

For example, a young man sat in my office with a blank look on his face. This kid was known as a model youth, charismatic, loving of the gospel and serving fully in his callings; however, as he sat and described the horrific despair and soul-crushing fear he possessed, one would have thought he committed the unpardonable sin, or murder. In his words, he was "evil." Why? Because he was "addicted" to pornography. This young man was on the verge of losing all hope. He is not alone; this is not an exception.

Although his porn use was habitual, it wasn't an addiction — far from it. But according to Hilton and his bishop, both untrained to provide this type of counseling, had nonetheless convinced this young man he was in danger of losing his salvation and being controlled/possessed by the adversary. After working with this young man, although his porn use was still being addressed, he returned to the joyful and hopeful teen he once was. By unlearning concepts like Hilton's statement, this teen is now on a path to recovery.

Habits, compulsion, chemical addiction and sin are sometimes overlapped. But they are NOT the same, these behaviors will be addressed why its critical to understand the difference for successful treatment. Hilton's failure and even neglect to define or adequately explain addiction is abysmal. Not a single reference to scientific literature, diagnostics manuals or research. He doesn't provide any clarity or insight in this chapter on "addiction". The reader is left to believe, whether they have had one "inappropriate" sexual thought or many, are addicts like those using hard drugs.

What does the medical field actually say about porn "addiction"? 

Hilton's beliefs are not only wrong scientifically, he is going against the teachings of our leaders. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said,

"We recognize these different levels, we also recognize that not everyone who uses pornography willfully is addicted to it. In fact, most young men and young women who struggle with pornography are not addicted. That is a very important distinction to make—not just for the parents, spouses, and leaders who desire to help but also for those who struggle with this problem." (Recovering from the Trap of Pornography)

Elder Oaks embraced a more scientific and correct view of (1) inadvertent exposure, (2) occasional use, (3) intensive use, and (4) compulsive use (addiction). Hilton on the other hand doesn't believe in such varying degrees of use.

As for the scientific definitions, neither of the two official medical classifications and diagnostic manuals, the ICD-11 (International Classification of Disease, used as a coding manual in healthcare) or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5 or the DSM-IV-TR) contain a diagnosis for porn or sexual addiction.

This is a critical fact that Hilton neglects to address in this chapter. Its very possibly why he avoided the topic at all.

The most recent addition to the ICD-11 allows for a classification of "Compulsive sexual behavior disorder." This is a critical distinction from "addiction."

"Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder is characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour. Symptoms may include repetitive sexual activities becoming a central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities; numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce repetitive sexual behaviour; and continued repetitive sexual behaviour despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it. The pattern of failure to control intense, sexual impulses or urges and resulting repetitive sexual behaviour is manifested over an extended period of time (e.g., 6 months or more), and causes marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Distress that is entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges, or behaviours is not sufficient to meet this requirement." 6C72 Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder

Take note of the very specific language used in this classification, particularly to the last sentence: "Distress that is entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges, or behaviours is not sufficient to meet this requirement." Hilton's entire book is basing addiction on "moral judgement and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges or behaviours ... " An article about the ICD-11 explains compulsive sexual behavior disorder:

"Concerns about overpathologizing sexual behaviours are explicitly addressed in the diagnostic guidelines proposed for the disorder. Individuals with high levels of sexual interest and behaviour (e.g., due to a high sex drive) who do not exhibit impaired control over their sexual behaviour and significant distress or impairment in functioning should not be diagnosed with compulsive sexual behaviour disorder. The diagnosis should also not be assigned to describe high levels of sexual interest and behaviour (e.g., masturbation) that are common among adolescents, even when this is associated with distress.

The proposed diagnostic guidelines also emphasize that compulsive sexual behaviour disorder should not be diagnosed based on psychological distress related to moral judgments or disapproval about sexual impulses, urges or behaviours that would otherwise not be considered indicative of psychopathology. Sexual behaviours that are egodystonic can cause psychological distress; however, psychological distress due to sexual behaviour by itself does not warrant a diagnosis of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder.

