“Be ready to not like what you find once you remove the porn. Be okay with not liking it. And know that it can change and it is your privilege to own the truth of your life and learn to make it what you want it to be.
Whether it is shifting your mindset in these areas or changing your actions in some way or both, you can up-level your status and learn to make love to life instead of to your hand.”
Our brains throw tantrums when we take away the reward of porn. The tantrums will be bigger at first and will lessen over time. Knowing how and why this works helps us stop judging ourselves for it, which helps us move forward. And it helps us plan ahead.
An “Extinction what?”
An extinction burst is a concept from behavioral psychology. It involves the concept of elimination of a behavior by refusing to reinforce it. When you take away the reward, before you experience a lessening of desire, you will first experience a burst of increased desire and brain energy devoted to getting that reward. That part is the extinction burst.
Porn gives a major, concentrated dopamine reward to your brain. When combined with masturbation and orgasm, the reward is magnified with endorphins and other neurotransmitters.
Our brains become accustomed to this reward. We turn to porn/masturbation/orgasm for a number of reasons.
- Many of these reasons can be summed up as just escaping momentarily from our conscious human experience.
- Another reason is that we have conditioned our brains to want it.
Since our brains are especially good at learning while a reward is present, that quick, efficient, automatic part of our brain starts pulling the puppet strings to get us to look at porn and masturbate almost before we consciously know what’s happening.
Once you decide to take that reward away, your brain will experience an extinction burst as part of the process of deconditioning your overdesire for porn/masturbation. In other words, your brain will throw a tantrum.
Just plan on it. It will be different for everybody, but it will be there. You may have a few bursts as you decondition all the layers of desire for porn/masturbation that you’ve learned over time.
Say you have a toddler. And every time your toddler screamed and cried (threw a tantrum) you gave him a candy. So the toddler will continue to tantrum whenever he wants a candy. Since it has sugar in it, this will happen often. Even to the point of being sick.
When my son was just big enough to reach the counter, at a family party, without us knowing, he was cleaning out a whole bowl of skittles on the counter. He threw up that night. Sugar tricks our brain in a similar way as porn. Our lower brain wants it even to our own detriment.
Letting your brain have continued access to porn is like letting a toddler run around with a knife.
I digress. Back to the analogy.
If you say no to the toddler who is used to getting candy when they tantrum. He will initially scream louder. This will happen for a period of time, a certain number of times until he realizes that doesn’t get him candy any more. It is like he is testing to make sure that that behavior doesn’t get him what he wants anymore. Then the tantrums will reduce. The screaming will become less frequent.
The same thing will happen with your brain when you take away the reward of porn. At first, your brain will scream louder than ever. It will throw a tantrum. It will test you. But knowing this, you can be ready for it.
How to be ready
- Plan ahead
- Know that there is a finite amount of urges you must allow without reward
- Learn to allow (not resist or avoid) urges without reward
- Be ready to experience the truth of your life
If you typically look at porn at night, be ready for urges to come at night.
If you typically look at porn when you feel shame, be ready for urges when you feel shame.
When in physical pain or tired? Be ready whatever your hot spots are.
Whatever it is, plan on the obstacle and create a strategy up front for what you will do. (Hint: this doesn’t mean get rid of all access to porn in the whole world.)
Knowing this allows you to plan ahead and be even more strategic in how you want to handle these situations. Map it out specifically, in detail. What will I do, not if, but when that urge arises Saturday night when my wife is out of town and I’m home alone?
A Finite Number of Urges
There is a finite number of urges that you must allow without reward before this becomes easier for you and your desire is reduced.
In one of the Harry Potter movies, Dumbledore has to drink this whole bowl of water in order to gain access to a valuable item he and Harry want. The water is cursed by dark magic. He tells Harry to make him drink all of it no matter how much he begs or cries. Harry helps him do this and sure enough Dumbledore freaks out. But they get the item and Dumbledore is back to his senses once he drinks the last drop.
Think of your extinction burst like this. You have to drink a certain amount of this stuff that will cause you pain, cause your brain to freak out, cause you to feel desperate and beg. But you need to make yourself drink it, and all of it, every drop. Then you will gain access to that reduced desire for porn/masturbation.
But each urge you allow without reward must be truly allowed and not resisted/avoided.
Learn to Allow Urges
Resisting and/or avoiding an urge looks like this:
You notice the urge. You freak out. You fight against it. You try to distract yourself by doing something else. You want it to go away right away. You tell yourself you shouldn’t even want porn. You try to remove any and all access to porn and live in fear that this urge will overtake you. If you’re lucky, you get through it without looking at porn/masturbating but you’ve depleted your willpower. And the urge comes back just as strong the next time, but your willpower is depleted so you are even more likely to turn to porn.
If you try to check out or numb out from the urge itself, you will lose the battle every time. This is like a toddler knowing you didn’t even hear his tantrum so he saves it just as big and strong for the next time you can hear him.
Allowing an Urge
The toddler needs to know you heard the tantrum and see that you are not giving him candy even though you are totally aware of the tantrum. It is the same with your urges. You need to become completely tuned it, checked in, and present with your urge to truly allow it.
Let the urge be there. Let the urge know you know it’s there. Even invite it in, as long as it wants to stay, reassuring it that you are not going to reward it with porn this time.
Don’t judge yourself for having the urge. Look at it as a sign that you have a healthy human brain that is working by design.
As you get better at this, you can intentionally put yourself in situations where you have been more susceptible to porn/masturbation. And you can let the urge wash over you, not rewarding it.
This takes practice. Most guys make mistakes along the way. That is okay. There is no such thing as starting over.
Start counting the urges you allow without reward and focus on that instead of when your last time looking at porn was. Especially in the beginning. As you gain confidence, you can set bigger goals and gain more control over this than you ever imagined.
Experience the Truth of Your Life
The dopamine from porn makes your brain think you are accomplishing something really important. It can replace the more natural low-dopamine rewards for accomplishment, status, connectedness, or sexual success with a partner.
When you remove that concentrated dopamine, the activities you really want to want can seem dull, almost like watching a movie in black and white compared to color. But the longer you remove that concentrated dopamine source from your life, the more the color will return to these other activities.
Start by knowing that you are a completely worthy human being with dignity just for existing on this planet. But then take a look at where you are at in these areas of status.
Odds are, you are lacking in some or all of these areas in a way that makes you feel the need to escape to porn/masturbation.
Here are the areas of status that Mark Queppet says to look at.
- Sexual status: how do you feel about your romantic life?
- Performance: How do you feel about how you perform in school/work/etc.?
- Financial status: How do you feel about the amount of money you have?
- Social status: How do you feel about your standing at work, in your friend group, and in society in general?
- Physical status: How do you feel about your own body?
- Moral status: How well do you live according to your own highest conceptions of goodness? Most important for a lot of people.
Be ready to not like what you find once you remove the porn. Be okay with not liking it. And know that it can change and it is your privilege to own the truth of your life and learn to make it what you want it to be.
Whether it is shifting your mindset in these areas or changing your actions in some way or both, you can up-level your status and, like Mark Queppet says, learn to “make love to life instead of to your hand.”
Check out my How to Stop Looking at Porn Program by scheduling a free mini-session with me. What are you waiting for? Click here.
For a free jumpstart on learning the skill of not looking at porn check out my guide: “How to Stop Looking at Porn.”