In today’s post I want to talk about what to do in the heat of temptation!
In his book, Treating Pornography Addiction, Dr. Kevin Skinner discusses, what he has dubbed “the pornography highway”.
The basic idea is this, when a person succumbs to pornography two things have happened. 1) There was a moment in time when something made him think of porn, or, instigated his desire to use it, 2) and then he used it. There is, however, according to Dr. Skinner, at least 5 stages in between these two bookends.
These constitute a sort of “highway” which the one who falls to porn travels down. These stages include: 1) Stimulus (or triggers) 2) Emotion. 3) Thought 4) Chemical Response 5) Body Language 6) Second Thought 7) Behavior.
The Pornography Highway
Let’s look at each of these in more detail. I would recommend that you either get a pen and paper or open up a word document as you read through this post, as I’m going to invite you at each stage to think about how this relates to you, and, at the end of this post, what can be done to reverse—do a u-turn on—the pornography highway.
1. Stimulus (or triggers): that which leads us to think about pornography.
What is that for you? Seeing immodest women (magazines, movies, real life)? Being alone at home with untethered internet access? Reading immodest and unchaste novels?
2. Emotion: We then experience an emotion such as excitement or curiosity.
What emotions do you commonly experience when thinking about the possibility of looking at pornography?
3. Thought: We then entertain thoughts such as: “I wonder what I would find,” and, “Surely one more time won’t hurt.”
What thoughts do you have? What thoughts “justify” or, we might say, “authorize” you looking at porn? Think hard about this and write down your answers. Only you can know what they are.
Here are some thoughts men have shared with me: “Hey I could look at porn.” “It’s just a click away.” “No one’s at home.” “No one has to know.” “I know that I’m eventually going to fall to this, I may as well go ahead and fall, get it out the way so that the temptation will be over and I can repent.”
4. Chemical Response: The next thing that happens is our body is flooded with chemicals which prepare us for what the body is expecting, sexual excitement and orgasm (if you’re unaware of the pharmaceutical lab between your ears, and it’s real ability to produce brain drugs which the brain then becomes addicted to, click here to learn more).
At this point one has picked up such speed along the “pornography highway” that slamming on the breaks and turning back is extremely difficult.
5. Body Language: Sweating of the palms; increased heart rate; erection, etc.
What reactions do you experience?
6. Second Thought: This thought is unlike the first which may seek to justify the initial descent down the pornography highway. This thought is what Dr. Skinner calls “the battle.”
If this step is non-existent, you have no hope. The thoughts at this stage may be thoughts such as, “This is a sin.” “I don’t want to be this type of person.” “If my wife finds out she’ll be crushed. “People depend on me.” “Don’t be a hypocrite!”
What thoughts do you experience at this stage?
7. Behavior: Though one tries to battle the temptation, the battle is too strong and the person ends up looking at pornography.
Take some time to think, if you haven’t already, to reflect slowly and intentionally about your own sequence.
Making the U-Turn
How do we deactivate this sequence? How do we turn around? It seems to me, and I think you’ll agree, it needs to be done before the chemical release, because. as we’ve seen, and as many men and women addicted to pornography attest, once those chemicals get dumped into one’s system it’s extremely difficult to back out.
So, time to write the game-plan. There will be two parts to your game plan. The first part will concern how you will avoid (to whatever extent feasible) those triggers; the second will concern what you will do when you encounter those triggers.
One more thing, try your best not to write what you think you ought to write, or what you’ve heard you ought to do, rather, write what you know will be helpful.
How will you avoid your triggers? Another way of asking this question might be, “When am I most vulnerable?” and “how can I avoid that?” Write down at least five ways that you will do this. Make it personal, make it your own.
Some answers might be:
- I’m vulnerable when I’m alone at night watching TV.
- I’m vulnerable while driving past that strip club on the way home from work.
- A trigger for me is being confronted by bikini-clad women while I’m at the beach.
- When I go into the gas station and glance at the top shelf of pornography.
- I need to Stop reading or watching legitimate (by legitimate I mean perhaps legitimate for others but not for you because it’s a trigger) literature or shows that lead you to think about porn.
What five things (ten if you can) will you do when you encounter that trigger?
Some answers may be:
- Call a friend, tell him your tempted and ask him to check in in a day or two.
- Distract yourself. I’m reminded of the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori who said, “In temptations against chastity, the spiritual masters advise us, not so much to contend with the bad thought, as to turn the mind to some spiritual, or, at least, indifferent object. It is useful to combat other bad thoughts face to face, but not thoughts of impurity.”
- Some men have told me that if they encounter a trigger, they won’t use the internet while alone that day, or they wont use it all together.
At any rate, write these 10 things (in total) down and, if you want to follow the advice of Dr. Skinner, read them every day for at least a month.
You can get Dr. Skinner’s amazing book—probably the best I’ve read on porn addiction—here.