EPISODE 7: Five things you can do to overcome pornography

Nov 04, 2019

Artwork for podcast Overcome Pornography: The Self Mastery Podcast


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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.

Welcome to the Self Mastery Podcast. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. Hey, it's another Mastery Monday. I'm excited that you guys are all here. I'm excited that you're listening because this means that we are on episode number seven and this week we are gonna talk about, I can't keep you safe, but I can help you choose safety.

So I was having a conversation with a fellow coach, a friend of mine, and she had walked in on her 16 year old son using pornography, which I'm sure was very uncomfortable for her, but it was also a very uncomfortable moment for him, and we got to talking about how she reacted and how she finally said to him, I can't keep you safe, which is a place I think that a lot of us have been in our relationships with a pornography user.

We get to a point where we have done everything we can and yet the user is still using. In fact, I had a dear friend who for the last decade and a half, had a weekly, has had a weekly habit of viewing pornography. He is an extraordinarily smart person who has all the filters that you can imagine set up to keep him safe and for a period of time, his wife.

Was the only one with access to passwords required to get past those safeguards. I have been in the process of using, or been free from pornography for the better part of 30 years, so I have seen, I've seen everything. I've seen it, I've seen as many filters as you can find. I've seen, I have never seen as much security or safeguards set up to keep someone from viewing pornography.

as my friend had set up for his household, it was elaborate, it was comprehensive, it was cumbersome. Like you would try to go to a website that would be completely innocuous and you couldn't get there without a few checks and balances to get you there. Except. My friend was, as he would say, constantly checking to see if I was safe by testing the limits of all the blockers on all the devices in the house.

As someone who is somewhat technically savvy, I felt blocked at every turn just to use. , a normal website that I think you could find normally allowed, even You had to go through a couple of hoops to get there. This master plan internet access security would keep, I think most people pretty safe, but not my friend, and for that matter, not anyone who really wanted to choose pornography.

The reality is regardless of what buffer we choose, whether it's food or porn, or drugs or alcohol, social media, no matter. what it is that we want to buffer with whatever it is that we feel like we're addicted to. No one can keep us safe if we choose to seek it out. That sounds pretty harsh. That sounds like a terrible world to live in, maybe, but the truth is no one can keep you from doing the thing that you want to do.

That was true for me as well. . My wife was the gatekeeper of my phone's access to pornography for a long time. In fact, I had asked her to block the internet from my phone at one point so I could no longer even get on it at all, and she was the only one with the password. Even with that in my life, even with the internet blockers and things like that, I wasn't able to keep pornography out of my life.

It was a temporary barrier to immediate access, but eventually I would find a way my friend would find his way. To pornography. My friend's son would find a way, she . It was interesting because, within apps on phones that you would think are completely innocuous and you guys all probably know this, there are ways to get around.

internet filters by just accessing certain apps and finding a browser within that app. It's, it's extraordinary the lengths that users will go to, to achieve their ends of finding pornography. And you'll think, and that's the same for, people who buffer with food or people who buffer with alcohol or drugs, right. It's extraordinary.

The lengths that we will go to. To find something that helps us not feel our feelings. Each of the stories, my, my story, my friend's story, my friend's son's story, they have this thread running through it. In each version, there are ample blocks to immediate access, and there are hurdles to be overcome, and access is monitored by a central figure, like a trusted wife or a trusted mother.

In each version, there are also individuals who morally believe that looking at pornography is contrary to their overall happiness. Interestingly, I think in each version, each user is trying to lead a life as clean as possible. They're doing their best. They're trying, they're putting forth a good faith effort to stay away from pornography in the way that they best know how.

But, and this is a big in each version. , they're also able to surpass the barriers to entry in an effort to satisfy their urge to view pornography. So the question I have, and I think the question that a lot of us have is, why is that? So before we get into the why, I wanna say something about these roadblocks that we construct to keep our families safe.

They're good. They are in fact, I believe, necessary, and they need to be built and maintained. , but as you'll understand, as we discuss the rest of the podcast, they will never be enough to keep your family a hundred percent free of pornography. So why? Why is it that we go to such great lengths to access our drug of choice, whether it's pornography or food, or social media or video game?

