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Overcoming Porn Means Changing Beliefs
Episode 19314th May 2023 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:22:58

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Episode 193

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.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. I used to believe that I was an addict. Happy Mother's Day, by the way. I think I think, I hope you had a great mother's day, or your wife had a great Mother's Day, or your girlfriend or whoever. I hope that your Mother's Day was amazing.

I used to believe that I was an addict. Whether or not that idea was true or not really isn't the point. What that belief did for me and to me is what I'd like to actually discuss today. So beliefs are a pretty strange thing. They are ideas, understandings, and concepts that help us navigate the world and tell us who we are and they can hold us back or they can drive us forward.

What we believe is really important to the life that we create, what we believe can also really be difficult to change because most of us believe what we think. When thoughts come into our mind, we often believe that they are true, and often we follow the path that they offer us In terms of our actions.

I've talked about this on the podcasts before. I've talked about it in other podcasts that I've done and on other podcasts shows that I've done. But the fastest way to change our beliefs is to change our actions. And I believe that this is true because we can take action in a different direction from our beliefs.

When I feel. Frustrated. I can take an action towards taking care of something instead of staying and being frustrated. I have kids, the example I've often given is I don't want to clean up vomit ever, but I have kids and they have vomited. And there's no amount of, belief work that's gonna help me stop believing that I don't want to clean up vomit.

But if I take action in the direction of what I value, I'm gonna clean that vomit up. But I wanna set aside for a few minutes that idea and just focus on our thoughts and how we can address them in a meaningful way, especially in the face of what seems like a desire to not act. You know when it comes to porn, That's what we're choosing.

That's what we're working on. We're working on not choosing something. We're not doing something which is slightly different than moving towards our values by doing something. When thinking about a problem that seems unfixable or too difficult to resolve new perspectives and unconventional ideas can often be the key to overcoming the obstacles that are holding you back.

So today, To help you with your beliefs, I want to give you three examples of ways you can approach your thoughts and beliefs in a different way. In these examples, I'm gonna share with you some questions that you can ask yourself as you work through overcoming pornography and start creating the life that you want.

So the first thought or the first idea that I want to address is porn is bad and addictive. Starting with this one, which if you are listening to this podcast right now is probably something that you have believed or that you might believe, or that you believe just a little bit, and I think it's a very important thought to address.

Now, you might believe only part of this thought, but it doesn't matter how much of it you do believe. What matters is that at some level, in some way, you believe this thought and is holding you back. Now you might be asking yourself, how can this idea that porn is bad and addictive behold me back? I do believe it, and I know it must be true because everyone I know agrees with me.

And I think for most of us who have lived in a Christian lifestyle, for many of us who have a moral objection to pornography, porn is bad and addictive is part of the process or the thoughts that we've been offered through. Our religiosity now, I think it's important to notice and understand that you now have successfully identified how difficult it is to think differently than we already do about the problems we face.

You have seen how important these thoughts can be within the context and the structure of our daily lives and in our communities. Now it's a good time to start working on the problem from a different perspective. Go along with me for just a few moments, if you will. As we take a walk through your thoughts, ask yourself, how do I feel when I think that porn is bad and addictive?

For me and for most of the people I work with, there's a great deal of anxiety and frustration. Tell me, what do you feel? I'd love for you to email me your response to this exercise. I would, it would be cool to see your reactions and what they are to this particular exercise. So how we feel is this emotional response to the ideas that are offered.

And this is part of the difficulty in resolving our pornography struggle. When we have emotional responses to ideas, they hold more weight and they keep us. Where they are longer, and sometimes that means we stay stuck. Our mind will bring them back more often in an effort to resolve them. So the more emotion there is in an idea, the more often our brain will try to work to resolve it and more, the more often it'll come back and as a result, we create a greater battle over the issue, then we actually might need to resolve it if we didn't have that same.

Intense emotion to it. One of my favorite questions is to ask, can I think of this in a way that's more true? Most of us who've struggled with porn find that it's part of the expected approach to hate or dislike porn. So we call it bad. What if, for instance, we can decide that something isn't for us, or something that we want to have without calling it bad or putting so much emotional weight behind it?

Believing porn is bad and addictive often creates so much emotional weight that it keeps us from resolving our struggle with it. For me, I came to the conclusion that believing porn is bad and addictive doesn't have value because it increases my anxiety that I'm bad because I get aroused when I view pornography.

Now, you might come to a different conclusion, but the goal is to get to a place where you can decide how you want to think about porn from a clean, calm place. The way I did this was to go through this process of questioning what I thought the question, can I think about this in a way that's more true, led me to think.

About what people who don't view porn as bad or addictive do. Think about it. People could argue that porn is great and that it's helped them achieved orgasm for the first time, or it's helped their marriage. It's helped them manage their sex drive. Now, I'm sure that you know people who've made these very arguments, so I'm not creating a false argument.

