EPISODE 25: Interview with Jessie Ellertson - Coach for Military Moms

Mar 08, 2020

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Zach Spafford: You are listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast, where we break through barriers holding you back from becoming who you wanna be, whether you're struggling with pornography, overeating, social media addiction, or just wanna get better at succeeding at life. This podcast is for you. Now your host, Zach Spafford.

Hey everybody. Welcome to another Beautiful Mastery Monday. Today I have Jesse Elerton with me. We are doing a combined podcast. She has a podcast called Simply Resilient. Where she focuses on military wives and how they can have a better experience while their husbands are away and deployed, which really fits nicely in with what I do, which is working with men and women who are buffering with things, whether it's pornography or video games or food or, everything under the sun, really.

Jesse, welcome.

Jesse Ellertson: Thank you so much, Zach. I'm thrilled to be here. Excited for this

Zach Spafford: discussion. This is gonna be awesome. Really. I think what we wanted to talk about today was buffering and loneliness and how the individual is really pretty significantly impacted when they are away from their spouse and why that is and how you can work through some of that difficulty.

And you're really the first person I've had on my podcast, other than my wife, which is fun, huh? Yeah. Why don't you tell us a little bit about

Jesse Ellertson: you. Okay, great. Yeah. My name's Jesse. I am a coach for military wives and I am a military wife myself. My husband's in the Utah National Guard. Basically.

I've had experiences both ways now where I've done a deployment without any of these mind management tools. And then just recently I did a deployment after. Learning all of this and not even becoming a life coach yet, but just having a life coach and learning how to manage my mind and doing a deployment, a year long deployment with and without those skills was just such a night and day difference for me.

It made. It was like the, in the first one in 2013 when he was deployed, it was like we just hunkered down and went into survival mode and like almost like we lost a year, like we paused our lives while he was gone and we just like got through by the skin of our teeth. So it wasn't like, I hope we make it, but it was like, once this is over,


Jesse Ellertson: we can live again.

And then on this most recent one, when he left in 2018, having all these tools available to me, I was able to take a look at the experience that I had ahead of me and decide what I wanted to make of it. And it was just such an empowering place to come from and I was able to create a year, not only just continue living rather than going to that survival mode, I was able to really create a year because I was willing to feel the ups and the downs of.

Everything that came with him being away for a year, particularly like in Iraq in a war zone, and just everything that came with that. Solo parenting, all of those challenges. And we had a very challenging year, but one of the most fantastic of my life. I mean, like I really had an amazing experience while he was gone and I didn't even know that was possible.

And so once I was able to have those two really stark contrasting experiences, I was able to see that this is something that I can help other women who, who have this desire. Create for themselves to other military spouses. And I know that some people really like the way that they already are handling when their husband's away, and that's great and they should just keep right on with that.

But I know there's a lot of military spouses out there who are really dissatisfied and really stressed out and really. Suffering when their husband's away and when we're in the military, they have to be away pretty frequently. And so I'm just, that's kind of my quest is finding women who want it to go better and then helping them have the tools that I now have that's making it go so

Zach Spafford: much better for me.

So along those lines, what's the biggest issue that you think that you deal with when your husband is gone? Because while a deployment is, it's a particularly difficult set of circumstances where your husband is gone for a, an extended period of time, but it's also one, especially in the military, where that person might also be in danger.

It's not the same as when your husband goes on a business trip for a month. Yeah, let's have some similarities. So what are the biggest issues that you see your clients dealing with when their spouse is gone?

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah, one of the, one of the hardest parts is the pretty obvious one, the solo parenting where a family and a marriage is often on two sets of shoulders and the responsibilities are divided.

Whether, I mean, whether he's at work. Throughout the week and you're still kind of carrying most of the load with the kids, but he still shares in that responsibility. So I think that's what weighs on me the most, or at least used to weigh on me so much more, was just that it felt like it was 100% on my shoulders.

And to sustain that for a year just feels really heavy. And even if I didn't want to, I would end up kind of like resenting him for being gone and for making me feel this way and for having all of this happen. Another thing that I see, And myself and in my clients is just a little bit of what I already said, kind of living in survival mode.

And I think we're meant to visit survival mode to get through like the hardest parts of life, but we're never really meant to stay there. And I think we accidentally stay there sometimes and just live this very, very small life. Which the way we make it small honestly is buffering because then that really smooths out all the bumps and then we can handle all that better.

And when you're in a real emergency, you need to smooth out those bumps cuz you can only handle so much. But a year is such an interesting or however long the deployment is, whether it's six months or a year. It's an interesting amount of time because it's long enough that you have to really change your lifestyle.