The answer is our lower brain. Our lower brain has eons of evolution designed to help us survive, right? What our lower brain does is it tries to help you survive by giving you urges and pushes and feelings that help you seek out things that are gonna provide you with high dopamine level. Those high dopamine levels are the thing that when we were in the caves or before, There was, ubiquitous sugar or ubiquitous tv or ubiquitous drugs and alcohol.

Those urges drove us to find berries and high fat foods and get out and hunt and farm and fish and do all the things that created the civilization that we have today. Those urges drove us so that we could be. So that we could survive, right? Without those urges, we wouldn't survive. Now, those urges are killing us in certain ways, right?

If you look at the sugar content in food and the obesity epidemic, that is essentially being created by it. You're seeing that our drive to take in high calorie foods because it. It hits our dopamine receptors in an appropriate way, is killing us physically, literally. And I'm not saying that pornography is gonna kill you, but what I am saying is that a high concentration of anything that isn't necessarily driving long-term satisfaction is going to create a situation where you have low satisfaction in your life and that may end up causing additional harm to your, to your psyche.

And the truth is, anytime that you take on these high concentration, dopamine driving habits, you actually find yourself less satisfied overall with the things that truly do bring happiness. And no matter how much of it you use, it's never enough. I think we're all familiar with the idea of drug users who, your first hit on cocaine is great, but your 700th hit.

it just may not do it to the point where you're gonna take more and more and more until it kills you because it's simply not satisfying the way that it was before. So that's the challenge you're up against, right? You're up against your own lower brain. You're up against all of the evolutionary reality that is, has built a dopamine receptor factory that says, Hey, get as much of this as you possibly can.

So what can you do as a husband, as a wife, as a father, as a mother, an individual who is dealing with this, a child, a grandparent faced with a world where you can no longer just shut out the influences of the outside world, and there are an ever increasing number of ways to bring them in and have them at the dinner table.

What can you do? , I'm gonna talk about five things, and each of these five things, some of them kind of intermingle some of them. Some of them take from others, some of them have similar ideas within them, but these five things are essentially the five things that you as an individual can do when you're faced with someone who is using pornography.

And what I want you to know is that you're not alone. The fact of the matter is, is that in the last 30 days, 80% of. men have looked at pornography, statistically speaking, and I'm of course not saying that your spouse is looking at pornography or your children are looking at pornography, but if you think they're not, then you might be deluding yourself.

So I'm not saying they are, but if you think that there's no way they are, then statistically you're probably wrong. Now, I hope you're not wrong, and I hope that you're right, and I hope that they aren't looking at pornography or that they're not buffering with some other method because. in the long run that can be detrimental to their personal health, their se sense of wellbeing, their sense of confidence, and all sorts of other things.

But I also want to be clear, if you are dealing with this, you're not alone, and here's some things that you can do to be. To be the beacon, to be the guide, to be the help, to bring them back to the space where they want to be, where they choose to be. That is their best hire self. And if you're the one dealing with this these are things that you can do as well.

They're not things that, exclusively have to be done by someone outside you. You can engage in these activities as well. So first you need to define what it means to be safe. Ask yourself, what are you shooting to achieve? What, and what I mean by that is, when you're def defining what is safe, is it, I'm not looking at pornography.

on a regular basis, or I have created a plan to to avoid pornography, but I've also created as many roadblocks as I can, but I'm also not losing my mind over it. So create a plan. Ask yourself what you're looking to achieve, involves some experts. If you have someone who is capable of. Of helping you create roadblocks to pornography entering your household, whether it's through mobile devices or through your wifi connection or what have you, involve them and if you have to pay for that, feel free to pay for that.

Do whatever makes you feel good about what you're doing, and then also be flexible. You have to be flexible. You have to be prepared to adjust. There are going to be things that come up and you're gonna have to say, you know what? I appreciate that you've pointed this out to me by using pornography.

