Many of us have been taught:
- that “better” (more desirable) emotions come from taking certain actions.
- to avoid the negative emotions and get back to positive as quickly as possible.
These two ideas create a recipe for turning to porn/masturbation.
Let me explain. And at the end, I’ll offer an alternative approach.
When we think emotions come from actions we are working under an incorrect assumption.
In fact, emotions come from thoughts.
So if we think we shouldn’t feel negative emotions and we end up sometimes feeling crappy emotions anyway, we will try to get away from them.
And if the actions that we think should change how we feel don’t actually get us away from the negative emotions, then we turn to an action that does seem to change how we feel.
Even if it only changes how we feel momentarily.
The unnaturally high amounts of dopamine (and other neurotransmitters) that come from porn/masturbation can seem to change how we feel in the moment.
Even just anticipating porn can release dopamine and/or endorphins. Dopamine gives you a sense of pleasure. Endorphins make your heart race, act as natural pain killers, and a variety of other things.
So looking at porn/masturbating, or just thinking about doing it later, can change the sensations in your body enough that it is easier not to notice any uncomfortable emotions.
What people don’t realize is this “numbs them out” from an equal amount of positive emotions. So you are checking out from both negative and positive parts of the human emotional experience.
So even though it doesn’t help us feel better emotionally, porn/masturbation becomes the next best thing. Because it, at least, sort of works to distract from or numb from emotions in the short term.
If working under the assumption that actions should change how you feel, everything will seem more right in the universe when you find an action that seems to almost kinda do that momentarily.
Porn/Masturbation Does Not Change Our Emotions
It changes our physical sensations in our body, but not our emotions. If it seems like it changes your emotions, that is because maybe it is easier to think a different way when you are using porn or know that it is coming.
When anticipating porn, maybe it is easier to think:
At least I know I’ll get a break from this later. I can hold out until then.
These thoughts may create the emotions relief or even excitement for that “break” from the negative emotions.
If using porn/masturbation, maybe it is easier to think:
If my emotions get too out of hand, I can always fall back on this.
This might give you emotions like confidence or security. But these emotions do not come from porn/masturbation, they come from your thoughts.
But Do Emotions Really Come From My Thoughts?
Some might say, “But when I do x or y or z I always feel better after.”
First, if you feel better after, it is because of thoughts you are thinking, not because of the actions. You may just have a tendency to think certain thoughts after doing certain activities.
Secondly, do you really ALWAYS feel better after doing x, y, and z? Like every time? Serving my kids (feeding, cleaning up after, taking to dentist, protecting) is one of the most noble things I could do. If actions really did create emotions, then if there were any actions that should create the most amazing positive emotions, it is these actions.
The truth is, these actions do not make you feel better emotionally. I can feel really great while serving my kids and I can feel really terrible while serving my kids. If you expect actions to make you feel better emotionally, you will be frustrated, maybe even about half the time.
How to Start Feeling Better
- Accept and start noticing that emotions come from thoughts
- Accept that it is okay to have negative emotions and you may have them about half the time.
If you stop expecting actions to make you feel better emotionally, actions like looking at porn/masturbation become less relevant.
If you allow negative emotions to be there long enough to process them, you start to notice that the emotion itself isn’t really all that threatening.
I would bet that more of your suffering in life comes from resisting negative emotions than from the negative emotions themselves.
There is pain. And then there is suffering. Suffering is what we add to the mix by resisting the existing pain.
What if we reduce or eliminate the suffering? Then all we’re left with is pain. And you’ll begin to notice that the pain is much more manageable when you stop adding all that suffering on top.
This is an ongoing practice for me. But there is so much power in awareness and noticing these things.
The more we look at things these ways, the more we will be empowered to changes. It is a game changer!
Need help learning how to manage your painful emotions?
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.”