18 Sep Breaking The Habit
Breaking a habit sounds more achievable than breaking an addiction, right?
We think of habits as small things such as biting our nails, frequently checking our social media accounts, or comfort eating.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s sexual, nutritional or vocational, breaking a habit sounds far easier than eliminating an addiction. But it’s still something that most people struggle with – we all know someone who’s failed to stick to the diet or to quit obsessively checking their Instagram every five minutes.
It shouldn’t really be a surprise though as the truth is, a habit and an addiction are in essence the same things. Whether it’s eating too many biscuits, biting your nails, drinking lots of coffee or innocently consuming pornography to “get you in the mood”, the habit is addictive. You experience pleasure from it and you want to continue feeling that – you’re only human after all.
However, there comes a point when you recognise that the instantaneous pleasure, is accompanied by long-term harm. But the lure of immediate gratification still gets the better of most of us.
Although, quitting a bad habit can be easier than you think. Sports coaches are known to have phenomenal success in helping people change their habits – they know that reinforcing the right practices and eliminating the negative ones will dramatically improve the performance of their athletes.
What we wanted to know is if the wisdom of sports coaches could help men, in particular, break the destructive habit of pornography. So, we called on Allon Khakshouri, the High-Performance Expert and Former Manager of world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic to get his feedback on habits and willpower in general.
What he shared with us though, has far-reaching potential and indeed, could prove incredibly helpful to men who have habits of a more sensitive nature including the consumption of pornography.
What’s the problem with porn?
Many people today see pornography as harmless – it’s just consenting adults performing sexual acts on each other. While there are numerous issues including the exploitation of the workers, there are increasing amounts of evidence that pornography is also damaging for the viewer.
The arrival of the internet has seen an explosion in this industry with it now worth billions of dollars, and it continues to grow. The ease of access means that the average age of a boy accessing pornography has plummeted to just 11 years old with some becoming addicted by the time they’re in their teens.
Professionals such as Dr. Cline, report that an addiction to pornography leads to a wide range of sexual addictions, severe depression and relationship breakups. Initially, pornography provides gratification, but over the long term, men can feel guilt, shame and fear about their habit which negatively impacts on their mental wellbeing.
Viewers can also quickly become desensitised which leaves them needing more extreme material to achieve the same level of gratification they initially felt – a slippery slope to go down. Some find that they need to act out the scenes they have been watching. This spiral downwards only increases their feelings of guilt and shame and places further pressure on relationships.
But surely it’s just a matter of choosing not to watch it…or is it?
Why willpower alone is not enough
Many believe that the route to breaking a habit is sheer willpower. However, we all know someone who’s decided to give up sugary snacks, who battles through the first few days and then given in to temptation when out with a group of friends. Willpower is easily broken. But why is this?
In our interview, Khakshouri explained that we are only aware of 5% of our actions. The vast majority of what we do is performed on autopilot – things that we have repeated many times over until we no longer need to think about them (exactly how you define a habit!).
Willpower alone will not help you during the 95% of the time that you’re acting subconsciously. Without even thinking about it, you’ve picked up the cake in front of you and taken a bite, or opened the private browser and started searching for your fantasy.
While willpower has a role to play, other techniques are also needed to help you raise your awareness and finally break the habit.
Steps to breaking the habit
#1 Recognise & Admit
The first step to breaking a habit is to admit and recognise the problem, whatever stage you’re at, for example:
- You’re habitually watching porn, and it’s not making you feel great
- You’re watching it occasionally, but actually, you don’t want to reach that slippery slope
- You’re addicted to porn, and it’s causing problems in your life.
But recognition goes deeper than that.
It becomes a far more powerful tool when you can identify and recognise the benefits you are receiving from using pornography. We asked Khakshouri what he thought made a habit destructive. His response was “we often create habits to cope with situations like loneliness and disappointments”.
Pornography can be a coping mechanism for something you’re experiencing in your life. To break the habit, you need to ask yourself the question, “what is my pornography use helping me with in my life?”. When you can identify what that something is, you can begin dealing with it more positively and healthily and negate the need for pornography.
#2 Raise your awareness
Once you’ve recognised the problem, you can then begin raising your awareness which will help you during that 95% of the time that you’re acting on autopilot.
According to Khakshouri, one of the best ways to increase our awareness of habits and triggers is, “ by slowing down time frequently through practices of meditation and reflection.” He explains that “once we can observe our thoughts as a bystander, we create real choice.” He also points out that it allows us the time and space to “think about some of our negative habits and how they have been formed” thereby heightening our awareness further.
Meditation not only increases your awareness so you can discover the triggers of your habit, but it also allows you the distance to look at your actions objectively. This will enable you to plan for those triggers and to think differently about what you’re doing, thus giving you more control over your actions.
#3 The future now…
Most people will have heard about how athletes use visualisation techniques to imagine every detail of their race or game. It’s a highly effective technique used by those at the top of their sport.
But visualising the future has an even greater role to play, especially when it comes to developing and breaking habits.
One significant difference between an alcoholic and a high performer is the role the future plays in their actions. Khakshouri explained that the alcoholic remains focused on that next drink; they seek instant gratification. Whereas the high performer focuses on where they will be in a few years time; the long-term satisfaction that they’ll gain.
To overcome the habit of using pornography your focus needs to shift from the immediate pleasure you receive to visualising your future with healthy, fulfilling, real-life relationships that bring you long-term pleasure.
Focusing on what that will look like and how it will feel, will help you break the habit.
#4 A problem shared
A problem shared is a problem halved and a goal shared can dramatically increase your chances of achieving it.
This is the same for habits. Sharing your intentions to overcome a habit or addiction with someone that you can trust and who makes you feel safe, will dramatically increase your chances of success – whether it’s smoking cigarettes, eating sugary snacks or using pornography. They can offer you both accountability and support.
But Khakshouri sees an additional advantage to this. He believes that when we’re, “comfortable to share mistakes and vulnerabilities…we no longer need to find ways to numb our thoughts and emotions”. He advises that we invest time in building “more loving relationships in which [we] can share openly and express [ourselves] without fear of shame and embarrassment.”
When we have a relationship in which we feel loved and confident in sharing our feelings, we no longer need the harmful habit.
However, developing this type of connection with someone can take time. If you don’t have that type of support in your life right now, professionals can listen to you and offer you help and support to overcome your habit or addiction while you begin building those relationships.
Whatever stage you’re at with your pornography use, you can overcome the addiction and replace it with a life full of valuable, real-life relationships which make you feel great.
Plus, by breaking the habit, you’re not only creating a brighter future for yourself, you’re also saying no to pornography and in the process, inadvertently saving a child or woman from sex trafficking.
Yep, you read that right. And no, it’s not an exaggeration.
Pornography – a multi-million dollar business – can only function and satisfy its viewers with women. Contrary to popular belief, these women are more often than not, forced into taking part. By ending your consumption of pornography, you’re reducing the demand for it and dealing with the issue at the source.
You get to break an unfulfilling habit that could be detrimental to your happiness AND you’re empowering a woman to empower herself without ever meeting her.
A win-win situation.
In the words of Kelly McGonigal, “self-awareness, self-care, and remembering what matter most— are the foundation for self-control.”
Habits and addictions can be broken. You’re not alone and you CAN do it.
Reach out to us or someone you know and be the change that you want to see in the world. It is possible to Do Good Now Today.