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Helpful practices for the fight against porn, fantasy and masturbation

In my first post, on how I overcame porn, sexual fantasy and masturbation, I outlined eight key things that I did differently this time, that seemed to make the present attempt quite easy (Section B). Since then, I have become aware of some other useful practices or strategies that I used less consciously, and I have had other people suggest things that resonate with my own experiences. I have listed them below, and will continue to add ideas as they come to my attention. I have relisted the initial eight strategies for a sense of completeness, so if you have already read my first post, skip down and start at point 9.

1. Understanding the physiology and endocrinology of sexual arousal

One thing that really helped me was being aware that it is hormones and endorphins that make me feel aroused, horny, or ‘on edge’. I learned that these hormones are released in response to my mind dwelling on sexual cues, and I discovered that they are only temporary and don’t continue to escalate indefinitely (unless I continually dwell on sexual thoughts). I’ve come to realise that the minute I stop dwelling on sexual thoughts, the hormones start to subside, and they are usually gone within an hour, and always overnight. Knowing this makes it much easier to get through rough patches. Even if I find myself really aroused, I know that it will pass. Sometimes I’m even curious to see how long the arousal takes to subside – treating it like an experiment really helps. Interesting note: the other day a very arousing image came to mind while I was in the shower, and ‘BOOM!’, my body exploded with endorphins. I turned my mind away immediately and refused to give the image any more consideration. Twenty minutes later, the arousal was completely gone, and I was back to baseline. All it took was twenty minutes. That’s pretty sweet. Anyway, I’ve written a lot more on the physiology and endocrinology of sexual arousal, here. Have a look if you are interested.

2. Learning to recognise a sexual thought, image or cue

I believe that the single most important thing that I’ve changed this time, is that the instant I register a sexual thought or image or cue, I turn away immediately, and shut it out. That’s the key to my success, I have no doubt. But before you can shut out such a thought or image, you need to know when you’re onto one. I know when I’ve hit a sexual thought now because I feel a warm burst of endorphins flooding into the region just above my stomach, I feel my chest tighten, and sometimes my groin muscles start to loosen or contract. It’s pretty obvious to me now when that happens. The cue could be a cute girl who walks past in short shorts, a billboard of a model in lingerie, or a random thought about sex that my mind wanders into while I’m thinking about other things (trains of thought can be be pretty strange at times). Even if you don’t get a really obvious burst of endorphins, you’re probably aware of what a sexual thought is. Algebra is not sexual. Boobs are sexual. A sexual cue could even be situational, like a sense of anticipation as I get into the shower, or close my bedroom door and drop my bag after a long day. It might be the thought process that goes ‘Now that I’m done with that task, I can take a break. What would I like to do? I could have a coffee, a nap, I could masturbate…’. Or if I’m on the computer, it could be the thought, ‘I wonder if there are any new videos at that site?’ or ‘Hey, I could just check out that site for a bit – it might be interesting.’ Sometimes a sexual cue is nothing more than a bodily sense of longing for sexual gratification, with no real object of desire. Whatever the cue is that triggers your arousal (or even just piques your interest), you need to get good at recognising such a cue. Over time you’ll be able to know when you’ve hit a cue when you get a burst of endorphins. For me the endorphin burst became much more acute after a week without ejaculation, as my sex drive increased.

3. Learning to instantly turn the mind away from the sexual thought, image or cue

It’s important to know that these sexual ‘cues’ result in the release of endorphins into your system, which makes you feel interested, aroused, and warm and fuzzy, but also shuts down your prefrontal cortex (the higher, more rational part of your brain) which is telling you that you shouldn’t masturbate. For this reason, you need to block out the sexual thought or mental image immediately. Don’t entertain the thought or flirt with it just a little because you enjoy the warm feeling it brings. The same goes for edging. That warm feeling is hormones putting your body into sex mode and shutting down that part of your brain that reminds you why you don’t want to masturbate. That feeling is warm, creeping death. The instant you feel even a tiny bit aroused or curious, you need to shut out that thought. No arguments. But here’s the good news. Make that reaction automatic and you’ll never have to struggle with this again. You will have already won.