Careful attention must be paid to the evaluation of individuals who self‐identify as having the disorder (e.g., calling themselves “sex addicts” or “porn addicts”). Upon examination, such individuals may not actually exhibit the clinical characteristics of the disorder, although they might still be treated for other mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression). Additionally, individuals often experience feelings such as shame and guilt in relationship to their sexual behaviour2, but these experiences are not reliably indicative of an underlying disorder." (Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder in the ICD‐11)

The diagnostics manuals have written the diagnosis in this way for two reasons. First, there is little to NO evidence that porn/sex is an addiction. Second, writers of the ICD particularly have identified a growing trend of self-diagnosis and clinicians misdiagnosing patients. Any medical practitioner understands the great risks in misdiagnosis individuals, but this concept seems completely lost on Hilton.

In chapter six "It is a Drug," Hilton argues that porn/sex are not only an addiction but are exactly like a drug. I'll address those specific studies he quotes and his failure to understand the research. Even when the authors of the research specifically say its not like a drug.

Currently, there is an active scientific discussion about whether compulsive sexual behaviour disorder can constitute the manifestation of a behavioural addiction. For ICD‐11, a relatively conservative position has been recommended, recognizing that we do not yet have definitive information on whether the processes involved in the development and maintenance of the disorder are equivalent to those observed in substance use disorders.. (Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder in the ICD‐11)

(Additional information about CSBD: Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder in ICD-11)

A Special Form of Insanity and Circular Reasoning

Hilton, without defining addiction or a meaningful criteria for pornography has effectively pathologized each reader. Dooming each reader to a terminal mental illness, he then moves directly into a section he calls "A Special Form of Insanity," in which he leads the reader to believe they are experiencing yet another mental disorder as a result of their "addiction" and "sinful" behavior. But when you don't think Hilton could be any more reckless in his misdiagnosis and labeling individuals insane, he categorically judges addiction as the "very definition of selfishness, the ultimate contracture of perspective."

In words that can only be spoken by someone who hasn't worked with addiction, Hilton boils this complicated and complex issue down to a "basic problem in addiction is rooted in perspective. Pride, stemming from a lack of gratitude, allows the person to entertain desires that selfishly disregard the consequences visited upon not only the addicted one, but also upon his loved ones." Furthermore he believes "willpower" is the means to sobriety.

A few years back, a bunch of friends of mine were praising an individual for his financial prowess. They were impressed with his insights into and strategies for "playing the market" and improving wealth. Because of my background in finance, my friends thought I would also be impressed with this individual’s perspectives. Although this individual knew I had a career in finance and a strong knowledge of the market, his confidence preceded him. Not five minutes into his dialog, it was clear he didn't actually know what he was talking about. He used the right lingo but out of order. There were nuances in his communication that would sound impressive to someone without a financial background but complete garbage to someone trained in the field. Sure enough, he was attempting to set up a ponzi scheme of sorts, which would have wrecked my friends’ financial futures.

Hilton confidence precedes him too; he uses all the correct lingo, but confuses basic terminology and is dangerously reductive, which can harm the reader. He plays a dangerous game of circular reasoning, leading the reader to believe that if they are denying, they are addicted; it’s because they are sinning and experiencing a form of insanity. The solution is willpower through the atonement and to give up being selfish. I cannot image the lives this chapter alone has wrecked.

Finally, and again, in a tone of irony that is carried throughout the book, the only "expert" he draws on in this "addiction" chapter is Patrick Carnes who famously self-promoted as, "the acknowledged expert in a field that until recently didn’t exist," who made his living and fame off diagnosing individuals with a non-existent illness. Hilton follows up in the next chapter "The Money Trail."

See also:

He Restoreth My Soul Introduction

See also:

He Restoreth My Soul Chapter One

He Restoreth My Soul Chapter One

A review and response to the book "He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD (Neurosurgeon).

This response addresses chapter one "Out of the Mouth of the Lion" pgs. 3–6.

Obstacle - Collective Identity

Chapter one is only three pages. In those three pages, Hilton leverages a "collective identity" or "collective behavior" to signal safe passage to his readers. This safe passage is critical to the LDS community. Within our culture, we are leary of "outside" sources in general, but especially those regarding sexuality or issues involving sexuality. The sanctimoniousness in which we address sexuality is both beautiful and hindering. Our view of sexuality is beautiful because of our connecting it to eternal progression. It’s hindering because we perceive external (those outside the faith) experts as a threat to that sacred sexuality.

