My House Kansas City

My House blog for the Kansas City, MO "My House" anti-pornography apostolate supported by the Office of Family Life in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Porn as trauma

Fr Sean Kilcawley made a powerful statement that struck me a few months ago.  I don't have the exact quote, but here it is simplified: viewing pornography is traumatic.  I got to thinking about what we normally think of as traumas: car accidents, sexual assault, physical abuse, etc.  These are intense breaches of the human person that are life threatening, how is porn traumatic?  

There are such things as 'little t' traumas.  These are events in life that shut you down, inflict shame, distort the way you see reality.  A critical parent, being bullied, a dad abandoning the family, a sibling intimidating you; these are all in the category of a little t trauma.  

Where is porn on this scale?  First of all, trauma is somewhat subjective as no two people exposed to the same trauma will respond the same.  But if trauma is “from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2012, p. 7), then porn seems to fit the first half and second half of the definition.  The first half: men and women feel shame after they watch porn.  This is emotionally harmful.  (See

Second, I'm continued to be baffled by the research and experience in my office as a counselor as to what men and women have gone through when they have been exposed to or continue to pursue viewing pornography.  There are links to depression, anxiety, shame, relationship conflict, betrayal trauma inflicted on the partner/spouse and several other symptoms that have 'lasting adverse effects.'
Porn is explicit images that are intended to be erotic to lure the consumer to view and act out, typically by masturbating.  This cheapens the human person and the act of sex to a commodity of use.  This is a breach of the integrity of the human person.  If trauma is emotionally harmful and has lasting adverse effects, then according to the research on porn use, it's traumatic to view it and consume it.  

Monday, January 8, 2018

To Know or Be Known

This is an article written by one of the Center for Healing's Therapists, Chris Ellman, MSW, LCSW.  He has been working with the Center for about a year and a half now, doing great work with married couples and individuals.  His contact information is

To Know or Be Known

"We all love to know things, don't we? Whether it's the stats on our favorite athletes, the latest gossip on social media, or the latest political debacle. Not only to we love to know things, we're even rewarded for it by our education system. The more we know, the smarter and more important we feel. But where is the risk in simply gathering facts? 

All the facts and things we know don't have a way of making judgments about us. We feel safe when we keep our relationships fact-based; this makes it easier for us to make judgments about others and ourselves. In his book, Anatomy of the Soul, Dr. Curt Thompson points out that these types of judgments also have a way of reducing our anxiety and increasing our feelings of protection and safety. However, when we limit our relationships in this way, we also become more isolated. 

On the other hand, what happens when we allow ourselves to be know by others? This can be more than just a little scary. When we open ourselves up to be known by another, we make ourselves vulnerable to the other. The risk in being known is that we allow the other to make judgments about us and effect us. By doing so, we give others permission to either reject us or love us. In order to be known, we have to trust the other with our self. Being vulnerable and allowing the other to truly know us is also the pathway to better knowing ourselves. 

When my clients take that risk of opening themselves up to being known, it is in that moment that the Lord's grace floods in and their healing truly begins."


Chris Ellman, MSW, LCSW

Monday, November 13, 2017

Understanding Hidden Trauma

This is a post in regards to underlying issues that can foster a sexual addiction.  Many times, we as men want tools, the 12 steps and the ways to 'fix' the problem; however understanding our past might be more important than combating lust up front.  The latter is important, however the healing takes place through working on the past...

Understanding Hidden Trauma

I write this column to reflect on my experience of clients who don't have a clear cut trauma, who wonder where their symptoms and pain come from and who wrestle with the hope that healing is possible.

Trauma is typically and understandably thought of as a horrific event that happens which alters life.  This is true.  However what about the building blocks of life that are supposed to happen that don't?  What if love and affection were consistently withheld?  What if a critical parent berated you daily over your character or looks?  Many times unbearable loneliness is a foundation for childhood.  These are all in the secret and often hard to identify.

Bessel van der Kolk in his book 'The Body Keeps the Score' (2014), notices that the effects of childhood abuse are similar to those who have been neglected, lost, criticized in a toxic way or left alone.  This helps explain why symptoms of 'hands on' abuse often look similar to emotional neglect such as the father wound of absence or the mother wound of shaming.  If some of this rings true to you, don't underestimate the power of what psychologists (Dr. Todd Bowman) call the 'little t' effect.   

After discovering and naming some of these 'little t' traumas, a client typically sees how alone they have been, at least internally.  The main question I would ask fits with the antidote for loneliness: what are your defenses to allowing someone in?  Minimizing, suppressing, anger and story telling are only a few blocks to receiving love.  What maneuvers are in your tool set to keep people at bay, especially the ones you love?  They probably served you well at the time of the pain (ie childhood), but now they are outdated.