By now you will see that what I am suggesting is complete absence of intentional sexual thought. Random thoughts come whether we like it or not, but what I’m suggesting is that you instantly reject and block them. Now I know that’s something that not everyone is prepared to do. If you’re like me, you probably want to entertain and enjoy sexual thoughts and fantasies, and would rather not sacrifice all sexual thought. We just want to not masturbate. Of course this is up to each of us, and if people want to keep going with the sexual thought and fantasy, that’s their choice. But the only thing that worked for me was cutting out all sexual thought and arousal, so that might be something to consider. What I love about this method is that I don’t spend hours in that ‘warzone’ middle ground between feeling on top of things, and relapsing. I used to be constantly in that place, where my body and mind are completely on fire, and I’m just trying not to touch my junk, or where I’m edging but trying not to accidentally release. Or where I’m looking at sketchy pictures but rationalising that they’re not ‘porn’ etc. In the past there was so much struggle – it was frankly exhausting at times. Many times I would give in and masturbate just to end the conflict. But the zero-arousal approach I’ve adopted this time has made it really easy. I just stop the process before the struggle even begins.

While I’ve made it sound easy, I acknowledge that perhaps not everyone will be able to control their thoughts just like that, so it might help if I explain it a little. To me it’s like a blocking out, or a redirecting of the sexual thought. When I feel the burst of endorphins above my stomach, I have an immediate reaction that’s like, ‘Woooaah, uh uh!’ And then rather than focussing on the image or the thought, or ‘investigating’ it, which I would naturally want to do, instead I sideline it, look past it, or around it. It’s like your grandpa’s just walked into the kitchen in his Y-fronts and struck up a conversation, and you’re looking everywhere in the room but at him. Or as if there’s an object suspended a couple of feet in front of your face, and you’re focussing on the wall behind it, or on the ceiling above it, or on the person next to it, but never focussing on the object itself. I don’t say, ‘Don’t think about sex. Don’t think about sex!’ That doesn’t seem to work. Rather, the image stays there in my consciousness, and I’m aware of it, but is shifted out of focus, so that it is diffused and loses its power. It’s as though it moves into your peripheral vision, as you look at things around it. A good way to do this is to grab any other thought or idea that is available to you and focus on that instead. Sometimes it’s as easy as just refocussing on the task at hand (if I’m working or studying at that time), or refocussing on the book I’m reading, or the TV show that I’m watching. It’s easy if you’re with other people, because you can just refocus on what they are saying. That sort of thing.

Sometimes when I feel a burst of arousal hormones, I turn and focus on the actual sensation of the hormones in my body, make a note of their intensity, and try to predict how long that dose will take to leave my bloodstream. While that might seem like a bad idea, I don’t usually find that the sensations themselves are mentally arousing, because once you identify them and objectify them, and predict their demise, they actually lose some of their power. Usually by the time I’m done analysing the hormones and the sensation above my stomach, I’ve forgotten about the original sexual image or cue. More on this in point 4.

I actually  believe that learning to instantly turn the mind away from the sexual thought, image or cue is the key to my success in overcoming porn, fantasy and masturbation. For this reason, I have explained this process in much more detail here. Feel free to have a look if you are finding it hard to control your thoughts, or if you are perhaps not quite sure what I am talking about.

4. Transcending your emotions

In order to control your thoughts and ride out sexual arousal, it is very helpful if you can ‘transcend’ your emotions, as it were. Take a step back from them, lift your mind up out of the fog of emotion and hormones, and look down on your feelings objectively, as though they are something to be observed from a distance, rather than something that you are immersed in and being carried along by. This is something that I have learned to do over the past three years as I’ve struggled with anxiety. Now, when I have a feeling of anxiety and dread in my gut, rather than panicking or thinking that there is actually something to be afraid of, I just say to myself, ‘Oh, there’s that old familiar feeling of anxiety just above my stomach. That feeling is actually adrenaline that’s being released into my blood stream. It’s nothing to worry about, it’s just because my endocrine system is a little messed up.’ And so I ignore it. It’s the same with feelings of sexual longing or arousal, if you can lift your mind above the feeling, and look down on it, you can say, ‘Oh, I’m very aroused right now. In fact, my blood is pumping with endorphins and adrenaline. That’s because I just had a random thought about sex, and a whole lot of chemicals got dumped into my bloodstream. They’ll be gone in 10-30 minutes though, so just ignore it and get back to work.’ Being aware of your emotions and rising above them is a sweet skill to have, if you can cultivate it. This could be a great opportunity to learn it.

