Sunday, November 22, 2015

Need a Tech Cleanse?

Here's a post I did for my latest visit with Brooke Walker on KSL Studio 5. I thought I'd share it here because we can all use a detox from screen time...

When does Social Media Savvy Cross the Line into Obsession?

Cathy remembers the moment she woke up to the downside of her Instagram immersion. It was at her nine year-old daughter, Megan’s, soccer game. When everyone else cheered, Cathy looked up from her phone to see Megan pump her arms in a victory V. “As Megan caught my eye, I gave her a thumbs up. It would be my little secret that I missed her goal because I’d gotten sucked in by that notification ping.”
It’s fun to catch up with friends, unwind and relax. We can even use social media to further our career.
But we’ve all found ourselves wasting time on social media. We know that bitter aftertaste that comes after a binge.

Some Benefits of Scaling Back

• Family balance. We invite other family members to limit their own screen time if we walk the walk.
• Better posture. Avoid the documented dangers of text neck.
• Better sleep. Too much screen time interferes with both our ability fall asleep and to drop into the most restful stages of sleep.
• Less anxiety. Immersion in technology ratchets up our stress.
• More happiness and satisfaction. We get a break from all the comparing and longing for what we don’t have.
• Better love life. If a TV in the bedroom cuts couples’ lovemaking in half, as one Italian study found, then what’s bound to happen when it’s not just one big screen but some little screens getting in the way as well?

Instead of Your Usual Tech Fix…

1. Breathe. Take two or three nice full breaths. Try doing it right before check your phone throughout an entire day. It helps stretch out the space between the urge and the response.
2. Feel. You might just feel the awkwardness that comes with breaking any habit. If your habit is super-entrenched you might feel some withdrawal symptoms. Settle into your boredom. Allow yourself to feel anxious.
3. Move. Take a walk. Your body and brain will thank you, instead of still feeling antsy the way they so often do after a tech fix.
4. Connect. Before there was live chatting, there were real life chats; enjoy more of those. Hug someone, give a foot rub, ask for a back scratch.
5. Express. Don’t give in to the urgency, give it voice. Let the Instagram junkie in you rant about why she needs to look so often and how great it feels to get those likes. Get the urgency out of your system by talking to yourself as you take a walk or writing out your yearnings and hankerings.

Take the Challenge–Do a 15-day Tech Cleanse!

Most people do better with a cleanse than a complete fast. Especially for moms, it’s hard to drop completely off the face of the Electronic universe.
If you’re going to do it, don’t just try a little harder to use your phone a little less. Your screen time will quickly balloon back up. Instead, tell friends and family you’ll going to take a break by cutting WAY back for a couple of weeks, and then do it. Better yet, challenge others to do it with you.
You might keep track of your time on your phone with an app like Moment and have a contest with your kids to see who can use electronics the least.
If, somehow, you manage to survive, we’d love to hear back from you in a couple of weeks about how it went and what you discovered. Studio 5 is considering running a follow up segment, so your input would be greatly appreciated!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Seeking Contributors

Upon discovering sexual betrayal, many wonder whether they'll ever again be able to enjoy an emotionally safe sexual relationship. Can they heal and feel secure with their partner? If they end that relationship and start a new one, will they be able to trust enough to fully give of themselves sexually in their new relationship?

If you once experienced these worries and have gotten to a better place now, your experience can benefit those in the midst of this struggle. If you and your partner have a mutually satisfying and emotionally secure sexual relationship, your input will be invaluable. Even if your relationship still feels insecure, you could contribute by talking about what is missing that would help you feel emotionally safer when it comes to sex. 

Since sex is such a sensitive, personal subject, please feel free to respond anonymously. Even if you do include identifying information when you respond, your confidentiality will be protected and all identifying information will be well disguised in any future presentations of responses. Of course, your response indicates a willingness to have your input shared via spoken presentation, online, or in written form. Again, protection of the confidentiality of participants will be the highest priority.

You may respond to any or all of the following questions in one of three ways: 1) send an email to, 2) mail a hard copy of your response to Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D. 1258 w. South Jordan Pkwy #202, South Jordan, UT 84095, or 3) text or leave a voicemail (801-564-7566)  indicating your willingness to be interviewed by phone.