The accumulation of small traumas over the years add up.  You are worth God's love for you.  You are worth the affection and compliments your loved ones want to give you.  You are worth receiving that you are lovable. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My House Promo Video

Here is a new video put together by the My House Workshop Team...spread the word!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The beggar...

I drive by Catholic Charities on 9th and Main Street in downtown KC on my way into work in the mornings.  This morning at 7am, there was a large tarp/blanket at the front doors with a bulge underneath.  It clearly was a poor person waiting for the doors to open so he could receive services; whether that be food, clothing, shelter...or maybe friendship, someone to listen to him or help him with his problems.

This man (or woman) had courage and humility that struck me deep.  He placed himself at the doorsteps of the 'church' so someone would notice.  This transition I'm making in the next paragraph might seem like a stretch, but spiritually it makes perfect sense as so many Americans are poor psychologically and spiritually...

There is a different phenomenon I'm seeing with receiving help for pornography/sexual issues.  There are 'business' cards in the confessionals of most Catholic Churches in KC, MO.  These cards have a hotline number on them to reach out for help with sexual problems, such as pornography.  It connects them to therapy and support groups.  I often receive notices from the priests that they have run out of cards.  The priest gives absolution then often hands the confessor a card, encouraging him/her to reach out.  Here's the problem...the phone remains silent.   This hotline number receives about one call per month.  

Thus, hundreds of cards are out there...and men aren't taking the next step to make the call.  They may not end up under a tarp at Catholic Charities, but the shame, hiding and sexual brokenness become that blanket.  

It's important to define sexual brokenness, addiction and a pornography problem.  Making that call doesn't mean you're a pervert or bad person like "that other guy."  It means you're knocking on the door for help because you can't fix it or control it yourself.  The next blog will define these terms in more detail to help you decipher how serious the problem is...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Turning the tables...

A father was going through his 13 year old son's phone and noticed pornography through youtube videos.  It was graphic.  He had looked at a slew of videos and now the father had a tough conversation ahead of him.  He sat down his son, showed him the titles of a few of the videos on his son's phone and the son broke down in defensiveness and tears.  He made several concerning comments, one being: "You hate me and you're going to yell at me."  The other one being, "I'm a bad kid, I know I'm so bad."  The father's response, "Son, that's not me sending you those kind of messages, it's the porn."

What if his father hadn't caught him?  Where would these two shame messages lead?  They would lead to one of the four beliefs of an addict: I'm basically a bad and worthless person, worthy of no one's love.

This sets the son up for a spiritual wound as well, stating that God will never love him if he is this bad of a person.  Hiding, secrecy and shame all create a sort of petri dish of bacteria where the soul suffers alone.  If God walked in on this boy, He would scoff at him, walk out and never come back in (says the lie).

This couldn't be further from the truth.  Jesus wants us in right relationship with Himself and others.  He wants us to have life abundantly.  This will cost, and sacrifices will need to be endured.  However Jesus wants the truth.  Thus, He'd walk right into that room where the boy is viewing pornography, slam shut the computer, turn over the table and look at the teenage boy with an intense gaze.  Then He'd state, "I'm sorry you saw this, I'm here for you, I love you.  You are a great son of the Father.  Come with me and sin no more."

Allow Jesus into the sin.  Give him that space in the temptation.  Make eye contact with Him.  In this way, freedom begins...

Monday, October 24, 2016

What every man needs to know about emotions...

I was recently talking to my 4 year old little girl and she looked right at me and said, "Daddy, why does Uncle Henry (made up name) seem so lonely?  He's always sad and doesn't seem happy.  Maybe I should buy him a puppy.  He needs to smile more..."

I try to reply but am thinking to myself, "Does any guy admit when he is lonely?"  

Image result for pic of a little girlMy little girl saw this emotion and called it out.  She's clearly in tune and sometimes tells me when she feels lonely.  Yes the brain science shows that women tend towards the right brain and are more emotionally intelligent.  But us men are emotional creatures too.  Are we in touch?

Porn is an epidemic and a health risk.  It hijacks the brain and sends the moral foundation of the user into a gray/dark area.  The stats are out there...

But behind every unhealthy behavior is a healthy desire.  What need is not being met and not being given away that porn is soothing, comforting and minimizing?  Here's a list of a few needs...

Capable, loved, included, understood, affirmed, received, accepted, chosen, interior strength, etc...

So let's be simple and name this plan:

1. Identify and feel the negative emotion.
2. Name the unmet need.
3. Pursue the need in a healthy way.
4.  Give away this need to others.

Check out the link for parents as a Battle Plan to help boys pursue healthy, integrated sexuality.