Feeling deep shame and feeling like a failure can be psychologically detrimental to an addict. Shame and low self-esteem are part of the vicious cycle of addiction. A porn addict gets hooked due to the chemical reactions in the brain from viewing porn. However, the other factor is that when you try to quit and fail you feel horrible. The addiction is then used to medicate the addict so you will view porn more instead of less to feel better. Afterwards of course you feel bad again and the cycle continues. This is a vicious cycle that leaves an addict feeling hopeless and trapped.
So, how do we beat the negativity? From a rational scientific perspective, viewing porn one time in six months is a great improvement from viewing it every day. That’s a reduction in porn usage of over 99%. That’s amazing! Be proud of your accomplishment rather than hating yourself for your failure. It’s important to view it as an improvement and not get discouraged. Just like the secret to success is to become good at failure by learning and growing from your failures. The same is true here; acknowledge your improvement and continue to improve until you eliminate your usage altogether.
How can you do this? Unlearning addiction is a process and reducing your usage is a success. When the addict has a slip (“relapse”) they should immediately note their successes thus far. They've gone X number of days without porn. Then they should think about what happened in the one scenario that they slipped. How were they feeling at that moment? What was happening on that occasion? What can they do differently to prevent that slipping in the future? Examine it like a scientist so you can continue to improve.
This exact same mentality applies to your approach for beating porn addiction. The secret to stopping porn is not to focus on negative goals such as “Stop watching porn” or “don’t watch porn”. Same goes for counting down the days you “didn't watch porn”; this might work for some people, but for most of us focusing on how you were a good boy for not doing something bad will eventually make you want to be “bad”. Focusing on the negative aspects is self-defeating and not a good strategy for long term victory over porn. You’ll feel proud of what you “didn't do” for 3 months and then you’ll slip up one time and feel terrible and hit rock bottom all over again.
So, what can you do instead? The secret is to focus on the positive or what you “can do”. Focusing on a positive goal and on something you can do makes you feel good, confident, and encourages your success. Let’s explore how to go about this.
1. What matters to you? Pick at least 2-3 items. Examples: you don’t want to support unhealthy domination of women and you don’t want porn to influence your sex life (which if you watch it, it will have an influence.
2. From there make positive proactive goals. Example: You want to focus on making sex with your partner equally enjoyable for both of you and a very two way thing. As you focus on this as a goal, you will lose interest in porn since it is not aligned with your goal. Another example: you decide to focus on understanding real sex and how it is different from porn. Since porn is not real sex and it influences your sexuality it would again be counter to your positive goals. Or as another example your goal could be to support a healthy view and respect of women. With porn as part of the global sex industry this would be counterproductive to your goal.
3. Continue to work on your new goals and acknowledge your successes while feeling good about what you’re accomplishing. All of these positive goals could improve your life and make you feel good about yourself while also fighting porn.
Another perspective on positive goal making: proactive vs. reactive goals.
Being positive is proactive. For example, I want to make these changes to my life and I’m going to do it step by step to achieve something great and porn isn't a part of my dream. This strategy leaves you kicking porn’s butt!
In contrast, being negative is very reactive. To “not” watch porn is simply reacting to the problem and not curing it. It’s reacting after the fact, every day, and how is that sustainable? Would that ever be sustainable? Think of it this way, could you fight against an enemy that was going to war with you every day for the rest of your life? The answer is no, most people would give up at some point. So why do that with porn? You’re bound to slip up one day and continue to repeat the same cycle. So, instead of reacting to the problem, be proactive and cure the problem at its roots. Don’t simply “trim the hedge” every single day, slowly cut the roots out instead.
To sum it all up, don’t beat yourself up for your failures. One mistake does not negate the progress that you are making and the successes that you have had. Be proud of your progress and feel good about it. Act like a scientist and analyze your failures to use them to make you stronger. Finally, stay positive and make positive proactive goals.
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