It's still a temporary situation. Like, you know, they're coming back, you know, your life will go back to the way it was. It's not a permanent change. So it's temporary solo parenting and it's temporary, you know, survival mode and.

Zach Spafford: It's the sense of limbo, I think that you Yeah. Live in. So my, my dad worked for the Department of Defense.

He was the deputy director of mortuary affairs for the Navy for a long time. Oh, wow. And when we lived in Germany, he was, so this was during the first Gulf War. He went to England to set up a mass casualty mortuary, which I think we never needed because that was such a short conflict. Yeah. But, It was interesting.

You know how the dynamic in the house changes Now, this is me coming from being a child, but the dynamic in the house changes when one of those spouses is gone for an extended period of time. The question that I have to follow up on, the first question is, what do you think are the biggest challenges that the person who's away deals with?


Jesse Ellertson: that's a great question. Like you and I had already talked about a little bit both sides of the equation, the husband and the wife are dealing with a lot of loneliness, and that comes with that. He's doing his own thing o obviously there's male and female soldiers and male and female military spouses.

I'm a female, so I mostly say like the wife at home and the husband away. So everyone listening, just forgive that Please, I love you all whether you're, whichever side equation you're on. But when he's away and doing his own thing and having his whole own experience, that can be really challenging. It can be a real struggle to create connection because.

You are having your whole on separate experiences and unlike normal life, even if like, say your husband traveled a lot or something, you might share what the other person's doing, but like he doesn't really wanna talk about his day and for a lot of it, he can't tell me. So then I feel disconnected to him because I don't.

Totally know what he's doing and then I kind of do wanna talk about my day, but it doesn't go that great when I do because then it adds stress to his plate that he can do nothing about. Like it might relieve me a little bit to maybe vent to him or just I try, I keep him in the loop, but when I vent to him, his like stress and anxiety goes up and there's not one thing he can do to help me except just say, I love you.

Yeah. So you kind of find this balance of. We barely tell each other about our day, just enough to keep each other in the loop, and we have to find other ways to make sure we're creating that connection. And so there's just, yeah, there's a lot of loneliness and a lot of unwanted disconnect because you're not really sure how to create it when you can't be with each other in each other's presence physically.

You can't have date night. You can't talk so much about what's going on with your day. There's a lot of that going on. It's

Zach Spafford: interesting because that ability to just. physically touch each other even if briefly is Yeah. So powerful within a relationship. And yet it's completely denied in that scenario where you know the spouse is gone and you're definitely not expecting them to show up for dinner.

Yeah. For a lot of months. And that's, that can't be easy.

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah. So one thing that I work with my clients on quite a bit actually is , showing them the power of creating that connection in their mind with their thoughts. So I help them gain awareness over the thoughts they are thinking. Like it feels so hard to be connected when he's away, or I wonder if he's thinking about me and instead just give those a gentle nudge to like, I'm so lucky that he's always thinking about me, or I know he's always thinking about me, or I know how to create connection even when we can't be together.

Just some of these more confidence building thoughts that are gonna actually create that connected feeling for you. And then when you show up to him in your, FaceTime or whatever, not with just this like gaping need of like we are not feeling connected. Instead you're like, I'm, I've already done my half.

I've created a ton of connection over here. And then you show up just ready to like, love and support him. Whether he's created it in his own mind or not. Cuz that's another thing we talk about is often the spouse doesn't wanna really talk about, you never know it's different in every marriage, but often the spouse doesn't always wanna talk about what maybe some of this mind management stuff that maybe my clients have gotten really excited about.

And I said, it's okay. You, you show up with your half of the connection created and that already is just gonna take. Your relationship, from here to here, like to just really increase that, that's been a

Zach Spafford: powerful tool. I think that there is definitely, and when we talk about military spouses we're often talking about, as you said, men, as the soldiers or the sailors or the airmen and the women as at home, the spouse.

Yeah. And so I think there's a great deal of ethos within the culture of the military where men don't. talk about what they're doing. They don't talk about what's happened. They mm-hmm. , they don't really have that conversation. My dad was a helicopter pilot for Vietnam, and that's where he met my mom, and that's how they got together and got married.

But I know very, very little about my dad's Vietnam experience. Yeah. And my brother was both a sailor and a soldier. He was a corpsman in the Navy and a medic in the army. And I know very little about what he. Did, and I know that the deployments that he had were a huge strain on his marriage. He spent a year alone in Korea, which if you stay in the military long enough, you're gonna spend a year alone somewhere in the world.

Yeah. I think we have to be willing to recognize as the home spouse and as the away spouse, that opportunity to connect arts between our ears, really, it's all about what you're thinking and how you're putting that together in terms of how am I gonna show up for my spouse and is that the way that I want to show up?

