Sex, Lies & Trauma

Straight Talk about Sexual Compulsivity

Power and Powerlessness: Deconstructing Arnold's Addictive Behavior

Our response to Arnold's behaviors may fuel his ego

In "Pumping Iron," the 1977 documentary about bodybuilding, Arnold
Schwarzenegger explains "the Pump," the massive rush of blood to muscles
after lifting weights.

"It's as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is, you
know? As, ah, having sex with a woman and coming. And so can you believe
how much I am in heaven? I am like, uh, getting the feeling of coming in a
gym, I'm getting the feeling of coming at home, I'm getting the feeling of
coming backstage when I pump up, when I pose in front of 5,000 people, I
get the same feeling, so I am coming day and night. I mean, it's terrific.
Right? So you know, I am in heaven."

When Schwarzenegger did "Pumping Iron," he was decades away from being
governor of one of the largest states in America and years away from
becoming an international film superstar. Already a bodybuilding prodigy,
he had won several Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia titles and had starred in
"Hercules." He was in many ways self-possessed and powerful; and yet
clues to the unmanageability that would later catch up to him can be found
in the quote above and may provide an answer to the question on so many
people's minds:

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How could he be so stupid?!

Schwarzenegger's quote reveals compulsive pleasure-seeking that is
often present in addiction. In the clip, a beaming Arnold describes the
physical rush of pumping up, simulating a a climactic sensation.
Weightlifting, which triggers a bath of neurochemicals like adrenaline,
dopamine, and endorphins, has been described by many as potentially
addictive, especially when combined with steroids. Schwarzenegger, who
later admitted using steroids to enhance his physique, has suffered
from heart problems likely linked to long-term use of these substances.

He also refers to the high of posing in front of people, a narcissistic
thrill of being observed and admired. His decision to marry Maria Shriver
and join one of the most famous families in America is likely an extension
of his exhibitionistic tendencies. Schwarzenegger's need to be seen became
a full-time job, propelling him into demi-god status, first as a
record-breaking box office star and later as the Governor of the state of
California.

The love of fame is no crime; but being surrounded by admirers and
sycophants can create an environment of impunity and may have convinced
Schwarzenegger that he was entitled to satisfy his sexual needs at any
cost. Men like him aren't raised to express feelings, to seek emotional
comfort through talk, support, and connection. They are taught to bear
down and "be a man" and in many cases their sexuality is the most
acceptable way to get their "needs" met.

The fact that he fathered a child by an employee points to the abuse of
power and exploitation of the vulnerable seen in so many cases of sexual
misconduct. People suffering from compulsive sexual behavior are
controlled by the power of their fix, which can lead to terrible judgment
and an antisocial indifference to the rights and needs of others. His
ability to live in the same house with his secret child and his mother is
indicative of how potent denial can be.

So here we have a Superman--literally the most perfect physical specimen on
the planet, adored the world over, married to a Kennedy, running the third
largest state with the highest population in America--why should he think
the rules apply to him? Sadly, our culture is obsessed with celebrity and
sex, and our response to Arnold's behaviors may fuel his ego instead of
leading him to treatment. Perhaps the harshest consequence he could
suffer would be if no one paid him any attention at all.

Better yet, he'll see the pain he has caused his children--all of them--
his wife, family, and all the people he has seduced and exploited for his
own gains and maybe then his denial will burst and he'll seek the help he
badly needs.

For help with sexual compulsivity, visit www.sexhelp.com.

 

Alexandra Katehakis, M.F.T., is the Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles. more...

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