Therefore, because Hilton is generally unknown among the faithful members of the church — he is neither a General Authority or an "official" resource for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint — he signals to the reader that he is a safe source by using language, analogies, scriptures and conclusions the collective identity already agrees with.

In social psychology there is a concept referred to as collective behavior:

"Collective behaviour, the kinds of activities engaged in by sizable but loosely organized groups of people. Episodes of collective behaviour tend to be quite spontaneous, resulting from an experience shared by the members of the group that engenders a sense of common interest and identity. The informality of the group’s structure is the main source of the frequent unpredictability of collective behaviour....

The U.S. sociologist Robert E. Park, who coined the term collective behaviour, defined it as “the behavior of individuals under the influence of an impulse that is common and collective, an impulse, in other words, that is the result of social interaction.” He emphasized that participants in crowds, fads, or other forms of collective behaviour share an attitude or behave alike, not because of an established rule or the force of authority, and not because as individuals they have the same attitudes, but because of a distinctive group process." Britannica

Hilton's appeal to the collective identity isn't inherently bad. Knowing your audience and connecting with the culture of your audience is good communication. However, when that appeal is used to perpetuate unfounded claims and assumptions, it’s contributing to a systemic problem. Whether he intended it or not, his leveraging a collective identity and backing it up with his credentials creates unchallenged buy-in within the community. 

Wresting

Hilton leverage the collective identity with a simple recipe:

  1. Identify a concept the particular community already agrees with: "Porn is evil."

  2. Quote a from a scripture or prophet/apostle that vaguely supports identified concept.

  3. Share a miraculous/captivating story/analogy that emphasizes concept.

  4. Provide vague non-solution that is often in the form of the "atonement".

1.

Hilton isn't sharing anything new to the intended community; however, he is feeding into the fear and panic of the "porn epidemic." He capitalizes on the readers’ fears by conveying the idea that no one is safe, and if we all are not vigilant, the dangers of porn will, like a lion "[grab] them by the spiritual throat and [strangle] the life out of happiness, joy, companionship, learning, love (both romantic and platonic), spirituality, reason, and life itself." He later references pop-psychology jargon, that if exposed to porn "even the sexual self being ruined and consumed as the chemically altered brain is left to crave what can never be fully satisfied." These statements are deeply problematic, untrue, divisive and communicate a confusing message of despair and hopelessness.

2.

Hilton's use of 1 Peter 5:8 is ironic. Hiltons's use of scripture here is referred to as proof-texting.

"Many Christian ministers and Christian teachers have used some version of the following humorous anecdote to demonstrate the dangers of prooftexting: "A man dissatisfied with his life decided to consult the Bible for guidance. Closing his eyes, he flipped the book open and pointed to a spot on the page. Opening his eyes, he read the verse under his finger. It read, 'Then Judas went away and hanged himself' (Matthew 27:5b). Finding these words unhelpful, the man randomly selected another verse. This one read, 'Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."' (Luke 10:37b). In desperation, he tried one more time. The text he found was: 'What you are about to do, do quickly.'" (John 13:27) Wikipedia

Also refer to "Proof-Texting is a Bad Habit that we Need to Break".

Throughout his book, Hilton assigns his own meaning to the particular passages he quotes. As for 1 Peter 5:8, he fails to emphasize the "sober" concept that Peter was conveying in "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."

Isolating verse 8 from the context of Peter's message would lead any reader to believe we SHOULD be fearful of the "roaring lion." However, Peter’s message was quite the opposite. "Be sober" is a message of hope, love and grace. Peter is teaching about God's grace through the Atonement. We are safe, inspite of the "roaring lion," to be vigilant and observant how the fear of the lion will rob us of our joy. Let’s read this verse in context:

"6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5: 6-11

How should believers live, believing in a real devil — a spiritual enemy with an agenda to bring harm to Christians? Peter's answer to that question begins this verse: Be sober-minded. Be alert. It's the third time in this letter Peter has urged his readers to be clear minded (1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7). It matters that we are paying attention, with serious minds, to what's going on in our lives and in the world around us.

"Peter writes that there is danger beyond the physical persecution some of his readers were facing. There is a deep agenda, far beyond that of the powerful men who might inflict that persecution. The devil, not the men or women who might harm us, is the real enemy of a Christian believer.

