Monday, March 28, 2016

Track Failure with Care to Foster Future Success

How's this for quick results: most people start noticing benefits within a month of starting to keep a simple record their porn-related thoughts and behaviors. Here are some questions I recommend you consider answering every day, but feel free to adjust this to make it fit your needs. Keep your record somewhere that it will accrue and compile over time so that you can eventually see big picture patterns you've never noticed before. These kind of insights and revelations come even to my clients who have struggled with this habit for decades and thought they were acutely aware of all its nuances and permutations.

P: Did I view porn today?
L: Was I lust-prone today?
M: Did I masturbate today? (Capital M = to climax, lower case m = self-stimulation w/o orgasm.)
C: Contributors--what went on in my day that might have helped fuel my success or failure in these three areas?

How It Looks in Action

If you had no issues today, your entry might look like this:

3/30/16: P L M C: Great weekend, rejuvenated, so not particularly susceptible.

Recently one of my clients didn't masturbate to ejaculation but spent more time than usual sudsing up his genitals in the shower because he was loving the stimulation. He didn't look at porn but found his gaze lingering on the cleavage of the women in the photos accompanying the suggested links at the bottom of a couple of the news articles he read. Here's how his record for the day looked:

3/13/16: P L m C: Weird weekend. Wanted sex and resented my step-kids being at the house for so long so we didn't have alone time. Frustrated and lonely even though around people.

Bonus Extra Credit Journal Topics

I am hesitant to include these because I don't want record keeping to become such a big task that you start out strong but then fail to follow through for days at a time and eventually drop altogether the habit you're trying to develop. Go ahead and try adding these if you think they'll help, but it's okay not to, especially early in your record keeping. Some clients who go most days without giving in to temptation reserve these bonus questions for digging deeper into failure on the days they slip up.

O: Other--what other unwanted habits did I indulged? (Procrastinating, losing my temper, overeating or unhealthy eating, skipping exercise, slacking on chores, oversleeping, not getting to bed on time, etc.)

T: Thinking--was my self-talk healthy and constructive or did I let it deteriorate into resentment, negativity, or unproductive brooding?

And Now, for the Most Productive Topic of All...

E: Emotion--what feelings--enjoyable and distressing--did I experience throughout the day today? What thoughts, events, or interactions spawned those feelings?

Even though it takes more practice to become conversant in the arena of emotion than it does to simply record your behaviors, over time you'll find it to be the most fruitful exploration of all. One of my friends who has been in recovery from sexual addiction for decades now once told me that he attributes his success to "the Feelings Journal I started keeping early on in my recovery and have kept ever since."

Put It All Together

A journal entry a clients shared with me today encompassed all of these elements:

P, L, M
C: Not sure why I was susceptible to lust today. Mainly it was over some Spring Break photos on Facebook
O: Stayed up late. Tried to study but didn't get much done after about 11. Binged on Instagram.
T: Worried I might not do well on my Anatomy and Physiology final.
E: Some feelings of failure, discouragement. Hard to keep believing in myself when I can't seem to kick my porn habit and struggle semester after semester in school.

Do This

If you're not already keeping a record--or if you've started and then stopped again in the past--I would encourage you to commit today to start keeping a simple, basic daily record of your recovery efforts and your successes and failures. Then, when you do fail, I beg you to approach that failure in a loving, patient, attentive way so that you can extract all the wisdom you can from it.

Please share below what you've learned from your failures or what role record-keeping has played in your recovery.

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