Quitting masturbation isn’t easy–even veterans still have challenges in this area. But it is a battle you can win.
Here are some practical ideas that have helped me:
1. Have Healthy Outlets
Masturbators are energetic, creative, and passionate people who have a lot to offer. Find healthy places where you can take that energy and put it to good use.
2. Deal with the Undercurrent
Masturbation is not really about the behavior–it’s about medicating pain and trying to satisfy unmet needs in your life. Take a deep breath and go below the surface to find out WHY you’re masturbating. An X3Group will help. So will a counselor.
3. Start Writing and Keep Writing
This may sound crazy, but writing in a notebook or journal is a healthy outlet to get your “stuff” out. Write out your anger. Write out your feelings. Use it as a way to talk it out–both to yourself and to God.
4. Get a Strategy for Your Alone Time
Alone time and boredom can lead to masturbation, simply because you just have nothing else to do, so try to stay busy. Fill up your calendar. Go to bed tired.
5. Get a Media Strategy While You’re At It
Attack the source. Set up roadblocks. Consider a program like X3watch for your computer. Consider some filtering for your TV or a password. Restrict the sources of temptation.
6. You Need a Buddy
Find someone you can talk to about your struggles, someone you can trust and who will keep confidence. What I’m talking about here is accountability. This person may have to be a counselor or a minister. Again, an X3Group is a great place to start.
7. Realize It’s a Process
You didn’t become addicted overnight; you won’t get free overnight, either. Sobriety happens one day at a time, one meeting at a time, one breakthrough at a time. An X3Group will help you stay strong during this process.
8. Pray, Then Pray Some More
You probably have prayed God would take your masturbation away. A better prayer might be, “God, help me have a change of heart. Help me deal with the deep stuff. Help me find better outlets. Help me find a way to talk my stuff out with someone.”
Got more practical ways to quit masturbating? Leave them in the comments below.
For those who want to end their use of pornography, the first step is admitting the problem. After this, you need to identify your triggers. A trigger is a person, place, thing, emotion, or experience that can easily lead one into viewing pornography.
Some triggers can be easy to identify, such as a day at the beach with young girls running around in bikinis. Others, however, can be more difficult to trace. This was the case with Jeff. He was in sales and worked from home, and would often find himself viewing Internet pornography throughout the day. To Jeff, life seemed good, and he couldn’t think of any reason why he kept viewing porn.
In order to identify various triggers, it’s important to understand the different types of triggers. While there are countless triggers out there, we can divide them into two categories: sexual and non-sexual.
Sexual triggers are usually things that are blatantly sexual, such as the day at the beach as mentioned above. They can also include things such as pop-up ads on the Internet, television commercials during sports games, lingerie catalogs, sexual scenes in cable/satellite television shows or PG, PG-13 or R-rated movies, men’s lifestyle magazines, etc. Advertisers (and pornographers) know that men are visually stimulated and that “sex sells.” Thus, any type of media geared toward men will often have sexually suggestive (or explicit) content. Such content could easily become triggers for pornography use.
In addition, for some men, just the sight of a computer, television, cell phone, tablet, etc. could be a sexual trigger, especially if those devices are used to access sexual media. Even memories of past pornography viewed can be triggers. We call this euphoric recall.
Looking at his use of media and when he would fall into viewing pornography, Jeff realized that it often began when he was surfing sports websites. Often there would be advertising links that would lead him to view pornography. Lingerie ads on the Internet and in newspapers were also sexual triggers for Jeff.
Non-sexual triggers can be harder to identify; however, they are far more powerful than sexual triggers. They are usually rooted in painful emotions. Men can then turn to pornography to cope with these painful emotions. To help identify non-sexual triggers, I use the acronym: BLAST. The letters stand for the following:
B: Bored or Burnt Out
A: Angry, Apathetic, Afraid, Ashamed, or Abandoned
S: Sad, Stressed or Selfish
For Jeff, the most common non-sexual triggers were boredom, loneliness, stress, and being tired. While he was successful at his job, he no longer found it mentally stimulating or fulfilling. Being alone all day at home left him feeling lonely. Making sales wasn’t difficult for Jeff, so he found himself with a lot of free time during the day and he would easily get bored. Not having a fulfilling career was also stressful for Jeff. He was tired of the monotony. He longed for more excitement in his life.
