Pornography: “One day you’ll beat it”

Conquering porn addiction

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Sadly, the title of this article is a typical response from those who have not been therapists and had to deal with tough cases, especially when helping those with a desire for more and more porn. Many Christians take this approach. My experience is that these people who love the Lord don’t know practical ways to help the person battling pornographic addiction.

My experience as a long-term therapist is that most people are out of their depths in offering practical help to those battling addiction, including pornography.

So, they brush it aside with unhelpful slogans like the title to this article. This is an unsupportive response as it prevents the person from travelling down the road to recovery. In counselling, I’ve heard people tell me that their friends say: ‘Hang in there mate. You’ll get over it one day. You’ll grow up and become a man who doesn’t need that kind of sexual junk’.

None of these clichés is a caring response like: ‘I’ve never had that problem, but I’ll seek some ways to find you help. It might mean going to a counsellor’.

1. Fundamental principles

With any of the emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression, addiction, anger, worry, procrastination, and smoking, people tend to think that something causes the emotion: e.g.

  • ‘I’m anxious about swimming in the ocean when large sharks have been seen in the water’.
  • ‘My wife has left me and got into bed with a close friend’, so that has made me deeply depressed.
  • ‘Watching that porn on my Tablet has caused me to go back and back to watch porn and become addicted. I don’t know how to get this out of my mind’.
  • ‘I smoke because it relaxes me after a hard day at work’.

2. A basic approach

With all of the emotional disorders, I use Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). It’s a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Some of its core principles include:

· ‘For as people calculate in their souls, so are they’ (plural from footnote in Prov 23:7 ESV). ‘What he thinks is what he really is’ (GNT).[1]

clip_image002(Image courtesy Pinterest)

Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, often quoted the Greek philosopher, Epictetus who taught the same kind of thing: ‘Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them’ (The Enchiridion §5).

clip_image004(Image courtesy Inspirational Quotes)

Both statements from the Bible and Epictetus agree with the fundamental of short-term REBT. Large sharks in the ocean cannot make anyone anxious. A wife committing adultery is not the cause of deep depression by the husband. Watching porn on a Tablet cannot cause anxiety about its danger and possible addiction.

How come? Things do not cause emotional disturbance. It’s our view of things (thoughts or beliefs about them) that bring on emotional issues.

You might find it hard to believe that this works. Research has confirmed the effectiveness of REBT with children and youth.

2.1 Practical ways to deal with pornography

clip_image006Block every porn site on your PC, phone, Tablet and any other electronic device you access. If you don’t know how to do this, check it out with an IT geek.

If you try to get around this by using tricky ways to find other sites, you are not being honest with your thoughts for seeking help. Why are you doing this when you know pornography is harmful to you and your relationships?

clip_image006[1]That’s only the first step to deal with what your mind is doing. Here is a biblical and cognitive-behavioural way to overcome the problem. It will mean discipline by you and accountability to one other person who is serious about helping you. He or she can ask you nearly every day how your thoughts are changing. You have to be 100% honest with him or her.

Guidelines for the accountability person are in ‘Job description for accountability partner’ in the agreement below: ‘COMMITMENT TO CONTROL MY USE OF PORNOGRAPHY (contract)’.

clip_image006[2]Unless you conquer your porn addiction, you will take it into your marriage and your spouse will never be able to perform according to the porn actresses or actors.

2.2 The ABCDEF model to conquer porn addiction

This is the ABCD model[2] of dealing with your emotions and pornography involves your emotions.

A    Activating event for your anxiety (watching porn online or wherever);

B    Beliefs about addiction and why you need to watch porn.

Remember, it is not the porn itself that causes you to go back again and again and to repeat it in your thought world. Porn has no power to make you an addict.