Jesse Ellertson: Exactly, and it's such good news because if you can only feel connected to your spouse, if you're physically in their presence, then we are have a big problem here, right? Like if we, if that's the only way, but if we know and believe in the fact that we create a huge part of it just within our own minds, that's so, so empowering for both people.

The way. Spouse and the at-home

Zach Spafford: spouse. From my perspective, and I, I deal with people who feel lonely and they buffer and, I specifically work with people who are dealing with pornography, but the issue here is how do I manage the thing that I'm feeling so that I can be the best person that I want to be.

right? Yeah. Showing up and being the person that, if you're away, you don't have a different set of values and different set of behaviors. A lot of businessmen deal with a lot of people who are using buffering behaviors to get through their work week. In fact, I had a conversation yesterday with a client who he said, I would literally, I would go in the bathroom to get a bump so that I could.

Finish out the day, I would have a, yeah, a project or whatever that I knew I needed to complete and so I'm gonna, I went into the bathroom at, two o'clock in the afternoon to get a bump. That's not who I want to be, so I need to learn how to deal with that. When you are working with spouses, do you ever work with the deployed persons?

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah, sometimes I do, but mostly not. . I mostly just work with the at-home spouse, which is usually the wife like we mentioned. But I think the traction that the at-home spouse makes by even understanding a little better what's going on just in brains in general, while they gain that awareness over their brain, helps them make what their husband's doing just mean less about them.

Like one, one thought I'll offer my clients when they're. Feeling some things about, the way they've inter like a recent interaction with their spouse who's deployed and they're not feeling very connected, I'll help them realize like, You know, what it feels like to be in your lower brain.

And that's where he is right now. And say he, overreacted about something that was going on at home or if he just, their interaction didn't go very well. That's a very comforting thought to me. And I'll offer it to my clients of, it's okay that they're just in their lower brain right now and I know what that feels like.

And that brings up a lot of like compassion cuz we all spend time in our lower brain. And like you were saying, if the client you mentioned, . That's not a, that's not who he wants to be anymore. But that was him and his lower brain thinking like, I need this to get through this next part. That's another thing I think about when I think about buffering and then I'll teach my clients this of the, kinda the spectrum of buffering as far as there's pretty mild buffering that doesn't have a very big net negative effect.

And then there's, way more intense buffering that has or way more, like. Has a gr a bigger effect, like a bigger net negative effect of the result it's creating for in your life. And like the client you mentioned, he was like, like the result this is creating for me is I can't get through my day without this and I don't want that result anymore.

And I talked to my clients about that. That's the reason we're changing the buffering. Not because the fact that we Buffer makes us a bad person or something. Everybody has that urge to buffer. Yeah. But when we realize that we don't like the result it's creating for us, that's when we can say this is just something I'm ready to change cuz I don't like this result.

Not because like it means anything about me.

Zach Spafford: Yeah, and I talk about it from a perspective of self-confidence, self-confidence and I did an episode on this, I think episode 17, where I talked about how regardless of the behavior, What you're really doing is you're, me missing out on the ability that you have to be the person that you choose to be and that cognitive dissonance that you get when what happens is, I'm a member of the church of Jesus Christ and I choose this behavior.

My behavior is supposed to be that I'm not looking at pornography and yet, in that moment, you're feeling lonely or you're feeling sad and you decide, you know what? I just, I'm gonna buffer through pornography. That cognitive dissonance erodes the self-confidence that you wanna bring to your life.

And this happens, whether the. , whether the particular buffer is a big one or it's a small one, right? Yeah. Whether it has that large net negative or that small net negative, but one way or the other when you say, this is what I'm gonna do and you don't do it, that's really a self-confidence game.

Takes that hit him, that you're at your willingness and ability to be the person you want to be long run, regardless of what the main effect of it is. Yeah,

Jesse Ellertson: that's such a good point. Yeah, and I've noticed that the opinion that we have of ourselves, like if our self-confidence is taking a hit, when it's decreasing that opinion we have of ourselves, the higher our opinion is of ourselves, like the higher we're having success with, like our goals and what we're working to achieve.

Where when we take that hit and our self-confidence, that also decreases our ability to find that success in what we're trying to accomplish. Those two things seem very linked as I've been observing

Zach Spafford: them. I think it has an impact also on how you deal with the other spouse, right? When you are feeling as though you are not meeting your obligations.

People are really good at projecting onto others that they aren't meeting their obligations either. That's a source of conflict I can imagine within a marriage, especially when your spouse is deployed and you're, you're doing your level best. I mean, let's be honest. Yeah. About it. There's not a, there's not a military spouse out there, there's not a military wife out there whose spouse deploys and all of a sudden they're like, well, I'm gonna half-ass it today.

