These five practices are an essential part of porn recovery. Not surprisingly, they also seem to be ways to develop key elements of emotional maturity:
1) Tolerate Pain. It's a painful truth: there's no legitimate way out of legitimate suffering that doesn't entail suffering. One of my clients says that in emotionally painful moments he reminds himself, "It hurts. Let it hurt. Don't run from it. Keep letting it hurt. It won't go on forever, but for now... It hurts. Let it hurt. Don't run from it. Keep letting it hurt..." and so on.
2) Improve Life in Legitimate Ways. Working to actually make my life better is so much harder than wishing and hoping and fantasizing that a better life is just delivered to me effortlessly because I'm a great guy and I deserve it. Porn flies in the face of legitimate life improvement, giving me the illusion that, in exchange for no effort output on my end, I am the man who deserves the ultimate hold-nothing-back intimacy that in real life must be earned by cultivating trust, safety, affection, and deep investment.
But when I talk about real life improvement as a skill for coping with life letdowns, I'm not talking about building myself into the man of a woman's dreams. I'm talking about taking responsibility for my own emotional well-being. It could include making the afternoon a bit better by taking a ten-minute walk and enjoying the clouds against the snow-capped mountains. Or practicing the guitar both because I enjoy it at the time and because I'm working toward the goal of getting better at it.
Tip: You're probably engaged in wish/hope/fantasize/entitled-pleasure-recipient mode rather than legitimate life improvement if your way of making the day better includes spending too much, eating too much, or doing other activities in an out-of-balance way.
Another Tip: If you keep trying to make your case to someone else that they should make your life better in some way (like trying to convince your wife or girlfriend that they should have more sex with you), you probably have not yet fully settled into your powerful position as the creator and liver of your own life.
3) Seek Empathy. When we are suffering because life let us down, one legitimate way to deal with our hurt is to share it with someone who cares and who is willing to join us in our distress. If I'm stressed about money, my wife can do this by listening and being compassionate and supportive. If empathy is what I'm looking for, that will be a restorative and bonding experience. If, on the other hand, I'm hoping that she will see how stressed out I am and completely change her ways with spending or get a second job to make up for the shortfalls that stress me out, then I'm not seeking empathy, but influence. And the conversation probably will be stressful and might feel manipulative to her.
4) Rely on Spiritual Strength. This kind of reliance may come in various forms. Here are a few examples: a) Holding in mind my eventual goals--the reasons I am convinced it is worth it to delay gratification and suffer temporarily. b) Surrendering my pain to God and trusting that he will either provide relief or turn my pain into something good--at least eventually. c) Praying for and receiving from a Source beyond myself strength to make it though disappointment and challenges. d) Taking a new and higher view of some aspect of my struggle--a new (or freshly rebooted old) mental or philosophical twist that gives me strength to struggle on in my recovery efforts.
5) Surrender Control. Accept the limits of what we can make happen and allow life to be just as it is. Accept that it's not life's job to meet my needs, and so there will be lots of times when we experience it as something less than what we would prefer it to be. This differs from the first practice we discussed, Tolerate Pain, in that there can be a real serenity to this acceptance. We have stopped mentally fighting the fact that life isn't what we want, we have stopped lamenting it, and are willing to let ourselves feel serene and content in the midst of an imperfect, messy, emotionally unwieldy life.
Your turn: Do you take issue with any of these five practices? Any additional ones you would add to my list?