Experiencing these negative emotions would lead Jeff to surf the Internet. He would end up on sites that would be sexually triggering, and the combination of sexual and non-sexual triggers would lead him to view pornography. Jeff used the excitement of pornography to deal with the boredom and monotony of his career.
One doesn’t always act out with pornography immediately after being triggered. It could take hours or days before falling. For example, a man who is triggered to use porn may wait several days until he is on a business trip to view pornography. Some act out with pornography and have no idea how or when they were triggered. In these situations, I recommend an exercise called “Clocking.”
Clocking Exercise: Thoroughly review the 48 hours prior to viewing pornography. Try to identify any sexual or non-sexual triggers during that time. Many people are surprised at how many triggers they can identify when doing the clocking exercise.
Developing New Strategies
Once sexual and non-sexual triggers are identified, strategies can be developed to properly deal with those triggers. This can help one avoid acting out. For example, Jeff began to look for new opportunities within his company to make his job more interesting and challenging. Instead of working from home, he began to go into the office more often to work so that he would be surrounded by other people. On days when he did work from home he would make plans to have lunch with friends or colleagues. He also limited his Internet use during the day and installed Covenant Eyes on his computer to monitor his Internet use. Altogether this helped him overcome his use of pornography.
Once you understand what your sexual and non-sexual triggers are, it’s not difficult to develop strategies to prevent you from falling into pornography use. Remember, the pornography use is the symptom. Understanding triggers can help you uncover and effectively deal with the root causes of it. This can contribute to lasting sobriety.
About the author, Peter Kleponis
Dr. Peter Kleponis is a Licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, PA. He holds an M.A. in Clinical-Counseling Psychology from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA and a Ph.D. in General Psychology from Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. Dr. Kleponis specializes in marriage & family therapy, pastoral counseling, resolving anger, men’s issues, and pornography addiction recovery. He is the author of Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography.
Winning the war against lust is by far the most common theme of all the emails we get in our inbox. Today’s question comes from an anonymous listener. “Hello, Pastor John. Thank you for taking my question! I am a female college student in Maryland, and I love listening to your podcast. Thank you for the encouragement and truth that you put out each week. My question is this: How exactly does one transform the way they think? The Bible talks about letting your mind be transformed, but I feel it’s not so cut and dry as it is laid out in Scripture. Lately, I’ve been struggling with lustful thoughts that make me feel very insecure and guilty. So how do I deal with this, especially in a sex-crazed culture? I want to fight the temptations. Every time a lustful thought occurs, I feel like I’ve let God down. How do I let my mind get transformed, as the Bible says, so that I can win this overwhelming and exhausting battle?”
“How exactly does one transform the way they think?” That’s where she starts. Let me pick up there. There are so many pieces to her words that I’m probably not going to touch on every one of them, but let me give our college-student friend in Maryland a simple two-part paradigm for transforming the way we think. Then I will try to fill it out with a few details.
Let me use the analogy of becoming physically fit or physically transformed into fitness to illustrate how we may become spiritually or mentally transformed in fitness. Almost everybody would see the common sense of saying that if you want to be physically fit, there are two aspects of the process of transformation. I think these same two are going to apply spiritually. Let’s call them resistance and reception.
By resistance I mean the kinds of exercises that put your muscle under a great deal of unnatural strain. For example, you want your biceps to be stronger so you can lift heavier packages or lift light ones more easily. You curl a weight up and down — say ten, fifteen, or twenty pounds — and you do it enough times that on the last one, you can barely do it because the resistance is so strong against your bicep.
In that process of resistance, the bicep, ironically, becomes stronger. It’s strange that you make yourself look like an idiot, trembling and pulling and unable to pull it up for the tenth or twentieth time. But out of that weakness, a few weeks later — lo and behold — your bicep is stronger.
By reception I mean you receive healthy foods and sufficient sleep and a kind of activity that is not so much pushing against something, but rather welcoming right and good things into your body.
So there’s the analogy, and you can work with it and see if I’ve got it right physically, because I don’t know much about that. But it seems to work for me.
Push Back the Darkness
Now let’s apply it to spiritual and mental fitness the way the Bible says it happens. Of course, resistance and reception are not sequential. They’re not sequential, like some days you do resistance and some days you eat. No, it’s simultaneous, at the same time.
