Zach Spafford: I'm Zach. And I'm Darcy. We're an LDS couple who struggled with unwanted pornography in our marriage for many years. What was once our greatest struggle and something we thought would destroy us, has become our greatest blessing in trying. Our hope is that as you listen to our podcast each week, you'll be filled with hope and healing and realize that you too can thrive beyond pornography and create the marriage you have always desired.
Welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. We're so glad you're here and we believe in you.
Hey everybody and welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. This week I wanna talk about control. You know, I used to think that I just needed to control my thoughts and that my wife, Darcy w just needed to help me control my urges by having sex with me and then, you know, and making sure she was checking my web browser and holding me accountable and punishing me when I fail in that process.
I was letting go of control of some things that I needed to take responsibility for, and then I was also working to control some things that aren't controllable. Today we're gonna talk about controlling the right things to create a life beyond pornography so you can thrive and overcome pornography for good.
But before we do that, I want to invite you to come and see a free class on how you can quit born in just 12 weeks. I'd love to be, love to have you there. I'd love for you to watch and in and ask all the questions you want. I will answer every question that you have. I will help you start solving this problem today.
Go to z spafford.com/. Free call and you can join for free. It's a great opportunity to just figure out, okay, what do I need to do next? Okay, so let's break this down into two aspects. What are the things that we can't control and we need to let go of, and what are the things that we can control and need to take responsibility for?
So starting with the things that we cannot control, one of the very first things that we need to understand is that there are two types of control strategies, external strategies and internal strategies. External control strategies are really good for external problems, things that are outside of you that you can physically see, touch or feel, and that if you move halfway around the world, would gen generally stop being a problem.
External problems are things like the story of pot's wife. Joseph serving in the household of an influential Egyptian leader caught the eye of his boss's wife, and now through willpower and motivation, he could physically distance himself from POT'S advances physically.
Once removed from her physically, not succumbing to her advances becomes somewhat easy, becomes not really a problem because from a, from a living, my moral standpoint, I don't see this person and therefore I don't have to worry about whether or not she's gonna seduce me. It's pretty simple. The problem with these kinds of strategies is that willpower and motivation are really short-acting solutions.
That only work on what are called finite problems, and I've talked about finite problems on the podcast before, but your brain. Is not a finite problem, and it's not a short-term problem. It's not a finite or short-term part of your life. It's the only thing that you get to take with you everywhere and all the time.
External strategies are things like distracting yourself, leaving the situation. And not going into the situation in the first place to name a few. So you can see how what you're doing right now with pornography might be a little bit like that. You know, you might be leaving situations early, you might be distracting yourself from things that your brain might not think is good for you in the long term, but might feel good right now.
And you might just be avoiding going to certain things like the beach or whatever. Let me give you an example from one of my clients. We'll call him Bill. He noticed a woman when he was at the airport on a business trip, and she was beautiful. She was well dressed. She was just the sort of woman who would catch his eye and start the process of trying to distract himself so he wouldn't go searching on the internet.
When thoughts or ideas come to mind, he would think. Of his next meeting, he would try to engage his brain in work, things he would think about, the phone calls he needed to be making, that sort of thing. When those thoughts and ideas persisted, he would get up. He would walk around the airport, you know, he would go get himself a snack at the, at the food court.
That might work for a time as long as he didn't see any other attractive women. If you think about it, You're seeing this attractive woman and then all of a sudden you're like, oh, okay, I'm gonna go over here. Oh wait, there's another attractive woman. Now I have to go somewhere else. You start to see them everywhere and all of a sudden your brain's running amuck with these ideas that you might have to run from all the time, and that's, that's pretty problematic.
The thoughts or the ideas would generally con return more often than not. Until he got to a place where he felt like he was taking up too much energy to fight with these ideas, these thoughts, or these temptations, and he would get to a place where he basically thought, I might as well just give in. This is not gonna go in away until I do.
And I don't know if you have had that scenario in your life. I know. I have felt like, uh, you know, I'm getting to a place where if I don't just give in, I'm gonna have to fight with this all day long and for the rest of the week. Using external strategies, bill began setting up a battle in his own mind that he knew would end in failure.
