'Is Anthony Weiner a Sex Addict?' is the Wrong Question

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And, so it begins.   With yesterday’s release by The Daily Mail of Anthony Weiner’s alleged entry into a rehab facility for the treatment of sex addiction, the media headlines ignited.

Then, Reuter’s.  With domino-like precision, the other outlets soon succumbed as well.

The never-ending speculation of what goes on in sex rehab and whether sex addiction is or isn’t a legitimate diagnosis continues today.  Along with publications of salacious specific texts that hit the internet.  

The incendiary match was lit. 

Whether you think it is a PR stunt.  A hail mary.  Well or poorly spun mea culpa.  An orchestrated play of crisis management teams — a la the popular television show Scandal.  In the grand scheme, all are red herrings.

In this instance and throughout Weiner’s dance with the media in recent years, the headlines are distractions from more relevant themes that many famous and non-famous endure.

However one cares to define it —whether experienced by the general public or the too-numerous-to-count endless Hollywood litany, the person or central figure — self-induced or not — rarely suffers alone.  

Transforming a human being into a punchline has rippling effects on those most vulnerable.  There are ways to report facts that are newsworthy without embellishing for the sake of being provocative.

Even if you subscribe to the “they brought it on themselves” argument, step back and imagine if your own personal hardship was amplified in this manner globally how that might impact family members.  Specifically, children who did not ask to be born. 

When any individual’s destructive behavior impairs his or her ability to maintain healthy relationships, employment, triggers unwarranted debt, engages in high risk activities or embroils them in legal challenges, for example, there is a problem.  Working toward unpacking the complexity behind the cause is not at odds with assuming personal responsibility or synonymous with displacing blame.   

Let’s shift the narrative to how to empower families amidst apparent crises instead of unloading a media barrage and onslaught.  One that will indelibly be written no less.  

Or, even acknowledge that self-destructive behaviors no matter the label ripple through a childhood when we throw kids into the mix.  So, maybe, we endeavor to ease rather than exacerbate the burden.

I have spoken extensively here about the impact of toxic stress on physical and mental well-being.  The science supports the profound impact of childhood trauma in the later development of adult disease.  It is widely known and accepted that the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE) “found a strong graded relationship between the breadth of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults.”

From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts:  A science-based approach to building a more promising future for young children and families by the Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child is a compelling read.  In it, the authors underscore how development is a highly interactive process where life outcomes are not exclusively set by genes.  They elucidate the biological adverse effects which significant stress imposes on young children and families.    

The circus of attention in these situations really obscures the most meaningful of realizations.  And, compounds the trauma to the surrounding players.  After all, in the consumer wars’ ratings and what sells, literally, more and more is trumping human decency, empathy, relationships and connectedness — vital qualities in the development of resilience.  

In part, a lack of resilience and effective coping skills can put one at greater risk of health issues and substance abuse in adulthood.  Especially if not appropriately managing unrelenting chronic stress.       

Maybe next week, when the next such story breaks, we first ask:  What can we do as a society to protect the most vulnerable amidst obvious household chaos and dysfunction?  

The good news is when adversity meets well-timed intervention the future course can be very bright.  Healthier children do progress our society.  If we care to create a better world and minimize disease, then we at all levels as a whole can play a responsible part from outright assuaging suffering to modeling optimal behaviors and being a mentor.  

Yes, since I am a skeptical optimist, doing better and being better can’t possibly put us on a bad path.  But, just maybe, not resorting to ridicule when another person minorly or majorly missteps and fumbles could enhance everyone’s well-being, even your own.  

Now, back to the purple sky and rainbows that abound in my office.