What have you and your partner done to help insure sex is about connection and healing?

What have you and your partner done to safeguard you from being further traumatized during sex or because of your sexual experiences together?

What factors and/or experiences helped as you've tried to rebuild your sexual relationship.

What factors and/or experiences hindered your progress in rebuilding?

What inner experiences (mental, emotional, physical) DECREASED you or your partner's sense of emotional safety? 

What external events (circumstances, partner's behavior or words) DECREASED you or your partner's sense of safety?

What inner experiences (mental, emotional, physical) INCREASED you or your partner's sense of emotional safety? 

What external events (circumstances, partner's behavior or words) INCREASED you or your partner's sense of safety?

Which aspects of healing your sexual relationship went quickly?

Which aspects of healing your sexual relationship progressed more slowly?

Some couples report experiencing the phenomenon of "one step forward, two steps back" when it comes to feeling emotionally safe about sex after betrayal. In what way did this occur for you, if at all? 

Did it help to take risks and stretch yourself to connect sexually? 

Did it help to honor your reluctance and prioritize emotional safety? 

What have you and/or your partner done that has helped you balanced risk-taking and insuring emotional safety?

What have the payoffs and rewards been? How have these evolved over time as your recovery as individuals and couples has progressed? Have the rewards of this work been worth the effort? Would you say you now enjoy a stronger sexual bond than ever? (I want to clarify that not fishing for one answer here. For many, the honest answer may be, "We were much better off before all this!")

What encouragement or wisdom would you share with individuals and couples who are early in this process?

What other question should individuals and couples providing input on this topic be asked? How would you answer this question yourself?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Become a Self-Control Judo Master

Becoming a Judo Master in the art of self-control is practically a superpower--it’s as close as we mere mortals can get. It will improve your relationships, your success at school and in your career, and your health. Plus, self-disciplined people are simply happier--happier with themselves, with the live they're living, and with other people and the world around them. I'll show you some of the research in a later post. 

But self-control is not easy, and unfortunately most people approach it the way the Karate master approaches a fight. If they confront a temptation that threatens their self-discipline goals, they brace themselves and gear up for the fight. They try to block every blow that comes. They try to resist the energy of the temptation with all their mental might. 

Mighty as their willpower may be and successful as this strategy may seem in the short run, you can't keep exerting your will forever. And they've pitted it against a bad habit which the survival-oriented part of the brain has misperceived as crucial to survival. So you have the battle of immense strength vs. immovable object. Not a recipe for success. Or contentment for that matter. 

Self-control that works over the long run is more like Judo. You make little moves to maintain your balance amidst the force of the temptation that pounds at you. You make moves to absorb energy, step aside, and let it pass. 

Self-Control Judo Lesson 1: Do Serious Damage to Your Craving State over the Next Seven Days

Your craving state is a recurring state of mind which often precedes sexual acting out. There's an advantage to the fact that it's recurring: any damage you do to the state of mind when you're in it will accrue over time and pay off when you find yourself craving again later. Like the matador who stabs one sword in the bull each time it passes, you can poke one hole in the craving state each time you're there. If you persist in poking holes, eventually the craving state will be so compromised that it won't be able to hold you captive. 

See how this is like Judo? You're not merely hoping cravings don't come, straining against them when they do, and then breathing a sigh of relief if you happen to make it through this time without giving in. Instead you'll be planning for the next craving, responding intentionally during it, and reviewing how it went afterward. 

The craving state is a driven state but you compromise its power to drive you by working your driving muscles in the midst of the craving. As you tap into your innate capacity for mastery, the tendency toward compulsion lessens. 

So here's the action step to take each day for the next week. At least once during the day, at a point when you catch your mind moving in the direction of sexual compulsion, perhaps in even the slightest of ways, exercise these five muscles that help keep you in the driver's seat of your life: pause, choose, observe, describe, interact. 

That may sound like a lot, but stay with me, it won't take long at all. 

Don't act on the craving, but don't just brush it off and move on with your day, either. Instead, choose to pause and do a little work with yourself. Observe a thing or two about what's going on. You might note what was happening before you started craving, how your mind is trying to talk you into indulging, or what you feel in your body at that very moment. Then type a brief description of what you just observed into your phone and post it below as a comment to this post. (Alternatively, you could text it to a sponsor or post it on a forum like the nofap reddit.)