5. Being realistic about the increased sex drive in Stage 2 (hard mode)

It was very important for me to realise that “sexual pressure” does not relentlessly build up, making it harder and harder to keep my mind off sex, and leading to inevitable relapse. But my experience had always been that things seemed to get harder the longer I went without masturbation. Why was that? As explained above, I learned that regular ejaculation dulls the sex drive, and that after a week or two of abstaining, the sex drive returns to full strength, making it much harder to control. This was a whole new league that I was stepping into, and something I was not used to at all. But it was important to understand why this was happening, and to expect it, and to not freak out and think that I can’t handle it. On the plus side, the enhanced sensitivity to visual and mental sexual cues can actually be advantageous, because the burst of hormones which functions as a warning system, alerting you to turn the mind away from a sexual cue, becomes much more clear and noticeable. There is far less danger of finding yourself accidentally a long way down the path to masturbation, when the initial warning sign is so distinct.

6. Committing to short periods only, and using delaying tactics

By signing up to a ten-day experiment, I was motivated to finish the ten-day experiment, just to see how it went (particularly to see how Day 7 was, and whether Days 8-10 were easier than Day 7). And when I was tempted to masturbate during those ten days I was able to just stall for time, and put it off until the end of the ten days, with the promise that I could go back to masturbating then, if I liked. It’s much easier to say to yourself ‘wait a few days, then masturbate’, than it is to say ‘don’t masturbate now or ever again.’ And ten days seems so much easier and more manageable than ‘forever’. But by the time the ten-day marker came around, I was feeling great, and I realised that the ten days hadn’t been all that hard, and I was pumped at having gotten through the ten days. So I was ready to sign up for another ten days. I’m now on my seventh lot of ten days, and I still haven’t decided to go back to masturbating, although I’m open to it if I decide that it’s a better lifestyle.

I reckon that making just a few big decisions in your right mind is better than making a whole lot of little decisions when you’re aroused. Who has the energy to repeatedly review all the reasons why they don’t want to masturbate every time a sexual thought pops into your head (especially in the fog of horniness)? Just trust yourself and trust that your decision/commitment to abstain for ten days is a good one, with the promise that you can masturbate at the end of the ten days if you still want to.

7. Keeping a journal

Keeping the journal was really helpful in reinforcing the experimental aspect of it, and also giving me some perspective in the couple of harder patches – I could look at it from a 20-day perspective, or wherever I was up to, which would show me that what I was feeling was out of the ordinary, and temporary, and had only lasted a short time in the past. I used to think that the longer you go without orgasm, the harder it becomes. And that the pressure just builds and builds until you just can’t help yourself. Keeping this journal has shown me that the pressure actually resets overnight, and that I generally feel fine the next morning, even if I was feeling really aroused or ‘on edge’ the night before. As someone, somewhere, once said, ‘You can’t improve what you can’t measure’ (or something like that).

8. Remembering past struggles, relapses and what it felt like to be addicted

Although the last 70 days have been pretty easy, there have been a couple of times where I’ve thought, ‘I’m not enjoying this sense of sexual longing. I think I’d prefer to just go back to how it was, with the porn, fantasy and masturbation.’ Or times when I really miss the nice feeling that masturbation used to give me. What was really helpful at those times was to look back over some journal entries I had made previously, and to see how frustrated and depressed I was that I simply could not overcome this habit, no matter how hard I tried. Having seen this, it was a no-brainer to keep going. I could clearly see that I am much happier overall now than I was back when I was masturbating regularly. Similar to this, sometimes when I’m tempted I visualise that moment right after I masturbate, when I’ve just broken a long period of successful abstinence. I remember how bad that feels, and how disappointed I am when I do that. This reality check usually puts to rest any illusions that I have that I’d be happier if I went back to the old ways, and reminds me that I’m actually feeling much better right now than I will be after I masturbate.

