Episode 238 - The Detour Cycle: Navigating Beyond Pornography with Clarity and Values

Mar 25, 2024


Listen to the Full Episode:


Enjoy the Show?

Listen for free


Episode 238

[00:00:00] Hey everybody, and welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford, and if you are watching this on YouTube, you might notice that I look like I have pink eye. Uh, I don't. I just have allergies here in the state of Utah, down in southern Utah, where the weather is almost always wonderful.

[00:00:18] There, uh, In the spring and in the fall the pollen gets so high. I never had allergies until I moved here actually a year after I moved here the second year I had allergies so bad that I literally would lay in a cold tub of water just to chill my body down and just get to stop reacting.

[00:00:36] But I look like I have pink eye in one of my eyes. It's ridiculous. So you can go check us out on YouTube and watch these videos. You can watch me talk about these things in my office down here in St. George, Utah. And you can get to know my face as much as you know, my voice.

[00:00:50] All right, my friends, today I want to talk about what I think is Quite possibly one of the most transformational things that you need to understand when you think about pornography.

[00:00:59] Any time that you move away from your values, this cycle is probably a part of it. And it's a pretty simple cycle. It's a pretty simple, I call it the detour cycle. It's a very simple process that I think we all go through. And the name, the detour cycle, really suggests what's happening when we begin engaging in values describing behaviors.

[00:01:19] It's a detour from our intended path.

[00:01:21] This detour cycle name implies That while detours can occur, there's also a route back to the main road. Which includes addressing the reasons for the detour directly and moving towards our values.

[00:01:31] There are five steps in the detour cycle. I'm going to just list them off really quickly for you so that you know what they are. And then I'm going to come back and explain each one of them. First is the narrative onset. Second is the emotional catalyst. Third is the escape offer. Fourth is rationalized bargaining. Finally, there is the value breach or the breach of your values, like moving away from who you actually expect yourself to be.

[00:01:54] The narrative onset, this is the step that marks the beginning of most individuals process to choosing pornography.

[00:02:03] And it's where you're starting to tell a story. Your brain is offering you a story that may stem from past experiences, maybe some beliefs, maybe some perceived failures. Maybe you feel like, like I can't. Do this, whatever it is, it's the mental groundwork that predisposes us towards seeking comfort, towards that escape offer.

[00:02:22] So the escape offer in number three is where we start to escape from this, but the narrative onset is the problem. It's the actual problem that our brain is dealing with and I want you to first of all recognize that most of the time the narrative onset and the second step, the emotional catalysts, are almost invariably subconscious.

[00:02:42] We don't usually think about them too often or we don't usually see them coming. What happens is they happen in the background of our mind and then we get to the escape offer step number three and that's where our brain is like, "oh yeah let's pay attention." Right? The story that our brain is offering us is something that we believe and that creates an emotional response that's uncomfortable.

[00:03:04] That's what this narrative onset is. You might even have a story about pornography that's creating the negative emotions. One of my clients, his narrative onset, one of the last coaching calls we did with him, his narrative onset was, "I'm alone and that usually leads to porn." And that simple story lead to anxiety and shame, which was the emotional catalyst.

[00:03:24] So step number two, the emotional catalyst. This is where the negative feelings that arise from the narrative. Things like guilt, shame, loneliness, stress, boredom. These are all catalysts for your brain to seek relief. A quick review of why your brain seeks relief from negative emotions is the emotional triad. And we talk about that in the course. We go in depth into how you can start to understand why your brain is doing this. Most of us have been taught to ignore or suppress our feelings.

[00:03:51] How many of you guys out there listening right now are like, yeah, my dad said, "walk it off" or "rub some dirt on it," or, " get back out there. You're fine." Right?

[00:03:59] I often joke that men only get three feelings, we're only allowed to have three feelings, hungry, angry, and horny. And those are the only emotions that we are allowed to have.

[00:04:06] But these emotions that are happening to us after the narrative onset, these are not just weakness or mushy gushy. They're data. And I want you to think of these emotions the same way that you think of your check engine light on your car. When that light comes on, it's a messenger and it's telling you something needs to be addressed.

[00:04:25] It's This is what emotions are. They are indicators as to an idea that you haven't sufficiently addressed in a meaningful way so that you can move past it.

[00:04:37] Think of them kind of like a tripwire that now creates an escape offer from the unpleasant sensation of this negative emotion, right? So if you go back to that story that my client had, which was, "I'm alone, and that usually leads to porn," that created some anxiety. Like, how am I going to not do this, right?

[00:04:55] And at some point, your mind is going to offer you the escape offer. This is step number three, which often presents as a benign or even good idea. It's seen as a solution to alleviating that discomfort that you're feeling in the emotional catalyst, that anxiety. And you might think, " I deserve a break," or "I'll just check Instagram before I get started," or "it's time to relax."

[00:05:16] Yours is probably going to be unique to you and the way that you travel this detour cycle. But the key is to recognize it for what it is, which is avoidance. So this escape offers a lot like putting tape on that check engine light and then instead just like going out and changing the windshield wipers.

