Over the course of my 20-year struggle with porn, I tried almost every strategy you could think of to be free, and to not give in to the urge to watch porn when it hit me.
One common strategy is to simply distract yourself when the urge arises.
Go for a walk.
Watch a good movie.
Do a workout.
Clean the house.
Call a friend.
On the surface, this seems like a great way to help with that craving. It diverts your attention away from the craving and focuses your mind on something else.
What has your experience with this type of strategy been?
Here was my experience: distraction never gave me a winning track record.
Well, what the heck? What's the deal? Why wouldn't this be a good strategy to use? Why didn't this consistently help me not give into the urge to watch porn?
I didn't understand it at the time, but I understand now.
Here's the key to remember: Our feelings (like the urge to watch porn) drive our behavior.
And, our feelings do not go away simply by ignoring them or turning our attention elsewhere.
More often than not, if I ever used the distraction strategy like watching a good movie or calling a friend, as soon as the movie ended or I hung up the phone, the urge would rise back up to the surface.
It didn't go anywhere when I was distracting myself. It stayed beneath the surface, only to reappear again when the distraction was over.
I eventually learned a life-changing truth: when it comes to feelings, the most effective way to handle them is to direct your attention towards them, not away from them.
What we know about feelings is that when you acknowledge them and turn your attention towards them, two powerful things happen:
1. It tends to reduce the intensity of the feeling.
2. It helps "process" the feeling so it can leave for good, rather than temporarily pushing it down.
I experienced both of these exactly. For over 20 years, when the urge would flood me, I would resist, I would distract, I would try to push it away. I know now that this is WHY I was addicted for so long.
But when I learned this better way and I started acknowledging the feeling I was having and turning towards it with curiosity, I saw the feeling actually start to diminish. I could feel the urge eventually leaving.
And it was an amazing, exhilarating experience.
Finally, something actually worked! It gave me encouragement and confidence to continue with this approach. I finally knew exactly what to do when the NEXT urge flooded me.
Here's the bottom line: when you feel that urge to watch porn, rather than trying to distract your attention away from the feeling, direct your attention towards it.
In other words:
Direct, don't distract.
You got this!