He was trying to control his thoughts, and he was failing miserably. So letting go of control of your thoughts, ideas, urges and emotions is the only way to gain the solid footing that we need to resolve our unwanted pornography struggle. It's the only way to stop struggling and start living in the present moment capable of effectively addressing the intrusive or unwanted thoughts.
And of course, we dive deeper into this in individual coaching and in our membership, but it is essential that we recognize that we cannot control our thoughts. We can address them, we can learn not to let them pull us around. Uh, or hook us into behaving contrary to our values, but we can't actually control them.
This mindful approach to openly working with and through thoughts in a way that is collaborative rather than combative, creates space for our brain to rewire. The pathways that have taken us toward porn in the past. So let me give you one skill that you can use to practice letting go of control of your brain.
And I've talked about this on the podcast, so I'm gonna touch on it briefly. You can go back and I will link to another show where I teach this more thoroughly. But you can utilize a skill called nab. Notice a name, allow, and ask. Breathe, and be kind. What you wanna do with this, and it's very simple, but it is a skill that you can a hundred percent practice and a hundred percent make doable even in the moment, as long as you practice it beforehand many, many times.
You want to notice what your brain is doing. Oh, my brain's offering me porn. So we're just kind of coming to an awareness and we're stepping back and becoming the observer of our brain rather than being in our mind. The next thing we wanna do is name the thing that's happening. So let's take Bill's example.
This is the story about how this woman is gonna lead me, or noticing this woman's beautiful is gonna lead me towards porn because I'm gonna struggle with it for a few hours. Okay. And that is what the name of this story is for Bill. It's the story of how porn is inevitable. E essentially the next thing we're gonna do is we're gonna allow it to be there.
We're not gonna fight with it. We're not gonna try and run from it. We're not going to freak out. We're not gonna place new thoughts in the, in the place of this thought. We're just gonna allow that thought to be there. This has to be done from a comb position. So this is like, The advice that every mom has ever given to a kid who is fighting with their sibling about the noise they're making.
And it's, it's essentially if you, you know, your mom would say, just ignore him. He'll go away. We're not gonna ignore this thought so much as we are going to allow it. And eventually it will actually go away. And it's not that we're going to. Allow it and say, okay, I'm gonna keep going down this path. We are going to be the calm presence in this thought process.
Stepping back again, we're stepping back from this thought. We're stepping back from our brain. We're becoming the watcher of our mind instead of the, the part of our mind that's doing the reactive part of our mind, and we're just gonna allow it to be there as we stay in a calm and observant place. And then we're going to ask questions, is believing this thought helpful?
Is it help me to do the things that I want to do? If I believe this thought, is this gonna help me become the person I want to be? Those kinds of questions allow you to curiously and objectively observe this thought as it exists without having to do anything about it. We're just coming from a position of curiosity, calm, and.
Observance. Okay, then we're gonna breathe and be kind. And the reason I like breathing is cuz you can do it anywhere at any time. Everybody's breathing all the time. So we're just gonna take 10 deep breaths as we allow this thought. And what that does is it brings your mind and your body some extra fuel.
That's what oxygen is to your brain. It brings your mind and your body some extra fuel, which helps us make good decisions. And that's all we're doing. We're coming present by taking some deep breaths and being with our body. Nothing complicated, right? Last thing you're gonna do is you're gonna be kind. I know that so many of you think I shouldn't think these thoughts.
The thing is your brain is going to think what it thinks. It's gonna offer you things all the time. And the more energy and emotion we put into these thoughts, the more likely they are to return. So the more kind we can be and less, uh, emotional or excited that we can be about these thoughts, the less likely those thoughts are to come back to us.
That's what we're working through. That's what we're trying to do. The more you practice this before your brain offers you things, the more likely it is to automatically be available to you in the moment. That's the thing that you can do. The, let those thoughts and the, the, the idea of being able to control your brain, go.
Okay. Now what are the things that we can control and that we do need to take responsibility for? So one of the things that we can control, I just talked about it, is practicing our diffusion techniques before they come up, before the moment of the need. The more we practice them, the more likely it is that we're able to use those diffusion techniques in the moment.
