EPISODE 5: Buffering - What is it and why are you doing it?Oct 21, 2019
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Welcome to the Self-Mastery Podcast with your host, Zach Stafford. Episode number five, buffering. Everybody's doing it. Hello everybody and welcome to Mastery Monday on the Self-Mastery Podcast. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. Today we're gonna be talking about buffering. Everybody's doing it. Can you tell that I have a cold?
It's killing me right now cuz I, I want to be a hundred percent for this podcast, but I also wanna make sure. That I get my podcast out to you on time, so I'm recording this with a little bit of a cold, so you'll hear that in the, in my voice today. But suffice it to say, I think this is an important topic and I want to get it out to you guys today rather than waiting for another couple of days before I get feeling better.
Okay? So onto buffering. I wanna tell you a little bit of a story. That was me. This was the one of the. Last times that I. thought that I might go down the path of buffering with pornography. My wife was out of town. It had been a hard day at work. My business wasn't doing well. We were on the verge of financial ruin.
I was lying awake in bed and I was going down that familiar path to pornography use. Now, before I talk about how it all ended, let's talk about what pornography. Use is for most people, there are addicts. I would categorize those people like this. They are people who without regard for the consequences and unable to function without it, use substances, incu, including pornography to get through the day.
Now for the most part, this is probably not you. This is probably not your husband. This is probably not your wife. The usage of pornography in your household is probably what I would term buffering. A buffer is something that reduces friction between two items. It lessens the impact, it cushions the blow.
A buffer in our normal everyday day-to-day lives is something that we use to transition from one thing to another with as little discomfort as possible. Most people don't know that they are doing it. that is buffering, right? A lot of us do it when we move from one normal situation to another. We pick up our phone to see what's on social media rather than standing quietly and on the subway.
You grab a snack as you come into the house. As you transition from being at school to at home, you probably have an uncle who does it while he is standing in the grocery store line by talking to absolutely anyone about anything, regardless of whether he knows that person or not. buffering is really, it's a pretty normal part of everyday life for most people.
So the question then becomes, why do we buffer? We buffer because it seemingly makes things easier for one reason or another. We're using the buffer to provide us with a quick chemical hit in our brains. We have these chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, or epinephrine. All the things that make your brain feel good.
At least in a short-term perspective. And when you buffer, you're looking at your phone, for example, gives you a hit that makes your brain feel a little bit better. The problem with seeking short-term hits is that you sometimes end up postponing the discomfort now for discomfort later. So when you grab a snack, every time you go from a meeting to your desk, and then again when you go from your desk to a meeting, that will add up over time and it'll probably make you obese.
I find that a lot of clients, when they buffer with pornography, they don't find a lot of overwhelmingly negative effects in the short term, but over a long period of time, the effects are well documented. So I want to, how do you know if what you're doing is buffering? I've come up with about four things.
You don't have to have all of them per se, but they'll give you a good indication of whether or not what you're doing is buffering. And put you in a frame of mind of do I want to continue this behavior? So one is, it is done to avoid some other feeling, whether that feeling is positive or negative, and people do buffer when they have positive feelings, including situations that you might deem completely positive.
For instance, arriving home, right? I got home, I love being home. I'm ready to start my day at home, but they buffer. as part of the transition from what they were doing to what they are doing now. So it's done to avoid some other feeling, right? There is often a little bit of a negative feeling in someone's body when they move from one situation to another.
It is a little bit of discomfort, and so we buffer to avoid that. The second thing that I came up with was it takes you to a place you don't really want to be. . What I mean by that is if you were to plan out your day or look at, the ideal you, the ideal version of you, would it include things like playing Candy Crush for five hours?
Would it include things like looking at pornography? Would it include things like snacking every time you enter a room, or would it include things like overworking or over exercising? When you look at. Where you are when you do these things? Is it ideally where you would like to be by ideally, when you think of the best self, when you think of your best self, the person that you would choose to be, if you could just wave a magic wand.
If it is if the activity that you're doing is taking you to a place where you are not being what you would ideally look at as your best self, it may be buffering. The third thing that I came up with was, You are doing it with a sense that you shouldn't feel unhappy. I think as Americans, we live in a society and a world where we feel like we don't have the right to be unhappy, because frankly, we live in the richest country of all time, in the most prosperous nation in the world.
We have. Nearly everything at our fingertips. Even those of us who are at the lowest levels of the poverty line within this country are far better off than many of those people who are below the poverty line in other countries and far above people. Who you know, lived in the last 50 years before us, right?
Even the last 500 years and far above even those who lived in the last 500 years. So we live in a space where we are constantly being bombarded with the idea that if we feel unhappy, that's our own fault and we should never feel unhappy. We see it in advertisements, we see it in social media, we see it on TV and portrayals that we find within sitcoms as well as dramas.
