Episode 5: Shame Spirals

overcome shamespirals Feb 16, 2021

One of the first things I discovered and learned on my coaching journey was about the feeling of shame and how to combat it. It’s an emotion that so many people believe is useful, especially when you’re trying to overcome pornography, but this week, I’m showing you how it can be incredibly destructive.

Many of my clients come to me with thoughts that run along the lines of believing that there’s something wrong with them, or that this human weakness of theirs makes them worthy of feeling ashamed. But I want to offer to you that there are so many more emotions that are far more helpful than getting trapped in a shame spiral.

Tune in this week as I show you why combatting shame is the first step to overcoming pornography and how to start doing this. The shame spiral keeps you hiding from yourself and God, from reaching out for the support you need, and I’m inviting you to see why shame is simply no longer required.

Ready to commit to quitting pornography? I would love to be your coach. Visit this link to work with me.

What You'll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why it’s so important for us to be aware of our feelings.
  • Where our feelings come from and how our feelings drive our actions.
  • Why combatting shame is so important when you’re trying to overcome pornography.
  • The types of actions the feeling of shame leads us to take.
  • Why pornography doesn’t have the power to make you feel ashamed.
  • How to start combatting the shame cycle.


Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 5, Shame Spirals.

Welcome to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast, the show that will teach you how to stop viewing pornography and never go back to it. If you want to learn how to train your brain out of a pornography habit, completely shame-free, then this is the show for you. I’m your host Sara Brewer, a certified life and faith-based coach.

Well, hello you guys. Welcome to the podcast this week. I’m so glad that you're here. I love, love this podcast. I love doing this podcast. And thank you for being here.

I was going on to my podcast on Apple Podcasts just to check it out. I was going to grab a review to read here at the beginning of this podcast episode. And I saw that there were 92 ratings, which is crazy. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll see the other day I posted that my goal was to get 50 ratings when I launched. And here we are, we're at 92.

And when I posted just yesterday or a few days ago, it was at 70 something and I was just blown away that I was at 70 something. And I just looked and it was at 92 and I can't believe it. I'm so, so grateful.

It just feels a little bit silly for me to say I'm so grateful because it is more than that. You guys are my people and I love you. And thank you for showing up for me and leaving some reviews and some ratings on this podcast. These reviews and these ratings, they help this podcast reach more people. And so thank you so much for doing that.

I wanted to share one that stood out to me. It's from Jennifer. She says, “As a coach myself, I think Sara is one of the most intelligent and effective coaches I have ever known. Her method and teachings are rock solid and I am convinced she can change the life of anyone who struggles with pornography. I'm so thrilled she has a podcast. I've already been recommending it and will continue to do so. Thank you for this incredible work you do, Sara, and for this tremendous resource.”

Thank you for being here. And thank you for leaving that review. Man, thank you. If you haven't done that yet, go ahead and on Apple Podcasts you can go and you can leave a rating and review. It takes about one minute. It's right here on your phone. If you need a tutorial of how to do that, I took a 10 second video and showed you how to do that on sarabrewer.com/podcast launch.

So let's get into the content for this week. This is one of my favorite things to talk about. I feel like I'm going to say that every single episode, this is one of my favorite things to talk about. But I do love talking about shame and shame spirals. Which is what we're going to talk about today.

This was one of the first things that I discovered as I was learning about coaching, and becoming a coach, and helping people through coaching tools, was shame. And how to combat shame and mostly just how destructive shame can be in our lives. And especially with the pornography.

So the first thing that's really important when it comes to shame that I want to teach you is that our feelings drive our actions. Whenever you have a feeling, it will drive you to do something or not to do something. You take different actions when you feel happy than when you feel sad. You take different actions when you feel motivated than when you feel overwhelmed.

Your feelings always drive your actions. And that's why feelings are so important to pay attention to. If you're someone who hasn't been used to being aware of your emotions or really noticing what you're feeling, I want to challenge you to make an effort to be aware of what you're feeling. And notice, notice how you show up in your life when you feel certain emotions.

