To this point in our series, we have discussed how love and porn addiction is escalating among women and also looked at how unresolved childhood pain points influence addictive behaviors.

In this final article, we will review the 10 Inner Children that Impact a woman’s love and porn addiction.

The following is just a brief overview of how each child developed and some negative coping strategies they use to protect themselves from subconscious, unresolved emotional distress.

Bored Child: The Bored Child grew up in an environment with little social contact or involvement in activities with siblings or peers. This girl could be an only child or have a large age gap between her and her siblings. Usually, there was little emotional interaction with her family members, even if they were present among each other. She frequently played alone and developed a strong fantasy life that served as a coping strategy to entertain her. But for the most part, every day seemed the same. Her life lacked authentic stimulation, excitement, and pleasure, which would have been found through healthy interaction with others.

This situation may have led to her dealing with depression or a total lack of emotional response. She felt numb and bored all the time. As she matures and starts being sexually or romantically interested in people – or is introduced to porn – she discovers an adrenaline rush unlike any other she has experienced. There is plenty of stimulation and excitement to be found in sexual outlets. Sex, porn, or romance replace feelings of boredom and loneliness, even if only for a short time. She often turns to sex and romance to avoid dreaded feelings of dullness, repetitiveness, and isolation.

Disempowered Child: The Disempowered Child grew up with roadblocks that impeded her opportunities to experience independence and autonomy. These roadblocks were parts of her identity, like poverty, racial or immigrant status, and real or perceived learning disability. She found herself forced to engage in activities that she did not want to partake in, such as hugging a relative she did not want to hug, performing for her family or parents’ friends, or participating in activities chosen for her.

In many cases, this Little Girl was shamed by her parents for fighting against their desires for her, leaving her feeling worthless, unloved, and defective. She may have been dealing with abuse at home, which further disempowered her.  As an adult, she rarely takes on leadership roles or seeks to achieve her dreams and desires.

This woman is likely to behave in subservient ways with controlling or abusive partners. Her life has always felt intense, with her being blamed for creating drama by standing up for herself. She rarely attempts new things to avoid feeling like a failure or having someone else doubt her. Those around her may encourage her to come out of her comfort zone. She must learn to take risks but cannot always bring herself to do it. This woman deals with a great deal of anger and fear, often using sexuality to escape her emotional discomfort or have a sense of power. 

Enmeshed Child:  The Enmeshed Child grew up in a family where she was not allowed to have her own opinions, preferences, or emotions. Instead, she was berated and chastised if her opinions differed from others – primarily her parents. Her life was not her own, she belonged to her caregivers. The Enmeshed Child was often tasked with being a caretaker for her parent(s) in some way, including providing emotional support. She was not allowed to have age-appropriate – or any – emotional boundaries. She was expected to think of her family ahead of her own real needs.

As an adult, she often believes she is not ok unless everyone else is also ok. She struggles with making decisions because she was not allowed to make choices as a child. Her identity is completely tied up in other people, especially in romantic or sexual partners. She often stays in toxic relationships for too long because losing any relationship feels like losing herself. She has no idea what is important to her as an individual. She is also quick to panic.

This Inner Child will often engage in compulsive sexual behaviors with others, but the sexual behaviors are meant to keep the partner satisfied and invested in the relationship. Sex is not used to enhance the relationship but instead to maintain it. Because she struggles to understand her identity, she can be vulnerable to abusive or controlling people. She tries to hold boundaries and wants them, but she cannot hold her ground with certain groups or types of people. In her sexual life, though, she has found intoxicating ways to regain a sense of autonomy and individuality.

This woman will go back to these behaviors repeatedly, becoming more entrenched in addictive cycles of giving sex to feel loved and autonomous. Her sexual cycles may also be based on trying to form an identity outside her family of origin.

Exploited Child: The Exploited Child has been through some serious crap. In many cases, it is all she has known since a young age. Her life has been tragic and sad. Some adults abused her to fulfill their unmet needs and urges, while others are just as guilty for failing to protect her. This caring, giving child may have been used as an emotional, mental, and/or physical punching bag. She has endured numerous forms of abuse and neglect while also being used to care for those hurting her.

Some of these girls lived in constant fear, learning to ignore their needs. As an adult, she becomes exhausted easily and has poor self-esteem. In many cases, being used and abused defines her. The abuse and neglect run so deep that she cannot feel her emotions. She learned how to turn them off long ago. Any dreams she may have had are now forgotten or buried under caring for others. Life is about survival. She needs places to feel she is in control and may struggle to realize that her sexual acting out and porn use have gone from an escape to just another way of numbing her hopelessness for a life of her own.

Fragile Child: The Fragile Child grew up in an environment where she had to deal with mixed messages. As a little girl, she was often praised and celebrated while enduring abuse or neglect. This confused her about the motives and safety of people, especially those who claimed they loved and adored her. This incongruence left her with self-doubt and intense problems with self-regulation. Dealing with chaos and neglect while also experiencing indulgence, she learned to protect herself from the confusing messages by turning inward. This allowed her to cope with the confusion of living as a princess and a pauper simultaneously. However, the Fragile Child does not always look weak as a child or adult. On the contrary, she may come across as strong, in control, even demanding.

She has learned to hide her insecurity and feelings of weakness by taking control of her environment and the people in them. If anyone or anything gets in the way of her needs, she will run over them, unable to understand the pain she causes or that she even causes pain.  She is not trying to hurt those around her, but chaos is all she knows. Because she struggles to handle day-to-day life needs (due to her insecurity and self-doubt), she is also prone to crumbling under pressure and needing someone to rescue her.

