Episode 196: Overcoming Temptations and Creating Lasting Change

Jun 05, 2023


Episode 196

I'm Zach. And I'm Darcy. We're an LD S couple who struggled with unwanted pornography in our marriage for many years. What was once our greatest struggle and something we thought would destroy us, has become our greatest blessing in trying. Our hope is that as you listen to our podcast each week, you'll be filled with hope and healing, and realize that you too can thrive beyond pornography and create the marriage you have always desired.

Welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. We're so glad you're here, and we believe in you.

Hey everybody, and welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford, the most serious difficulties. For people who are trying to quit. Porn can vary from person to person as the reality is. This is a pretty highly individualized struggle. However, there are a few common challenges that many individuals face during their journey to overcome pornography.

So here are what I think are the top six most significant issues. Number one, temptations and triggers. One of the biggest challenges in dealing with. Pornography is the near constant reality of temptations. Triggers, you might call them cues that can lead to someone choosing pornography. It doesn't have to be just pornographic images.

It can be certain websites or specific situations that can act as these cues that make it difficult to resist the urge to engage in pornographic content. Number two is emotional and psychological dependency. Pornography use often involves an emotional and psychological dependency on this explicit content.

It often involves us leaving the state of reality that we live in and moving into this. Fantasy world and breaking free from this dependency can be challenging and may require addressing a lot of underlying emotional issues, such as stress, loneliness, low self-esteem, lots of things. The next one is the loss of a very specific and very.

Enduring coping mechanism. Quitting porn can lead to a loss of these coping mechanisms that have, that will leave you as a person who has been using porn to manage their life. Very uncomfortable for the purpose of this conversation, we can call that withdrawal, but the truth is this discomfort may include anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and strong.

Indications or strong drive towards choosing pornography, managing and navigating through these moments, through these discomforts can be a significant obstacle in the process of leaving this habit behind. The next one is shame and guilt, and I think for so many of us, especially those who have a religious tradition, for those who have a meaningful moral compass, that dictates that pornography is not okay, this can be difficult because of our societal.

Situation, societal stigma, personal moral values that we have, or even a sense of betrayal. Overcoming these negative emotions, overcoming the difficulties that come from sh, shame and guilt, and developing a healthy self-image is crucial for long-term success. The next one is lack of support. Number five is lack of support and understanding, and often individuals trying to quit porn face a lack of support or understanding from their immediate social circle.

This can make the journey in. Overcoming pornography. Even more difficult, more challenging, more isolating, finding a supportive community, finding a supportive coach or support person, or just being able to say what's really going on in your life can be very difficult. And if you're able to do it, it can provide a lot of necessary encouragement and guidance needed to overcome your.

Current habits. And then the last one that we're gonna talk about, or that I'm gonna list here is lapses and discouragement. Lapses into pornography viewing. So going back to this bad habit, those lapses are common during the process of quitting pornography, and they can lead to feelings of discouragement and self-doubt.

It's essential to view lapses as learning experiences rather than failures and. Use those opportunities to develop effective strategies for addressing situations that have led to the lapse or faced that lapse head on. Now, these issues highlight some of the significant hurdles that individuals face when attempting to quit porn.

However, With proper perspective, the right kind of meaningful action and willingness it's possible to overcome these challenges and lead a fulfilling life free from pornography. And today I'd like to address issue number one on this list. This is gonna be a six-part series on these difficulties in quitting porn.

So if you were hoping to hear about one of the other items on this list, don't worry. You'll find. It in an upcoming episode, we're definitely gonna go over each of them, but I wanna talk about the number one here, temptations and Triggers, and I'm just gonna go back over it again. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with the constant.

Cues, the constant ideas or offerings, things that you see, the places that you go that the feelings that you feel that drive us or allow us to have an urge or see an urge. That we wanna follow to engage with pornographic content and understanding the ideas around temptations and triggers and why they might be problematic and what to do to resolve them is essential to resolving a pornography struggle.

I go in depth on this topic in the trainings that I've created in Thrive Beyond Pornography in the membership, and I want you to understand how just a little bit of new perspective and a couple of action items can give you. A wealth of understanding and a wealth of capacity to turn habits from of choosing pornography into something that you can comfortably and capably glide through these cues to stop choosing pornography that allows you to no longer have to choose pornography or puts you in a space where pornography doesn't bother you anymore, or even the temptations to view pornography.

