What you believe can move you forward, its also holding you back
Mark chapter nine verse twenty-three has a curious statement:
This is where family has son with seizures or spasms and the father of the child asks Christ to have mercy. Then:
Sometimes I think we look at this from a perspective of moving mountains. We think, “Well, all I have to do is believe that I can move this mountain and I can”.
That is a big grandiose idea, when not very many of us are very good at using this sentiment to change the slightest behavior in our lives.
Belief is a huge component of the work I do. It is probably the key to what I do. I help people look at the circumstances in their lives and help them find thoughts that serve them about those circumstances.
Let me give you an example. I went to 12 step meetings for years. Each week we would gather at the time and place designated. Sometimes I would miss a meeting because of a business trip or another obligation, but for 5 solid years I would go to meetings where each person in the room would repeat the refrain, “Hi, my name is…and I’m an addict.”
My belief was bolstered by my words.
I was unable to stop looking at pornography because I believed the words I was speaking.
At some point, I stopped going to meetings because I wanted to stop believing I was an addict.
I took a step back and looked at my brain and my thoughts differently. I started to observe what was going on in my mind that was taking me down the path I felt I could not step off.
As I did this, I came across a thought that many LDS men and women adhere to. “I can’t look at pornography.”
There are a few versions of this, “You can’t look at pornography” or “My husband can’t look at pornography” or “My wife can’t look at pornography”
These thoughts, as well intentioned as they might be, are not really true.
Not in the sense that I was not able to look at pornography.
You know how I know? I did look at pornography.
You know how I know it isn’t true for you either? It is highly unlikely, nearly I mpossible that you have never looked at an image or a video that at some point contained imagery that you would consider pornographic.
I had to start to look at that thought and seek a new thought, something that I could believe more than I could believe “I can’t look at pornography”.
The first thought I came to was, “I can look at pornography and I will”.
For those of you struggling with pornography in your life and those of you who are sad because someone you love is struggling with pornography in their life, that thought might seem counterintuitive to the progress you hope is made.
It is not.
The reason it is not is as simple as the reason the thought, “I can’t look at pornography” is not true.
“I can look at pornography and I will” was true. It was true for me and it is almost certainly true for the person you hope is able to overcome their own struggle with pornography.
If you look at it objectively, not thinking of your loved one or yourself, just pick a random person and think that thought of them, you’ll find that it is more true and more honest than the thought “I can’t look at pornography”.
Being honest with yourself is hard to do sometimes because we think we should be different than we are in our moments of indulgence.
In my own experience, I found the thought, “I can look at pornography and I will” empowering. It was me taking my agency back. It was me owning my decisions.
How many of us blame what we are doing on someone else or something else and then feel disempowered, weak, or small.
The truth is, each of us make our own decisions within the framework and guidance of principles we hold dear and then judge ourselves for how well we have done.
Too often, that judgement creates roadblocks that keep us from being honest with our true feelings and even with the reality that we have created.
The reality is, for people who buffer with whatever their favorite escape is, that we choose what we are doing.
There may be reasons, there may be circumstances, there may be influences that we feel have brought us to a point where we believe our choices are set in stone and we can’t turn away from the path we are on. But we create our lives by believing what we choose to believe. By thinking what we choose to think. By feeling the feelings our thoughts create. By acting the way our feelings make us act.
So, when someone says, “I can’t…” they have created a reality where that is very likely true for them.
Just like, when someone says, “I can…” they are creating a reality where that is just as likely true.
The difference is, what is the most honest version of the reality they have created.
I didn’t stay with “I can look at pornography and I will” for very long.
I moved to “I can look at pornography and I will later”.
Then I moved to, “I can look at pornography and I don’t want to right now.”
I took a few more steps and eventually got to a thought that would have been very hard for me to believe in the beginning of my journey when I was sitting in meetings and saying out loud as an attestation of my inability to stop looking at pornography, “Hi, my name is Zach and I’m a pornography addict”.
I reached a thought that I believe is true and that I believe fulfills my moral compass as well as maintains my agency.
It is a thought that we all need to reach in order to be fully aware of ourselves in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.
It is the same thought that many of us have about things that we don’t want to use or ingest. Drugs, coffee, alcohol to name some.
The thought is, “I can, but I choose not to.”
When I finally was able to believe the thought, “I can look at pornography, but I choose not to” was when I was able to completely free myself from its grip. I was no longer “addicted”.
When we choose to look at our thoughts and beliefs objectively and critically, we can find out if they are indeed empowering us the way Christ teaches us that they do.
Whether you want to believe that you can be 120 pounds again or that you can choose not to look at your phone 100 times a day or that you can choose not to look at pornography, you can.
But like me, you may have to start with a thought that is nearer to where you are now than to where you want to be before you get there.
I would love to help you begin that journey. Sign up for a free mini session to see if this work is right for you.