There is always someone she can get to fill that role while also reminding them her love can be removed just as fast as it is given. She is repeating the confusion of her childhood. She truly believes, “I don’t need people. They need me,” refusing to face her intense fear of being alone. She uses sexual favors to feel better about herself and to keep her partners on the hook. This may be the only time she engages in sex, as it scares or disgusts her. But she has learned its power, so she uses it to protect herself on her terms.

Need for Control Child: The Need for Control Child came from an unpredictable, overwhelming, and frightening environment. She also experienced the bulk of the consequences when things went wrong at home. So, she made strong attempts to install order and calm the situation to offset being the one to get in trouble. She accomplished this by keeping her siblings in line or ensuring everything in the house was calm.  This Little Girl felt catastrophe was always around the corner, and the only way to avoid it, or at least navigate it, was to have power over people in her surroundings.

As an adult, she tries to control everything and everyone in an attempt to prevent bad things from happening. During those times when she cannot control the scenario, she turns to fantasy to control the narrative in her head. She will also manipulate others, often using seduction to distract her from experiencing emotional discomfort. Sex, romantic fantasy, causal relationships, and pornography give her a sense of power, which she cannot consistently obtain in real life. Having multiple partners may help give her a sense of security that when something catastrophic happens, there is someone to help her escape for a while. Just like the rest of life, she always has a ‘Plan B’ for her relationships.

Stressed Child:  The Stressed Child faced the consequences of growing up in an intense environment. She may have experienced or witnessed trauma, abuse, or neglect. Since anxiety was a way of life, she had to learn to become oblivious to it, although it remains lurking beneath the surface. Some Stressed Children do not become desensitized to their anxiety, instead feeling overwhelmed, tense, and uncomfortable. This Inner Child used fantasy and daydreaming to distract herself from uncomfortable people and situations.

As she gets older, she turns to romantic fantasies and may engage in porn or sexual activities to seek soothing and relief from her mental and emotional discomfort. However, after a short time of using her sex drug of choice, her anxiousness returns, and soon she finds herself wanting to numb out again. The more she seeks to dull the anxiety, the more unbearable stress becomes for her. Ultimately, this can lead to compulsive use of sex, drugs, and romance, which quickly heightens her stress and shame after she acts out. She becomes caught in a never-ending cycle of misery.

 Sexually Abused Child: The Sexually Abused Child has some emotionally heavy baggage to carry. The violation of sexual boundaries at an early age left her feeling frightened, confused, worthless, and shameful. “Why did that happen to me?” and “What did I do to deserve that?” she wondered constantly. As an adult, she may attempt to distract herself from her negative emotions by dieting, binging, fantasizing, and self-harm. She hates herself and may find it easier to avoid people and not seek deep relationships.

Some of these Inner Children may be very fearful and easily frightened or stressed. For others, relationships may be intense, tumultuous, and confusing. She has no idea how to be loved or cared for, and in some cases, believes anyone who is kind is trying to groom her for sex. Some believe they are nothing more than sex objects and allow themselves to be used repeatedly. Sex has been part of her job for so long, that is all it is now. But it also gives her a sense of relief and escape, so she continues to use it.

Unaffirmed Child: An Unaffirmed Child is not quite sure why she exists. All of her accomplishments were either seen as not good enough or went completely unnoticed. As a child, she may have actively sought affirmation for a job well done, only to be snapped at and told not to interrupt. As a young woman – and maybe even earlier – she learned she could receive affirmation by being sexually attractive and desired. Flirting, teasing, and taunting became second nature.

She may have engaged in sex because it was expected and made her feel seen. She often does not truly desire sexual activity. Instead, she craves the thrill and attention of getting someone interested in her. The hunt and catch give her an intoxicating high. As an adult, the Unaffirmed Child often believes she is not pretty, smart, qualified, or worthy and therefore seeks attention utilizing her sexuality. She longs to feel like she matters, but that feeling is always out of reach or comes with the price tag of being sexually available. Because she needs the affirmation and thrill of being wanted, she will give sex to maintain the high of being wanted.

Unnoticed Child: The Unnoticed Child originates from a childhood where she gets little to no attention, whether at home or among peers. As the Unnoticed Child grew up, she did not feel like she belonged, which is an essential developmental need for all children. Instead, this Little Girl often felt invisible even when surrounded by others. When this woman feels rejected, dismissed, or ignored, her Inner Child takes over and distracts her from emotional discomfort by pushing her anxiety to a level requiring that she engages in addictive behaviors to feel a sense of belonging.

As a child, she needed to pursue other people to get noticed. Now as an adult, when a potential romantic or sexual partner pursues her, she believes she finally matters to someone and jumps at the opportunity without giving it much thought. She needs to feel noticed. This hunger for attention leaves her vulnerable to abusive and manipulative individuals who will use her for their sexual gratification. She may become a people-pleaser to avoid rejection, which could lead to others taking advantage of her. When viewing pornography, if she sees someone who reminds her of herself being desired by other people, it provides her a feeling that she, too, could be desirable to others by giving away her body. Unfortunately, for the Unnoticed Child, it is difficult for her to see her destructive, addictive behaviors are a coping strategy to help her feel she belongs and is wanted.

Later in 2023, Going Deeper for Women: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Love and Porn Addiction will be published. Coauthoring with Lacy Alajna Bentley, author of Addicted to Love, and Heather Cronemiller, MA, LICSW, the book will help women stay one step ahead of their Inner Child and addictive behaviors.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list to be notified when the book is launched, send your email address to [email protected].