What I'm saying is they would say the exact opposite of porn is bad. And addictive. They might say porn is good and it's not addictive. In the end on this particular idea, I came to the conclusion that porn is, it exists. It just exists, and I don't have to judge it to know that I don't want it in my life.

For instance, just like Coke, Coca-Cola doesn't have to be bad for me to prefer root beer. Horn doesn't have to be bad for me to prefer. A different kind of sexuality. This allows me to stay grounded without compounding how I feel. And I believe it to be just as true, if not truer, than porn is bad. And addictive porn is just that statement that, that idea holds very little weight for me.

And it also has this sense of being, at least as true a statement as porn is bad or porn is addictive, and it has a lot less emotion. From there, I ask, do I want porn in my life? So w what I'm essentially doing is saying, I'm admitting that porn exists. I don't know if it's bad, I don't know. It's a, if it's addictive.

I don't know that stuff because there's a counter-argument. There are people who would argue against that, and I'm not saying that they're right. What I'm saying is it's hard to, it's hard to really make this argument because on one side there are people who say it's bad there. On the other side, there are people who say it's good, and I'm not really worried about whether or not it is bad or good.

What I want to do is just acknowledge its reality, and then from there, I want to ask myself, do I want it in my life? And the answer comes easier and with a lot less anxiety than you might think. No, I don't want porn in my life because I want connected, intimate sexuality with my partner. So your reason for not choosing porn in your life or ch choosing to not have porn in your life may be different, but what I want you to see is, We can get to a no, I don't want that in my life answer without creating all this anxiety, all the fear that might come from the idea that porn is bad and addictive.

So that's just an idea. It's an opportunity for you to think about it in a slightly different way. That's not for you to say, Zach's wrong. I'm not, I'm not here to argue this point. I'm not trying to make you believe something different. I'm asking you simply to try on a different way of thinking about this and see if it's helpful in lowering the temperature of the way that this is showing up in your life.

Okay. Next thought that lots of people that I work with, deal with and that I have dealt with is looking at porn is inevitable. I might as well well give in. Right now, looking at porn is inevitable. I might as well give in right now. Now you've probably been in a scenario like this where you just kind of like, ah, you know, I've fought all that.

I can fight and it's just gonna take over. At some point, I might as well just give in. A lot of my clients have, and I have believed this thought at some point or some level at some time. This is our brain telling us that it isn't worth the fight to keep porn out of our lives, and everything that we've tried eventually fails anyway.

So why waste the energy? One of the questions that I like to use is this, is this true? That's a really powerful step into a curious. Observant position when our brain offers you the thought that looking at porn is inevitable, and I might as well give in right now. Is it true? Is this true? Is it true that I, it's inevitable, is it absolute that it's inevitable and I, there's no possible way for me to ever not look at porn in this moment? Is that true? Just step in curiously, openly, observantly. And see what you can find. Now imagine this scenario. What if your wife walked in or your significant other walked in, your husband or your wife, and they didn't leave your side for the next, I don't know, 10 hours?

Would it still be true? What if your phone and your computer would the bottom of a lake? Would it still be true that you are going to look at porn? So you might as well quit trying? Is this true? Offers you an opportunity to step back and calmly observe the reality around you, and then make a choice, make a decision to move towards your values.

That's really key to all of this being calm, curiously observing and mindfully coming into the present moment. All increase your chance of making a decision that aligns with your values rather than fighting with your brain until you give in. I will tell you that doing this takes practice and to become proficient at it re requires a little bit of dedication.

And I will also tell you that the more you practice and the more proficient you become at it, the more your brain will automatically do it. In times when your thoughts come that don't align with your values, and you can do this work within my membership, you can sign up to, uh, do a free consult with me.

I'd love to meet with you. withthrive or work with me. Either one of those work. But when your brain is offering you these things, the more you have practiced dealing with them in a non-game time situation, the more likely it is that you'll be able to interact with these ideas calmly, quietly, and quickly, and succeed at.

Managing through them rather than trying to run from them or creating a battle, and that's really important here. Next thought that I love to address, I love having this conversation with people. This is one of my favorite thoughts is I'm powerless against porn. So many people believe this because they have struggled to resolve a pornography issue in their lives, and this idea holds a lot of weight because it pulls those who struggle around and it leaves them feeling hopeless and helpless.

A question I would ask someone who is struggling in with this particular idea, someone who believes this, who they come to me and they're saying, Hey, I'm powerless. I can't seem to resolve this. I would say, what's the value in believing this? Now, this thought in particular is one that comes to us from the 12 steps, but I think it's important to recognize that we.