We see it in the movies, we. , look at what's going on outside of us, and we think, man, I just have no right to feel unhappy. The truth of the matter is everybody feels bad at some point, and about 50% of the time you're not gonna feel great, right? So that was number three. You're doing it with a sense that you shouldn't feel unhappy, and the key word there, I think is shouldn't, when we use that word, we're starting to abdicate our responsibility and abdicate our ability to choose.
So that's a pretty interesting that was an indicator that I thought made sense in terms of, is this buffery. And the last one that I came up with was the long-term consequences of the excessive and repeated use of the whatever buffering mode you've picked, whether it's food or video games or work or exercise or whatever.
The long-term, excessive and repeated use of this buffering technique are negative. And what I mean by that is I think there are a lot of you out there who would say, work as a virtue, . The fact of the matter is that if you work excessively, no matter how good you are at what you do, or no matter what, the intent of what you do is if you work too much, if you work so much that it impacts those around you in a negative way, then work ceases to be a virtue, right?
And so you can buffer with things that are not. necessarily bad. But again, when you look at it and in the long term consequences of excessive and repeated buffering in whatever thing it is that you're doing becomes a negative in your life. A net negative, as we like to call it. So when we, and bringing it back to pornography use, when you look at pornography use and you think, okay, is this what I want for my life?
When is this what I want for my family? And if the answer for in that case is no. , and I suspect you're listening to this because although you have moral objections to pornography and your stated values say that pornography use, it's not okay within your household. There's still someone using it. So buffering with pornography, like buffering with food or shopping or video games or any other sort of self comfort is something that you can stop doing.
You just need the right set of tools, and one of those tools is understanding what buffering is, how it has changed your brain, and how you can see it coming before you start going down the path. Looking at pornography as one of the most popular buffers in the world. That's why I said buffering.
Everybody's doing it. It is readily available by the light of an ever-present army of personal electronic devices. When people buffer, they're using the buffer as a way to lessen the impact of discomfort. , I feel sad. I feel lonely. I feel tired. I feel hungry. We often turn to buffers to mitigate those often seemingly banal and simple feelings because we feel like we have no right to be unhappy in our lives.
Unfortunately, what occurs is that the buffer becomes the default. It becomes the go-to in order to temporarily avoid what is happening in the moment, a moment of discomfort becomes a binge on something else. Most of you who you know, you have been to the 12 step programs, or you've worked with your bishop, or you've dealt with counselors, and you go in and you're like, I just don't know how this is happening.
I don't know how to stop this. I don't know how to get past this. I had a nice long run of sobriety and now it's back. What's happened is that you've created a pathway within your brain that you haven't dismantled. , that pathway is a pathway of buffering to take you from an uncomfortable situation into.
Feeling comfortable in the short term, but because you've built this pathway in your brain, it happens so automatically that you don't know how to get past it. And so that's one of the things that you have to do is you have to be able to step back and watch yourself buffer. You have to step back and without judgment, view your buffering and see how you can move past it and know, understand that half of your life is going to feel uncomfortable.
and sometimes we feel discomfort simply because we're moving from one part of life to the next, and sometimes tragedy has made our life different than we could have ever imagined. Creating forces that make it so that we want to escape from whatever it is that we're dealing with right then, and there are a number of key items that make it so that we begin using.
For me when I was sick as I have been sick over a number of years, buffering was a key component of my sick behavior, right? So I would get a cold or I'd get the flu and I would buffer with pornography at some point during that. And which is, it's interesting because this last cold has been a moment where I've had to carefully watch my brain and understand, okay, in this moment, Usually what I would've done is I would've turned to pornography, and in this moment I have to be careful to watch and make sure that I am not.
moving down that path, and in fact, that I'm proactively dismantling that pornography buffer habit so that the next time this comes around so that the next time a sickness like this comes around, I have dismantled that pathway even more than I did this time. And think about this in another way, you can have good moments in your life.
And buffer those away as well. It can be a moment where you know you're at your child's play and you're watching your son or daughter be the lead in the play, and all of a sudden you find that you're uncomfortable because of what's going on in their life. Maybe they missed a line or what have you, or possibly you're just uncomfortable because they're up there doing something that you would be completely uncomfortable doing and you pick up your phone and you buffer away that moment rather than fully feeling that moment where you.
Are then able to, I think, connect and empathize with your child, right? So there are moments in life where you would say, overall, this should be a positive moment, but you're uncomfortable because of something that's happened, right? And then you buffer that away, and now what you have disconnected again from yourself and from your own feelings.
So there's this compounding effect of net negative buffering along with our already negative emotion, meaning that so often as a pornography user, not only did I feel lonely or sad or some other negative emotion, but I compounded that by adding pornography use, which comes with its own negative issues, including the conversation that I then have to have with my spouse.
This happens with all kinds of buffers. When you feel sad, you eat. , which makes you feel sad because your body isnt the way that you want it to be. So you eat, which makes you feel sad, so you eat, which makes, so you get the idea. It's this self reaffirming cycle. We do this because our lower brain, which works to avoid pain and seek pleasure and conserve energy, says, oh, I know how to deal with this pain.
