I often work with people who have an impulse control problem. This includes pornography issues, drug addictions, internet preoccupation, and eating/weight issues. Let me demonstrate something here about underlying needs.
I have observed over the years while helping people with pornography problems that it is helpful to set up more barriers to its consumption like internet blocking and extra passwords. Most of the clients I work with are married men. The rest are single men or young men, or adolescent boys. When I counsel with these individuals we review the common safeguards that are helpful when using the internet. We review triggers and high risk situations, we even review their sexual development to a certain extent.
One of the things that can surprise a client and their wife about pornography in particular is to discover that, in most cases, it’s not about the sex. Pornography use is actually a very poor way to cope with stress, insecurity, depression, you name it. A very poor, passive coping strategy and as an adjustment, I have seen some guys who will stop using pornography by watching a lot of television or by gaming a lot more. Perhaps it is a step in the right direction since their spouse finds those other activities less offensive. But really all they have done is replaced one passive way to cope with another with another. To really complete the process of overcoming impulse control problems requires addressing the underlying need. When I haven’t eaten something for some time and I see homemade chocolate chip cookies, I salivate and my body needs sugar, but not empty sugar, it needs complex sugar, fiber, protein and other nutrients. If I reach for a carrot, an apple and some delicious homemade chili then I become satiated and most likely that cookie is much less a temptation. Things like pornography will always be readily available. Even when there are blocks on the computer or phone, there are ways around those barriers if one feels hungry enough.
There’s a story that was relayed to me once about the legend of the Deer Woman as told by Lakota Indians. There are many different versions of the legend, the one I am familiar with struck a chord with me the first time I heard it. This particular version comes from the book, “The Lakota Way” by Joseph M. Marshall III. (You can find it here. I highly recommend it.) Essentially, he tells of a great hunter who was warned by his grandparents of the Deer Woman. Apparently she entices a hunter or warrior to spend the night with her by asking him to protect and comfort her for the night. When a hunter is alone and perhaps a little weary and has not been experiencing much success on the hunt, the Deer Woman shows up, knowing he is more vulnerable. She has long silky hair, big brown eyes and a warm, inviting tee-pee. If the hunter succumbs to the temptation and lies down with her for the night, he will wake the next morning to nothing. The hunter is confused and tries to find her and will do so the rest of his days. The belief is that the Deer Woman has stolen the soul of the hunter and he is desperate to find her again but what he is really looking for is his own soul.
I find the parallels to addiction striking. It isn’t just with alcohol or drugs or even pornography is it? Some of us try to find happiness by constantly getting the latest gadget, biggest truck or new house in the best neighborhood, the newest clothes in fashion or newest love. Remember that you chose who and what you love, obviously some things and people are easier to love than others but the choice is still yours. If you find yourself constantly looking for the next thing, perhaps what you are really looking for is your own soul. Perhaps you are not filling your life with what your soul really needs.