Somebody gets onto an app that you thought was safe at one point and now you know it's not. Be prepared to adjust and be flexible about it. And don't get mad about it cuz getting MAD's not gonna help, right? Decide that any failures of the system are opportunities to learn. And what I mean by that is take a chance, take an opportunity to learn from what has happened and feel free to, write down the lessons, discuss the lessons, and learn from those opportunities.

The second thing I wanna talk about is understand what the people you wanna help want. Ask your kid what they're aiming for in the world. Have a concrete conversation about, okay, is this who you want to be? In my own personal experience, we had a situation with my son where he was having well, without going into too much detail, he was doing something that, on further reflection as we discussed it, he decided that's not who I really want to be.

And having him acknowledge that and say it out loud and essentially choose. , is this a path that I want to continue down? Rather than us saying, you're not gonna be this and you're not gonna be that, and you're not gonna do this, and you're not gonna do that. Really engaging with him and helping him decide, okay, is this, is this the path that I want to choose?

Rather than being dictatorial is it is an important part of that conversation. Now, if it's your husband or your spouse, your wife, whoever, that conversation has to come from a very specific place, which is, I love you and I want to help you. , but I'm not here to be your mom, and I'm not here to be your boss, and I'm not here to tell you what to do.

I'm simply here to listen to you articulate what you actually want so I can support you as best I can. And in addition to that, you need to be willing to lose a battle, right? You need to be willing to say, if they say that they want to choose something that is clearly not. on your radar for them, something that you believe would be very bad for them.

You have to be willing to lose that battle because we have agency and you have to be willing to accept that. Within that you have to be capable of responding rather than reacting. When you react, usually what you do is the first thing that comes to mind, and oftentimes that is flying off the handle or being upset or blaming, and those are not very good.

Ways of dealing with someone else's pornography use. What I mean by responding is you have to be able in a measured way to choose what it is that you're going to do next. And I'm not saying that there shouldn't be consequences or that you should just say, this is okay. And. Let someone do whatever it is that they choose to do.

It may mean that you simply say, okay, because you chose to do this, we have chosen that you will no longer be able to have a cell phone. If your child is using pornography, the truth of the matter is, I'm 39. I did not have a cell phone until I was 18. Guess what? I survived.

Your children will too. And just because their friends all have one and because the world is a technology place. It may simply be that this is not the time for them to have it, and maybe they can earn it back in a month or what have you, but you have to be willing to respond with consequences. You have to be willing to respond in an appropriate way.

You have to be willing to respond with love rather than reacting, rather than, picking your kid's phone up and throwing it out the window That. That shows your child that you're not in control and that shows you that you're not in control. And it may also show everyone involved that this is something that you're afraid of and it's not something, this isn't really something to be afraid of.

This is a very normal conversation. This is a very normal situation for people to use pornography. I'm not saying it's good. I am saying it's, it's ubiquitous. And then I think. , when you talk about consequences, you have to keep the consequences natural and maintainable. So the truth is that you can't take your child's phone because they need it for something, or you can't take your husband's phone because it is a work device or his computer because it is a work device or your wife's phone because it, it's paid for by someone else.

Then, Y you have to be creative, but you also have to be willing to be flexible, make the consequences natural as possible, and maintainable. And when I say natural, what I'm talking about is, okay, so you chose to look at pornography on this app. The natural consequences of that is we're gonna delete that app and you're not gonna have access to it and be willing to hold that line.

third, you've gotta have a consistent and persistent conversations. My Hu , my oldest son, really loves going on car rides with my wife because the question that she asks every time that they go somewhere alone is, when was the last time you looked at pornography? Not, have you looked at pornography? Did you look at pornography when, so in our household, we understand that pornography is so pervasive in our culture that it's going to be there.

And the question then simply becomes, how are we gonna deal with it? How are we gonna address it rather than freaking out that it exists? Because freaking out that it exists is like worrying that the sun's gonna come up. There's nothing you can do about it. Now let's discuss what we're gonna do with it.

And. . And within those conversations, and I say persistent conversations because your conversation can't be just one time and then, okay, we've dealt with this. The reality is, especially with kids, is that you're gonna have to continue to bring this up on a regular basis so that you control the narrative of what's going on with pornography.