Something else does have that power. These are your thoughts about porn. You’ll need to fill these in, but many addicts believe …

clip_image008 I MUST view porn to bring satisfaction in masturbation.

clip_image010 I MUST use porn techniques in the sexual relationship; otherwise it will lack satisfaction;

clip_image012 My mates will think I am weak if I’m not into exciting pornography. They get sexual excitement that way and I need their approval.

clip_image014 I’m depriving myself if I flunk the porn test with friends.

What are your beliefs or thoughts about why you need to go back to porn, over and over?

2.3 Three MUSTs in your thinking

In this form of therapy, there generally are 3 basic MUSTs in your thinking. Applied to pornography, they are:

clip_image016I must do well and win others’ approval (especially with the person who introduced me to porn) by continuing this addiction, otherwise I’m no good.

clip_image018Others must treat me fairly and kindly and in the same way I want them to treat me – even though I’m battling pornography. If they do not treat me this way, they are not good people and deserve to be punished.

clip_image020I must always get what I want, when I want it. I must beat porn addiction NOW. Also, I must never get what I don’t want. If I don’t get what I want (instant stopping of porn), I’m miserable. It’s awful when I can’t conquer the urge to watch and think about porn images.

  • If you don’t obtain MUST #1 you’ll probably feel anxious, depressed and perhaps guilty.
  • If you don’t achieve MUST #2, you are most likely to feel angry and act aggressively.
  • If MUST #3 is not fulfilled, you may procrastinate and feel self-pity.

Therefore, the key to dealing with porn is to change the thought patterns in the 3 MUSTs. Remember, things such as porn do not cause addiction. Your thoughts about porn DO.

clip_image022(Image courtesy Pinterest)

C    Consequences: emotions and behaviours associated with porn addiction.

Effects of thinking include emotions, behaviours and other thoughts. The behaviours for the person with problems with porn are the regular desire to pursue thoughts about current porn or porn seen in the past.

D    Debate the beliefs at B.

  • How rational is it that you MUST bring porn into your mind when you masturbate? (Can I presume you masturbate? Most males do.)
  • How will you expect your spouse to perform in sex to compete with the sex actresses? What about you in comparison with the male actors?

Here are some helpful questions to help you dispute/debate the irrational beliefs at B:

flamin-arrow-small “Where is holding on to this belief getting me?

flamin-arrow-small “Is the belief helpful, or is it self-defeating?

flamin-arrow-small “What do I get out of while holding on to this belief?

flamin-arrow-small “Where is the evidence to support my belief?

flamin-arrow-small Is my belief consistent with actuality?

flamin-arrow-small “Is my belief rigid or flexible?

flamin-arrow-small “What’s another way I could look at this?

flamin-arrow-small “What other helpful belief can I use to replace this unhelpful belief?”[3]

E    Effective new thoughts replace old beliefs at B.

  • For the Christian, Philippians 4:8 (ERV) is a key in beating all kinds of anxiety, depression or addiction: ‘Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected’.
  • You will be successful in getting porn out of your thinking if you change (by your choice) your thinking to what is good, worthy of praise, true, honourable, right and pure, beautiful and respected.
  • Who will hold you accountable for putting off the old beliefs and putting on the new?

F New Feelings

I will make sensible decisions about pornography. I will not beat myself and have anxiety if I relapse for a time or two. I accept that battling temptation is a normal part of the Christian life.

So give yourselves to God. Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. You are sinners, so clean sin out of your lives. You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time. Make your thinking pure (James 4:7-8 ERV).

The difference between Christians and non-Christians who battle with pornography is that Christians know they battle on two fronts: (1) Against their irrational and ungodly thoughts, and (2) Against the devil, whom they must name and resist him. He will not give up easily in dragging you down.

To better understand the REBT model of cognitive-behavioural therapy for various counselling issues, I recommend Dr. Michael R Edelstein and Dr. David Ramsay Steele, Three Minute Therapy (lulu.com 2019).