Okay, our feelings always drive our actions. That's why it's important to be noticing what we're feeling and to be aware of that to see what we do when we feel that way. So this is especially true with pornography, right? You take different actions when you're feeling different emotions. When you feel defeated, you're going to take different actions than when you feel motivated.

When you feel motivated, you'll probably try new things, try again, keep going. When you feel defeated, you might give up. When you feel apathy, apathy is this feeling of just not really caring. When you feel apathy there will be lack of action. When you're feeling worthy, you'll take calm, loving action.

I just can't stress enough how important this is to understand that our feelings drive our actions. And this is why overcoming shame is such an important part of the process of overcoming pornography. Because shame, the actions shame cause us to take or to hide and avoid. And this comes from Brene Brown I’m pretty sure. She says shame always causes us to hide and avoid.

What that looks like is hiding from others. We avoid help, we avoid talking about it. We don't want to be around others sometimes when we feel shame. This includes hiding from ourselves. We don't want to think about it and then we hide from ourselves by buffering from it.

And we hide from God. When you're feeling shame, you don't want to pray. You're going to avoid praying, you're going to avoid feeling close to him. So shame always causes us to hide and avoid. And shame is really destructive, and this is why.

So where does it come from? This is another really important thing I want to teach you, is that all of our emotions, all of our feelings, they come from thoughts, always. Whatever you feel comes from a thought. And so shame comes from a thought with the root of there is something wrong with me.

Listen, shame doesn't come from looking at pornography. Shame comes from the thoughts, “There's something wrong with me. I'm an idiot. Why can't I do this right? There's something wrong with me.” So shame doesn't come from looking at pornography, it comes from your thoughts about it.

How we know this is true is because not everyone feels shame when they look at pornography. A lot of you might have friends, or acquaintances, or know people who view pornography all the time and they don't feel bad about it and they don't feel shame about it. You feel shame because you're thinking some form of something's wrong with me. I shouldn't be like this. I am less worthy as a human when I view pornography.

Pornography does not have the power to make you feel ashamed. I'm going to say that again, pornography does not have the power to make you feel ashamed. And when I say that, you might feel uncomfortable. You might feel uncomfortable because many of us think we're supposed to feel shame. Like somehow it helps us.

And I just had a conversation today with one of my coaching friends who was coaching someone earlier today on shame. And she came and was asking me questions about it because she knows I do a lot of work around shame. And she was struggling with this a little bit too.

She's like, “Wait, aren't people supposed to feel shame sometimes? Isn't shame helpful? Isn't shame good? Don't we want to feel shame when we do something that we don't like?” And my answer to this was, “Yeah, humans feel shame. And if you don't feel shame, it probably means you're a sociopath.”

I think Brene Brown said that too, only sociopaths don't feel shame. But don't get that confused with thinking that shame is helpful, because it's not. Remember, shame causes us to hide and avoid. And when we hide and avoid, it doesn't help us make any progress on our pornography habit. It just makes it worse.

And it's not like the only two options here are either feel justified and justify your actions, and feel fine, and feel no remorse, or regret, or shame, I'm a terrible person. Right? There's a lot of in between and middle ground we can work with here. You can feel motivated, committed, worthy, a lot of other emotions that are more helpful with shame, while still believing that pornography isn't something that you want in your life.

Shame becomes very dangerous when we start to make it mean something about us internally like, “There is something wrong with me because I did this.” We're going to talk more about that here in a second, how to combat that.

But here's what happened. So here's the shame spiral trap, here's what happens. You view porn, you have a thought, “What's wrong with me?” You feel shame. And then you hide and you avoid thinking about it. You push it away. You push the thoughts away. You push the fears away, you hide.

And then do you remember buffers? Do you remember what buffers are? If you haven't listened to the first episode I talked about buffers, I think it's the very first episode of this podcast. Buffers are actions that we take to avoid negative emotion. And pornography is an action that you take to avoid negative emotion.

So if you remember buffers, remember the whole concept on that, shame is not fun to feel. Shame is an emotion that we don't like. And so you might try to avoid it. And what happens is we end up buffering from the shame. But if your main buffer is pornography, what are you probably going to default to doing? Viewing pornography to buffer from the shame that you're feeling.

