Episode 148: Overcoming Pornography Even When We Feel ShameJul 03, 2022
Hey, everybody. Happy 4th of July. I hope that this 4th of July is going to be amazing for you. I
wanted to reshare an episode with you that I really enjoyed putting together and that was really
instructive for me and I think it’s going to be instructive for you as you work to overcome
pornography even when shame is a part of that equation.
This is one of my favorite episodes that I thought I would share with you and I know this is the
second episode in a row that I’ve given you a rerun, but I think both of these episodes: the one
with Jon Leighton where he is sharing the success and the reality of his story with you is
beautiful, and I think this is a really great one to jump off from that moment where you see, “Oh,
it’s possible. Now, what do I do?”
And here’s what I want you to do. I want you to listen to this episode and then I want you to go
set up either a consult with me or join the membership and start the process of eliminating
pornography from your life.
Alright, my friends, I promise, next week, I’ll have a brand new episode for you. In the
meantime, I hope you enjoy this one. I love you guys and I will see you next week.
Zach: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another beautiful Mastery Monday here on The Self
Mastery Podcast. Today, we’re joined by Darcy.
Zach: Hey, how are you doing?
Darcy: I’m good.
Zach: You had a good week last week?
Zach: Yeah? You think?
Darcy: Yeah, for sure.
Zach: She’s holding back from me, guys. It’s really not nice of her to do that, but I’m going to tell
you the secret. The secret is, we bought a house in St. George because of some extraordinary
and wonderful, amazing blessings that are part of our lives. Namely, our old neighbors who are
some of the most extraordinary people that we know, they said, “Hey, you want to buy our
house?” And I said, “Yes.” So we’re moving back to St. George.
Darcy: We are way excited.
- Zach: We’re super excited.
Darcy: Like way more excited that most people probably would be.
Zach: Yeah, it’s good. We’re literally moving one house down from where we used to live. So,
we’re super excited about it.
Darcy: Exactly. One house up.
Zach: Oh, it is one house up the hill from where we used to live. So, we’re really excited about
- We’re glad that we’re going to be back in St. George. We have missed it. We are excited for
65-degree weather and…
Darcy: Sun, lots of sunshine.
Zach: And sun.
Darcy: And hopefully some live events
Zach: Yes, and we’re super excited to have some live events. So, if you want to come to a live
event, do me a favor. Go sign up for the Mastery Monday. You will then get on our emailing list
and you will get notified when that live event is planned. And if you want to swoop in notes and
say, “Hey, I’d love to come to a live event”, do that. I’d love to hear from you. I want to know
exactly what you love to do because we would love to cater to that. We’d love to make it
something that you are really going to enjoy when you come down to Southern Utah because it
is amazing there.
I told you guys last year that I did a man trip there, rappelling, it was amazing. I think that’s
definitely on my list.
Alright, this week, what are we going to talk about?
Darcy: Eliminating shame.
Zach: Shame, shame, shame. So, this week, on the membership, one of the members was
talking about a question that another member had asked during a previous session. The man
that I was coaching, he literally said that, “When that guy asked that question, it was as if he had
been reading my own mind.”
This is kind of the amazingness that comes from being part of the membership. So, if you are
not part of the membership, go to zachspafford.com and join the membership. You get to hear
the questions that you didn’t even know how to ask, asked for you. And then you’re going to
hear the answers and we’d love to have you there.
- As part of the coaching that I do, we often talk about shame and how to manage and deal with
- Do you pretty much talk about shame all the time with your clients, Darce?[4:18]
Zach: Yeah, pretty much all the time. The question we’re talking about was part of this
discussion about minimizing shame in our lives. The question was this: “What is a good way to
not let myself feel much shame when I act on my urges?”
So, first off, we want to kind of figure out, what is shame? What are we talking about and why do
we feel shame?
So, I think knowing what is shame gives us some kind of ammunition that we need to actually
end it. Shame is often contrasted with guilt. The thing about guilt is it can be a powerful catalyst
for change. Guilt, in my mind, anyway, is about learning that what you’ve done is not what you
have liked to have done, had you been able to, or had you worked through the process of
getting to a place where you might make a different choice.
