EPISODE 9: Stop Feeling Trapped By Urges to View PornographyNov 18, 2019
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You are listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast, where we break through barriers holding you back from becoming who you wanna be, whether you're struggling with pornography, overeating, social media addiction, or just wanna get better at succeeding at life. This podcast is for you. Now, your host, Zach Spafford.
Well, welcome to the Self Mastery Podcast. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. Listen, it's another Mastery Monday, aren't you excited? We're gonna change your life and start creating a life beyond pornography. Let's go. This is episode number nine, and today we're gonna talk about urges and what they are and how they all work, and all of the interesting reasons why we have urges, which is one of the biggest drivers of human behavior.
But first I wanna tell you a story. I was sitting alone on the edge of my bed with my cell phone and my hand waiting to make a phone call to my wife. , you see, in the summer of 2012, my wife and my kids had gone back to Wisconsin for the summer to be near her family to hang out with her family. So all the cousins, the kids could all hang out and enjoy each other's company.
And I had been left at home in California to work and to, continue climbing the corporate ladder of my day job, which, I used as part of my strategy to, just keep busy. You see, at that point I had some considerable amount of time of sobriety under my belt, and I was, I thought I was doing okay.
I thought that, everything that was happening in my life was going on the right track. I had gotten promotions, I had gotten good sized raises. I had enjoyed some success at work. I had some sobriety under my belt with. With my pornography use, and now my wife was gone and it was probably mid and it was around midnight, and I was sitting in my corporate office with no one around because at home I had cut off the internet so that I wouldn't be tempted to use the internet to access pornography while my wife was away.
In fact, to get access to the internet, I had to go about a block away to the McDonald's around the corner to. To just check my emails and things like that. So I felt like I was in a safe place and that I wouldn't access pornography. I, I wouldn't use idleness at home as an excuse to fall back into my old ways.
And as I sat there at my desk in my office, which was just a cubicle on the second floor of a building in Westlake Village, an open office plan where I was the only one around. Trying to keep busy, trying to work through the night. I got an urge. It wasn't an urge to go and directly look at pornography.
In fact, it was really probably just an urge to do something more entertaining than what I was doing for my work that evening. And as I sat there, that urge persisted and I tried to ignore it as I had been doing. I had. With my success, I had been able to keep the urges at bay. I had done what I know now to be white knuckling, but when I was in the midst of it, I thought I was succeeding.
I thought I was actually overcoming pornography. I felt like I was succeeding at just being good at just being better. Finally, I gave into that urge and I started down the rabbit hole, and I think any of you. Any of you pornography users who are out there listening to this right now, or any of you overeaters or V excessive video game users, or any of you who are excessive Facebook scrollers or Instagram users, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say I started down that rabbit hole.
I started down that hole where all of a sudden you lose an hour of your time and you have no idea what you did with it. , that one urge. That single moment was the pivot point of so much sadness, so much frustration. I was at my lowest point that I had been at in a very long time. I was crying tears of someone who was lost.
I was lost because I felt like I was trapped by my urges. I was lost because I knew those urges were coming to get me. Maybe not today. , maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, or maybe not even next month or next year. But they were coming and they would eventually get me, and it felt like they would win every single time.
So I picked that phone up. I called my wife and I told her what had happened. What had happened is that urges are a normal part of life and we all have them. Sometimes we might think that they're weird, like the urge to lick a metal pole in 30 below weather, and sometimes they're something that we give into regularly and easily, like the urge to drink a cold glass of water on a hot day.
Oftentimes, we give into urges in moments of weakness, like when we're tired, the urge to eat. More easily entices us even though we might not be hungry or may not even like or want the food that's available. This happens to me a lot when I drive long distances at night when my kids are sleeping, I'll pick up a pack of seeds and I'll just eat 'em all night long as I drive.
Most of us have experienced giving into an urge that isn't what we really want to do, but we do it anyway. We give into that urge. Interestingly, giving into urges can make it so you are more likely to give into them in the future by developing and strengthening the neural pathways in the brain, that fire for that urge.
This is essentially what happens when you create and strengthen a habit. Sometimes that's a good thing, like the urge to brush your teeth at night or the first thing in the morning or after a meal of kimchi. If you've never had kimchi. You really have to brush your teeth afterwards. That's just my personal opinion anyhow.
Sometimes on the other hand, we create habits that we, that don't serve us. Pornography use is one of those urges that when we give into it, we create and strengthen the neural pathways quickly and easily because of the high reward value of the habit. Like eating cucumbers, that is can totally be satisfying, but it does not hold the same immediate reward value as eating a candy bar.
The brain doesn't light up the same, but in the long run, healthy eating has a satisfying outcome, whereas prolonged unhealthy eating may give you those small short runs of dopamine. The long run outcome can be really unsatisfying, and we see that in our negative body images. Same thing's happening with most of the addictive behaviors that we engage in as humans.