Yeah. I'm over it. , . Right. That's not the thought that anybody brings to it. Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, they're doing their level best. And yet, when we don't do what we say we're gonna do, when we choose to buffer with food or with video games, or just sitting on the couch and watching TV all day, just because we can't.

Deal with the feelings that we are encountering. We begin to feel as though not only are we not meeting our obligations, but everyone around us is not meeting their obligations as well. That become

Jesse Ellertson: a toxic situation. Yeah. Another thing that I've really benefited from understanding is like, just going back to that concept of.

Like the survival mode that we go into in hard parts of our lives. The survival mode, which usually we are in, or usually is made possible by buffering, maybe we're sleeping a lot more or just, watching more TV or whatever, just to buffer and make everything a little bit smaller, a little bit smoother.

I think another reason people kind of stay there like particularly as I'm thinking about these. , these two spouses who are, a world apart and trying to get through the next nine months or whatever it is. And they're both kind of indulging in this survival mode and they're kind of staying there whether they want to or not.

But when they think about, it's like you've got survival mode on one side and then like thriving on the other side, and the middle is just kinda like normal life. I think that when they look at, I, I know I know I could be thriving. , but thriving to them when they're kind of lying to themselves a little bit is then I'd be doing great every day and this is such a hard situation, like I can't be doing great every day.

But what does, what I've come to understand about this mode of thriving is that thriving doesn't look like doing great every day. Thriving is the, it's the 50 50. It's being willing to experience the full up and the full down of. Each day, each regular day, each hard day, each easy day, whatever.

But just to know that like I'm willing to feel it all. I'm willing to take all of that in, and that is what thriving looks like, is just being willing to experience the whole spectrum. It doesn't mean that. I now live this I'm living a hard life here in survival mode, and then I'm gonna live like my life perfectly over here in survival mode which seems very unattainable, especially when you're in survival mode.

So I really like to help my clients understand we're, we're not looking for perfect days here. We're looking for willingness to experience it all. And that is honestly the definition of stop stopping Buffering is willing to feel. All the feelings. . Yeah.

Zach Spafford: Oh, absolutely. And I think it's interesting we talk about this subject.

I know that there's a great deal of difficulty on both sides, you know? Yeah. The deployed spouse is. , they're doing what they have to do. They have to be on base wherever they are doing the tasks that they're assigned to do, and then the spouse at home is holding down the fort.

They're taking care of the kids, carpool, whatever that looks like. We do often talk about this in terms of complete negative situation, whereas I think that there's some value in the idea that. You know what? While my spouse is gone, I'm gonna make something amazing happen. Yeah. For instance, when my brother was deployed to Korea, that was a perfect opportunity for him to get a college degree.

Yeah. Oh, because he was home alone every night. It wasn't like he was going out and partying with the other soldiers. Yeah, he was kind of too old for that anyway, he had complete silence at home every single night. So there was this ability for him to take measures to create something extraordinarily valuable out of that time.

And I think that goes on both sides of it. Is there. Is there something that you can do, and maybe this is a question that I would ask if I were standing there in front of a spouse or who's dealing with a deployment is there something that you can do to make this time amazing? Yeah. Because I think, you've talked about survival mode and I'm listening to it and I'm going.

does it always have to be terrible? Yeah. And I don't know, doesn't, I don't know the answer to that cuz I've never been deployed and I don't know what that's like, but my instinct is this can also be a time to, like you were talking about, thrive and create some extraordinary value so that again, build that self-confidence.

understanding that your spouse is doing their level best on the flip side of that?

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah. I think it, again, it comes back to the buffering because my husband and I have this funny, a little analogy we draw sometimes it's like when you're going on a long flight, like you're gonna go, maybe like a nine hour flight across the ocean.

Sure. And. You bring like two books you wanna catch up on or whatever, and you end up just watching tv. Right. Or like, like, you think I'll be alone for nine hours. I could just sit and read. But it's this willingness to be uncomfortable that we're that we're so unfamiliar with, unless we're intentional about it.

Like on an airplane, like everything's fine, but you're like a little bit uncomfortable and you can't quite lay down and you wanna stretch your legs, but it's kind of annoying to get up. And if the bathrooms are a little small and the food's a little bit not great, like so you're just kind of like slightly uncomfortable for like nine hours.

So you buffer against that discomfort with just if I watch TV, then I don't feel uncomfortable. So it's a little bit like that with the deployment where like my husband will be like, By all logical reasoning, I should be able to be in the gym two hours a day and learn a new language and I'm gonna be gone for nine months.