There is a way to get a quick hit of dopamine and I don't have to think about it too hard. So you've. Avoided the pain of the moment by seeking pleasure because when you feel pleasure, you can't feel pain and you don't have to think about it too hard because your brain knows how to drive down that pathway because you've done it before so many times.
So we eat, we watch porn, we buy something, or we look at our phones, which by the way, just to keep this in perspective, this is totally normal brain function. , this is what your brain's supposed to do. And some of you will say my brain is never supposed to look at pornography or it's never supposed to do.
That's not the point. The point is that your brain is designed to function in a way such that it conserves energy. By creating these habits, it seeks pleasure and avoids the pain that you're feeling through these negative emotions. Unfortunately, all of those activities can compound our negative results, if not managed properly by our higher brain.
Buffering is often a habit that we once consciously engaged in. Lemme say that again. Buffering is often a habit that we once consciously engaged in, that has now become routine enough that. , it is run by our unconscious reactions to whatever is making us feel bad at the moment. Additionally, when we use buffers in a negative way, we often create a compounding effect of neurotransmitters lighting up our brain.
So let me lay that out for you just here for a second. When we do something in secret that creates its own high, right? So because pornography is often done in secret, you have. A high that's instantly gratifying from that alone, right? So whenever you have a secret that has a certain dopamine hit all by itself, then when you do something that's instantly gratifying, that creates
its own high as well. So for instance, if I do something in secret that has instant gratification, I'm getting double the dopamine hit. Now, add on top of that, that when we avoid something else, so when we avoid getting in trouble or when we avoid having our secrets found out through our own cunning or a negative feeling of some sort, that creates its own high as well.
So now you have these three highs. Compounding onto the, already compounding onto the already powerful feelings that come with arousal, that comes with pornography use. So rather than just the arousal that comes with seeing pornography, we've added three compounding effects to our experience. And do you see how that, how much more powerful your urge is because of all the dopamine you're feeding it?
This is one reason why sharing your secret and talking to people about what's going on in your life is going to be helpful in terms of getting you away from pornography use because you're tearing down these compounding effects by being open. So the good news here is that your brain is super awesome.
Mine is awesome. So that night that I was talking about before I chose, I was lying in bed and I chose what I was going to do. So many years before, the choice would not have been what I wanted, but it would've been what I had taught myself to choose. So I had to unlearn my responses, my automatic pathway toward my usual buffer.
But at this point, I had done the work to get there. I got up, I drank a cold glass of water. I texted my wife and I read a book, and I went back to sleep. No pornography. No failure. I had changed and I, that's I think the thing that I want to convey to anybody who's listening to this podcast today is that pornography use is something that you can definitely change in your life.
You can stop using pornography. You can be a different person. , you just need to understand what's going on in your brain. A lot of us, we just don't even want to see it, or we don't look hard enough because we don't know where to start looking. The truth is, and men are good at this, women are good at this, but men are really good at this.
We like to figure things out. We like to, solve puzzles. Men are solvers, and so when you think about pornography use, this is an opportunity for you to solve a puzzle that will. That will pay dividends in the long run. Something that you don't have to keep doing for the rest of your life, something that you can now stop doing because you choose to stop doing it, and then you can trade that false pleasure in your life for wellbeing and trading.
False pleasures for wellbeing means that you become confident, and that's, I think one of the main things that most pornography users want is they want to feel confident. They want to feel comfortable. They want to feel as though they're empowered to choose. what they want to do. Because ultimately to be happy, you have to be able to choose what's going on with you in your life and in your world.
And that means that you have to recognize that buffering is a normal part of life, but choosing the right kind of buffers like, like watching a marathon season of the Walking Dead is better for you in the long run than. Pornography or overeating or excessive gaming. Anything taken to excess can obviously lead to negative results, and so you want to be cognizant of what you're using to spend your time on.
You don't always have to be alert, and you don't always have to stay away from all buffers. What I'm saying is choosing the right kinds of buffers, the ones that meet your moral obligations, and meet your physical and emotional obligations. are essential to the wellbeing and the happiness of your life.
Understanding this and putting it into play and making it so that your life is better because of it is gonna make a world of difference when it comes to your pornography use or your overeating, or whatever buffer it is that you're choosing to use at this point in your life. That's why I say, buffering, everybody's doing it.
And recognizing that helps you decide and helps you feel as though the shame of what's happening can be set aside and now you can put your focus into making decisions that are better for you. rather than feeling ashamed for what's happened in the past. So that's it for today. Listen, if you are having trouble with your buffering habit, sign up for a free mini session.
I'd love to have a conversation with you. I'd love to help you figure out how you can move past whatever addictive behavior that you're dealing with. All right, we'll talk to you guys 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 a free mini session at Z spafford.com/workwithme. That's Z spafford.com/workwithme. 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.
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