In an effort to feel good, we engage in those small acts of essentially sabotage in order to avoid a negative feeling in the moment while creating a long-lasting dissatisfaction with our life and the habits that we have and the in the behaviors that we exhibit. What I'm talking about here is that oftentimes urges come up at those critical moments where we feel a negative emotion or a discomfort.
And then we engage that urge for an immediate hit to avoid some basic n near term negative feeling, and in turn, create a long-term, long-lasting negative outcome for ourselves like pornography use leads to to sexual dissatisfaction in a marriage or excessive eating leads to excessive weight gain.
Scrolling through social media constantly leads to dissatisfaction and even depression, right? Think about urges with negative outcomes like this. Imagine you're reading a book and as the natural light around you dims, you become frustrated. So that's that negative feeling creeping in because you can't keep reading and suddenly the thought, the idea comes to you and urge.
Well, why don't you just burn the last page of the book so you can keep reading. Burning. The last page of the book might be fined one time because maybe that's a filler page. But if you keep doing that, you're gonna reach a point where your impulse to keep reading and keep burning pages for light outstrips the pages that there are left to read.
And then you find that the satisfaction of a well-written book is out of your grasp. So the urge to do something begins to border on compulsive and especially users of pornography or overeaters or excessive phone users. We begin to feel trapped by the persistent push from that urge for us to act. So in other words, just like how I felt after using that one time in my office while my family was away, I felt like I was never gonna go away.
And when we do act, the behavior more often than not fails to deliver the promised level of reward. In fact, decreased levels of satisfaction is a key marker of individuals who use pornography ea and use social media to excess The very thing that that is delivering the dopamine creates a tolerance to the dopamine, which ends up making acting on the urge less and less satisfying over time.
We know this happens with habitual drug users where there is more and more use in order to achieve the same level of high, but most of us have experienced this in a more subtle way. Like the novelty of a new toy wearing off or a new relationship becoming less exciting over time. Relationships are actually a really good example of the difference between short-term, high of urges and the long-term satisfaction of our higher brain, choosing a steady and sustainable path that leads a to long-term satisfaction and even joy.
Think about it the first time you met the boy or the girl or the man or the woman that you think is attractive and you begin that, off awkward process of figuring out whether there's a mutual attraction. There's a lot of blood flowing, there's a lot of endorphins, there's a lot of. Dopamine. You say something, they say something, you brush hands, they brush back.
That immediate rush of excitement drives some extraordinary levels of activity. You stay up late, you drop everything to be with that person. You make sacrifices for that rush of falling in love. But as time passes, you begin to become less willing to change your whole day for the chance to meet with the other person.
You begin to settle into patterns of engagement that become satisfying long-term. That includes mutual respect, mutual agreement, negotiation of time, all leading to long-term satisfaction and relationship joy, or you decide that engaging with that other person is not worth the time and you break it off.
There's a lot of nuance there and a lot of individualization, but that's a general pattern that you see when with things like pornography or unhealthy eating or excessive social media, that initial period of high that you get, like when you're falling in love doesn't ever really lead to a pattern of mutual engagement or satisfaction.
It just leads to more urges. It's a one-sided diminishing return sort of engagement. So your brain in an effort to get. That high, get that high back. Basically it says, go and do that thing that felt good last time. What that creates is a pattern of behavior. So now you've gotta a habit it, and each time that pattern of behavior's carried out, you reinforce the urge, you reinforce the behavior, and you begin a process of forming a habit, which by the way, this is the same process.
Whether you're looking to form habits that are positive and provide long-term value, or you're forming habits that are negatives in your life. One of the best habits that I've had in the recent past is something I learned from James Garrett. He is the owner of Brain by design.com, and he called them Pee pushups.
They're essentially this. Every time you go pee during the day, you do pushups. I started with three and eventually I worked my way up to 50 pushups over time. Each time I went pee, I had the urge to do pushups to the point I was doing them on the floor in public bathrooms, right? Sometimes this was really awkward.
as people would walk in while I was doing them. But it was the, this urge and then a habit that I created for the net positive benefits that the pushups provided me. So whether it's urges that create a positive ha habit or urges that create a negative habit, it's important that we understand that urges are driving behavior and that we can begin to understand those urges and process them rather than simply give into that urge.
So that's urges, that's how they exist. That's what they are. That's what they do. The next question that you should be asking is, how do I deal with these urges so that I'm not afraid? So few, just like me, have felt lost and trapped by your urges, thinking that they were coming to get you, whether it was today or tomorrow or next week, or maybe even just next year, but they were eventually gonna get you.
I've got some really good news for you. You do not have to answer your urges. Instead of answering them or ignoring them or waiting for them to sneak up on you or white knuckling through your urges, you can do something that I learned that everyone who has truly beat an addictive behavior has learned, and that is to process and urge when you process and urge.
The power behind that urge goes away. It no longer makes you beholden to it. We've all experienced this, right? Anybody who's listening to this that is currently potty trained has experienced this process. We're currently in the process of potty training our two youngest, so this is the example that is fresh in my mind.