I can accomplish all of this. Yeah. But he's just 40% un or 30% uncomfortable the entire time. And so it takes a lot of like understanding and mind management and intentionality to be like willing to feel all that in order to then create something, rather than buffer against it.

And that's really all it takes though. It's that simple, but it, that's what's in

Zach Spafford: your way. So I was having this conversation with my coach recently, and I said, you know, I want to hit this it was a monetary target. I was trying to hit this monetary goal, and I was telling her all the things that I had done up to this point, and I was saying, these are the feelings that I'm, trying to cultivate, like committed and, yeah.

Well, I love committed. Yeah. Which is a great feeling. But as we were talking, she said, well, is committed, really gonna get you there. And I said, oh, I don't know. I mean, I'm, I thought that that would be a, a positive feeling that drives a result. And she said, but listen, you've got these positive feelings and you are a pretty positive individual.

And all the stuff that you're doing within that positive mindset is getting you to where you are right now. That's how you've arrived where you are. But how much discomfort have you created to get to the next place where you want to be? And it really struck me like the idea of being disciplined, right?

Oh yeah. Discipline is the kind of feeling that you get when you're accomplishing something, but it is not a comfortable feeling. It's really, I think, an uncomfortable place to be for most of us, because we're very undisciplined for the most part. We don't like to get up at 5:30 AM Yeah, we don't like to go to the gym.

We don't like to do all the things that require discipline. On a regular basis, and it really changed my perspective on what feelings we need to move forward. You know, a lot of what we talk about within coaching is cultivating the right feeling, but we don't often delineate that sometimes the right feeling is a very uncomfortable one.

Absolutely. And getting into that feeling and saying, I'm gonna stay here and I'm gonna be here for as long as it takes to move into the next phase of my life. That's not easy. And I think that that's probably one of those things where you look at, especially military deployments and you go. This is going to be uncomfortable and I'm just gonna lean into that.

No, and I'm going to decide, I'm going to do everything that I can to not just enjoy the deployment because I don't know that that's a possibility always. But I'm going to lean into the discomfort and say, this is how it's supposed to feel. Now it's time to get the things done that I want to get done,

Jesse Ellertson: and what a difference that'll make.

And I think another, this, maybe think another little area of disconnection between the two spouses is. , they're having two very different kinds of discomfort and a really con in a contrasting way. For example the away the deployed spouse is. having too much alone time where the at home spouse is never getting away from the kids.

Right. . So they're both very uncomfortable in very different ways that make you kind of like, resent each other. Like he's missing his kids and I'm wishing I could get a week off from them, you know? Yeah. And then the same thing with like, He's a little bit bored. Right? Totally. And I don't even know what bored feels like.

No, I'm just kidding. Here I am like, as I'm saying it to you, like the resentment is bubbling up. Anyway it's totally indulging in resentment because we both know the other person, we each have a really hard load to carry. They're just very different what we're doing. And that's just, it's all about that

Zach Spafford: discomfort.

Well, and it's interesting cuz we named some of these feelings and we named some of the situations. and I think we automatically put some value on what's happening, right? There's automatically a value that the woman who is staying home with all of these children and can't get a five minute break to just go to the bathroom without somebody banging on the door, right?

And we put a value on that. Whatever that value. Yeah. Then the spouse who, the, the deployed person who's away and they have all this time to themselves, quote unquote, and yet all they would wish for in the world is to just be able to hold somebody's hand. And we put a separate value on that. But the reality is that they're both feeling Yeah.

And they're both situations that, for the most part are pretty unpleasant. I can't imagine someone going and saying, yeah, I'd like to be completely alone for a year. Yeah. How horrible is that?

Jesse Ellertson: Well, and this is where the 50 50 has really come in for me is like my job is 50 50 and so is his. That's really just evened it out for me because they are so different that I couldn't ever get that.

Like logically I knew we both were doing something really hard things, but now I'm like, it's perfectly evidenced that I wish I could be alone, but he's getting too much alone time, like, so my. I am having 50% hard experience, 50% easy experience. He's having a 50% hard experience. 50, 50% easy experience.

They're just. Totally different, but that's what evens it out for me and makes me realize, like I can just lean into what's happening to me. Because different wouldn't be better. It would just be different.

Zach Spafford: just be different. Yeah. It, if you're saying that, I'm thinking the spouse that's at home with all the children is lonely just as much as the spouse who's away is lonely.

Yeah, that's Your children are no substitute for your spouse . It's not. It's just not.

Jesse Ellertson: Well, you know, I do. I have teenagers now and not that they substitute for my spouse, but it is very different than when they were all little. Oh, I bet. Like we have similar interests now and like I enjoy like taking them out, like shopping or to dinners, A conversation

Zach Spafford: that doesn't end with a magic fairy.