3. How to be an effective accountability person

See the contract below for details:

COMMITMENT TO CONTROL MY USE OF PORNOGRAPHY (contract)

Because I care for myself, my family and others, I (write name), …………………………………………………………………………………..……………………………………………

commit myself to do the following things to control my use of pornography:

1. Block every pornographic site on whichever device I use to access the Internet or magazines.

2. Accountability to one person with whom I’ll be 100% honest about my use and images of porn.

3. To pursue the biblical therapy of, ‘For as people calculate in their souls, so are they’ (Prov 23:7 ESV). This is fleshed out in a REBT model of therapy (Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy), i.e. your actions will be determined by what you think about an issue.

4. Effective new feelings will come when you practise biblical thinking, ‘Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected (Phil 4:8 ERV).

1. Accountability

I agree to the following person to hold me accountable to check on the above actions once per week:

(1) Name: …………….……………………………………………………………………………………………

Address: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Phone & email contact: ………………………………………………………………………………………….

2. Job description for accountability partner

(a) Ask the porn user what his/her thoughts have been since you last saw him/her.

(b) How much porn has he/she watched?

(c) What anxiety has he/she experienced from porn use?

(d) What did he/she do about the anxiety?

(e) Make sure you understand that what people think they become (Proverbs 23:7).

(f) Therefore, how is the porn user practising the ABCDEF model of therapy? You need to be clued up on this approach to cognitive-behavioural therapy. It’s a short-term method of therapy.

(g) Make sure to ask the user what he/she is finding the toughest area in which to change. Help the person in this area by using the ABCDEF model.

Often people have problems with identification of Beliefs. Some say to themselves: ‘I must never have a single relapse. Since I had a relapse that proves I’m powerless to beat this. Or, I must get these images out of my mind immediately or by the end of the month, otherwise I’m a failure’.

At D you will debate these statements with the user: Why must I not have a relapse? Where is the evidence for that? What evidence is written in God’s laws of the universe as to how long it will take for you to gain self-control of your porn? We know that one of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control and that means as you grow in your Christian faith, the Holy Spirit will help you gain control (Gal. 5:22-23).

What Effective new thinking is needed? As long as you are a person, you will battle with your sinful nature (Gal. 6:1-5; 1 John 1:8-9). The Scriptures have given plenty of techniques on how to deal with sin.

In putting Philippians 4:8 (ERV) into practice, what has been your thinking in these areas?

‘Continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected’.

To change your thinking, these questions need to be answered in regard to things that have no relationship to thinking on porn:

  • What good thoughts have replaced the porn thoughts?
  • What are you praising God for, instead of thinking on porn images?
  • What are truthful and honourable things in your circumstances? What have you said to yourself about these?
  • What thoughts have you had about what is right?
  • What beauty surrounds you? What have you thought about this?

Remember to pray with the person being healed from porn involvement: ‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16 NIV).

3. Porn user’s commitment

I will be absolutely honest, co-operative and share to the best of my ability with my accountability persons I will do this for the benefit of:

1 .……………………………………………………………………..…….……………………..……..…………………..

2 .……………………………………………………..…………………..….…………………………..…………………..

3. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I understand that my behaviour has not happened suddenly and that the turn-around may take some time to correct. I commit myself to attend a minimum of 6 counselling sessions. I will not participate in anything dangerous or illegal.

Name of client: …………………………….……………………………….……………………………..

Signature of client: ……………………………………………………………………………………….

Date: …………………..…………..…….…

Name of accountability person: ………………………………………………….……………………………………………………….……….

Signature of accountability person: ………………………………………….……..

Date: …………………………….………


Notes

[1] Good News Translation.

[2] It was originally developed by psychologist, Albert Ellis (Wikipedia 2020. s.v. Albert Ellis).

[3] These questions are from The Liberation Place n.d. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Disputing Irrational Beliefs (online). Available at: http://www.theliberationplace.com/images/PDF/Session-2.pdf (Accessed 11 June 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 June 2020.

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