Guilt comes when we understand that what we’ve done is not right for us. When I do something
that’s not right for me, guilt comes when I’ve acted incorrectly based on my sense of right and
wrong, and according to my agency within the framework of the truth that I hold dear to me. As
Brene Brown puts it, “Guilt is ‘I did something bad’.”
Shame, on the other hand, is not about behavior. It’s about our own sense of who we are.
Shame comes when I believe that what I’ve done makes me bad, irredeemable, and really
unacceptable. Shame comes when I’ve acted contrary to my framework of truth knowing that I
am discarding my sense of what’s right and wrong and feel incapable of exercising my own
So, again, we go back to Brene Brown. She makes it so succinct, it’s so easy for us to
understand. She says, “Shame is ‘I am bad’.”
So, let’s go back to that question that we asked in the beginning. What is a good way to not let
myself feel so much shame when I act on my urges?
So, what we’ve done, we’ve put together three things that you need to do to eliminate shame
when you’ve acted on urges that really don’t fit your idea of who you want to be and who you
are trying to be. So, the very first thing you need to do is to decide that this is an opportunity to
Darcy: Yeah, for me, it’s really about having a growth mindset.
- Zach: Whenever you are engaged in an activity that you would say is morally contrary to who
you want to be, this is a moment to just take a step back and start to ask some questions and
start to understand, “Why am I here? Why am I engaged in this activity? What is my brain telling
me in these moments?”
If you go back to the episode about what your brain tells you—the lies that your brain tells you,
you’ll start to see some of those thoughts creep up into what activity you’re engaging with. So, if
it’s pornography or it’s overeating or it’s excessive shopping, it’s the “I deserve this” sort of
language is going to start to come into your periphery.
We have a workbook on this, “Learn Something and Move Forward”, that we use with all of our
clients, whether it’s in the membership or in the private coaching. And everytime they use a
behavior, like pornography or overeating, and it’s not something that they are proactively
choosing, right? So, they’re saying, “It’s not part of my planned ahead actions”, “It’s not part of
the activity that I have planned.” They need to go back and use that workbook to learn what’s
happening so they can figure out, “Why am I acting this way? Why have I chosen this
One of the things that we actually ask within that workbook is, “What did I choose and why did I
choose it?” And, “Did I resist or was I just reacting? Was I following my protocols?” that sort of
“Learn Something and Move Forward” is about getting yourself to a place where you are
understanding what exactly happened. This opportunity to learn from your behavior is the exact
same thing that we do as people when we’re learning everything we do.
So, I like to liken this to chopsticks. Do you remember the first time we went out on a date?
Darcy: I do.
Zach: Really? What did we eat?
Darcy: We were at the mall and we were eating Chinese food.
Zach: We were at the Gritty Mills mall in Northern Illinois and I was like, “Ooh, I want some
Chinese food from the food court.”
Darcy: Yeah, and we bought a dish and we shared it and you got chopsticks.
Zach: And I was like, “Here, use some chopsticks.” And what did you say?
Darcy: I’ve never used chopsticks and I don’t know how to use them.
- Zach: She has no idea how to use chopsticks to this day, but I love using chopsticks. But no
one would, you know, if you were sitting down to eat a meal with someone and you’re like, “Hey,
here’s some chopsticks” but this is the only utensil we have, I don’t think you would feel
ashamed when you find out you’re not very good at it. Now, you don’t use chopsticks because
there are forks.
Zach: But I think there are some people who go into that chopstick moment and they’re like,
Darcy: Well, when we were on our first date, I was really embarrassed, but I didn’t know how to
Darcy: Yeah, because I didn’t really know you and I’m like, here I am, you’re like a professional
chopsticks user and I did not know how to eat at all.
Zach: I have this rule in my mind that you have to eat Chinese food with chopsticks.
Darcy: Yeah, and I was like, “I’m not measuring up here. I cannot measure up to this guy’s
standards of eating Chinese food because I need a fork.”
