180 BT # 11 – Developing Self-Control ~ blog
Growing in our recovery from sexual addiction and brokenness is not as simple as following a certain number of steps. If you have a cavity then going to almost any dentist would solve the problem. Cavities are not all that complicated … drill it and fill it and the problem is solved.
Substance or behavioral addictions are very complicated. Each person is different in so many ways and their addictive behaviors can be caused by so many things. Different things trigger people in different ways. What we have done and what has been done to us is also very different and so there is no one answer or approach that is going to work for everyone.
However, there are foundational truths that do apply to every person regardless of who we are and where we are in the journey of recovery. It is these essential and core truths that we are focusing on in our 180 Basic Training Emails, which will then become the 180 Basic Training Manual. Our content is specifically focused on Christian men and our approach is completely based on the Bible so that I know we are dealing with the truth of Scripture.
One extremely important need we all have is the demand we have for developing self-control. Self-control is the ability to not do what we know we are not supposed to do and the ability to do what we know we need to do. As human beings, we have the capacity to apply the wisdom and knowledge of past experiences to situations we find ourselves in and use that to make either a good or a bad choice.
Brain science has discovered that there is a part of our brain where we apply wisdom from our past to make a decision in the present. Our brains remember things we have done in the past and depending on if it was pleasurable or painful will be an important factor in us deciding whether we will take the action or stop taking the action.
The problem arises when something feels good at the moment but is not good for you when the moment passes. For example, have you ever eaten something that at the moment tasted delicious and later gotten food poisoning? It might have been great to taste it and swallow it but when it comes back up as vomit you will not want to eat that type of food again.
We develop what is called our “braking system” in our brains that warns us when we are considering an action that might be dangerous or painful. We do not touch a hot stove because we know that it will burn our flesh and we usually only need to learn that lesson once.
However, when it comes to sex, which is one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have in life, it always feels great at the moment, but the results can be disastrous. When sex is done within the context of a marriage, as God intended, it can be an experience of intense intimacy and pleasure and is good at bonding the husband and wife together.
However, the same kind of pleasure, at least physically, can be experienced by having a sexual experience of self-gratification or with another person who is not your spouse. It is not exactly the same because it is usually just an act of animal sexual pleasure and not the emotional and spiritual intimacy one can have with their spouse. However, the pleasure is still there … only to be followed by deep guilt, shame, and fear.
Most of us have worn out our brakes in this area and have little or no resistance to sexual sin and so we have a hard time stopping this addictive behavior. Then when we try to stop, we have a powerful battle on our hands because we have no brakes and temptation is all around us.
So, let me suggest to you how to get your braking system repaired so that you will be better able to stop sexual sin before it takes you done one more time. Research is showing that when we have a feeling or get a thought that is sexual our amygdala lights up with a response and our basic sexual desires kick in while our ability to reason and make good decisions diminishes.
However, these scientists have found that when a thought or image comes into our brains if we can put what we are feeling into words, our prefrontal cortex stays engaged and we are able to use reason to put the brakes on our sexual drive. Our sexual desires are not as inflamed as usual and so this helps us not fall.
This is why it is so important for us to be aware of what we are thinking and what we are feeling. Temptation rarely just comes upon us out of the blue and without rhyme or reason. Now there are exceptions like seeing someone on the street who is attractive to us and triggers our desire.
However, I have learned, before I even knew about my brains braking system, that when I see an attractive woman to say to myself,
“God, thank you that you made women beautiful. I realize that the woman is attractive and that she is created in the image of God. I do not have the right to dishonor her or sin against you by seeing her as a sexual object for me to devour. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for helping me move on and not lust.”
Over the years of doing this has become my mantra when seeing sexual sights or having sexual thoughts and has truly helped me to redevelop the brakes in my brain to allowing sexual thoughts to continue.
I strongly urge you to give this a try whether you are snapping your wrist with a rubber band or not.