Artwork for podcast Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast)
Why Feelings Matter In Overcoming Pornography
Episode 1927th January 2020 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:24:03

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The big question that comes up as I coach clients, whether they are trying to stop an addictive behavior or they are just trying to show up as the man or woman that they want to be, really captures the battle that we have every day over who we are and the behaviors we exhibit.

Why do I want … ?

Why do I want to earn a million dollars? Why do I want to become a doctor? Why do I want to get married? Why do I want to have the big house? Why do I want to stop looking at pornography? Why do I want to look at pornography? Why do I want to stop overeating? Why do I want to eat that whole chocolate bar? Why do I want to be more successful at work?

These questions are about feelings. They are about how we think getting something or stopping something will make us feel. 

Whenever you can ask that question, you are really asking “how do I want to feel?” Because everything that we want is based on how we think it will make us feel. 


I think this is a really interesting conversation to have

And those feelings drive every action in our life. If you have ever spent time in sales, like I did, you know that your goal is to help the person buying have a feeling of one sort or another. When people feel the right feelings, they act. 

Feelings drive you to do everything you do.

Sex, food, warmth, shelter, survival, are all driven by our feelings. In fact, the latest research shows that when we block certain feelings, our desire to do anything essentially is eliminated. 

What that means to me is that if we can create the feelings we want, we can create the life we have always wanted. 

Ok, so, let’s talk about what a feeling is.

For the most part, a feeling is a vibration in our bodies.

Most of us think that our feelings are caused by our circumstances. We think that because we live in a certain place or we have a certain job or our spouse says a certain thing, that is what causes our emotions. 

The truth is our emotions come from the thoughts that we have about those circumstances.

For a long time, as I dealt with my pornography use, I used to think, I can’t stop looking at pornography. The circumstance of pornography hasn’t changed, it is still out there and it isn’t going away. But, rather than think, I can’t, I now think, I can look at pornography, but I choose not to. 

That creates a feeling that I prefer, a feeling of success and a feeling of being capable. Which in turn, created actions that resulted in my being able to choose not to look at pornography. 

The same goes for every aspect of our lives. 

We can feel happy, or successful, or capable, or loved, or whatever feeling we are looking to feel when we want to. 

does that sound a little off?

Just think about it for a second. Everything we do, we do because of how we want to feel. 

Sometimes that means that we do things that make us feel good short term, but have negative feelings long term and sometimes we do things that make us feel bad short term, but have positive feelings long term.

Pornography users use because they want to feel good. Over eaters over eat because they want to feel good. Successful people perform their best work because they want to feel successful. Kind people are kind because they want to feel love. Weight lifters work out because they want to feel powerful. And so on.

So, if you take a moment and think about what you really want, then go deeper and ask, what makes me want that, what do I really, really want. Then ask yourself, how you will feel when you get what you want, you’ll find that when you dig deep enough, you really desire a feeling. 

Good news is that your feelings all come from your thoughts, and you get to choose your thoughts!

If you want to change your life, stop using pornography, become more productive, have greater success, being aware of your feelings is key. 

There are three things that we humans do when it comes to negative feelings. We either try to avoid or react to our negative feelings or we feel them. 

Avoiding and reacting usually looks like short term bursts of “good” feelings. This is dopamine to your brain. Like when you are bored and you pick up your phone to play candy crush or, like me, you read the news. If I think about it, there isn’t a lot of long term positive coming out of me being so tuned in to all the news that is out there. In fact, there is a lot of scientific evidence out there that says reading the news has a long term negative impact on a person. But it makes me feel good in the moment. 

But, if I want to feel good long term, I have to be able to feel bad short term. I have to be willing to feel uncomfortable in the moment to have long term joy and success and love in my life. 

For LDS men who are trying to deal with all the demands we see on our time from our dedicated family life, our church callings and our desire to excel at the office, being more familiar with the tradeoffs that we are making in short term dopamine hits is essential to creating and enjoying bigger long term joy and happiness. 

Our culture has made avoiding emotion quite easy and acceptable. Some of the most common ways we avoid our emotions are overeating, pornography and working. That includes working at our church callings.   We live in a world where there is a lot of dopamine available to us in all kinds of easy access formats.

The majority of us don’t realize that is what we are doing.  

But, looking for that dopamine hit short term, really hinders our long term happiness and joy. 

I often tell my clients, they pay me a lot of money to learn how to feel bad. 

The question I ask, and you can ask yourself is, do I want to feel good now, or do I want to feel good long term? 

Even more pressing is, am I willing to feel bad now so I can feel good long term? 

Lifting weights is a really good example of this. 

The short term pain of lifting weights, having mico tears in your muscles and getting up early to go to the gym, maybe avoiding certain foods to improve your muscle growth or eating certain foods for the same reason may be unpleasant. But those who lift religiously will tell you that the long term satisfaction of those short bursts of unpleasantness are well worth it. 

By the way, feelings are just that, feelings. They aren’t going to hurt you. So, learning to allow an emotion, feel your feelings, is a key skill that you can learn. 

What’s the benefit of learning to feel your feelings? When you are capable of feeling your feelings, you are capable of accomplishing anything you choose to accomplish. 

Negative feelings are the currency of success. Whether it is in stopping pornography use, or being more productive at work. If you can feel “bad” in the short term, your long term ability to do what you want to do and feel how you want to feel increases in proportion.