As a psychologist, I specialize in working with what has come to be known as sex addiction. It is difficult to work with this population without stumbling into related issues of marital infidelity as well as sexual exploitation. I want to propose that although all of these areas of concern have things in common (like sexual behavior) they are distinct in their own ways. For example someone who has an affair might not be a sex addict and is not likely to be exploitive given the mutually consenting nature of an affair.
There are three general ways that we emotionally react to stress, threats and anxiety: Fight, Flight and/or Freeze & Appease. (Yes, you learned this in biology class.) In my book I refer to the three movements or dimensions using the three primary colors: Fight is Red; Flight is Yellow; and, Freeze & Appease is Blue. So when you find out at a holiday meal that your niece went to a protest against Donald Trump you might react from the Red paint bucket by angrily railing at her, and every other liberal, for being sore losers. Or if your sister’s husband lists all the ways that Trump will in “make America great again,” you might react out of the Blue paint bucket by coming around to “see his point of view”—even though you voted for Hilary because you saw Trump as dangerous. Alternatively, you might go absolutely silent and emotionally detach (Yellow paint bucket) when your Uncle Bud goes on about Obama being a Muslim. We can blend the colors as well. For example, you can go into the Purple space (reactive Red and Blue) and dominate a conversation at the dinner table, not letting anyone else have a say.
All of us react in one (or a blend) of these three ways throughout the year in our public and private relationships, whether toward a spouse, a child, a boss, an employee, the idiot who just cut you off, or the president of the United States. And when we do, our limbic system (emotional brain) gets triggered and we get thrown out of balance—to the detriment of others and ourselves. But we can almost always count on our vulnerability to reactivity when co-mingling with relatives at Holiday event, when we come together with those whose ties with us are not necessarily of our own choosing.
So what can we do to mitigate our reactivity?