By Leonardo Gaser
The Christmas season is almost here, a time for joy and peace, to gather and be merry; a perfect opportunity to relax! However, for many this is also a period that involves intense planning and preparation coordinating family gatherings, getting gifts for all their loved ones, buying and cooking enough food, as well as spending time with people that sometimes are not the easiest to get along with. An opportunity to rest suddenly becomes an occasion for stress and anxiety. As these emotions compound with the frustration of the missed opportunity to let off some steam, the tempting door of pornography may suddenly become much easier and attractive to reach out to as a substitute, however deficient someone may already know this is.
During Christmas, someone may be tempted to accept a “present” from the enemy instead of the present of Jesus Christ, our Savior. The pull to watch pornography may be present even if a person hates it and wants to get rid of it. How is it possible that these two opposite realities coexist? In order to understand why the impulse to watch porn is present despite our best efforts and convictions, we need to take a look into how our nervous system functions.
Compulsion in our heads
Our brains are marvellous pieces of hardware with very adaptable software. They are mostly composed of cells called neurons that run our “programming”. As we grow up in life, these neurons learn to react to specific situations, connecting our senses and emotions to create powerful experiences and memories, emotional blueprints to guide our future actions and reactions.
This mechanism is very helpful in our everyday lives, however sometimes these blueprints get hijacked. In the case of compulsive pornography consumption (that is, feeling the strong pull to pornography without being able to control it), this is exactly what has happened: the person’s brain has been “reprogrammed” to seek pornography as a way to obtain emotional relief, even if the person logically knows that, in reality, watching pornography doesn’t really satisfy and just ends up making things worse. A stressful environment only makes it more difficult to control these impulses.
What to do about it?
Thankfully we can take some steps to control the stress levels, and so avoid making ourselves more vulnerable to the temptation of pornography.
- Make sure you are sleeping as much as you need. Sleeping sounds easy enough, yet the simplest tasks usually end up being the most difficult to accomplish because they are also easy not to do. It is easy to stay up late watching a movie, playing video games, or scrolling through social media, losing the notion of time at the detriment of sleep. Making sleep a priority will go a long way with managing stress and, as a result, preventing the temptation of pornography to overpower you when you’re feeling vulnerable.
- Avoid stuffing yourself with unhealthy food. Christmas is hardly the right time for fasting, but that does not mean you have to neglect your health: we can find a mean to both extremes. Eating too much sugar and drinking too much alcohol can have adverse effects in your wellbeing and mental strength, a recipe for disaster for those struggling with a compulsion to pornography. Having some healthy food atin the table alongside the unhealthier variants can help balance the scale, as well as drinking in moderation. Rejoice, but not at the cost of your physical, mental and spiritual health!
- Plan some quality time to be with people and do activities you enjoy. It’s easy to get lost in the preparations and not do anything for oneself. Taking care of oneself is not the same as being selfish! Play board games, go for a walk, build a snowman, watch some movie together, pray or go to Mass with your loved ones… More than anything, try to see all the good gifts God has given you and recognize that He loves you, and allow for gratefulness to be born in your heart. Gratefulness is a very strong shield against the temptation of porn.
Compulsions are difficult to manage, as they are strong automatic emotional responses that we don’t have entirely under control. While controlling our environment can be helpful to a certain extent, true freedom is only found in allowing God’s grace to heal our wounds: the emotional blueprint that is leading us to unchaste behaviour needs to be redeemed. It is not enough to merely say ‘no’, as if the push of a button would reset the computer and make everything run normally again. The brain needs to be rewired and our soul needs to accept the peace that God offers us.
Freedom coaching is an opportunity to do exactly that: to allow God, by His grace and power, to transform your mind, body, soul and vision, with a coach to accompany you through the exodus from slavery. If you are personally struggling with this challenge, or if you know someone else who does, consider giving yourself (or him) the gift of this opportunity. Freedom is possible, give it a chance!
Leonardo Gaser is a member of the Freedom Coaching team. Originally from Argentina, he currently resides in Slovakia with his beloved bride. You can learn more about him and the work he's doing at Freedom-coaching.net.