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Want to Quit Porn? Focus on It Less, Experts Say

The quickest way to stay stuck in a compulsive relationship with something you don’t really want is to focus on it all the time.

This guest piece was written by Dr. Mark Chamberlain, a psychologist who specializes in addiction recovery and relationships. 4-minute read.

Things I Often Tell to Porn-Addicted Clients

By Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D.

I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the years who have grappled with pornography and sought freedom from its influence.

It breaks my heart when I learn from clients the size of the footprint of the struggle in their lives—that it consumes 30, 50, sometimes even 70% of their energy and time.

“Oh, no! Why do you focus so much on something that you don’t actually like?” I ask them.

“Because I’d really love to get it out of my life!” they usually say.

Related: 5 Tips to Help You Stay Strong While You Quit Porn

“Okay, and why is it so important to you to get it out of your life?” I then ask.

The response: “Because life is really challenging when you have a problem that has consumed so much of your time and energy and focus!”

Fortify

Focus less on what you loathe, more on what you love

All this explains why I believe our first order of business in confronting this issue is to broaden our focus to what is lovely in their lives. That means relishing and enjoying what is good around us—and contributing to anything else that we could help become even better.

The quickest way to stay stuck in a compulsive relationship with something you don’t really want—is to focus on it all the time!

What about that sunset? That pet you love? That friend you haven’t called? That book you’ve always wanted to read?

Related: If You’re Waiting to Quit Porn Once You’re in a Relationship, Read This

There is so much more to life than screens. And sex.

And when you grasp that—and I mean really understand it, you will start to see pornography with greater clarity:

As it really is. And as it’s truly impacting your life.

Having the patience to heal

Seeing things clearly doesn’t suddenly take the problem away—or making the path out of compulsive sexual behavior easier. But at least you can appreciate the richness of the path ahead.

And maybe you can also start to appreciate something else: that these struggles aren’t detours from real life.

The more I get to know my clients, the more delighted we both become during our chats. We’re invested together in their love story, torn up together over their heartaches. Gradually, instead of trying to rush through their personal growth work, they realize we’re zeroing in on the heart of what life is really all about. The importance of the bones they have to pick with their beliefs or loved ones.

Related: Drew’s Story: How My Fiancée Inspired Me to Quit Porn Permanently

Their dignity and beauty as a human being even amidst frustrating struggles. Don’t rush through personal growth. Relish the journey because—trust me—as someone who’s been on a journey for a long time myself, in time you will love that it goes on and on and on.

Give yourself time to heal and grow

Rather than just trying to make this go away fast, my suggestion would be to give it the time—all the time you need—to understand why it keeps coming up, and all that influences your choice.

That takes time. And it takes relationships too—with people you can really talk with and trust. If you ask me if you need therapy, I will encourage it without hearing anything about your symptoms or situation.

So much good comes from sitting with someone who is good at hearing you out fully.

But don’t give up on others around you either—as great sources of listening and support (in both directions). If we can, at least some of the time, fully hear out our family members and friends, that’s super valuable time that they’ll have no need to pay a therapist to spend with them.

I would love nothing more than if parents and spouses and friends made our job as therapists obsolete.

Opening up to loved ones

Over the months we work together, I often find clients having more and more discussions about their inner life with loved ones. That’s a huge accomplishment!

Think of all that has to go into it:

  • They have to take their emotions seriously rather than ignore them or stuff them.
  • They have to sit through challenging emotional states rather than numbing them out with sexual urges, work, or anything else.
  • They have to sort through their feelings and try to find the words that might do them justice.
  • Then they have to exercise the courage and vulnerability to open up to important people in their lives.

As challenging as that may be, it’s how people shrink the footprint of their pornography problem smaller and smaller.

Related: Healthy Ways to Support a Partner As They Quit Watching Porn

Fast Facts

Yes, they still open up about their sexual feelings and urges—and their behavior, when it still gets to that point. But these conversations I’m describing, they’re opening up about sexual struggles only five or ten percent or the time and about all kinds of other matters the vast majority of the time.

Looking back, some of my clients say they can better ask for understanding and support on these other matters in part because they “trained at high altitude.”

Sharing openly about porn really broke the ice and now there’s nothing they can’t talk about.

About the Author

Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D. He is a clinical psychologist specializing in addiction and relationships. He has a private practice in Draper and Layton, Utah. He and Geoff Steurer are the authors of Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity.

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