And when people ask me questions like whether they should have an accountability partner or what browser filter they should use, I often say the same thing. There's only one system that will work for creating accountability and filtering what you choose to select on the internet. That's your brain. I know for me and many of my clients, the accountability partners only work as well as I worked them and.
They never truly kept me from choosing porn, especially if I was struggling, especially if I didn't have these other ways of dealing with what my brain was offering me. Right? So essentially an accountability partner is a, is a distraction technique. So if I'm in the middle of that moment, just like Bill would be, and my brain is offering me porn and it's like, Hey, you know, you can go look for women that look like this or dressed like this.
My brain is doing that, and then I'm like, I'm just gonna call my accountability partner. I've only distracted myself. From that moment, I haven't actually dealt with it. That's the big difference in taking control and accountability for what we can control and letting go of control of things we can't control.
Our brain is gonna offer us ideas. We need to be able to control dealing with those ideas. In a way that draws us towards our values. So as far as internet browsers, filters, or filtering systems are concerned, I'll just tell you the experience of one of my clients who found that he was constantly looking for holes in the system because his brain was trying to see if he was quote unquote safe.
It's kind of silly, right? He set up all these systems and then his brain's like, well, let's go see if this system is safe by trying to poke holes in it, right? You can see where that becomes problematic. He was setting a dynamic up where, His wife was monitoring his internet usage. And if you're setting up a dynamic where your my wife monitors your internet usage, engages in sexual activity solely based on your urges or punishes you for failing to comply, that creates an adversarial relationship with the person that you actually want to be most aligned with, and who is most, uh, attuned and, uh, equipped to be your partner.
Taking responsibility for all of these and, um, you know, we could go in depth, in, in ways that you can actually take responsibility for each of those components of the way that you're engaging with your sexuality. But taking responsibility for all of these things that you can and that you are responsible for is an essential key to resetting the dynamic in your relationship and in your mind around your own sexuality and your pornography struggle.
For instance, taking control of when you choose to engage with your partner sexually. That looks like not engaging in duty sex, but only in sex that both of you desire. For example, you know, another component, and we've talked about that here on the podcast with Darcy and on other podcasts, but, You know, making sure that you are only choosing to engage sexually when it is a mutually chosen activity, rather than one that is designed to manage one partner or the other.
Another component is to stop asking your spouse to be your accountability partner and just make them your partner. Be open, honest, and integrated with them. But don't make them responsible for holding you accountable. I know that might seem a little bit strange or different than maybe anything else that you've heard, but I promise you it's it, it works because it's different.
Here's why. Your spouse can never actually be in charge of who you are. Or who you're being and still be your equal. Now, of course, I'm not saying they won't help you notice and see things that you may not be able to see. They may not, you know, I'm not saying that they won't be mad or upset or frustrated when you aren't living up to the shared and agreed upon values that you have both decided on.
But the moment that you put yourself in a one down position to them, or that they put themselves in a one up position to you is the moment that you're no longer partners. Taking control of your behavior and managing your own behavior and not asking them to manage or make you accountable to them is. It seems different than maybe anything you've ever been offered, but I want to promise you if you will do that, you will start to see your agency and your own accountability increase and your capacity to actually choose the thing that you want based on the values that you wanna live, will increase, and you'll be able to be the person more likely, be able to be the person that you actually want to be.
I hope this is helpful. I hope you can understand, or have you been able to get a little bit of understanding out of this, that maybe there's a little bit of a change, a little bit of a tweak that you can make to improve your processes, to improve the way that you're going forward. I love talking about this.
If you have questions. Send me an email. I want to, I wanna hear from you. I wanna hear what it is that is kind of hanging you up. Or you can set up a free consult with me, z spafford.com/work with Thrive. Would love to have a conversation with you, would love to work with you to help you really eliminate pornography.
Most of the people I work with eliminate their pornography struggle in a very short span of time, like 12 weeks and sometimes even less, just depending on how hard they work, the tools, and how quickly they assimilate these new ideas. All right, my friends, I'll talk to you next week.