And discuss your expectations. Be willing to say, " we expect you to choose differently than what you have chosen", or "we expect you to choose this," or "we expect you to choose that" and understand that they may simply ignore your expectations, but that you have given them right.

being the person who's given those expectations. Now they know, right? They love you. They may want to try and do their best by you. I don't think there are too many kids out there who just hate their parents so much that they're not gonna try and meet their expectations. But know that they, that your children may not meet your expectations.

Ask pointed questions. When you are having these discussions, be specific, be candid use proper terminology. Use the word masturbate. Please use the word masturbate instead of self abuse. I wrote an article on that. Feel free to go to my blog and read that. But masturbation is not a dirty word, and self abuse is not an accurate term.

And I, we could go deeper into that, but just please use appropriate terminology and feel free to look it up if you're not familiar with the terminology, you know, masturbation, pornography. I, I personally don't like the word porn because I think it. I think the word porn has become more accepted in the world, right?

You see all these posts of like food porn and word porn, and that's not the message that I want to convey to my children. I want to use the full word pornography because I believe that it conveys a depth or a a gravity of the conversation, be able to hear the truth without losing your cool.

Somebody's gonna say something that you might think is hurting you. Your husband or your wife or your child, or your mother or your father might say something like, I look at pornography. And that might, that might hurt your feelings and you might think they are assaulting me. But the truth is, they're just trying to get through this struggle themselves.

They don't know how to move past it, and they're coming to you as a person who is trusted. and if you can be that trusted person, you will grow in your relationship and your relationship will be better because of it. And discuss the learning opportunities with those in your circle. People that you know, people that are dealing with similar things, be open about it.

Have a conversation with that mom at the carpool. I find it very fascinating that in our conversations with others and our openness with others, we find that. . Invariably, when we discuss it, our friends and our neighbors and our, and the people that are in our circle, they're dealing with similar things.

Their children are dealing with similar things. I have yet to find someone who hasn't had a child. In fact, I had a conversation with a state president the other day and he was like, yeah, you know this happened in my household and I would've paid anything to. To have it dealt with. He actually asked me, "can you make a living as a life coach, coaching people on how to stop looking at pornography?"

And I said, well, yeah. I mean, that's what I do and this is what I charge. And , he was like, I would've paid that in a heartbeat to get my child over this difficulty. And seek mentors that have been where you are. and heed their advice as much as you can and is meaningful for your situation.

Because not every situation's the same and not every mentor has the same ideas, and not everyone who has an idea or who's been through something like this can tell you exactly the way to go. But look for the solutions that you can glean from their experience and then implement your own as well.

Number four, and this I think is a very, very important one. This is one that I think that we forget. It helps us be real, and that is be open about your own struggles. Each of us has burdens to bear. Share yours with your family. They love you. They want to know that you have overcome things, and they want to understand the best stories in life are about overcoming adversity, right?

There's not a very good movie out there that isn't about overcoming adversity. Rudy, Rudy, for example, greatest one of the greatest sports movies of all time. He overcame adversity to become a college football player. Perseverance and adversity are the backbone of a really good story.

But more than that, when your children hear your story of your struggle, whatever it was, and. And you may not think it was a very big struggle, or you may think it was a horrendous struggle and you never wanna share it with anybody, but your children will hear it and they will think, wow, you've been through so much.

Or your spouse will hear it and think, wow, I love you even more than I did before. Right Now. number five. This is a really important one, and I think it's one that we, I've talked about this a little bit on the podcast in terms of, you have to be willing to let someone else have their own, and that is trust in agency.

Believe that whoever is using whatever it is that they're using, they're not doing it to hurt you or themselves, they're doing it because they don't want to feel bad. I know that sounds like an oversimplification, but that in the end is really what it boils down to. They're doing it so that they don't feel bad themselves.

They're not trying to hurt anybody. They're certainly not trying to hurt you. They're simply trying to feel good, and I think that we can all understand that. We can all get behind that idea of, I, I just want to feel good. . In addition to that, you've gotta believe that the user, the person that's doing this, they have their agency and they're the only person who can exercise it.