Bam, quick as that, you've just leveraged five key faculties of human self-determination: intention, forbearance, perceptiveness, language function, and interpersonal engagement. These contrast with the way we operate when we're functioning at the reptilian level that's characteristic of addiction: then we tend to be reflexive, impulsive, entranced, unthinking, and solitary. 

Do this homework and you'll strengthen your sense of mastery amidst cravings. You might not notice a difference after one day, but I'm confident you will within seven. 

Leave a comment below about the difference it makes and you'll help motivate others to try it for themselves. 

I don't know when your bull will charge next, but it will. Get ready to stab away. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Daily Recovery Tool: Support the Vulnerable Self

It's a familiar part of everyday life: something happens that gets under our skin. We don't want to dwell on it, so we gather ourselves and move on with the day. Later, we may not even remember what bothered us--or perhaps that we were even bothered at all.

It's called adulthood: we don't have the luxury of whimpering over every little bump and bruise inflicted upon us by life. And we don't particularly want to dwell on the negative.

This way of coping works fine--most of the time. But there is a downside, particularly for those of us who are vulnerable to mental and physical health struggles, including addiction. 

We get so much practice that we get too good at ignoring our own distress. The problem is, we feel bad about something, and although we may think we've moved on, something inside us lags behind, still stuck in the distress. We try to focus on on what we think we've moved on to, but someplace in our body the strain and tension festers. The uncomfortable feeling pulses on, just below the threshold of consciousness. 

Distress that goes ignored may not fade. It may linger and fuel all kinds of dysfunction. 

To clear out this kind of toxic tension and distress, I encourage some of my clients to engage in the following practice twice a day. You can do it in five or ten minutes.

1. Tune inward and ask, what's eating at me today? Is there something--anything--making me feel off or out of sorts? 

2. Answer the question--mentally, aloud, or by writing, typing, or texting. Something along the lines of, "It bothered me when..." or "I feel bad that..." 

3. Support that vulnerable part of you that just voiced distress by empathizing and validating those feelings. For instance, "I get why that's eating at you. I can understand why that doesn't feel right. It's understandable that your feelings got hurt by that." 

4. Tune in to your body. Notice what you feel physically. The action is often in the gut or chest. sometimes the throat, shoulders, jaw, fists. Your eyes might water, as though you're about to cry. You may place a hand on that part of your body where you feel the discomfort or tension with the intention of conveying compassion by way of your touch. "Yeah, I feel that. I hear you loud and clear."

5. Whatever feelings come to light, simply sit with them for a minute or two. 

As you attend to your feelings, they may deepen or ease. Either way, your objective is not to make the feelings go away. Simply attend to them.

Don't worry, you're not creating pain or making it worse by dwelling on it. A part of you has been feeling this distress all along, you're simply shining the light of compassionate attention on it. We are being present with a part of us that usually operates outside our awareness. We're bringing onto the stage of consciousness what was previously happening offstage. 

There's no threshold of pain or relief that indicates you're finished. You're not on the lookout for an a-ha moment. Just be present with yourself, stay with what you're really feeling. Like you might sit with a friend who is hurting or in need. 

After a brief few minutes of this, then you're done. Go on with your day. 

Here's an email I got from a client, a junior high school teacher, sharing his experience with this exercise. I've added the numbers so you can see how his process coincides with the steps described above. 

Today was my first day back to school after the holiday break. Arrived a bit later than usual and sat down at my desk to look at lesson plans. I felt a heaviness and realized there was a feeling of some kind there that I could sit with. 

1. Ask: I closed my eyes and said, 'Okay, what's up?' 

2. Answer: 'Students will be here soon. There coming! I don't want to be here. I don't want to work! I want to relax, go have a nice breakfast. I want to be away from people. I want peace. I know I just slept in, but I want even more rest... warmth... to snuggle up, maybe even hibernate. Yes, that's it, I want to hibernate. Avoid everything, especially people.

3. Support: 'I get why you feel that way. What you're feeling is real. It's important. I'll sit with you while you feel that.'

4. Body: Still feel that heaviness. That's all over, but especially in my chest. And there's this clench in my throat. I placed one hand lightly on my throat, the other against my chest. 