Jesse Ellertson: Yes, totally. And so it's, it also introduces its whole own, again, it's 50 50. It introduces its whole own drama and like higher stakes, you know, decisions we're making. So it's, it's 50 50 as well, but yeah, it, it's a, you're having your own kind of loneliness even though you're kind of feel like you're never alone.

Zach Spafford: So what do you, what do you say to the wife who's home? Or to the spouse who's home. What do you say to them? What are the key elements that you teach them to be aware of? When they're alone? When they're not alone, but at home?

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah we always talk about thoughts, right? I mean around other things, but I feel like what, when you unlock that, like, I'm not feeling lonely because my husband's gone, I'm feeling lonely because I'm thinking it's so hard when he is away and when no one's here.

I feel, you know, whatever your thoughts are that are creating that loneliness, because if your thoughts are creating it, then your thoughts can create, you know, love and contentment and whatever. You know, whatever the opposite of lonely is for you. And that is so powerful for them because they're looking at their circumstances and saying he won't be home for a year.

So I guess I'll just be lonely for a year because they think I'm lonely because he's gone. And one reason we know that's not true is because if you're in a hard marriage or a hard, any kind of situation or relationship, you can feel lonely when they're sitting right next to you. , if you're not feeling connected to them, even if you're in the same room, you can feel lonely in your marriage, even if they're not far away.

So we know that our thoughts, it's not our circumstances that create our loneliness, it's our thoughts. And that right there is just the, the magic for these spouses who they feel like they're focusing on the parts of their life they can't control, and they start to believe. Nothing in my life is in my control because like the military, Decides and owns me.

But to be able to shift that focus to like, sure, there are a few things that are out of my control, like the fact that he has to be gone or whatever. But here are all of the, you know, 70% of my life that is in my control. And when I focus on that, I realize so much is in my control, even though there are the few things that aren't rather than.

I'm gonna focus on what isn't in my control and then not see all the parts that are,

Zach Spafford: yeah, and I, on the flip side of that, when I think about the deployed person and really anyone who's dealing with these feelings of loneliness or sadness, or simply just tired of being away from the person that you wanna be around.

Yeah, whatever that looks like. One of the things that I talk about with my clients and with my podcast is if you are not just watching your feelings. taking a step back and observing what's happening in a very dispassionate way, you're gonna become kind of stuck inside of them. I liken this to the running of the Bulls at Pamplona.

Have you ever seen this? You know what I'm talking about when I see it? Yes, I know what you're talking about.

Jesse Ellertson: I have not seen it .

Zach Spafford: Right. So it's this crazy phenomenon where people in Pamona, Spain these bulls, they move from a pen where they're being held down to a stadium where they're gonna be part of the show.

Basically there people get in between. , they do this running of the bulls. They go with the bulls from the pen to the stadium, and I liken our feelings and our urges to that movement, right? So the bulls are gonna get from the pen to the stadium no matter what. When we don't step out of the road and get up into the balcony and watch the bulls go, we're gonna get oftentimes crushed by our own emotions.

And that's the same situation that we deal with when we're looking at, okay, how do I stop? Using pornography or how do I stop overeating? Or how do I stop whatever buffering behavior it is that I'm dealing with. I say, , you're gonna have that feeling or that urge no matter what. It's going to come, it's gonna get from the pen to the stadium.

Yeah. The problem is if you let it control you, you might as well be down in there with the bulls getting crushed. If you can take a step back and observe those things, dispassionately as though you are a third person watching and narrate it. You can do two things in that. One is you can understand what's going on better, and the other is you can really decide how long that lasts for you.

Yeah. And let it run its course. And if you don't want to do it anymore, it's time to walk away and you can walk away rather than get stuck, rather than get trampled. Rather than double down on the pain by being down with the bulls. Right.

Jesse Ellertson: Well, and I think when you're, I love that analogy cuz when you're like right in it, in the problem down with the bowls.

Yeah. The immediate solution appears to be we need to like stop the bulls , but like who can stop the bulls. Right? Like that's when you're saying like, I need to stop having these urges. And that's the problem you're focused on. Right. When really it's step back and say the bulls, I know the bulls are coming.

I know the urge is coming like, and I'm ready. I know what to do when the urges come.

Zach Spafford: and we compound that, right? We compound that with, I'm not supposed to have this urge, especially when it comes to like pornography use, right? Yeah. I'm supposed to have this urge because I'm a Mormon and or a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and because I have this urge, I feel bad.