It's that temporary escape, it gets rid of the pain of shame for just a minute. How many of you have thought, “Oh well, I already messed up and I kind of stink anyways. So I might as well just keep looking at it.” Right? That's that shame trap. Because then what happens?

We hop into that shame cycle again. Feel shame, escape the shame by buffering. Buffering using pornography and then continuing the thought cycle, “What's wrong with me for viewing pornography?” it’s just this spiral over and over and over and over again.

And this is why the first step to quitting pornography is to overcome the shame. Because as long as you're feeling shame you will stay stuck. Let me say that a little bit differently. As long as you believe the shame, you will feel stuck.

And I want you to think about this for a moment. Shame is a tool from the adversary. So if we think about the story of Adam and Eve in LDS doctrine, the very first thing that Satan says to Adam and Eve once they take the fruit of the tree. The very, very first thing he said to them when they made a mistake, the first time that they made a mistake, the first thing that Satan said to them was, “Hide. Go, hide yourselves.”

His first message to Adam and Eve was shame because he knew that shame would keep them from progressing. That if they hid from God, they wouldn't be able to progress and move on from this.

So back to my friend who had questions about shame and isn't shame useful, my answer is no, it's not. Shame keeps you from learning from your mistakes and it's not required. Shame is not required for quitting pornography. And we know that this is true because the result of our shame is avoiding, hiding, not reaching out for help, not connecting with God. Those are not great results. And so we know that shame is not required. We don't need to feel it anymore.

Very simply put, I would say you can't hate yourself into change. You might be thinking, “Oh, but if I just tell myself I'm not doing good enough. If I'm feeling bad about what I'm doing, then I will change.” But you can't, it just doesn't work that way. Change doesn't work that way. You cannot hate yourself into change, ever, with anything.

We're applying this specifically to pornography, but if you're beating yourself up for other things that you're trying to change, it's not going to work. You can't hate yourself into change, at least not long lasting change.

And remember, the goal of this isn't just to quit porn for a little bit. The goal of this is to become someone who doesn't want pornography. We've got to start that by getting rid of the shame and by challenging the shame.

So how do we get out of the shame spiral? Here's what I want to suggest. Here are the steps to getting out of this shame spirals. First, call it out for what it is. Notice it, that's what you want to do very first is notice it. If you start to feel yourself feeling a little bit yucky ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Maybe it’s shame.

Call it out for what it is. I'm feeling shame right now. I'm feeling shame right now, not because I looked at pornography but because I'm thinking that there's something wrong with me. Or whatever thought it is that's causing the shame.

Number two, allow it. Breathe into it, let it be there in your body. You can listen to the podcast episode right before this, I dive into that. We’re just going to allow it and breathe into it. Number three, forgive yourself. And then number four, refuse to believe the thoughts that shame is telling you.

Remember, shame always tells you something along the lines of there's something wrong with me. Something is wrong with me. And I want you guys to know, you, my podcast listeners who I love so much that something is wrong with me is just a lie. It's totally a lie.

My job as your coach is to tell you the truth. And I will always tell you the truth that whenever you think something is wrong with you, that's just a lie. Because what's true is that your worth as a human, your worth as a child of God, your worth as a person is not dependent on whether or not you view pornography.

And that might be hard for you to believe right now. But it's so important and so imperative that you practice believing it right now because your brain is thinking something is wrong with me. It's finding a lot of evidence for that. It finds evidence for what you're thinking. As soon as you try to believe, “Okay, maybe that's not true. Maybe my worth is just 100%, even when I'm looking at pornography.”

As soon as you start thinking that you'll start to find evidence for that and why that's true. Instead of thinking something's wrong with me, you can choose to believe I'm 100% worthy as a human, period. Even when I view pornography. Even when I do things that don't line up with my values.