5. Attend: I just sat there and let myself feel. 

A minute later I realized that this was the same way I used to feel when I was younger. I'd complain that I didn't feel well and sometimes my mom would let me stay home from school. I'd lay on the couch under a blanket and watch "The 100,000.00 Pyramid" her. She took care of me. I didn't feel like it was okay to avoid school, but I sure didn't feel up to going. There was some guilt over staying home. I felt ashamed that deep down I wanted to avoid. I had to hide the fact that I sometimes played up my symptoms. Then my brother would come home and say, "He's not sick! You make me go to school unless I'm in the hospital!" So today, it was different to sit with the feeling of wanting to avoid instead of trying to immediately pull myself together and put my nose to the grindstone. It was bittersweet. It felt like I was sitting with a younger part of me that had long ago been exiled. 

As I finish up I still feel tight in my throat and heavy in my chest. Feels like life is so harsh, it needs to be avoided. I'm a tender soul walking around like a turtle outside its shell. Life can be too bright and too harsh and too much. Okay, back to my day anyway!

The benefit of this exercise is not that it necessarily helps you feel better. Rather, it's that we stay connected with ourselves rather than detaching. And self-awareness is correlated with self-control. As we stay grounded in our actual experience of life instead of dissociating from that experience, we also keep a better hold of the steering wheel of our own lives.

Try it for yourself: A couple of times a day over the next few days, take five or ten minutes and go through the steps. Then let us know how it goes for you.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

He Sees Now the Damage from Porn

"Sure, I really should kick my porn habit. But it isn't that big a deal, it's not doing that much damage."

That was Julian's attitude throughout the first seven years of his marriage.

But then his wife, Valerie, got fed up and they separated.

Three and a half months later, three and a half months alone, Julian had an entirely different take on the effect of porn on Valerie and on their relationship. Together we made a list of the negative consequences of porn:
  • Decreased the trust she had in me
  • Fed an incredible sense of loneliness in her
  • Impaired our bond as a couple
  • Decreased the sense of connection we felt
  • Hampered my spirituality
  • Interfered with our friendship
  • Diminished her attraction to me
  • Diminished my attraction to her
  • Decreased the romantic feelings between us
  • Fostered my selfishness
  • Diminished our hope for the relationship and our future
  • Got in the way of my ability to be present
  • Led me to lie (for example, told her I was working on it when I wasn't)
  • Our ability to have and work for common goals fell apart
  • Worsened her body image
  • Fostered her depression and anxiety
  • Traumatized her
  • Diminished her trust in the entire male gender
  • She couldn't turn to me as a spiritual support or leader in the home
  • Attacked her faith
  • Harsh communication increased (I was more irritable)
  • We fought more
  • Eventually led to a desire to separate
  • Led to unrealistic expectations for a relationship
  • Decreased my ability to experience gratitude, appreciate awesome things about her
  • Got in the way of me being authentic
Can you relate to the damages Julian listed? As you consider your own experience and that of your partner's, are there any items you would add to this list?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Catch Zombie Mode to Reduce Risk of Relapse

It was Sunday afternoon and Joseph's wife, Mindy, was concerned.

"What's going on? Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing's wrong. I'm just playing League of Legends. Is there something wrong with that?"

"I usually don't have a problem with you playing," she said. "I don't know why it's bugging me today. I guess it just seems like you've been in zombie mode for the last few hours. You seemed off even before you got on the computer to play."

Joseph got off the computer. He was annoyed about it at first. But then he realized he should sit down with Mindy and unpack why he'd gone into zombie mode. What had been eating at him before he detached?

He knew that this is the way it had often gone when he used to relapse with porn: he'd feel some kind of underlying negative emotion, he wouldn't address it, he'd start playing games or escape into some other screen activity, and after a while he might move into the realm of porn.

So he sorted through the events from earlier in the day in search of it: was there some underlying negative emotion he'd been trying to escape?

Their pastor, Steve, had asked them all to volunteer at least an hour each week over the holidays to in their church's food pantry. He'd told himself that with the extra hours he was putting in at work this month and the demands of their young family, he wouldn't have time. But then he'd started feeling bad about not helping. He'd laid down to take a nap once he got home from church, but he couldn't fall asleep. He just ended up feeling lethargic. He played a game on the iPad with his oldest son. Then he'd gotten on the computer to play.

