Note: This is a 3 part email sequence, all the 3 parts have been compiled in this blog post. Each email is separately labeled.
It's that time in your manstrual cycle where you get a 3 email sequence from me about an important recovery subject
(These emails are sent monthly, so it's part of your cycle... just like how it works for a woma...well, I'm sure you get it).
One of the greatest developments in modern science has been the explosion in brain research.
We know more about the brain today than ever before, and trust me – we still know a FRACTION of what's out there.
But the reality is that our sexual experiences – healthy or not – are intricately connected to our brain.
Between thoughts, paradigms, patterns, sounds, smells, and sights, the brain is at the center of just about anything sexual.
And because we are learning more about the brain, we are better understanding our sexuality as well.
This email, and the two that follow, are going to help you better understand your brain so you can make better decisions.
Today's email kicks off with a simple statement:
You are not your thoughts.
You might need to read that again.
In case you didn't, just read the next sentence...
You Are Not Your Thoughts.
Often men bash themselves because they have dirty/whacky/weird thoughts.
"What kind of a sicko am I to think that way? She's only 16 years old!"
(This was a thought of mine that I recently had, real talk).
I have to remind myself that time and time again, it is just a thought. What I do with it matters more.
There's scripture AND science behind this.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul instructs us to "take every thought captive."
When the Israelites were in captivity to the Babylonian empire, literally every Israelite was captive.
In other words, there were systems and people put in place to ensure that every Israelite was captured and then assigned a role within the empire (usually something very subservient and low-level).
They were not haphazard about this. It wasn't just for some of the Israelites who stood out. Every single one of them was accounted for.
That is the kind of approach you and I are to take with our thoughts.
It gets better.
Each Israelite was given an assignment based on what the Babylonians determined was best for their empire.
So you also are to take inventory of each thought and then determine what is best for your mental "empire", if you will.
When you actively engage in this process, you realize quickly that 95% of the thoughts you have aren't worth your time.
Now let's get to the science...
If all we try to do is take our thoughts captive, we will only be partially successful.
To truly be effective, we have to understand a more foundational subject in this conversation: State.
The state you are in matters immensely.
Imagine yourself sitting on the couch with your wife, feet kicked up, watching a rerun of Seinfeld (Kramer just made his big entry into Jerry's apartment).
What kind of thoughts might you be having in a moment like that?
Contrast that with you sitting on the same couch, having an intense argument with your wife, and thing escalating way too quickly.
What kind of thoughts are you having now?
The environment is the same. The people are the same.
Mentally, your state is largely controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS) – I know a big science-y term, but stay with me.
The ANS determines what kind of state is necessary to respond appropriately to the conditions it perceives.
Much of its activity is automatic, but we can hijack this system and manipulate its state to work for our benefit.
Imagine you go to church, and a beautiful woman catches your eye. She's dressed well and has a big smile.
She's also married, as clearly evidenced by the man beside her that is holding her hand with a ring on his finger.
Her appearance reminds you of a p*rn star that you frequent. You didn't mean for this to happen, but now here you are in a holy place having rather unholy thoughts.
You can feel your imagination turning on. Here comes a fantasy...
This is the work of your autonomic nervous system. It is responding to what is happening in the environment.
But as I stated previously – we can hijack the system.
"How" you ask?
The front part of your brain (literally right behind your forehead) is called the Pre-Frontal Cortex.
This structure is what separates you and I from other primates – it's what allows us to reason, rationalize, have personality, analyze at a much more complex level than any other animal.
When that part of your brain is engaged and active, you are coherent.
You have good thoughts. You make good choices. You are your "best" self.
When that part is disengaged, you and I become...shall we say... stupid.
We think irrationally. We make immature decisions. In essence, we sabotage.
So what do you think happens to your pre-frontal cortex when your Autonomic Nervous System kicks in?
It shuts down.
Isn't that wild?!
In the moments where we are triggered, tempted or fighting for our lives, the part of us that is rational and sensible shuts off.
Instead, our survival instincts kick in.
Now, as I already mentioned twice, we can hijack this system.
And the way we do that is a gift from God Himself...
Do me a favor, take a deep inhale through your nostrils, and then slow breathe out of your mouth.
There, that was it.
You just hijacked the system.
Your BREATH gives you a chance to re-engage your prefrontal cortex.
One breath may not do the trick. It may take a few minutes of this to really kick in, but when it does – it is a thing of b-e-a-u-t-y.
And best of all?
You can take your thoughts captive WAY more easily.
Without a regulated nervous system, taking your thoughts captive feels like an impossible instruction.
Once you are regulated, by using your breath to engage your pre-frontal cortex, taking your thoughts captive is as smooth as shot of Appleton Rum (Jamaica's finest).
Speaking of alcohol, tomorrow I'm going to explain to you the neurochemical cocktail that drives porn addiction (and what you can do to interrupt the system).
PS. If you want a preview of tomorrow's content, I did an episode about it on my podcast recently. Check it out.
Alright my man, yesterday we talked about taking your thoughts captive and why controlling your neurological STATE is vital to be successful in doing so.
