The Iceberg Model

In today’s Castimonia meeting I presented what is referred to as the “Iceberg” Model of behavior and addiction.   I was fortunate enough to come across these two great articles (linked at the bottom) on the front page of the Focus on the Family website.  I remember reviewing the Iceberg Model in my Sex Addiction Specialist training but it seems we did not spend enough time on it.  However, the two-part article linked at the bottom does an excellent job at explaining the concept.  For the sake of the meeting time and group sharing, I will try to summarize it to the best of my ability.

The diagram to the left was passed out during our meeting.  It displays the overall concept of the Iceberg Model.  In understanding this model a reference to the Titanic was made.  This reference, quoted below, came from the first part of the article linked at the bottom.

Titanic Parallel Quote:

“A computer simulation of the crash indicated there would have been less damage and loss of life if the ship had hit the iceberg head-on, instead of trying to skirt around it at the last minute. That point hits close to home, too, doesn’t it? Even when our foolhardy behaviors lead us on a collision course, we do all we can to avoid the impact, rather than face our struggle head on. We deny, lie, ignore, shift blame, lash out, and further medicate ourselves to avoid coming to the conclusion that our life is quickly sinking.”

Many times during our addiction-filled years, when a partner caught us, we tried to minimize the behavior or problem.  We used lines such as “every guy does it” or “it’s not as bad as you think.”  It is only when we confront the problem with the truth, that we begin to find healing!


At the top of the iceberg and above the water line are the behaviors.  These behaviors are what are noticeable to others and to ourselves (particularly when we step out of our denial).  These “acting-out” behaviors can be explosive rage and anger, excessive alcohol drinking, illegal drug use, use of pornography, or sexually acting out in destructive ways.  These behaviors are visible and tangible items.  In recovery, we learn to stop these behaviors.  However, that is not enough.  Simply stopping the behaviors will not allow God to heal us.  Other destructive behaviors may come forward to take the place of the subdued behavior.  A sex addict may being compulsive eating.  An alcoholic may have fits of anger and rage.  A drug user may begin acting out sexually.  We call this the “whack-a-mole” syndrome.  When one acting out behavior is subdued, another one pops up elsewhere!


One level beneath the water surface are our thoughts.  We examine what we are thinking and why.  We look at ourselves and what we think about ourselves, what negative thoughts we have been fed or have fed ourselves.  We look at our “stinking thinking” and bring it out to the open.  In the open, we can analyze and allow for clarity and healing.  We use our recovery tools to stop these intrusive thoughts, even sexual ones!


Moving down to the next section, we view our personal emotions.  We need to be able to ask ourselves, “What am I feeling?” or “Why am I feeling this way?”  It may not seem “manly” to get in touch with our feelings, but this is a very important part of why we act out.

“Left untreated, emotional wounds fester, leading to pain worse than the original wound. Paradoxically, until the painful consequences of our reactive behavior feels worse than the emotional pain we’re trying to medicate, we will continue to engage in harmful behaviors. In other words, we only stop when the iceberg sinks us.”

We need to understand our feelings in order to find healing.  As the old saying goes, “God heals what I feel.”


Finally, at the base, we look at our spirit.  Our spirit is where we are most like God.  I believe God has designed us to need and want him.  The quote below summarizes this concept.

“Many refer to the “God-shaped void” we supposedly have inside us. A more complete view of our spirit reveals that God created us to need, above all else, intimacy. By our nature, we are driven to seek an intimate connection with Him. No drug, religion, person, sex act, or consuming hobby can ever take the place of that connection.”

It is also important to distinguish between religion and a relationship with God.  What we need in recovery is a relationship with God.  Unfortunately, many of us (myself included) have dived into a religion rather than a relationship with God.  It is the relationship we need to seek to fill the void inside us.  No religious ritual will ever replace an intimate relationship with God.  A perfect example in the way I have set a barrier is in trusting God. “Am I able to transfer trust to God when it comes to issues like my relational, emotional, spiritual, and physical security? ”  This is a question I will want to quickly answer “yes” until I think about my family.  I am very quick to take all power from God and hold it for myself when it comes to the security and safety of my family.  This is one place I want to let go and let God.  Baby steps….

Take what you like and leave the rest!

ARTICLE: Understanding Intimacy Disorder and Addictions 1

ARTICLE: Understanding Intimacy Disorder and Addictions 2

  1. Arke says:

    You really should consider the detrimental effect faith-based interventions can have on people. I consider my involvement with faith based healing groups the most violently abuse experience of my entire life. It took me a long for my heart to focus on what is most important. Now I have friends, family and a partner who love me. I couldn’t have done any of that without learning to love myself and my body in it’s natural state. I am thankful I survived church indoctrination at a relatively early age. I see too many who waste their entire lives trying to fit into a box that isn’t their shape.

    • Castimonia says:

      I could not agree with you more! There are a lot of “faith-based” healing groups that can and have destroyed many recovering people and their relationship with God. I am well aware of the subject of Spiritual Abuse. I make sure that Castimonia is open to anyone who struggles and we do NOT prothesize or ask a member to “believe” in something they don’t want to believe in or are not ready to believe in. Those of us who choose to do so, openly acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Higher Power, but that is about the only difference between my Castimonia group and an SAA meeting. We do not believe that lack of faith is reason for lack of freedom or not healing. We believe God has given us a way to work through our addictions and compulsions in the 12-steps of AA (and SAA) and that we can all gain freedom, one day at a time!

      May God grant you serenity!

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