Well, it, that's, that's like saying that's the shame component of it, right. So that's like getting in there and saying, I'm supposed to stop this bull, but I can't because I'm just a little puny human. Yeah. And just as much as you're a little puny human and you can't really stop a bull, you shouldn't try and you shouldn't feel bad about not being able to, you should be willing and able to like, Let it go from the pen to the stadium and see what it does and not jump in between and be like, I gotta stop this.

Or you don't have to ride the bull either. Yeah. Which is the other component, you don't have to give into that urge. I call those, I call giving in and resisting urges companions on the road to failure, right? Yeah.

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah, I heard a podcast once that Brooke Castillo was on.

I don't remember if it was her podcast or if she was on someone else's, but she was saying that as she, she's, she for those of you don't know, she used to drink a lot. Now she doesn't drink anymore. And she said it was a very important part of her process to never try to like, lie to her brain and be like, oh, drinking's evil, and I don't even like it.

Anyway, she would tell the truth to, to herself. Of like, I really enjoy drinking, like this is, so, this is where it's like it's really normal that I have urges to drink. It's really normal that when I drink I enjoy it no matter how temporary, what she was able to. Can like finish out that that true statement with was I like when I don't drink even better.

And that was something that she wasn't able to even imagine before. She could open up her brain this way. That she just thought, if this feels amazing, like it will just feel bad to not do this. But for her to realize like, like. Her brain wanted, you know, was offering her like, oh, we should hate drinking and that's how we'll stop.

But instead she's like, no, drinking's amazing, but my life is like 10 times more amazing now that I don't drink. Yeah.

Zach Spafford: Oh, this is a fun one to have a conversation about. Pornography with members of the church where you're like, no. Of course you like pornography. Yeah, of course you do.

Jesse Ellertson: Your brain's working right


Jesse Ellertson: track, ,

Zach Spafford: it's exactly what your brain wants.

Yeah, it's got all the fun and very little consequence, but yeah. Here's the unfortunate part is that the consequence that it does have is that you are not being the person that you choose to be. Yeah. And just like you said, you know, I like myself better when I'm not using pornography. I like who I am better when I'm not doing those things, because who I am is who I choose to be rather than who I am.

Just kind of. This is because Yeah. And

Jesse Ellertson: this is what's happening. Yeah. Right.

Zach Spafford: This is what's happening. I'm not in control. I'm not choosing this person. I really like, and I don't know if you've seen the Tony Robbins documentary about I think it's called, I'm Not Your Guru, it's on Netflix.

It's extraordinary. It's fascinating. And near the end, he starts to talk about himself a little bit and he says, you know, I'm Tony Robbins and I, you know, I was this kid, and this is, he tells a little bit about his life story and then he goes, but that's not who I am. Because the Tony Robbins that you see now, he says, I built this effing guy.

Right? Yeah. And it says a lot about. what we can accomplish when we consciously and conscientiously build the person that we're trying to be, we take that step back and we go, okay, is this the path that I want to take? And how can I best accomplish the goal that creates the human that I'm looking to become?

Yeah, and that was a real eye-opener for me when I saw him talk about it like that, cuz I was like, . Yeah. Tony Robbins didn't just drop out of the sky. Tony Robbins. Yeah. And none of us just drop out of the sky. This great human Exactly.

Jesse Ellertson: Who we, yeah. Mm-hmm. .

Zach Spafford: And I think sometimes we forget that it's a process of construction, not a process of, one tearing ourselves down cuz we're doing the wrong thing.

We, we often look at ourselves and we go, man, I, I screwed up the world and I'm a terrible human because of it. , that's not gonna build the person that you want to be. No. And two, we also have to look at it in terms of, okay, am I creating a process goals, setting goals, and accomplishing the goals in the way that is going to create the person that I'm choosing to be?

I don't know if you talk about goal setting with your clients. I'm sure you do, but Absolutely. Yeah. , that process of really setting goals and then calendaring them out and creating the first thing that you do on Monday morning, creating that calendar for the week and saying, okay, this is what I'm going to accomplish and I'm gonna put everything that I'm going to do on the calendar around the schedule that I have to accomplish.

Right. That is in my mind, the process of becoming the person that you want to be. So whether you're looking to overcome pornography or you're looking to just, stop being just a sad person who's at home alone without their spouse, because either you're on deployment or their Or you're home from a deployment.

Yeah. Being able and willing to be in the discomfort of setting a time to do everything that you want to accomplish that week. That is huge. Yeah. That is building a person that you want to be.

Jesse Ellertson: Well, and when we're in the thick of the buffering, that doesn't, none of that even seems possible.

Like, like when the buffering is what's bringing you happiness. That's how you're getting through. Really, the only reality that feels available to you in that moment is if I took this away, I would just be worse. So then what's, but when you're able to step back and use these tools to really take a look at your brain and to start to wrap your mind around the belief that I can create anything, including a life that is better without buffering, like, better without my chosen buffer.