We built a necessary foundation to explore today's subject – the neurotransmitter cocktail that drives porn addiction, masturbation, affairs, etc.
Once you understand how this cocktail works, you will feel so much more in control of your brain AND body.
Two years ago, myself and two other friends decided to hop on the train and catch Game 7 of the Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Winner advances to the next round.
Everyone on the train was decked out in Toronto Maple Leafs gear. People were chanting, pre-drinking, etc. The vibe was high.
Rather than shelling out ludicrous amounts of money to get a seat IN the arena (tickets were $800+), we instead joined a crowd of 10k+ Leafs fans outside of Toronto's arena, where the game was put on a humungous screen...for free!
You can imagine the pandemonium. Anytime a Leafs player had the puck on their stick, you could hear the entire city hold their breath.
I'll spare you the painful and disheartening details, but... the Leafs lost 2-1 and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs yet again.
We hopped back on the train and immediately you could feel the difference in energy.
Dejection, frustration, and pure anger.
No one was talking. That's how bad it was. You could feel the emotion, but you couldn't see or hear it because everyone was dead quiet.
I am not an imposing figure, standing at 6'0" and 175 lbs, but I'm no slouch either.
My two friends, however, both stand at 6'5" 200+ lbs. Call these guys F-150s, cuz they're built Ford Tough (this email is not in any way shape or form sponsored by Ford. I'm just a sucker for metaphors).
Let's call them Matt and Mike.
(These details will become important...)
One guy on the train was gabbing away, talking about how the Leafs suck at this, and the Leafs suck at that, yadda yadda.
He was so loud and even though what he was saying was true, we were all sick and tired of hearing him talk.
Some guy on the train, let's call him Bobby, yells, "If you don't shut the f*$% I'm going to come over there and kick your..."
The guy immediately got quiet.
5 minutes later, he starts gabbing again.
Bobby was fuming.
Mike stood up and decided to simply place himself between the gabbing kid and Bobby (their booths were a few rows apart from each other). He didn't say anything, just stood there.
"What are you gonna do, tough guy?" Bobby piped back at Mike. He was still mad.
Mike just kept looking off into the distance. Didn't even give Bobby the light of day.
Little did these guys know, Matt, who was still seated, is a high-ranking police official.
He was rubbing his hands together, torn between whether or not to get involved (when cops get involved in these things off-duty it usually bites them in the butt so he was exercising major restraint here).
Between these two giants, it was unlikely that Bobby was going to do anything dangerous.
I remember having a brief moment where I zoomed out of the situation and thought to myself, "A riot could break out on this train, and I don't think there is any chance I get hurt."
Between Mike's imposing stance, the fact that Matt is a cop, and my ability to stand behind both of them while they fight my battles (lol), I was safe and sound.
There were a few more snickers and a couple more remarks, but ultimately, the situation de-escalated in large part thanks to Mike's imposition between the two arguing parties.
It wound up being a silver-lining story to tell amidst a night of hockey heartbreak, but this experience reminded of a scripture...
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12
Something about 3's is very powerful. Jesus was tempted 3 times in the wilderness. He rose on the third day. Peter denied him three times. His ministry lasted 3 years. He is one of a threefold Godhead.
(And the three of us obviously would have kicked major butt if a riot ever broke out on the train...)
So when scientists identify 3 neurotransmitters that are at play in every sexual experience, you and I would do wise to pay attention.
There is something powerful here that we don't want to miss.
Understanding this "neurochemical cocktail" will give you massive insights into why you've been struggling way longer than you should be.
Dopamine gets a lot of press today, and rightfully so. Our society, especially technology, is driven by the dopamine mechanisms in our body.
Dopamine is all about SEEKING pleasure (not acquiring). Sometimes people talk about getting "dopamine hits" when they engage in addictive behavior.
That is misleading language.
You don't get dopamine hits when you view p*rn (or whatever the addictive behavior may be), you get dopamine hits when you look for p*rn.
It's important for you to understand that when you begin looking for porn, dopamine is what actually revs the engine.
Dopamine starts to drip into your system, and your brain says "let's go find some fun."
With time, you get very good at masking this reality. You tell yourself it's just a peek here, or somehow justify something that you know for a fact is not justifiable.
All of that is in large part because dopamine is making the pursuit of porn (or the like) irresistible.
Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical.
It gets secreted when you step outside and the sun shines on your face, when you rip it at 200 km/h on the autobahn, and yes...when you climax.
We are suckers for serotonin, and the research is pretty clear that when we lack serotonin we are more prone to depression and other mental illnesses.
If you were riding a rollercoaster – Dopamine is secreted at the top, serotonin is secreted at the drop.
Serotonin is what makes the pursuit all worth it.
I remember one time I had watched porn for a good 30-40 minutes and was in the middle of masturbating when an emergency came up and I had to stop.
It was the worst feeling ever.
Why? Because I spent all this time and energy chasing the big O. And now I wasn't going to get it.
That lack of serotonin flood at the end takes away all the pleasure/fun. And without that, why watch porn/masturbate in the first place?
