Episode 145: Avoiding Pornography - Three TipsJun 13, 2022
This week we are going to discuss your cycle of avoidance and how to recognize what is going on for you around this cycle and a few things you can do to help remove yourself from the cycle.
We’ve talked about experiential avoidance or buffering in episodes 5, 6, and 135. I’ll link to those episodes in the show notes.
Humans have a unique ability to problem-solve. From the very beginning of human existence, we have learned how to survive in the world.
ONE OF THE 3 THINGS our brains are designed to do is avoid pain. If you have listened to this podcast from the beginning, this is not a new concept for you. If you think back thousands of years ago when we had to hunt and grow our own food, and physically provide safety and shelter from the elements of this world avoiding pain was a very essential part of everyday life. Over the years we have learned that avoiding pain helps keep us alive! In the physical world, this is VERY important. Imagine if your house was on fire. What would you do?
I imagine I would make sure my loved ones were safe and run out as fast as I could. I would do everything in my power to avoid the hot flames and in doing so it would keep me safe. By avoiding the fire it makes it possible to continue living!
We tend to react to our psychological pain the same way we react to our pain in the physical world.
For instance, You might have a stressful workday, and instead of dealing with the stress in a productive way, you might avoid your feelings by engaging with pornography.
Another example may be that you approached your spouse for physical intimacy and felt and received a no answer which made you feel rejected. Instead of feeling rejected, you might seek out pornography.
You might have a stressful day with the kids and turn to chocolate to relieve some of that stress.
Our brains think that avoiding pain inside of our head is the same as avoiding pain on the outside. When we try to problem solve psychological pain in the same manner it often leads us further down the path of discomfort in the long run.
Every one of us has a cycle of avoidance.
For some of us, it is a cycle that circles around avoiding parts of our lives through eating. For others, it is a cycle that revolves around pornography, and others still avoid their lives through shopping or other behaviors that run contrary to our values.
Here’s what that looks like in real-time: instead of working on your project’s upcoming due dates, you scroll social media avoiding getting started on your work and putting yourself further behind.
Or, rather than get studying for your upcoming exams like you planned on, you open a browser on your phone and start looking for sexually explicit material.
Or, finally, instead of getting your house ready for the week by doing a load of laundry, you hide in the pantry and eat a sweet snack so your kids don’t catch you.
Darcy and I use a system called acceptance and commitment coaching, a key component of which is the word acceptance.
Often, the main reason we suffer is that we are not accepting our lives and our unpleasant or unwanted feelings.
This desire to avoid discomfort leads to experiential avoidance or the avoidance of the experience of being uncomfortable.
If we really want to avoid pornography or any other unwanted habit that we have, we must accept these uncomfortable feelings and learn how to deal with them directly.
These kinds of avoidance behaviors are like getting stuck in a roundabout where each exit point that is available to us means that we will have to be uncomfortable while moving toward our ultimate goal, so instead of getting out of the cycle, we stay put, circling around the same unwanted behaviors over and over.
Experiential avoidance is an unsustainable attempt to avoid the experience of discomfort in our lives and, often, creates long-term negative effects.
So, how do we resolve this issue? We start by accepting these feelings as valid and deal with them up front.
When we talk about our purpose in life, I often think back to the scripture in 2 Nephi 2:25 “... Men are that they might have joy.”
But if we are to get the whole picture, we have to go to verse 11 where we learn that there must be “ an opposition in all things”. Which I read to mean that there cannot be joy without the opposite, and if we are to fully experience joy, we must be willing and capable of dealing with the opposite of joy.
In other words, we must learn to accept our discomfort and face it willingly and adeptly.
Let me give you 3 of the ways that I teach people to accept and deal with their discomfort.
- Get familiar with your inner experience.
- Become Willing
- Define your values
Get Familiar with your inner experience
One of the simplest ways that you can get familiar with what is happening in your mind is to take 5 minutes each day and just experience your own thoughts. I know that might sound a little weird but I mean is to take just five minutes, alone and without distractions, sit and just be present with the things your mind offers you.
You can even use a tool called teams (developed by Robinson, Gould and Strosahl) that helps you identify what your brain is offering you.
TEAMS stands for:
T: Thoughts - This is the judgments , rules, plans, and worries that our mind offers us on a regular basis
E: Emotions - This can sometimes be a difficult process because, as I’ve said before on the podcast, many of us feel like we are only allowed to have 3 emotions, angry, hungry, and horny. This process is just about identifying which emotions you have and creating a vocabulary around them. Being clear that you are experiencing these as a matter of daily life. Once you know what these are and how to identify them, you will be much more capable of dealing with them.
A: Actions - What do you tend to do in given situations, what urges, longings or cravings do you experience and how do you follow through with those promptings.
M: Memories - This is where we pay attention to past memories of interactions or events and how they are affecting us.
S: Sensations - What are the physical sensations that you have? How do you usually deal with them?
TEAMS is a process of introspection that gives you a clearer picture of why you are choosing pornography or any other experiential avoidance or buffer that keeps you from being the person you want to be.
Now that we know what is going on internally, becoming willing to deal with those feelings, sensations, urges, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors is key to letting go of pornography in your life.
Willingness is simple but not always easy. It is the act of putting yourself in a position to try something. I like to call it an experiment.
I have always loved experimenting because I like finding better ways of doing things. I never realized that this same desire to make life better in the outside world would work on the inside world as well.
Fortunately, I started experimenting with different ways of overcoming pornography and it began to yield tremendous results. Being willing means that you engage the courage to experience the unpleasant parts of the TEAMS experiment that you just learned about.
This willingness is an experiment in going through the discomfort we all feel. It requires only one thing, to act in ways that take you outside your comfort zone.
Define your values
Lastly, as you think about who you want to be and what experiments you want to run to step outside your comfort zone, you will want to be clear about your values.
The values that you have are the guiding principles of your life.
Most of the people who buffer have a value of being comfortable.
That may be a value that you can do without at this point because you’ve been comfortable for long enough.
Now it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and grow, so one of your new values might be “Growth” or “Self-development”.
Within the membership, we have a great module on how to create and begin following your values. It is a great deep dive into the concepts we talk about here on the podcast.
As you work to identify your values, your actions will begin to come into focus in terms of whether they fit into your values system or not.
As that becomes more clear, your choices become more clear, and acting in the direction of your values becomes more likely.
These three skills, getting familiar with your inner experience, becoming willing, and defining your values are essential to help you overcome pornography in your life. They will help you get out of the roundabout and onto the path of avoiding pornography rather than avoiding your life.
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