To be able to believe in that and to be able to see that bigger picture is what's going to get you in the right frame of mind to get past needing that buffer, to get that temporary happiness that, you know, logically is the buffering, is working on just the symptom of the problem, not the actual problem.

You're getting a little relief from the symptom. . Yeah. But the problem will, will always stay with, with buffering as the solution. This has been an

Zach Spafford: awesome conversation. Yeah. I think we solved

Jesse Ellertson: it all. , .

Zach Spafford: Got it All. Everything we said and you'll be all set for the rest of your life.

Jesse Ellertson: Yep. Easy. One thing I wanted to say was just like, I think one reason that they tend to be hard on themselves is like just thinking about a simple understanding of the repentance process is like promising to never do it again.

Sure. And then they just do it again. Oh, over and over. So then I'm not worthy of, I'm, I'm not good at repenting. I'm not worthy of the atonement. I'm not worthy, you know, and it just, just so quick to. Make them feel pretty

Zach Spafford: worthless. Well, and so that's a really interesting point and it's, it's interesting partly because, so if you look at the Greek root of the word repentance, you look at the etymology of the word repentance, and you dig down deep into what it actually means is, so the Greek root is a word.

Mea, which means to have a new mind. What is your mind if it's not your thought? Yeah. And so this process, this process of changing your thought from I can't stop looking at pornography, or I can't stop overeating, or I can't stop, whatever that thought that most of us carry around, which is I'm stuck where I am.

Yeah. To. . I have the capacity I can, but I choose not to. Mm-hmm. , and I often use this analogy with my clients, which is, if somebody came to you, especially members of the church who like don't, we don't drink coffee for the most part, and for the most of us, it's just not a thing. It's not an issue.

And if somebody comes to you and says, you're a Mormon, you can't drink coffee. A lot of my clients say, well, I can, but I choose not to. And the truth is, is the same thing about pornography. But for some reason we think, no, I can't. And we look at it differently than we would if it was coffee. Yeah.

Because somehow we put this, I don't have the capacity to stop doing this because if I could, I would. Yeah. And so we get stuck in this place of not accepting responsibility for our agency and our choices. Because we're abdicating our agency by saying things like, I can't, or I should, or I shouldn't. When the truth is I can and I choose to, which is more true than I can't stop looking.

Right. No, I can and I choose to is more true than I can't stop looking at pornography. Yeah. And when you finally get away from that, when you finally get to this point where you're like, oh yeah, I need to take my agency back. And the very first step in that is accepting what you're doing. And saying, I, I am in control of this.

Yeah. In a way that no one wants to admit when they're a good Mormon. Yeah, for sure.

Jesse Ellertson: So, okay. Well,

Zach Spafford: I, this has been an awesome chat. I've really enjoyed this conversation with you. Absolutely. Me

Jesse Ellertson: too. Thanks so much,

Zach Spafford: Zach. If someone wants to find you on the internet, where do they go?

Jesse Ellertson: Okay, my website is, Simply

That's the same name as my podcast. Simply resilient. Awesome. And I have, my feedback is that military wives are loving it and so is everybody else. So you don't have to be a military wife to enjoy the resources that I put out in the content that I put out. But it is who I'm speaking to

Zach Spafford: mostly. The nice thing about these principles is that you can carry them across all parts of your life.

Exactly. So it doesn't require special to be like, oh, this is where I'm supposed to be. If you're looking for me listening to Jesse's podcast, you're gonna look at, Z A C H S P A F F O r You can also listen to my podcast, the Self Mastery Podcast. So if you wanna find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you can search for Self Mastery Coach.

That's it. Self Mastery Coaching. That's, you'll find me. All right, so hopefully you enjoyed that. That was a great little interview. Uh, I apologize for any of the audio issues that you could hear in there. It was recorded on Zoom. I usually record on garage bands, so this is kind of a new medium and I've been dealing with some sound issues it sounds like, where the volume's, not exactly where it's supposed to be, but.

For those of you who keep listening, I really appreciate it and I love having this conversation every single week. I hope that you're sharing it with people who need it, with people that you know, that need it, and with people that you're not even sure if they need it, but they, you enjoy the principles that we talk about.

Awesome. Hey, everybody. Thanks again, and we'll talk to you next week. Hey, thanks for listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast. Every day I get requests from people who are looking to change something in their life. If that is you, if you need help overcoming your addictive behavior like pornography use, sign up for free mini session at That's I'll put a link in show notes for you to follow. Also, it would mean the world to me if you were to leave a review for us. Wherever you get your podcast, it'll go a long way to helping others find us. Thanks again.

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