Overcoming Pornography: What doesn’t work.
Suppression. Avoidance. Computer Protections. Substitution. None of them work. Our focus at Power Over Pornography is applying true principles to help people overcome pornography viewing and masturbation (doing). We’re grateful that our system and methods have helped so many of you realize the positive consequences of living a loving life, one that is free of viewing and doing. We would be remiss if we didn’t also let you know about the methods that don’t work or in some cases actually contribute to prolonging the addictive behavior.
I like to use the acronym SAPS to describe how the following methods sap your power and give it to the viewing and doing. Let’s go through each of them:
Number one. Suppress. Many believe and even teach that the temptation/urge/thought to view pornography is evil, reflects negatively on the person experiencing it and should be suppressed in any way possible. We’ve discovered that suppression generally leads to acting out. Why? Carl Jung, the presumed founder of modern psychoanalysis may have phrased it best when he said, “What we resist, persists.” In other words, when we try to suppress a temptation/urge/thought, it will fight back hard and, even if temporarily defeated, will come back stronger than it showed itself originally. Those who practice suppressing temptations will end up suffering from them.
What’s the alternative? Those people who are successfully living porn-free accept the temptation as being a normal part of life. Without temptation, we have no deeply real alternative choices so we lose our freedom to choose and to act as agents for ourselves. Without the ability to choose, life loses meaning. When we accept the temptation as normal, it loses a great deal of its power. As we accept it, we need to acknowledge it as a real choice. The acknowledging also saps its power by moving the thought to the frontal lobe portion of our brain so that we can deal with it more logically instead of just reacting to it with a programmed (we trained our brain earlier how to respond) response.
Number two. Avoid. This one is pervasive throughout the therapeutic community. Men and women are taught to recognize and avoid their triggers. Some catchy acronyms, such as HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) or BLAST (bored, lonely, angry, stressed, tired) are fingered as triggers. Viewers are told to avoid the triggers so that the temptation does not come. But come on, how realistic is it to avoid boredom, loneliness, stress and exhaustion? Life is a series of challenges and the emotions that come as a result. Telling someone to avoid triggers is similar to telling them to avoid life. Avoiding the temptation that often accompanies the triggers causes the suppressed, avoided temptation to grow larger and manifest itself later.
What’s the alternative? Just as with suppression, when you’re tempted to avoid triggers and temptations, recognize that you’re only prolonging, usually for a short time, the inevitable consequences of life. Instead, acknowledge the trigger, the temptation and accept them as part of life.
Number three. Protect. Maybe 5 years ago we could have relied upon computer protection software or filters. It has never been failsafe but with the proliferation of devices, especially smartphones, computer protections will not work. Hotels, friends, even libraries offer unfettered access to pornography, rendering filters, accountability reports and other computer protections ineffective. I believe everyone should have protections, filters, or controls on their computers to keep pornography away from children. But most of them can be defeated or bypassed by adults so are not reliable ways to deal with a viewing problem.
What’s the alternative? In addition to acknowledging and accepting the temptation to view and do, exercising your freedom to choose is essential. As stated by David O. McKay, our agency, or freedom to direct our lives, is God’s second greatest gift to us, second only to life itself. With this gift comes power. When we try to deny our freedom to choose by trying to protect ourselves from ourselves, then we will naturally rebel and feel denied and deprived. Once these feelings emerge, acting out becomes the natural result. So instead of relying upon protections, rely upon your ability to choose every time how you react to the temptation.
I recognize that a pornography addict no longer has the freedom to choose because of the addiction. It is a process, although not as lengthy as some would have you believe, to restore that freedom but it can and is done for those living a porn-free, loving life. We don’t have time to describe how but you can explore the power of freedom to choose in greater depth in the book, Power Over Pornography.
Number four. Substitute. When a person tells me that every time they have the temptation to view pornography they go for a run, then I know that relapse is coming soon. People have tried substitution forever, trying to substitute keeping busy so that they can forget the temptation. But is doesn’t work. You can put off the temptation longer with substitution than any of the other three, but the temptation hasn’t been dealt with so will come back eventually.
What is the alternative? Acknowledge and accept the temptation instead of trying to substitute a different thought or action. Exercise your freedom to choose by choosing a vision of your life experiencing the positive consequences of living a loving (porn-free) life. There is much more to developing such a vision to make it powerful but it can be done.
When tempted, if you find yourself using any of the SAPS, bring yourself back to the Power Over Pornography system and you’ll continue to live a loving life.