Name it to tame it (the second step of the P.A.T.H. Plan)

In The Lord of the Rings series (possibly the best three movies of all time) there is a striking scene.


During an exchange between the main character Frodo, and the slinking creature Gollum, Frodo is speaking to Gollum and he calls him by his true name, Smeagol. Smeagol had long forgotten his name and when Frodo says it, you can see a shift happen in Smeagol's expression. "My name...my name," he says, and he starts to smile. A change happened when Smeagol was simply addressed by his name. His expression softened. He became less hostile, less intense. You know what else becomes less intense when you simply name it? You guessed it: the urge to watch porn. Consider this question: How would you like to immediately decrease the intensity of the urge to watch porn when it hits you? How can you do this? Call the urge by its name. Studies on the brain show that when you are experiencing a feeling, simply naming the feeling decreases its potency. When you label your feelings, it reduces activity in the limbic brain (the fight or flight part) and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex (your rational, reasoning part of your brain). You know what it's like when you are flooded with that intense desire to look at porn. All logic and reason goes out the window. When the urge hits you, it completely takes over. It can feel like you have no chance. It wins every time. But when you stop to acknowledge the urge and simply call it by it's name, you are getting back in the driver's seat. Daniel Siegel, an author and child psychologist, coined a great phrase on this: Name it to tame it. This is exactly what the second step of the P.A.T.H. Plan is accomplishing. After you have noticed the urge and paused (the first step of the P.A.T.H. Plan), the second step, the "A," is to acknowledge the urge. In this step, you are simply observing what is happening and naming the urge. To do this, you say to yourself, "Hm, I am feeling a strong urge to watch porn." Notice that when you say this, you are not judging the feeling or saying in anger, "Argh, there's the urge again!" But in curious and interested observation, you're simply noticing what's happening. Be curious, not condemning. Similar to the first step of the P.A.T.H. Plan, this step takes only a few seconds. But the effect, and what is happening in your brain when you do this step, is very powerful. And it will help you when that urge floods you. Make sense? Okay, we've looked at the first two steps of the P.A.T.H. Plan, pause and acknowledge. These first two steps literally take a few seconds each. They are very simple and easy to initiate (as long as you stay self-aware, like we looked at last week). And what they are doing is preparing and priming you for the third step of the P.A.T.H. Plan: the timer. This is what will cover next week and this is really where the skill is built. I'm looking forward to diving into this step with you. And as always, simply reply to this email with any questions, comments, or experiences! Let's go! Dan

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