9. Writing a list of the sexual cues that you encounter

In point 2, I talked about learning to recognise a sexual thought, image or cue. Since these can be so many and varied, my personal method for recognising one is simply to grow sensitive to the release of arousal hormones that they trigger. If this sensation is not so clear to you, the following might be of benefit. One forum member suggested writing a list of all the different sexual cues that you encounter, as you become aware of them (or fall to them), so that you might be more prepared for them the next time they arise. You might start with visual cues, and include billboards, women at work or school, films, facebook ads etc. and then list situational cues, such as showering, waking in the morning, going to bed at night, etc. If you’re a person like me, with an active imagination who spends a lot of time inside their own head, then you might add ‘random thoughts about sex’ to your list. Everyone’s list will be different, because what piques one person’s interest will have no impact on someone else. With the technique that I have used, it’s not a matter of avoiding all sexual cues (although it’s wise not to seek them out), but rather it is a matter of training the mind to respond to them in a helpful way, by refusing to dwell on them or follow them where they lead. The idea of making a list of potential sexual cues is just to aid you in recognising them, so that you can be alert to them and ready to deal with them when you next encounter them.

10. Writing down the reasons you have for giving up masturbating

This one is quite similar to point eight. One trap that is quite easy to fall into in the later stages of abstinence from sexual fantasy, porn or masturbation is forgetting why you gave it up in the first place. After the first two weeks of abstinence, I found that my reaction to sexual cues became almost instinctive, and I had little to no trouble with arousal and acute urges. But the times when I came close to relapsing were when I felt a generalised, and sometimes bodily, longing for sexual fulfilment, and thought to myself, ‘I wonder if I wouldn’t be happier and more content if I went back to my old masturbation habit?’ When we first make a commitment to quit, our minds are filled with all the reasons why. It seems crazy to continue with porn and masturbation. But after a couple of months, we can forget. It is easy to romanticise the habit, and to think that it wasn’t all that bad after all. Of course, if you do relapse, you will very quickly remember all the reasons why you wanted to quit in the first place. The aim of this strategy is to help you remember all the reasons why you wanted to quit, BEFORE you relapse. So write down all the reasons why you are giving up porn, fantasy or masturbation, and refer to the list when you are tempted, and even when you are not.

Here’s a good example list from a forum user:

10 Reasons Why I want to Quit Masturbating

1. I feel guilty afterwards
2. It makes me tired
3. It takes up a lot of time
4. It makes it difficult for me to think
5. It stresses me out that I might get caught
6. It is at odds with my ideals
7. It makes me smell and sweaty
8. It takes away my sexual interest in my relationship
9. It makes me over objectify women
10. It prevents me from being successful in what matters most to me.

Use this as inspiration as you write your own.

11. Writing down refutations to your excuses

With most addictions, the addicted brain will look for excuses to satisfy its craving. Particularly in the early stages of abstinence and withdrawal, your brain will suggest reasons why you should masturbate or look at porn. It can be helpful to become aware of the excuses that your brain offers, and to be ready with true responses to them. I found myself doing this mentally, after falling for these excuses one too many times. It might be a good idea to write down a list of the excuses that lead you to relapse, and to write down refutations to each of them. Don’t wait until you are struggling to do this. Write them down when you are thinking clearly and in your right mind.

Here are some examples:

Excuse: I’m quite aroused, so I have to masturbate or I won’t be able to sleep.

Response: There are better ways to relax, like switching off your mind. Also you often feel agitated and restless after you masturbate anyway.

Excuse: I’m feeling really horny because I haven’t masturbated in a few days, and the only way to release the pressure is to masturbate eventually, so I might as well do it now.

Refutation: I’m not horny because I haven’t masturbated in a while. I’m horny because I’m thinking about sex and masturbation. Stop thinking about sex and masturbation and the ‘pressure’ will subside naturally.

Excuse: I’ll feel much better afterwards.

Refutation: Uhhh… No I won’t. I always feel crap after I masturbate.

Make a list and add to it as your brain devises new schemes. If you like, it might help to read this list regularly, not just when you’re struggling. That way you’ll be ready with the response to a common excuse, the minute your brain offers it.

I hope you might find some of these practices helpful. If you have any questions at all, comment below and I will get back to you!


18 Comments

  1. Dominick says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve struggled with porn for almost half of my 19 years, and have always wanted to quit. It’s great to see someone with literally my exact same experiences, and know that they are overcoming the challenge. I’ve always been serious about stopping, especially recently, but have never really had a good plan so to say. I’m definitely going to be putting these tips into practice, and re reading this post regularly to stay reminded and focused. Thank you so much! I know it will be hard, but I’m feeling more eager and ready to end this emotional and physical domination that has stolen undeserved time from my life. Thank you!!

