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The Butterfly Effect of Sex Addiction

Posted Jun 23 2009 6:54pm
                            "In science as in life, it is well known that a chain of events
                            can have a point of crisis that could magnify small changes
                              ...chaos is a science of process rather than state,
                            of becoming rather than being"
                            - James Gleick -

       In the 1970s, a new physics emerged called chaos theory.  In a wonderful book on chaos theory that actually became a bestseller, James Gleick's 1987 Chaos: Making a New Science, told the story of what chaos is and how it came into being.  Gleick refers to the theory as "a science of the global nature of systems...  It makes claims about the universal behavior of complexity" (p.5).  In sum, chaos has to do with dynamical systems - that would be you and I, and how these systems naturally mutate and change over the course of time.  It is how a system, say, that of a human being, begins to shift, either gradually or swiftly, away from its original, orderly state of being.  And when that system begins to move away from its original state, for whatever reason, from that balanced orderly initial state of being, it moves toward a stage of chaos.  When a system surges toward chaos, it begins to rattle and change, and fall apart into DISorder, and when it does, that system is said to be in chaos.  But even in chaos, there is order.

Ironically, chaos theory tells us that there is order in chaos.  That disorder may not be random at all.  That when something falls apart, or breaks, or becomes ill or pathological, there is an order to which that chaos occurs, in which the system breaks down.  There is order in chaos.  Change is not random.  Change is in fact, inevitable.

The Butterfly Effect, a theory serendipitously discovered by meteorologist Edward Lorenz in the 60s, is a reflection of how minute changes in a dynamic system, can influence and exact huge large-scale changes on something seemingly unrelated.  At a professional conference discussing this new discovery of his, Lorenz likened the effect of this amazing find as if "a butterfly, flapping its wings in Hong Kong, may change tornado patterns in Texas".  Until this point, physics, and the rest of humanity assumed that if left alone, nature would veer from its present course at a predictable and non-random rate, with predictable, and non-random results.  Lorenz proved us wrong.  It was demonstrated how the smallest, seemingly most inconsequential change in one little, insignificant variable, can influence other related systems, such that this seeming non-event could, in fact would, produce a catastrophic change.  The change itself might or might not be predictable.  Maybe.  But that there was change at all, is predictable.  It is said in chaos theory, that a dynamical system is defined as having "sensitivity to initial conditions".  Such as the flapping wings of the butterfly.  And speaking of "sensitivity to initial conditions", that brings me to the adult sex addict...

A sexual addiction is all about sensitivity to initial conditions.  It is all about chaos.  And sexual addiction is  nothing, if not a butterfly effect of our environment and its effect on our limbic system and prefrontal cortex.  It is precisely how the malignant abuse of a parent, say, can influence and have catastrophic effects on the structure and biochemistry of our brain as it develops.  And how this effect - this change from the initial system, now moving toward chaos, has manufactured a new normal that defines the life of the sex addict.  Why does this movement - this interplay between childhood abuse and a damaged brain - produce a sexual addiction in some but not in others?  Don't know.  Remember, we do know that changes will be produced, and that certain conditions, when ripe, will produce certain predefined effects.  But to whom?  Most likely the answer has to do with a combination of temperament, age at onset of abuse, type of abuse, duration of abuse, and strength of developed areas of cortex at time of initial aversive conditions. But we do know it will produce change.  And we do know that the change will be deleterious, long-lasting, considerable, impacting the specified areas of cortex but not others, and will produce one of many attachment impairments that comprise the symptom picture of the sex addicted brain.

According to Gleick, "Understand the laws and you understand the universe." 


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