They're the only person who can really make a choice to change. You can exert as much pressure as you want. You can put your thumb on the scale as much as you want, but in the end if you're doing this because you want to feel good about their behavior, you're never gonna win that battle. , right? You're never gonna be able to get someone to stop doing something so that you feel good.

Now, think about that. If you want someone to do something just so you feel good, one, your motives are simply selfish, right? So if you're saying, well, I'm, my wife is using pornography and I don't want her to, and when she uses pornography, that makes me feel bad. So I have to do everything in my power to make her stop.

Who is that about? That's not about her. That's about you as the spouse. You're saying, her behavior hurts me. And the truth is, your thoughts about her behavior hurt you. And when you use your agency to try and take away her agency, you're gonna find yourself in a very uncomfortable place. and that place is a place of, constantly watching, constantly guarding, constantly being there to put your thumb on the scale so that they don't mess up.

But what you really need to be doing is putting yourself in a position to accept them as who they are. Love them for who they are, and trying to help them choose the path that they want to choose. There are pornography users, there are users of all kinds of buffers who are just like, this is who I am and this is what I do, and I'm okay with it.

You're not gonna change that person, but the person who thinks this is not who I want to be, help me, is not gonna be changed in a positive way by you putting your thumb on the scale. , they're gonna be changed in a positive way by doing the five things that we talked about here. They're gonna be helped by you simply being there and listening and being able to help them find the path and understand their own brain and move forward.

And that's the message that you want to convey to them, is that I'm here to help, not I'm here to tell you what to do, and I'm here to hold you to account because in the end, they're holding themselves to more account than you are. Probably, and if they're not, then they are probably not ready to change.

And so you gotta be willing to accept that as well because their agency is theirs and you don't have control over it. So, just a recap. The five things that you can do to help whoever it is in your life that's using pornography, whether it's yourself or whether it's some other person, is you first need to define what it means to be safe.

Am I keeping myself as safe as possible? , right? The second is understand what the people that you want to help want. So if you're talking about yourself, it's what do I actually want, and be honest about that conversation. The third thing is have consistent and persistent conversations, and whether that's with your child or your spouse, or with yourself.

Be specific and be persistent in those conversations. Have 'em as often as possible. Fourth, be open about your own struggles. Be willing to . , open up and go out on a limb and share what's going on in your life. And finally, fifth Trust in Agency. The truth is that we have agency because our Heavenly Father gave it to us, and no one can take it away from us.

All we can do is give it away, and when we give it away, we can also take it back. It's ours, right? And that's what I hope every one of us learns through these podcasts and through my coaching program and everything that I do is that you can take back your agency, you can re-own your agency even if you feel like you've given it away.

Guys, I really appreciate you listening. I really enjoy this podcast. I really enjoy talking about this subject. It's funny because don't tell my wife's grandma that I talk about this stuff on the internet because she is very much upset about it. . But the truth is it needs to be talked about.

And as much as I love my wife's grandma, and as much as you love your own grandma, they may not be ready for that conversation, and that's okay. But the people that are ready for this conversation and the people that are willing to hear it, This is for them. So please, if you know someone who could use this conversation, if you know someone who's struggling with some sort of habit, whether it's buffering with food or pornography, or anything that they're struggling to, even if it's, they're struggling to get work done that they need done, this is the Self-Mastery podcast, right?

The goal here is to be the master of self and these techniques, they work for all of it. So share this with them. Feel free to leave us a review on iTunes. I would love to hear it. If you or anyone you know is struggling with pornography, please set up a free mini session. I'd love to have a conversation with you.

I'd love to be your go-to person, or you can just go to my website and kind of check out what I have there. In the next 13 days, I'm gonna have a free giveaway. , which I'm very excited about. It is going to be what I call an after action report, but it's gonna be a downloadable with a explanation video that will help you look at any given situation that you've just been through and start to deconstruct it.

In your mind and on paper so that you can begin to make different choices as you go forward. All right, everybody. This has been a great Mastery Monday. I really love you guys. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. 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 a 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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