Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Willpower Boost #4: Mediate Inner Conflict

[IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an extremely powerful technique I'm providing you for free. In exchange, I don't just want you to read this, I want you to try it out. I want it to help you. I don't just want it to help you, I want you to come back and comment (using an alias if you'd like) about how it went so that your story can help others. Thank you.]

Lance felt worn down by the battle that raged within him. He'd periodically indulged in pornography since he was a teenager, but over the last couple of years the obsession had been growing and the indiscretions had become more frequent. Now it felt like he was under a constant barrage. He didn't give in to temptation every week. Nonetheless, every day he suffered in some way because of pornography. If he wasn't being battered by the guilt and irritability of the post-orgasm hangover, he was looking down on himself for having this as an ongoing problem. Either that or being tortured by the urges and cravings that pulled him, relentlessly once they started, toward his next indulgence.

We talked about the stress of owning and running a retail business, the challenges he and his wife faced with their teenage children, the potent draw of porn, the shame he felt when he'd lapse, his desire to be strong for his family, and his goals for the future. As we explored all of these, I could tell that every area we discussed evoked strong feelings in Lance. I got the feeling that being in his head must be like living in a chaotic courtroom with prosecutors and defenders grabbing for power and shouting over each other.

I shared the image of that intense, noisy courtroom with him. "Fortunately, there's also a part of you who's a wise judge. Perhaps up to now he's been sitting quietly at his bench, patiently listening to everything going on. Now it's time for him to step in and mediate. He can demand that all these other parts of you speak one at a time. He can listen compassionately to their perspective and take their vote on a plan. But he will also be firm with them and keep them in their place. After taking all input and trying to see the big picture, he will be the one to determine the most fitting course of action."

We first let the part of him that likes to go to porn have a turn speaking. He visualized this part of him as having tattoos and a nose ring. The name he came up with for this part of him was Raunch.

"Ask Raunch why he keeps coming around," I said. "Ask him what his job is."

"Somebody has to lighten up and make sure we have a little fun around here," Raunch said to the judge. (I think of the judge not as a part of Lance, but as his deeper, true, Wise Self.) "Everything else you do is for everyone else," Raunch continued. "I mean look at you:. You don't really like that shirt, you keep wearing it because you don't want to buy new clothes. Those car stereo speakers you got for your birthday are still in a box in the basement. You say no every time Brian invites you to go fishing. And you've had a toothache for three months but you still haven't scheduled an appointment with the dentist. If it wasn't for me, you'd never do anything for yourself!"

I encouraged Lance: "See if you, your Wise Self, can respond to Raunch in a firm but compassionate way. What would you say?"

"Wow. Thank you for bringing this imbalance to my attention. I appreciate it. I can see now why you've been so insistent when I've been trying to get you to go away. Thank you for not giving up. Those are all important things. And I'm sure there are so many others. Please keep letting me know when you see that I'm getting out of balance. But your solution to all of this, to view porn, really doesn't meet a need. In fact it doesn't help in any way at all, other than providing an escape and an instant high. But that's followed by days and weeks of suffering. The gratification is not worth the pain that comes afterward, and you know that."

"I never knew that," Raunch said. "I never thought much about it anyway. It's not my job to think about that stuff. I leave that for you to deal with. All I know is that all work and no play makes Lance a dull boy, and I'm trying to spice things up. Life is for living, not sacrificing and suffering."

By now Lance didn't need any coaching from me to keep the dialogue going. "Life is for living, and part of living is sacrifice," Lance said to Raunch. "I'm not afraid of suffering, but I do thank you for alerting me to the fact that I do need more balance in my life. Moving forward, I will take your perspective into account. I can arrange things more to your liking. I'll start by calling up Brian and planning our next fishing trip. Plus I'll get Brandon (Lance's 17-year-old son) to help me cut the holes for those speakers. He owes us money for his last traffic ticket anyway."

"You know," Lance said to me, "As I'm getting to know this part of me, I see that the name Raunch doesn't really fit. I think the name Dreamer would fit better."

As Lance listened in a compassionate but firm way, the inner tugs and pulls started to become more understandable. I could foresee that this awareness would help him shift from a state of inner conflict to one of greater integration, peace, balance, and inner cooperation.

"You've done a remarkable job of remaining patient, calm, and wise even though dreamer first showed up in his most extreme form, and even seemed like Raunch. But you don't usually respond so well to Dreamer. Is there another part of you that usually steps in and reacts to Dreamer--maybe locks horns with him?

"I get so frustrated," Lance admitted. "I feel like throw up my hands--at myself! 'Come on! What's your problem?! What are you thinking?! You know that going to porn makes everything worse!' That part of me hates it when Dreamer has come in and run the show for awhile. He wants to take back over with a vengeance and never give up control again. He sets new goals about being spiritual. He calls me a hypocrite for teaching Sunday School when I don't live the Gospel. He say's I'm a miserable father and lame example to my children. Sometimes he's even told me my wife would better off without me."

"What should we call that part of you?"

"He's Freaker. He considers the fact that I'm not perfect reason enough to freak out. The fact that I go to porn--well that just sends him over the brink, apoplectic.

"As Wise Lance," I suggested, "Ask Freaker what he's trying to accomplish."

Lance sat for a moment, then tears formed in his eyes. "Freaker just wants to be good. He knows what leads to happiness. He wants a peaceful, calm life. Dreamer's actions have hurt Irene and the kids. His heart has been absolutely crushed by that. He loves them so much. He wants porn and all its consequences out of my life. So he's been trying to annihilate Dreamer. He is the part of me who loves the fact that I was on my high school Seminary Council. He loved it when he heard from a neighbor lady back then that any mother would trust their daughter on a date with me. He can't believe how far I've come from that and is very troubled by it. Freaked out by it, even. He thinks life should be so simple: live righteously and thus be happy. And he never wanted his life complicated by sin in this way."

"He's not really a freak, is he. More a guardian of virtue."

"Yeah, I think that's what I'll call him. Guardian. That certainly allows him more of the dignity he deserves."

Lance's inner conflict was starting to calm. He was fleshing out the parts of him that were behind the voices that used to get lost in the din of inner chaos and turmoil.

It may take awhile to get to know the parts within you that keep the familiar tug-of-war going. You might get bogged down trying to even hear these inner voices, let alone sort them out on your own. This is why therapy is often so valuable: it amplifies previously unheard whispers and shines the light on former blind spots. Feeling stuck may be part of addiction, but things don't have to remain that way. Recovery is characterized by feeling freed up and by a sense of expansion as knowledge grows and hope starts to thrive. We can help you get on the path of recovery and stay on it even when the going gets tough. I hope that you'll call today and get the process started in your life. My cell phone number is 801-564-7566. Please leave a message if I don't answer--I'm the only one who listens to those voicemail messages, so you can trust that what you say will remain confidential. I know it takes courage to pick up the phone and dial, but it may end up being one of the most important calls you'll ever make. Whether you do decide to get in touch or keep working on your own, I wish you the very best. You deserve it!

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