"Yeah," he acknowledged to Mindy, "I'm feeling pretty burned out with all of these demands bombarding me. Seems like there's always something that's not getting done. But more is still piling on top of me all the time, regardless of what I've gotten done or still have left to do. Plus I guess I've been wanting to set aside all the trivial demands of life and do some meaningful service activity, so when Steve asked us to do that part of me was like, 'Yeah, this is perfect, it's what I've been looking for.' I guess I shut down that generous, giving part of myself and maybe part of me was feeling bad about that. It's a drag when life is all about the grind, very rarely about doing something extra in a meaningful way."

Later Joseph said to me, "It was good to talk it all out with Mindy. Once I unpacked all of that and realized what had been troubling me, it made more sense why my brain wanted to go into zombie mode."

These days Joseph, with Mindy's help at times, is getting better at catching zombie mode and evaluating why he is detaching before it ever reaches the point of sexual temptation.

That's good, proactive recovery.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Step Back from Your Addiction and Toward What Really Matters to You

Two essential processes can foster recovery from addiction: stepping back from the cravings and hopelessness associated with addiction and stepping toward what really matters to you. 

How to take a step back from your addiction.

I like the way Ekhart Tolle suggests doing this. When you start to feel a pull, say to yourself,

"There is that voice in my head telling me I can't pass up this opportunity... and here I am standing back, listening to that voice, watching it. 

Or perhaps, 

"There is that voice inside me, telling me that I'm a loser because I gave in again... and here I am standing back, listening to that voice and watching it."

Don't just wait until you get feel susceptible to urges or to guilt. Practice at least once a day stepping back from the voice inside your head and listening to it, watching it. You'll notice that it tells you all kinds of things: That you're a failure in some other aspect of your life. That you should withdraw from situations where you don't shine. That your efforts are futile. That other people are leaving you out of something important. 

Once a day--or perhaps a few times--step back from your mind see those thoughts for what they are: not realities, thoughts.

How to take a step toward what really matters to you.

Pick something off your value menu and do it.

To create your personal value menu, 1) identify some of your values and 2) brainstorm brief actions you can take that are consistent with those values.

1) To identify a few of your values:

Consider what makes you you. Are you caring? Enthusiastic? Clever? Passionate? Those are some of your values. 

What are the key elements of those activities you find deeply satisfying? Do they enlist your creativity? Is it the rewarding interactions with other people? Is it the solitude? Novelty? 

When your life is over, what will look back and be very glad you did? Scratch your kids back at night? Work hard to support your family financially? Sing in a choir? Serve soup to the homeless or serve in your church? Care for that feral cat in the neighborhood? Make delicious food to feed your loved ones?

Come up with just a few answers to these questions, and you've identified some of your values. 

2) Now, brainstorm to identify three activities you can do at almost any time that helps shape your life in a way--even if only in a very minuscule way--that is consistent with one of those values. 

One of Heather's values is generosity--she wants to be a kind, caring, loving person. One activity on her value menu is sharing eye-contact and a smile with someone. If she finds herself getting sucked into a dark, downward spiral as she sits at her desk in a middle school advising center, she will look for a chance to catch the eye of one of the students who seems to need it and smile at them.

One of Rodney's values is physical fitness. If he finds his energy sagging and his vulnerability to relapse heightening, he'll take a 2-minute walk around the complex where he works. 

One of Greg's values is family recreation. In a spare moment he may quickly check out one of his favorite travel blogs or mentally plan a family activity for the week like roasting hot dogs in the backyard fire pit. 

One of Celeste's values is peace. Since a messy office interferes with her inner peace, one of her quick value activities is to take one piece of paper on her desk and do what's needed to get it off her desk: put it in her "to do" stack, her "future reference" file, or throw it away.

Once you have listed three brief value-oriented actions you can take in the heat of the moment, your value menu is complete. Treat it as a working list, and occasionally add a fresh item to the list to replace a familiar one once it's gotten stale.

How to put these into practice:

At least once a day, take a minute or two to step back from the mind and put into words what it's saying to you at that time. Then consider the three items on your value and do one of them. 

Let me know what you discover as you put this one-two recovery punch into practice in your life.