Zach: Right. So, if you had to learn how to use chopsticks, you wouldn’t beat yourself up when
the food falls. You wouldn’t freak out when you can’t get enough rice with your chopsticks to feel
like you’re actually getting a bite. You wouldn’t tell yourself you’re a terrible human because you
can’t use chopsticks.
Part of the process of learning how to deal with pornography is learning how to deal with your
emotions and learning from the process of learning how to deal with your emotions. Just like
learning how to use chopsticks, you’re going to have to try it. You’re going to have to get them
out, you might have to have somebody help you learn, like where to put them in your hand. Did I
try to teach you?[10:41]
Darcy: Oh yeah, you’ve tried to teach me so many times. I still cannot figure it out. Our son can
do it really well, one of our sons, and he’s like a pro. I always watch him and go, “Wow, how did
he do that?”
Zach: [10:58] So this is the same thing here. Just think of it like chopsticks. You’re learning to
deal with your emotions and it’s just like learning to use chopsticks. You don’t have to feel bad
about it at all, in the least. You just need to recognize that this is an opportunity to learn.
- [11:15] The second thing that you need to do to eliminate shame when you act on your urges is
talk to someone that you trust, and I think this is so important. Now, does this mean that you
are… that the person that you trust is your spouse? Not always. And I want to stress that I think
it’s important to be honest with your spouse, but I also don’t necessarily think that the person is
always well-suited to be what people want to call an accountability person, an accountability
partner. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole setup that’s very much an addiction model
But basically, what I’m saying here is, when you can have an open conversation about this with
someone who’s not your bishop, who’s not your spouse, and that doesn’t necessarily have this
problem, then that’s a moment where you’re creating intimacy. This is something that
happened, and we’ve talked about it on a podcast before, where Darcy would just tell people
who weren’t involved in any of those phases in our lives. It wasn’t the bishop, it wasn’t
somebody from the 12-step group that I was working with.
[12:24] She would just tell our friends. And what I want you to recognize is that this is something
that, you know, when you have friends that you can tell this to, it opens up this intimacy in your
life that allows people to know who you are and for you to hear them tell you that they love you.
And I think that that’s extraordinarily important. And I think that this is something that you get to
So, why did you tell people about this? What was it for you?
Darcy: [12:56] For me, I just felt like I was more authentic, you know. I was struggling and those
early years, I really struggled a lot with it. It was really hard for me to, quote and quote, “fake it”,
you know. If I was feeling down, I wanted to be able to open up and connect with my girlfriends
that were close to me—it wasn’t like the whole world. I had a handful of people that I felt safe
with that I could open up about this struggle in my life and for me, it was great. I felt like none of
them treated Zach any differently. None of them treated me…
Zach: I think they treated me differently but it was a positive. It wasn’t that they ostracized us.
They didn’t say, “Hey, we’re scared of you now.”
Darcy: Yeah, I guess, yes. I guess you’re right. They treated you differently in the sense that
when I wasn’t around, they would reach out to you and invite you for dinner and stuff. We’ve
talked about that before, but, yeah. As far as for the husband to be able to talk to someone, I
think it’s really helpful to them to be able to eliminate some of that shame because when they
talk to someone that they trust, and they open up and that person still loves them and still
values them as a human and doesn’t think any less of them, then that, I think, reinforces the
idea that you are worthy. [14:30]
Zach: Yeah, I love that. And I think… you know, sometimes I think the narrative that we have
around pornography within… especially within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,
but within religious circles in general is, “This is going to destroy you.” And then we tend to try
- and not talk about it because we think that people are going to treat us as though we’re
damaged goods and I don’t find that to be the truth. I really do find that people not only
empathize with you but they’re probably someone who’s struggling with this as well. And so,
that creates an opportunity for open dialogue and this is the practice that we have to have. We
have to be willing to say it out loud and that can be pretty hard.[15:13]
I remember once saying it during elders’ quorum, before I had a lot of sobriety… I don’t want to
say the word ‘sobriety’. Before I had a lot of…
Darcy: Space between.