Instead of something is wrong with me, you can think this is my weakness. And I'm supposed to have weaknesses. Weaknesses are how we become strong and weaknesses doesn't make us any less worthy as children of God. Instead of something's wrong with me, you can choose compassion, love, empathy. You can even say that to yourself, “Today, I'm choosing compassion, love, and empathy for myself.”

And if you can't get to any of those, if all of those feel really out of reach, those thoughts to replace this something is wrong with me try on, “I'm willing to be wrong about the idea that something's wrong with me. And all these things I've been telling myself and all these messages I've heard from the world that there's something wrong with me and I need to fix myself, maybe that's not true. Maybe I can be 100% worthy as a child of God. And from that place I can overcome this weakness of pornography.”

So I want to share an example of what this might look like for you in overcoming the shame and the shame spirals. This last week, I noticed myself experiencing some shame. What had happened is I had said something about my life and shared something about my life with someone. And I just felt weird about it, I just felt bad about it.

Remember, I didn't feel shame because of this thing I had said. I was feeling shame because I was thinking something is wrong with me because I said this. And I noticed that shame because I noticed myself wanting to grab a big bag of Reese's and sit in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours, just because I was feeling crappy and I wanted to get rid of that feeling.

And so remember, that’s step number one. Notice it and call it out for what it is. So that's what I did, I noticed it and I said, “I'm feeling shame because I'm thinking something's wrong with me for saying that.” And then I noticed myself wanting to grab the candy and sit in front of the TV.

And I took a deep breath, and just breathed into it. And I said to myself, “I refuse to believe that saying this thing that I said means that there is something wrong with me.” Do I sometimes do things I wish I didn't do? Do I sometimes make mistakes? Yes, absolutely.

But I refuse to believe that that means that there is something wrong with me. Because the truth is that as a human, I'm going to do things that don't line up with my values. And beating myself up for it and feeling shame because of it doesn't help anything and just makes everything worse.

What I'm choosing to believe, this eternal truth that I'm choosing to believe and focus on is that my value and my worth is inherent. And it's just there, just because I am a human, just because I'm a child of God.

And here's something else that's really important for you to know, is that pornography doesn't cause shame. And what that means is that quitting pornography will not get rid of shame. Quitting pornography does not get rid of shame. I promise this is true. Shame is caused by your thoughts and so changing your thoughts is what gets rid of shame.

How many of you have thought, “Oh, I'll just feel better about myself once I get to this certain point in my life.” Maybe I'll feel better about myself once I get married. And then you get married and then you find another reason to feel bad about yourself.

It's the exact same with pornography. Getting rid of pornography does not get rid of the shame. This has to be internal work; this has to be something that you choose to stop thinking in your mind. That is what will get rid of the shame, is changing your thoughts.

And so what that means is that you can feel worthy, and you can feel good enough this very second, if you let yourself. This very second, even in the midst of a porn habit. Even in the midst of human weakness. You can feel good, and worthy, and good enough this very second if you just let yourself.

So a quick recap of what we talked about. Number one, feelings drive our actions. Every time we have an emotion that drives actions. Shame drives hiding and avoiding. Shame does not drive useful actions. Shame is never helpful. Shame is not required. It's a lie that we have to feel bad about ourselves in order to change.

Shame comes from thoughts that have the root of something is wrong with me. The shame spiral looks like viewing porn, feeling shame, and then buffering with more pornography. And then you think something's wrong and feel bad. And then you buffer more and you hide more. It's just this cycle over and over and over again.

And then lastly, the way out of these shame spirals is one, to call it out. Two, breathe into it. And three, forgive yourself and refuse to believe the lie that something is wrong with me.

All right everyone, have a great week. If you have any questions about this topic or what you've learned here on the podcast, come check out my Instagram. I try every week or so to do a question box in my story and take some questions and answer those. All right, we'll talk to you next week.

If you’re ready to apply what you’re hearing in this podcast and finally overcome pornography for good, I’d love to be your coach. I’ve created a virtual program with the intent to give you everything that you need to quit. Once you join, you have lifetime access to the content and lifetime access to individual support through coaching calls and coaching boards. For more information check out sarabrewer.com/workwithme.

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