• Zach Spafford

Buffering - everybody's doing it.

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.


Before I talk about how it all ended, let's talk about what pornography use is for most people.


There are addicts, those people who, without regard for the consequences and unable to function without it, use substances, including pornography to get through the day.


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 call "Buffering".


A buffer is something that reduces friction between two items.


It lessens the impact.


It cushions the blow.


A buffer is something that helps us transition from one thing to another with as little discomfort as possible.


Most people don't know they are doing it, buffering.


A lot of us do it when we move from one normal situation to another.


We pick up our phone to see what is on social media rather than standing quietly on the subway.


You probably have an uncle who does it while standing in the grocery line by talking to absolutely anyone about anything, regardless of whether he knows the person or not.


When you grab a quick snack as you come home from work, rather than waiting for meal time.


Buffering is a normal part of everyday life for most people.


Why do we buffer?


We buffer because it seemingly makes things easier


For one reason or another, we are using the buffer to provide us with a quick chemical hit in our brains.


Serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine all things that make your brain "feel good", at least in the short term.


Looking at your phone gives you a "hit" that makes your brain feel a little better.


The problem with seeking short term hits is that you sometimes end up postponing discomfort now for discomfort later.


When you grab a quick snack every time you go from a meeting to your desk and then again when you go from your desk to a meeting will add up over time and probably make you obese.


When you buffer with pornography, in the short term, there are not a lot of overwhelmingly negative effects.


But over a long period of time, those effects are well documented.


In your thoughts about pornography, none of that really matters.


What matters is whether you decide that pornography use is ok for you and your family.


I suspect that you are reading this because, although you have a moral objection to pornography and your stated values say that pornography use is not ok within your household, there is still someone using it.


Buffering with pornography, like buffering with food, shopping, video games or any other form of self comfort is something that you can stop doing.


You just need the right set of tools.


One of those tools is understanding what buffering is, how it is changing your brain, and how you can see it coming before you start down the path of using.


Looking at pornography is one of the most popular buffers in the world.


It is readily available by the light of an ever present army of personal electronic devices.


When people buffer, they are using the buffer as a way to lessen the impact of discomfort.


Unfortunately, what often occurs is that the buffer becomes the default go to in order to temporarily avoid what is happening in the moment. A moment of discomfort becomes a binge on something else.


About half of our lives are uncomfortable.

Sometimes we feel discomfort because we are simply moving from one part of life to the next.


Sometimes tragedy has made our life different than we could have ever imagined.


But there are also the good moments. Unfortunately, when we buffer too often, we fail to recognize good moments and enjoy them because we buffer them away too.


There is also the compounding effect of net-negative buffering along with our already negative emotions.


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.


This happens with all kinds of buffers.


When you feel sad you eat, which makes you feel sad because your body isn't the way you want it to be, so you eat, which makes you sad, so you eat, which makes... you get the idea.


We do this because our lower brain, which works to avoid pain, seek pleasure and conserve energy says, "oh, I know how to deal with this pain, here is a way to get a quick hit of dopamine".


So we eat, watch porn, buy something or look at our phones.


Totally normal brain function.


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 had once consciously engaged in that now has become routine enough as to be an unconscious reaction to whatever is making us feel a little bad at the moment.


Additionally, when we do buffer negatively, we are often creating a compound effect of neural transmitters lighting up our brains.


When we do something in secret, that creates its own high.


When we do it in an instantly gratifying way, that creates its own high.


When we do it to avoid something else, that creates its own high.


So, rather than just the arousal that comes with seeing pornography, we have added 3 compounding effects to our experience.


Do you see how much more powerful your urge is because of all the dopamine you are feeding it?


Your brain is pretty awesome though.


Mine is.


I chose that night, lying in bed, what I was going to do.


Many years before, the choice would not have been what I wanted, but it would have been what I had taught myself to choose.


I had to unlearn my responses, my automatic path toward my usual buffer.


But by this point, I had done the work to get there.


I got up, drank a cold glass of water, text my wife, read a book and went back to sleep.


No pornography, no "failure".


I had changed.


You can too.


If you would like help with your pornography use, an addictive behavior or really anything that you would like to be coached on, please schedule a free mini-session with me.


If you like this post check out my last post here.

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