Zach: Skill. Before I had a lot of skill in dealing with this, I had this conversation where we were
talking about something. I don’t remember what the lesson was, but I openly said, “I have dealt
and deal with a struggle with pornography” and I probably said the word ‘addiction’ because at
that time, I was in the 12-step groups, and that sort of thing. But it was somewhat interesting to
note that no one in that room was like, “You’re a terrible person.” They didn’t avoid me and I
think, if anything, they may have been embarrassed themselves. [16:00]
For me, you know, they were embarrassed for their own behavior that maybe they deal with this
as well. But I can guarantee you that me saying something out loud was, I think, a relief for most
of the people in that room because they were like, “Wow, it’s good to know that someone else is
dealing with this.” So, I think you’ve got to practice openness and be willing to trust people.
That’s the risk you’re taking, right? You’re going to take risks and you’re going to open yourself
up to people and when you do, I think that you’re going to find more likely that people are
absolutely willing to love you, not in spite of your problems, but because of your problems.
Alright, last thing… The third thing is understanding that you are enough. You know, when it
comes to eliminating shame in your life, the atonement has paid for everything that has been
done. We talk about this often in the church and we think, you know, I’ve heard parents say this
to their children, “You know, everytime you sin, that hurts Jesus more,” and that is really not
how the atonement works. It’s paid for. It’s done. He already knows what is going to need to be
paid for and it has been paid for.
So, if we can just accept the atonement as having paid for the show, paid for everything that
needs to be paid for, and stop thinking, “Oh, everytime I do a bad thing, I make it worst”, and
then freak out about how we can’t go back and change the past and all of that. We stop thinking
about it in those terms and we just understand, “I am enough. The Heavenly Father has given
me some grace here and the atonement has paid for what I need.” Now, I can go back and I can
focus on what I can do to change. Right? What I can do to choose differently, what I can learn
from this instead of thinking about how a terrible human I am. [18:05]
Darcy: I think as the spouse, this is the part where you have to realize that this is not about you.
Your husband’s struggle with pornography is not about you and that you are also enough.
- Zach: Yeah, you’re enough, in the sense that you’re not going to be able to change his behavior
just because you want to change his behavior and it’s also, you’re not necessarily the person…
you know, he’s not doing this because you aren’t pretty enough or kind enough or lovely enough
or giving enough sex, or any of those things. None of those are the reasons why that… his
behavior is about him and you are enough just as you are and you get to work on coming to that
as a whole person. I love that.
Each of these three things: understanding that you’re enough, trusting in others, and learning
something from your mistakes—these are, I think, fundamental baselines for eliminating shame,
broadly speaking. And if you can take those baselines and engage them in your everyday
practice of who you want to be, then you’re going to be able to, not only fix this problem, but
begin to create the person that you want to be. Shape the person that you want to be in a way
that absolutely accepts responsibility for your actions, exercises your agency, and helps you
become better than the person that you were yesterday, today. [19:34]
Darcy: Yeah, and I think just remembering the idea that shame is never going to get you to the
place that you want to be.
Darcy: Because when you feel like, “I am bad”, that’s never going to get you to the result where
you are choosing good.
Zach: [19:51] Yeah, punching yourself in the eye is not going to help you see better and that’s, I
think, basically, what I think shame does for us. It’s like a big, huge punch in the eye. You’re
never going to see better because you’ve got a black eye.
Hey guys, thanks so much for listening. We love doing this podcast for you. We would really,
really appreciate it if you would go on and hop onto iTunes and review the podcast. You can put
your name as whatever you want. You don’t have to be like, “Hi, I’m John Smith and I listen to
this podcast about pornography.” You don’t have to do that. You can put your name down as
whatever you want and review the podcast and you then can tell others how amazing this work
is and how they can move forward in their own lives. We’d really appreciate that if you would
help us do that. That would be an extraordinary kindness to us. Thank you so much and we will
talk to you next week.
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