First, there’s the biblical principle of resistance. James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Paul says in Romans 8:13, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” So we kill specific sins by targeting them with lethal resistance.
James 1:3 reads, “The testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” So the testing of faith corresponds to the resistance of the barbell by your bicep. Some temptation or some suffering comes into your life and threatens to conquer you and ruin your faith and your holiness. You have to lay hold on a promise of God and push hard against the rising doubt and unbelief with all your might, as you rely upon the promise of God.
So, push back the encroaching darkness just like you push on the floor when you do push ups. Why? Because this produces steadfastness or endurance. This means that those tests — those pressures of unbelief and temptation, those tests that have to be resisted by faith — result in two things.
1. These tests enable us to resist greater tests, greater temptations, and greater suffering in the future.
2. These tests enable us to meet all tests that used to make us stumble with relative ease so that we’re not thrown into a crisis every time we meet some sexual temptation, for example.
Now, all of this applies to lust and sexual temptation because those are thoughts and tests that we have to resist. We have to take hold of a promise of Christ, believe it, and then use it to push — actively push — the thought out of our minds.
We say, “No, no, no!” I mean, I do this. I’m not kidding here. Some lustful thought or some image comes into your mind, and you’ve got about five seconds to decide whether you’re going to let it take over or whether you’re going to push on it with “No — you’re out of here. In Jesus’s name, you’re out of here!”
You must direct your attention to some superior promise: “Jesus is better. Jesus is enough. He said this. You’re out of here.” And you keep pushing until it’s gone.
So that’s what I mean by resistance — the first half of the transformation. I want to encourage you that even though it may feel or sound exhausting at first, it really does yield a peaceful fruit of righteousness. Read Hebrews 12 and you’ll see what I mean.
Running on Empty
Now, here’s the second half. That’s only the first half, and so many Christians try to solve the problems of their temptations and their defeats only by the resistance half of sanctification. It won’t work. It just won’t work in the long run.
Let me give what I mean by the reception part. Paul says, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Notice, this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. We are receivers. This is the reception side.
We are fixing our gaze on the glory of the Lord, and we do that mainly in the word. We linger over the sweet and beautiful descriptions of the person and the work of Jesus Christ. We marinate our minds receptively by faith in the Crock-Pot of God’s word. We fix our eyes, the eyes of our hearts, on Jesus.
The more we receive into our hearts the beauty of Christ through the eyes of the heart as we read and meditate, the more we will have his desires, his preferences, and his convictions. We will be receptively transformed.
Oh, how sweet to have that receptive transformation so that the hooks of the devil don’t even lodge themselves anymore!
Here’s another passage to stir in. Colossians 3:10 reminds us that in Jesus we are new creatures, we have new selves. But we must put on the new self. That is, receive the new self. Put it on like a coat — consciously receive it.
But there’s a phrase in Colossians 3:10 that tips us off to how it happens. It says, “Put on the new self” — and here comes the phrase — “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” So, the transformation of the mind and the desires and the thoughts of the new self happens in knowledge.
This is just like saying, “Look to Jesus more and more, and your thoughts and your feelings will be changed. You will experience your newness.”
Here’s the last passage I’ll mention that relates to newness through beholding Christ — newness through knowledge. It relates specifically to sexual temptation. Here’s what Paul says: “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor” — and here comes the key — “not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5).
Notice where Paul lays the fault of sexual passion taking control and ruining our lives. He says that passion, that sinful passion, rules in people who do not know. Just like Colossians 3:10, they don’t know. Just like 2 Corinthians 3:18, they don’t see, don’t meditate on, don’t know, don’t absorb, don’t receive the knowledge of God.
In other words, they haven’t been renewed in knowledge. They haven’t set their minds to behold the glory of Jesus day and night so that they become like what they admire. They are at the mercy of their sinful passion because they haven’t been transformed by putting on the new self, renewed in knowledge.
That’s the biblical pattern of transforming our minds and our hearts so that we are less vulnerable to sexual temptation. It’s both resistance against unbelief and temptation and doubt and Satan, and it is the sweet and enjoyable reception, through God’s word, of the preciousness and the beauty and the greatness of Jesus. Both resistance and reception, over time, transform our hearts and our minds.