You may not remember it, but you've experienced it. You get that sudden urge and rather than just. , giving into it. As a baby you know you're peeing in your diaper. You begin the process of recognizing it, observing it, and then bringing it from your lower brain, your instinctive actions to your higher brain, where you begin to say, okay, I got this urge.
Now what do I want to do with it? How do I choose to go forward with it, rather than just give into the urge or suppress it? , every one of us did this. And then as we became adept at recognizing the urge and then choosing a new path for that urge to go for, so not peeing your pants, not peeing in your diaper, but you know, going to the bathroom in the toilet.
We became masters of our urge. , you guys are all thinking, this is an insane ex example, but I have two of my , but my two youngest children are currently in the process of potty training. My three-year-old's doing a very good job of it, and my two year old's doing a mediocrely, good job of it. But every single one of us has been through that process of seeing an urge, bringing it into our higher brain, and rather than simply reacting to it, We make a conscientious choice to observe it and do something different.
So the urge to pee your pants goes away, and now you have you. And now that becomes replaced with a new urge. The urge to go pee on the potty. Or in the case of pornography, the urge to view pornography or to overeat can be observed, recognized for what it is brought back into the higher brain and processed without acting on it.
We've all been there. We've all had this happen to us. Any of us who were ever a toddler, we almost all of us, have had the urge to throw food, right? If you have a toddler, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Whether they're throwing it on the floor or throwing it across the room, they have this urge to throw the food.
Well, eventually that urge gets watched. It gets observed to the point of its non-existence. It gets processed rather than suppressing it. But cuz little kids are great, they don't suppress urges, they just kind of do whatever they're gonna do. They either do it or they don't do it. , we have to be a lot like little kids.
And then rather than, making ourselves feel bad because we have an urge, simply observing the urge, watching it through the, through its course of existence, while at the same time withholding any action, just watching say, I'm gonna sit here, I'm gonna watch this, I'm gonna observe this urge, and I'm gonna choose not to do any action as I observe this.
Because the truth is that unless you take action. Either suppressing or indulging in the urge. The urge can't make you do anything, but if you watch it and you observe it and you pay attention to it, and you say, hi, I, I see you there. I'm bringing you back to my higher brain, you'll begin to find this extraordinary power to withhold action without fighting it, without this massive expenditure of effort that you had been using previously to stop doing whatever it was that you were dealing with.
Because the truth is that an urge does not equal action. An urge is simply a vibration in the body that says, okay, I want to do this thing. But an urge can't make you do something and you can't make the urge go away. Eventually it will, it's not gonna stick around forever. That's not how urges work.
But you can't force it to leave you. Any urge that comes, it's there. Recognize its existence and let it exist. Doesn't make it make you do anything, but you also don't have the power to push it away, that just isn't within your gift. But the urge also can't make you do anything like stand up, go over to the refrigerator, pull out a root beer and drink it.
Urges are nothing without action, and in the process of observing. Our urge is we essentially withhold action, and eventually that urge will dissipate, usually less than 10 minutes. But that, but observing it, allowing it, without judging it without judging yourself, without looking at it as though you are deficient in some way, allows you to process the urge.
Just like when you're a kid, you get that urge to throw something and eventually the urge. You watch the urge long enough and you start to see, okay, what are the actual consequences of what's gonna happen if I throw this? And you begin to choose inaction, which strangely is a really . Interesting thing. In fact, humans are not very good at inaction.
We have something that scientists call action bias, which is the reason why when you see soccer players go for a penalty kick, the goalie will essentially guess which direction the ball's coming from and it'll jump either to the right or the left, and you can actually. about 80% of the time just kick the ball down the middle and make a goal on a penalty kick, which all that to say we humans, we're not very good at withholding action.
And action bias is an important component of all that. But when it comes to processing urges, that's exactly what you do. You withhold action and you just observe the urge with, again, without judgment, without, feeling like you're a bad person for having an urge. But because you're not urge is.
urges are not you. Urges are simply something that your lower brain is saying, Hey, I need some, I think we should do this so we can survive better. And once you recognize the fact that, viewing pornography doesn't help you survive, or overeating doesn't help you survive, or video games doesn't help you survive, you can begin to step back from that urge and observe it without feeling like, oh, I have to do something.
I have to fix this. I have to feel better. That's not necessary. That's what processing and urge is. . So if you're having trouble with your urges, if you have urges that seem to be just taken over your life and they're, they just, you can't seem to get rid of them, you can't seem to overcome them, feel free to set up a free mini session with me.
I'd love to go through that with, I'd love to help you learn what to do so that you can begin the process of stepping back from your urges and. Consciously choosing how to move forward. Guys, thanks again for listening on another Beautiful Mastery Monday. Have a great day. Have a great week. We'll talk to you next week.
Hey, thanks for listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast. Every day I get requests from people who are looking to change something in their life. If that is you, if you need help overcoming your addictive behavior like pornography use, sign up for a free mini session at zachspafford.com/workwithme. That's zachspafford.com/workwithme.
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