[00:05:29] This escape offer is designed to give you permission to distract yourself from what's actually going on internally.

[00:05:35] That story that we talked about that I said, that's the problem. That's the thing that we're giving ourselves permission to distract ourselves from. As you start into whatever detour it is, you feel is okay. Your brain's next move is to rationalize.

[00:05:47] So you go back to that client and his detour was, "Oh, I'll just play video games,"

[00:05:51] if your detour goes to an escape offer of I'll just play video games, or it's time to relax, or it's time to take a break, and that detour doesn't always lead to porn. Like, if I just like, wake up in the morning and I want to play video games, that doesn't always lead to porn.

[00:06:08] The detour cycle is a component of a whole. So a lot of people are, a lot of people would say, Well, just get rid of all the video games, or get rid of YouTube, or get rid of the news, or get rid of Like, you can't really just do that because, you know, If that's what you're trying to do, you're going to shrink your world and you don't want to shrink your world because it will hinder your capacity to be the person you want to be.

[00:06:28] Instead, what you want to do is you want to recognize when the thing that you like doing often that sometimes leads to porn is being used in this cycle. Because if you can recognize when it's being used in this cycle, you can start to mitigate the problem.

[00:06:44] And we talk about that in depth in the open coaching calls that we have each week on Wednesday afternoons, where it's like, okay, how do I deal with that in the moment? What do I do to step out of the detour cycle in the moment? How do I step into mindfulness in the moment in a habitualized way?

[00:07:03] If you want to figure out how to do that, set up a consult or go to my webpage, and sign up for the membership. And I would love to have you there. Cause we, we just walk you through it. It's a lifetime membership.

[00:07:14] So you never have to pay for another thing. It's always there. It's always available to you forever. It's a lifetime membership.

[00:07:20] So now that you've given yourself permission, that escape offer to distract yourself from what's going on internally, that's when you start to rationalize your next move, right? And here, what you're going to do is you're going to justify the escape plan. You're going to say, "Oh, I'm just not going to go that far this time," or "I'm not going to do this this time," or something like that.

[00:07:40] Here, what you're doing is you're justifying the escape plan with a self assurance or a bargain that you won't go too far this time. And we attempt to minimize the action that we're taking by insisting we're on the level even though we have a sense, maybe just a small one, maybe it's kind of just like sitting there in the back of our head, but a little bit of a sense that this is likely to take us further from our values than we would want, or even then we would admit to ourselves openly in this moment.

[00:08:08] So this is as simple as saying, "Oh, I'll just..." And then finish that sentence. "I'll just play a little bit." "I'll just check my Instagram."

[00:08:15] this is about creating a reason that it's okay this time. " I won't go that far," is really what our brain is saying. "I won't go that far." This rationalization carries us to the place where we step past our values and breach our own line.

[00:08:29] So, you wouldn't start at the breach. You would simply rationalize to the point where you've lowered your consent threshold, and now you have this rationalization in place. And it's time for the breach.

[00:08:40] You get to that moment, you get to, "Oh, I saw this. And so it's time to just go all the way." That's the final step, that value breach. The final step is giving in or giving up. It's leading to actions that are outside of your values, such as viewing pornography. And this step marks a breach in personal values.

[00:08:57] And it often leads to a cycle of repeating the process. So this is where we say, and we even believe I've already done X. So I might as well do Y.

[00:09:04] This is where we think, and we even believe it to an extent. "Well, I've come this far. I might as well keep going." "I might as well finish the process." This is that, "Oh, I'm too far gone" idea. This is that idea that "I'm irredeemable at this point." "I might as well finish." "I might as well enjoy this." "I might as well go full on into this."

[00:09:24] You've probably seen this detour cycle, if not all of it, at least parts of it, in the way that you've been choosing porn. What you want to do when you start to think about this process is get really clear, "what is happening?" When you start to get aware of this process, get curious.

[00:09:40] The tool, this tool, this particular tool is probably one of the most important tools that if you will sit down and you will habitualize it, you will make it a part of your repertoire and start to understand the data behind you, why you're choosing porn. This tool will help you do that in probably the most effective way of anything else out there that will help you.

[00:09:59] This tool will give you The insight to give yourself space to start dealing with the problem, the story, the narrative up front. And like I said, if you want to get clear on what the narrative is in your own brain, set up a free coaching call. Go to and I would love to meet with you. Do it now. Do it right now. Don't wait till tomorrow. Do it right now, and you and I can start to look at, well, where is my narrative at? How can I actually address that? Because that is the problem. When you think, oh, porn is the problem, think this is the problem.

[00:10:31] This narrative onset is actually the problem. Porn is an indicator that I'm choosing to avoid myself. This narrative onset, this is the problem. And getting good at Recognize the emotions that are tipping me off that this narrative onset has happened and then addressing that narrative onset. That's where you'll start to see the most traction.

[00:10:49] All right, my friends, I hope you have a great week and I will talk to you next week.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.