Serotonin is what makes it "worth your while" from a brain standpoint.
Oxytocin is the bonding chemical.
It gets secreted when a mom is nursing a child (in both the mom and child).
It gets secreted when you hold hands with your love for the first time.
And yes, it gets secreted when you view p*rn.
As a result, you wind up forming bonds with actors/actresses, content types, narratives, watching on certain devices, etc.
We are designed to bond to people. When you watch porn, you wind up bonding to pixels instead.
During my 15 year addiction, I watched a lot of different porn.
But if you combed through the archives, about 80% of it was composed of mostly the same actresses, sometimes the same videos, and definitely the same genres/types.
We always return to places where we are bonded.
Every single time you watch porn, this powerful neurochemical cocktail is taking place in your brain, and our brain becomes intoxicated in the process.
As a result, you keep coming back to do the things you don't want to do.
No matter how hard you try, you can't seem to stop.
And even when things are going well, all of the sudden "out of nowhere" you get this urge you can't resist and you cave in.
This was an information-heavy email but I wanted you to understand what is actually going on in your brain when you watch porn.
Tomorrow, I'll show you what you can do to break these cycles and use your physiology to help you achieve freedom instead.
PSS. If you're looking for specialized help to quit p*rn, I'd love to speak with you. Here's a link to my calendar if you want to book a time.
This email is going to be EPIC.
We are about to form a solution that is going to give you more control over your brain than ever before.
In email #1, we talked about the importance of STATE, and how your breath can keep you in control no matter the circumstance.
When you don't control your state, it is much harder to take your thoughts captive.
When you control your state, then you can more heavily influence your thoughts.
In email #2, we talked about the neurochemical cocktail that is at play in your brain when you watch porn.
Dopamine – excitement to seek pleasure
Serotonin – the experience of pleasure
Oxytocin – bonding so that we return to the pleasurable experience
These three chemicals together make viewing porn exhilarating and addictive.
So the question now is...
What do we do with all of this?
James warns us against being only hearers of the word and not doers (Jam 1:22).
While this email is certainly not the word of God, the principle remains – we want to take action on the things we learn.
So here are a couple of steps that you can take next to rewire your brain and use its functioning to your advantage.
I know I already talked about this in email #1, but I want to remind you that breathing is incredibly powerful when you are tempted and triggered.
A breathing pattern that I use often lately is 4 counts inhale, 2 counts hold, 7 counts exhale, 2 counts hold.
There's good research showing this patten is incredibly (some argue it's the most) effective for regulating your brain and nervous system.
By changing your state, you give yourself a chance to take your thoughts captive and make better decisions.
2) STOP THE DRIP
When we talk about "building self-awareness" (Pillar #1 in my recovery process) what we are really referring to is the ability to identify when dopamine starts to drip in your brain.
It's the early moments of a temptation or trigger.
Neuroscience shows that we have 3 seconds in these moments to derail things before it's too late and becomes MUCH harder to not relapse.
So the practical solution here is rather simple: Form a "Trigger Plan".
A pre-determined activity or process that you will follow when you feel the drip.
Something that you can do anywhere, anytime.
Doesn't have to be fancy or complicated, just effective enough to stop the drip from continuing.
Literally one of the EASIEST solutions to set yourself up for success in recovery.
Oxytocin causes you to form strong bonds during sexual experiences.
A huge part of recovery is learning to bond to healthier things.
There is always a reason we bond to something.
We are looking for comfort, acceptance, affection, etc.
This is why forming healthy bonds is necessary to break addiction.
It's also why "the opposite of addiction is connection" (Johann Hari).
If you want to do this REALLY well, I would recommend doing all three of the items listed below, but even 1 will be super helpful.
1) Join A Community – Stop doing this alone. It doesn't work. And if it does, it's half as rewarding and takes twice as long.
2) Involve An Expert – Research shows that treatments, programs and therapy are most effective when the client trusts the practitioner. Find an expert you trust and let them lead you through the recovery process (if you would consider me to be an expert that you trust, click here to find our more about my program).
3) Phone A Friend – Okay it doesn't have to be over the phone, but having a close companion alongside your recovery is invaluable. For best practice, do not let your wife fill this role (it's a burden she is not meant to bear).
If you made it this far, then you are probably smart enough to know that an email is not going to cure an addiction.
You know that if you're going to really get your life back on track, and finally ditch this addiction once and for all, you will probably need something a bit more hands on.
I've dedicated the last 5 years of my life to helping men like you quit porn and masturbation for good, without internet filters or will power.
If you want to find out more about my program and what it could look like to work together, here's the link to my calendar. Book a time and let's see if DeepClean is a good fit for you.
In the meantime, remember this:
God designed the brain to be powerful. Whether it is powerfully good or powerfully bad is up to you.
We can sit back passively and let the world program it for us.
Or we can be intentional and grab life by the horns.
I hope you'll do the latter.
PSS. If the second link doesn't have any available slots either, then we are at max capacity and will reopen slots again as they are available (likely a few months from now).
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