Our enemy the devil desires to devour us, to cause real and lasting harm. The Greek word here is katapiein, literally meaning to "swallow," or to "drown." Peter has made it clear that our place in eternity with our Father is secure. The devil cannot take that from us, but he does seek to damage our faith. He wants fear to shake our submission to the Father, and lies to distort our understanding of God's goodness. Since He cannot touch the believer's soul, Satan seeks to leave us as weak and ineffective servants of our King.

In the next verse, Peter will describe how to fight that enemy. Notice, also, what he doesn't tell Christians to do. He doesn't say to live in fear. Nor does he say to live as if the reality of the devil is unimportant. We are not instructed to ignore the devil, nor to cower in the shadows." BibleRef

3.

Ironically, Hilton's focus is on the fear, the devil, the hopelessness, the loss, the damage. Unfortunately, he continues to misuse Peter's lion analogy, convincing the reader they are not safe, to hyperventilate before shadows. This does not create a clear and sober mind, let alone an informed mind. It creates panic and fear, and turns power over to the devil — exactly what Peter was warning us not to do.

Additionally, Hilton reinforces his faulty interpretation of the scripture by quoting non-experts on the subject. Although President Hinckley has perceived a potential danger that seems to be associated with pornography, both Hilton and Hinckley's comments oversimplify the complexity of the problems and fail to address the root issues involved in "damaging hearts and souls."

In Hilton's reference to a professional in chapter one, he not only quotes the therapist incorrectly, he again takes it out of context and misrepresents the intent of the therapist. In quoting Mark Haney, Hilton claims "pornography addiction" is what leads a teenager to experience "isolated agony."

First, "isolated agony" is nowhere in John Mark Haney's article "Teenagers and Pornography Addiction.”

Hilton, although vague in his misquoting Haney, the misquote leads the reader to believe pornography is what creates the isolation. This is false and NOT what Haney stated.

"Normalize the Issue: Many teenagers who are developing compulsive pornography problems do so in agonized isolation, often believing that they are perverts and alone in their actions. It can be helpful for the professional to educate them on the prevalence of the issue while still clearly communicating the dangers so they don’t trade their isolation for an ‘oh well, since everyone is doing it …’ idea, for that is common too."

Hilton's careless and self-serving misquoting and changing of context is reckless. Haney's only use of "isolation" is in a section educating the reader to "normalize the issue" with teens, recognizing that teens "often [believe] that they are perverts and alone." It is NOT because of the pornography, but because of the lack of education and clarity (sober thought) on the subject. This is a HUGE misrepresentation and is foreshadowing of Hilton's carelessness throughout the book.

Second, it seems like Hilton didn't even read the "Teenagers and Pornography Addiction" article.

"Some critical cultural, religious, and socioeconomic factors with pornography and youth warrant mention. Some cultures have much broader parameters surrounding what is considered appropriate with sexuality, while cultural norms within other groups make the topic almost unmentionable. Therefore, practitioners must attempt to educate themselves about cultural mores. ... Similarly, approaches to spirituality and religion can have a profound impact on a teenager’s sexual development, and not always in the way that a parent intends. For example, some youth who come from rigid and legalistic religious backgrounds that wrap sexuality in shame and guilt, try to forcefully repress their desires, which causes them to unconsciously bond with the same profane elements they are trying to ignore. When they act on these repressed desires, the resulting shame and self-loathing just perpetuates the cycle."

4.

After a confusing message of hopelessness and fear, Hilton's solution is the atonement, but he doesn't actually talk about the atonement. In just two paragraphs, he demonstrates his lack in doctrinal understanding and his mockery of those who have embraced the atonement without reprieve. He confuses agency, sin, transgression and biological limitations.

Somehow he is under the impression that women experiencing pornography is limited to chat rooms. This is complete ignorance, and potentially another misreading of the "Teenagers and Pornography Addiction" article.

Hilton suggests homosexuality is a similar issue as pornography and an addiction. Is Hilton suggesting reparative, conversion or aversion therapy?

Hilton's leveraging a collective identity is irresponsible and mitigates readers from identifying and questioning his inconsistencies and double checking his references.

See also: 

He Restoreth My Soul Introduction