180 BT # 10 – Are Your Brake Pads Working? blog
Those of us who have been struggling with our sexual brokenness for years if not decades often feel worn down, hopeless, and ready to throw in the towel. We become discouraged. We rationalize that the fight is too difficult and just want to either completely quit or at least take a break from it and give in to our sexual desires.
I remember those days well and know how tormenting that place can be. It is in those moments when we can discover some very critical things about ourselves and about sexual addiction. If we can just stop for a moment, take a step back to observe what we are thinking and feeling we have a much better chance of making the right decision.
This is not an easy thing to do. Once our desires have begun to be aroused by something we see, or think, or remember our sex drive revs up and it is so easy to take our foot off the break and put the pedal to the metal. At that moment, when we decide to give in, a rush of the chemicals we are craving begins and unless something happens almost immediately, we will go back to our world of sexual sin which seems to be giving us this great pleasure but is only going to cause more pain.
All of us have something in our brains which we shall call our braking system. It is a place in our brain where we have the power of self-control. Specifically, it is called the;
right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (RVLPFC).
This part of our brain will help determine if we are going to be able to stop bad behaviors and have the self-control to say “NO” to sexual sin. Our capacity to be able to exercise self-control is what separates us from wild animals. However, it is a part of us that can be strong and well developed or weak and in disrepair. It can even be strong in some areas and weak in others.
For all of us who realize that we have a real problem saying no to sexual temptation, I am guessing there is some maintenance needed in this part of our brain because when tempted we feel somewhat helpless to say no and walk away.
So, how can I know if my brain’s braking system is working well or not working very well? Observe your actions and thoughts when you are being tempted. If you are giving in to temptation easily then your brakes are shot and ineffective. If you are able to exercise self-control and stop yourself from doing the things that you know are harmful, then your brakes are in good shape.
However, almost everybody has at least one area of their life where it seems like the brakes are shot, while in most areas they are working just fine. This is usually because we have made the decision to not put the brakes on sexual urges for years. We have pre-programmed our brains to bypass the braking system when it comes to sexual thoughts when we can exercise great self-control when it comes to injecting ourselves with heroine or binging on Brussel sprouts.
In his paper titled “The Brain’s Braking System (and how to ‘use your words’ to tap into it)”
Matthew Lieberman of UCLA Department of Psychology has learned something that can become very important to us in learning what we need to do to stop giving in so easily to sexual temptation and begin to develop the ability to put on the brakes and “just say no” to porn and sex.
Studies have shown that when a person is able to recognize their feelings and put those feelings into words the braking system becomes more active and one’s ability to say no increases. Most of us for years have not done this. We have allowed thoughts or images of sexual things to light up the amygdala of our brain. This can happen in a micro-second and when the amygdala of our brain lights up the prefrontal cortex of our brain has a coffee break.
Our prefrontal cortex is where we have the ability to use wisdom, be able to reason and think objectively about stuff. When it shuts down and the amygdala lights up, we are running on animal instinct and desire and the brake pedal is nowhere to be found.
However, when this process first begins and we are able to put into words what we are feeling, the prefrontal cortex comes alive again. The process of charging back to porn and sex can be seen and reasoned with and we will have more self-control to say no and walk away. We just need to identify what we are feeling and talk to ourselves about it. This not a cure all but it is part of getting your brakes fixed.
This is really becoming something our society is waking up to. It is called Mindfulness which is “…the ability to know what is going on in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”
What they are training people to do is something Paul taught in Philippians 4:8;
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
More on this tomorrow but this is really important for all of us to do whenever we are being tempted.