If you've ever watched pornography, you know that it can be a slippery slope. Thresholds for pleasure and content intensity can increase, leading us to places we never imagined were possible. It is important to know that for starters, you are not defined by what you watch, no matter how dark/intense it may be. There are neurological concepts at play that often drive us to these places and that is good news because our brains can change.
There are two particular concepts we're going to focus on for the purposes of this article. The first is that novelty enhances pleasure. This is a well-understood concept in both clinical and research environments. When you are experiencing something new for the first time, it amplifies the experience of pleasure, whether the situation is sexual or not. Think about the first time you had ice cream or the first time you had french fries. Magical experiences, right? Because not only are you experiencing something delicous/pleasurable, you're experiencing something that is new.
Now get this. There are actually fully healthy and functional human beings on this planet that like dipping their french fries IN their ice cream! Unbelievable, right? These are the places people go when they seek novelty. The old stuff gets boring and mundane, so the brain seeks novelty to enhance the experience.
The same thing happens with your viewing patterns if you engage in pornography long enough. Remember that the pursuit of pleasure is often at the forefront of porn consumption. If you keep watching the same things over and over again, eventually your brain starts to derive less pleasure. So curiosity starts to arise and your brain begins to wander, hoping that something new, or a combination of more familiar genres/styles, will restore the same kind of pleasure it experienced when you first started out.
This is often why guys come to us troubled by their own viewing patterns. They think that because they are watching same-sex porn, or girls with unusual attributes, or animals, etc that they are terribly messed up. The reality is, their viewing patterns have been stretched because the standard stuff wasn't cutting it anymore and their brain started looking for something new.
The second concept to understand is that neural associations form in moments of curiosity. There is a reason that we often remember our first time doing anything significant – going to school, scoring a goal, having sex, experiencing the presence of God, etc. Your brain is particularly plastic in moments of curiosity, which is why watching bizarre content that would normally gross you out becomes normal. In those moments of curiosity, novelty, and ultimately pleasure, your brain makes a subconscious note of the experience with the intent of repeating it later.
The real question is – what can be done? And the good news is that your brains are malleable. They can change! It doesn't matter how long you've been watching OR what you've been watching. If you are finding yourself watching content that disgusts/surprises you, here are a few things to consider:
1) Other than curiosity and seeking novelty, find out WHY that content has any appeal to you all? What feelings do you experience when you watch it? What is it offering you?
2) Talk to someone about it. I know this is not that fun, but it is necessary. Why? Because there are huge amounts of shame that come from watching more extreme content. Porn viewership is shameful enough, then you throw in taboo genres and the shame thing kicks into high gear. Vulnerability and confession break the shame.
3) Get professional help. The reality is that by the time you've reached this place – you need professional intervention. You could try to figure it out on your own, and there is a chance you'd get some breakthrough. But if you really want to be done with it once and for all, professional therapy or a program will be much more effective long-term.
Lastly, let me tell you that it's OK. It's ok to struggle, it's okay that you've watched some disturbing content. These things happen and there are perfectly good reasons for it.
It's not ok for them to continue. You deserve much better than that.
Cheering you on,
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