    • nofapsolideo says:

      Thanks for your comment Dominick! It’s really encouraging to me to see that I might be able to help other people. I want to encourage you – it’s really worthwhile to give up this habit. I haven’t felt this great in years 🙂

  2. Frank says:

    I’ve been (and still am) hunted daily by this very same problem for the largest part of my life, and although I gave it much thought and knew it is a despicable and unhealthy habit which I should throw away, sometimes I always found myself falling “back into routine” and asking myself how the heck did it happen. Thank you for this extensive analysis and advices! I’ll try to apply them to my life.

  3. Jared says:

    Thanks for this! I was basically in the exact same situation as you and have found it easy to cut out porn, but very difficult to cut out fantasy/masturbation. Stopping sexual thoughts instantly seems to be the answer.

  4. nick says:

    Thanks so much for this! Its been a big help 🙂

  5. joey says:

    Your account is be a must-read for all priests confessing sexual addicts. Actually 99% of the reading was like reading my own diary, so many experiences and thoughts, reflections, discoveries in common… Even the allergy to reading on the web alongside the amount you wrote didn’t prevent me from going through till the last dot. Brilliant aid, very reaffirming and comforting. Thanks for sharing and such an in-depth account! God bless you Brother.

    • nofapsolideo says:

      Thanks so much for the comment! I’m so glad that you found what I wrote interesting, and could relate to it. I really hope something here is helpful to you.
      God bless you too, brother!

  6. Khurram says:

    I am 25 and into this habbit for 7 years,since then reading to quit it but this only article i found quite reliable. seems it is going to work. I am Med student and this habbit has ruined not only my study but life. Thhanks brother for your worthy effort. I am gonna try this from now

  7. Umair says:

    I am really thankful to you.I couldn’t find any solution to this problem,you have helped me alot and I am finding easy to overcome it thanks!

    • nofapsolideo says:

      Hey, thanks for the comment. I’m really happy to hear that you are finding it easy to overcome!

      I hope you continue in your success – let me know if you have any questions!

  8. John says:

    Hey, I was just wandering you know how you said that sexual arousal releases hormones which typically subside after 30 minutes to at most overnight, how come when I see something as small as a prank on YouTube with some bikini girls in there and I get aroused I feel like my motivations have been replaced by that arousal- (wanting to fulfil it) and the feeling, no matter how hard I try to ignore it, will still last till the next day and it’ll make me a bit mentally hazy for a while…? If you can help me that’d be so great thank you 🙂

    • nofapsolideo says:

      Hey! Good question. I asked a similar question to a friend of mine who was a doctor, but about adrenaline. “How come if we have a near miss in a car accident or something we can feel ‘shaken up’ for the rest of the day?” His answer was that it’s because the mind keeps replaying the incident over and over again in your memory. It’s not that the adrenaline lasts in your bloodstream for the whole day – in fact adrenaline should be gone in around 10 minutes – but every time you replay the incident in your mind, more adrenaline gets released. I sometimes stuggle with anxiety, and I know that just thinking about certain things (usually my to-do list) sends a burst of adrenaline into my system. So the reason you feel aroused for ages after seeing one sexual youtube clip is becuase your mind brings those images up again and again. Why? Because your mind thinks that it’s important to think about those bikini girls. By way of comparison, in the case of the near-miss car accident, my mind will dwell on it for hours, even days, in order to work out what went wrong and how I can avoid another life-threatening situation like that in the future. You wouldn’t want to just forget about something big like that, or you’d never learn, and probably not survive very long! Similarly, we have a very strong sexual drive which helps us to reproduce, and that’s a good thing. But what that means is that the more basic part of our brain thinks that any sexual opportunity (or even a video simulation of one) is a very important thing, and something that needs to be dwelt upon over and over. That’s why we need to use the higher part of our brain to override this instinct. I had to tell myself repeatedly that I didn’t want to dwell on sexual thoughts, that I was doing an experiment to see if I could avoid sexual thought for 10 days, that it was perfectly OK to not think about sex. Of course my animal brain was screaming out that the most important thing to think about was sex, but I knew better. So I practiced and practiced turning my mind away from sex and towards non-sexual interests, and kept reassuring myself that I was not missing out on anything by doing so. And as I did this, I watched my sexual arousal subside in minutes. It is possible!

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