Don't bother you. And this is. If we just break this down to its most simple part, it is. If I can learn a little bit. And do something slightly different and create a habit out of that. I can actually make major shifts in the way that I engage with pornography, and I've often said this, but pornography is not the problem.

It's the thing that we're trying to run from. It's the issue that we haven't uncovered. It's the problem that we're not addressing properly. That's the problem, and that is the reason why we try to escape through pornography. So the approach that I utilize, the approach that I teach is based on acceptance and commitment training.

And let's just walk through how we can address temptation using the six key principles. Of acceptance and commitment therapy. So we're gonna start with acceptance. Acceptance involves acknowledging and allowing the presence of unwanted thoughts, emotions, and sensations without trying to avoid or suppress them.

In the context of a pornography struggle, it means accepting that these cues are going to happen, they're gonna arise, and recognizing that they're actually a pretty normal. Response to previous habits and conditioning. So we have to recognize that these cues are not, they're just not gonna disappear.

They are likely to exist throughout our lives and be part of the reality that we live in now. How they impact us and how they affect us will change over time if we address them properly. And acceptance is not. About giving in or giving up or simply saying, oh, well I have to allow this to exist and hating it the whole time.

It's about recognizing what we have control over and the more quickly we recognize that the cues that we have in our life that are part of the landscape are just gonna be there, the more quickly we can learn to effectively address them. So one of the things that you know, was really common, and as I was growing up, as you go through the mall and there would be a Victoria Secret.

Shop, and that might have been a cue for some people. It certainly was for many, has been for many of the people that I've worked with. And it never really was for me, although I, it wasn't like I was like, yay, Victoria's Secret. But it wasn't like, I was like, oh, I saw Victoria's Secret today, and then I ruminated on that all day.

But the acceptance part of this is just acknowledging, yeah, there's gonna be a Victoria's Secret in the mall. And that, that it is what it is. I'm not gonna freak out about it. I'm not gonna make it into a problem. I'm not going to create a lot of emotion around this. I'm just gonna accept the reality that it exists.

Or another example of this is when your brain offers you a thought, like, Hey, you're all alone. You should go watch porn instead of fighting with it. We're just accepting it. We're acknowledging its existence, and we're allowing it to be there in a way that is not. About a battle. We're acknowledging and allowing the presence of the unwanted thought without trying to avoid or suppress them.

That's the key. Number two is mindfulness, and this really includes two of the key principles of act, being present and observing yourself. Mindfulness is a key component of act. It's a key component of leaving pornography behind. It involves paying non-judgmental attention to the present moment and practicing this skill by doing this.

Individuals can observe their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations related to the cues that come to choose pornography without getting caught up in them. This helps create space for making conscious choices instead of reacting impulsively. And this is really an important component because the more you can be just aware without freaking out, you put these two together like acceptance and mindfulness.

The greater awareness that you have without freaking out, the more likely you are to be able to address. An actual problem that's underlying why it is that your brain is offering you porn diffusion. And the, so number three here is diffusion and diffusion techniques. Diffusion is a fancy word that we use at ACT to help us distance, help us talk about the techniques that we use to.

Distance ourselves from unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. So when I say distance, I'm not saying we run away from them. I'm saying we don't make them us. So a lot of times people have thoughts like, I have to act on this temptation, or I can't resist this trigger. And those are just thoughts. Those are not absolute truths.

And often we think about the way that our brain operates and we say, oh, well, when my brain offers me something, that means it's true that's not true. So when we can separate. Thoughts that our brain offers us from us. Meaning I am not just what I think, but I am a combination of many things and this thought that I can observe objectively does not mean that I have to do it.

Now, I can create distance from that thought. So by observing thoughts as passing mental events, individuals can reduce their influence over. How they act. That thought no longer holds as much weight. I know there's a lot of people out there. I had a conversation with a client just yesterday and he said, I can't, like when my brain starts offering me porn, I can't resist it.

I know it's just gonna happen, and that's just a thought. So distancing myself from that thought, or my client distancing himself from that thought is part of the diffusion process that we go through. And in doing that, what he does is he makes it so that thought doesn't own him, and it doesn't drag him around and pull him in directions he doesn't want to go.

