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3 secrets to managing emotions
Episode 14115th May 2022 • The Self Mastery Podcast: Overcome Pornography • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:15:02

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Our 4-year-old is an adorable little girl holding her own in a household of 8 kids and two adults.  

She is also a tiny human who I find fascinating to watch because she is an open book of emotions.  When she is sad she lets us know.  When she is happy, she wants to share that. When she is excited it shows on her face and in her voice.  


The other day, Darcy was with her and she became upset that she wasn’t going to be able to get to play with her friends, having thought that was an option.  


As she started to cry, Darcy just noticed out loud for her, “you must be frustrated, how does that feel? Do you want to take some breaths and come play with us when you are ready?” then went back to what she was doing.  


In the way that only a 4-year-old who is both super cute and highly articulate can, she cried for a moment or two longer, took her breaths, and came back to the fun while explaining how she had taken her breaths and was ready to play again. 


Without realizing it, Darcy and our four-year-old did exactly the only thing that we can really do when it comes to dealing with our emotions. 


In Acceptance and Commitment Coaching we call this dropping anchor.  


It is one of the most effective ways that we can deal with our unwanted or unpleasant emotions, thoughts, feelings or sensations and, quite accidentally, one of the key skills we have taught our little girl.  


Dropping anchor is a simple process and it is a component of the three secrets to managing emotions around any subject.  


One of the biggest reasons people choose pornography is because it is a way to take control of their emotions, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. 


Let me tell you what I mean by that.  If you are lonely, for example, because you’re on a business trip and your mind is offering you thoughts like, “you might as well just look at porn because you know it’s inevitable.” One of the ways that many people try to manage that, or get it to go away is either to fight with it until their willpower runs out or give into it.  


I’ve talked about willpower in episodes 38 and 134 which I will link to in the show notes.


Suffice it to say that willpower won’t get you all the way there and giving in will make it so that you create a self-fulfilling prophecy that will repeat itself forever until you learn the skills you need to stop.  We do a deep dive into this in the membership and in individual coaching, which you can sign up for at zachspafford.com. 


But what I want you to focus on here are the three secrets to managing your emotions.  So, imagine you are there in that hotel room or wherever, you can use a situation where you have given into pornography.  


In that moment with our 4-year-old, you can see the three secrets that you need to manage your emotions any time, anywhere. 


  1. Become familiar with your emotions
  2. Learn how to diffuse from those feelings
  3. Practice your newfound skills daily


I’ll teach you what each of these are and what they mean here, and if you want to learn more, I have a free Masterclass that you can come to tomorrow night at 830 Mountain time.  All you have to do is go to zachspafford.com/freecall


  1. Become familiar with your emotions - create a vocabulary and seek to notice and describe your experience. 


Start by learning about different emotions that exist. Brene Brown in her book, Atlas of the heart described a research project where she asked people to describe their emotions.  Most people only had 3 emotions. This lack of understanding is keeping us from being able to recognize what is going on for us, as well as, being prepared to deal with it


I would say that I am highly capable when it comes to fixing problems. 


But it is nearly impossible to make a plan on how to solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. 


If you only know three emotions, and I joke with people that men are only allowed to have 3 emotions, hungry, horny, and angry, you aren’t going to be able to accurately describe what is going on for you.  


This is like trying to deal with every home repair with only three tools.  That may have worked for you for a while, but as things get more complicated, a hammer, screwdriver, and pliers might not be sufficient.  


In fact, we have a rental unit where the sink was leaking and I took a pair of channel lock pliers and a screwdriver to fix the issue and ended up needing a special tool that I’d never used before and plumbers putty.  The screwdriver and channel lock pliers were useless. 


If becoming familiar with the emotions that you have seems like a hokey or soft thing to do, then you might want to rethink your position.  Because those emotions are pushing you around and keeping you turning back to pornography precisely because you aren’t capable of naming and dealing with them. 

If you want a feelings wheel, I would be happy to send you one. Just email me at zach@zachspafford.com or you can just look it up online. 



  1. Learn how to diffuse from those feelings.


Diffusion is a term we use in Acceptance and Commitment Coaching that means to unhook from an unwanted thought, feeling, sensation, or urge.  


When our thoughts push us around or drive us to behaviors that don’t meet our moral standards or values we are hooked by that thought in a similar way as a fish is hooked.  That thought, feeling, sensation, or urge can drag us wherever it wants without much hope on our part. 


The reason that idea can take us where it wants us to go, like the example of feeling lonely while on a business trip, is that we don’t know how to diffuse or unhook from that thought and make it something that isn’t part of us but that we observe objectively instead. 


There are countless ways to unhook or diffuse, from dropping anchor to NAB which I taught in a previous episode and that we learn in-depth in the membership.


Each diffusion technique is slightly different and each has it’s strengths, but learning a couple will be instrumental in giving yourself space in which to work so you can stop letting your mind push you around and you can choose your values. 


In the case of our 4-year-old, the way she diffused, with the help of Darcy was ACE, which is to Acknowledge the feeling, Connect with your body (that’s what taking deep breaths helps us do), and Engage, in this case the engagement was back into play. But in your case it might be to engage more fully in your work or the sporting event you are watching or just in the conversation you’re having with someone. I know that when I would travel for work, I would long for home, but when it came time for the actual phone call to connect with those I was missing, I would often be distracted and disengaged. 


  1. Practice your newfound skills


Last, you’ll want to practice.  


The likelihood that you are going to be good at any diffusion or unhooking technique right away is pretty slim.  Just like you won’t be able to play golf like a pro the first time you pick up clubs, you’ll need to spend time using these skills regularly.