Kind of just take it on and we own it, even if we haven't really explored the value of it. And this can be a really interesting one to explore because there are reasons why we believe the things that we believe. So for instance, many people believing in their own powerlessness helps them reconcile the disconnect between their values and the choice that they're making to view pornography.

When we choose something that goes against our values like viewing pornography, we can often find it difficult to reconcile our behavior without placing responsibility for that choice outside of us. This may be why people who are religious are more likely to call themselves addicts than people who of non-religious backgrounds.

In order to maintain our sense of self and feel that we're still good. We use this mechanism of addiction language to justify ourselves in spite of our choices. I hope that you don't misunderstand me, because I'm not trying to blame you. I'm not trying to tell you, hey, you're a bad person because you're blaming something outside of you.

I think that this is something we come by, honestly, and it's valuable to the extent that it helps us. Manage the distance that we have between who we're being and who we think we are supposed to be, or who we really want to be. So in essence, the value of believing that I'm powerless against porn helps me see myself as good.

When I see my choices as bad, it helps me bridge that disconnect. It says, oh, this isn't really your fault. Because you are addicted and addiction makes you powerless. You see how that kind of moves you along. So if it's not my fault because I'm addicted and addiction makes me powerless, then. I am not the problem here.

I just need to get something else to resolve this for me. And that's, that can be problematic because nothing can resolve pornography for you. You have to deal with it yourself. But it helps me feel a little bit better because I can feel like I'm not the problem. I'm not really at fault here at some level.

I'm not responsible for this because this thing has power over me. Another way to look at this is, Just re re-attacking this, reviewing this, right? What's the value in believing that I'm powerless against pornography? And that helps us realize that there isn't very much value in believing that I'm powerless if I believe the statement.

I'm powerless against pornography. I give my power away to something that I don't want in my life. I'm powerless against this thing I don't like. If I don't choose, I don't. I don't want to choose to have in my life if I see the statement as false, right? If I see the idea that I'm powerless against pornography is a false idea, by the way, I do believe it's false, then I can maintain my power of ownership.

But if the statement is false and I maintain my power and my ownership over my choices, then I have to become responsible for those outcomes. I have to become responsible for what happened. In fact, it's in essence, this is the opposite of the buck stops here, is I'm powerless against these. These forces, this thing that, that comes.

And I like to ask people, I think I've asked this before on the podcast, when was the last time that pornography came to your house, chained you to a chair and said, we're gonna, we're gonna get naked and you're gonna watch. I don't think that's ever happened to anybody. If you're listening to this podcast and that has happened to you, I would love to hear that story because I think it would be a very interesting.

Story, but I don't think it's ever happened to anybody. And if it has happened to you, I'm sorry that's happened to you, but many of us don't wanna be responsible for the outcomes because they don't fit the narrative that we all want to tell about ourselves. I wanna believe that I'm a good person as a result.

I don't want to believe that I am choosing something that goes against my values. That's a, that I think is one of the most powerful reasons why we choose to believe. I'm powerless against porn. I know that I wanted to believe in my own powerlessness against porn because it allowed me to still, see myself in the best light.

Once I gave up this idea, it cleared the way for me to fully embrace my ability to choose and have agency, which then meant that I had to be responsible for the outcomes. And now this can be a pretty harsh reality. A lot of us don't want to face the reality that we are choosing this activity, that we are in fact not powerless.

We often don't want to face the idea that we are the ones making this decision at at least some level. We wanna push that off onto somebody else and that can be convenient. It can feel good. It can even feel valuable in the sense that if I can push this off onto something else, then you know, when I'm face my wife, I can say, this isn't my fault.

Or when I face my family or bishop or whatever, this isn't my fault. And when we take on the responsibility we can let go of that idea and we actually get more power back. We become empowered to make different choices. Even if we continue to choose pornography, we know that at the very least we're doing it because it's something we chose, not because we're powerless.

And I think that that, going back to what's the value in believing, I'm powerless. That's, that takes away my culpability. What's the value in believing that I'm not powerless and that I'm choosing it? At the very least, I am not trapped by something I can't control. To me, that's the very least thing that I get out of in, in terms of the value in believing that I am not powerless.

I get to understand or own the idea that I'm not the victim of something here, and I don't wanna be a victim. I wanna be empowered. What I hope that you find in all these questions, in this particular question, but in all these questions is an elevated sense of reality, more clearly defined and more capably addressed.

I, I hope that you, at the very least, if you wanna keep believing any of these, looking at porn is inevitable. I might as well give in now, or I'm powerless of porn against porn. Or porn is bad and addictive, I hope. If if you wanna keep believing those, that's okay, but I hope that you just try on these different ways of approaching it.

Ask yourself these questions. What's my, what's the value in believing this idea? Which I think is a really great question, especially when our brain is bringing us stuff that, really goes against the grain of our understanding. Is this true? That's another great...