It helps him simply stay grounded. Next thing is values. Clarification and act emphasizes identifying personal values and committing to actions that align with those values. When it comes to quitting porn, you can clarify your own values in relationship to this particular. Activity. Now, a lot of you'll say, well, obviously I don't wanna do it.

But I think what you need to be able to do is articulate that in a non-judgmental, non guilt or shame-based. Process and say, what is it that I actually want? I wanna connect with a value that is important to me. Not just not do something. Our brain is not very good at not doing something.

It's really good at doing things. So if I keep fighting with my brain and I say, well, I don't want to look at porn, I don't wanna look at porn, I don't wanna look at porn, then I'm not really effectively identifying a value. I'm not effectively moving towards anything that I want. I'm simply fighting with something that I don't want.

Connecting with your values. Actually helps you strengthen your capacity to move away from the ideas or the thoughts or the temptations that your brain might offer you and go towards those values. So being really clear and working on, okay, what, and I have a whole entire section on this particular component.

In my program, it's how do I move towards my values? What are they and how can I articulate them so that when my brain is saying, Hey, go look at porn, I can say, I would actually rather. Move towards intimacy, or I would rather move towards getting to know someone that I love. So you can start to see where it is that I'm not fighting with the bad thing.

I'm actually just creating something better, creating something good, and then of course, committed action. Now, a lot of you are sitting there and going, Hey, I have committed action. Like I'm committed to not looking at porn, and that keeps failing me. But I think that this is slightly different. I want to encourage you to take committed action toward meaningful goals, and in particular, when it comes to temptations and in the context of your brain, offering you these cues and triggers and temptations and thoughts and ideas and feelings.

Committed action involves engaging in. Practicing how to address those before they come up so that it's habitual and automatic rather than something that you have to drag out of the back of your mind and try and use willpower to implement in the moment. And this is really important in terms of.

Solving for this problem because most of us have been taught, okay, you gotta fight with this until it goes away. But when it comes to habits, our habits are not fight mechanisms. They're automatic. They're automation of the processes that we use to move throughout our day. So if we are fighting with it, we're using willpower, we're using motivation, and we're gonna fail in the long run.

If we can take committed actions towards. Repeatedly and effectively practicing how to engage with our temptations, right? So when your brain says, Hey, you should go look at porn for whatever reason or however it says it, Effectively practicing that when it's not a game time situation and allowing yourself to go through the motions automatically is going to helpful.

Be helpful in eliminating the stress and the frustration and the fight within this issue. And you may also include pursuing hobbies and spending time with loved ones and engaging in self-care, maybe seeking support. From your coach or whatever it is. You can do all of that within committed action as well.

But the most effective thing that I have found, Is Habitualizing, the way that we engage with these temptations, these triggers, these cues, these thoughts, these whatever they are. And in doing that, that takes practice off games. So you have to just like, if you're playing basketball, you have to do free throws before it's time to stand at the free throw line, after you've been fouled.

You have to get really good at them. To do that, you have to practice in non-game time situations, and that's the same thing that we're talking about here with habitually addressing your temptations. I want you to know that when you incorporate these principles in your journey of quitting porn, you can develop a mindset that allows you to accept and manage these cues.

Triggers temptations effectively without even having to fight with it. It's, it becomes automatic, which is gonna increase your self-awareness. It's gonna increase your mindfulness and your commitment to your personal values. You can make conscious choices that support your overall wellbeing and lead to a reality where pornography's not even a problem.

It doesn't bother you. It might, you could literally walk by a porn shop or walk through the Red light district. If that were the case in, where is it? Amsterdam? Walk through the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and you would not be tempted. It would be like, yep, that's sex, but that doesn't fit into my values and that's not really who I want to be.

So I'm okay and I'm gonna move away from this without making it a fight. Do you see how that would be super awesome? I think that would for you. I think that would be awesome. For me, it has been awesome. It's been the difference between real success and always feeling like I'm failing. All right. My friends, next week, we are gonna talk about emotional and psychological dependency and how we can operate with that, how we can adjust some things in that space to move away from pornography.

I love you guys and I will talk to you next week.

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