Episode 109: Feeling Desensitized

Uncategorized Feb 13, 2023

Have you ever found yourself feeling desensitized to porn and the process of trying to quit? You feel miserable, exhausted, and you simply just don’t care anymore. Maybe you feel numb viewing porn where you don’t feel good about it, but you also don’t feel bad or experience deep shame either. 

So many people believe the solution to feeling desensitized in this way is to shame themselves back into wanting to quit. But this has the opposite effect. This leads to a cycle of more crashing, burning, and binging, only to leave you feeling even more exhausted and numb. 

Join me on the podcast this week to discover what might be leading you to feeling desensitized, and my recommendations for what to do when you find yourself feeling this way. You’ll hear how to listen to your body’s signals in these moments, and why, when you do, you’ll be able to quit viewing porn so much easier and faster. 


If you’re ready to do this work and start practicing unconditional commitment toward quitting your porn habit, sign up to work with me!


What You'll Learn from this Episode:


  • What feeling desensitized means. 
  • How feeling desensitized happens. 
  • One question to ask yourself when you notice you're feeling desensitized. 
  • Why your body always has something to tell you when you stop to listen. 
  • My recommendations for what to do when you’re feeling desensitized. 


Featured on the Show:


Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 109, Feeling Desensitized.

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.

Hey, you guys, welcome to the podcast this week. How’s everyone doing? I hope you guys are having a good winter for those of you that live in the cold winter areas where it’s cold during the winter. I keep finding people online that live in Australia and New Zealand. They just keep popping up on my social media feed. And I have never been so fascinated and interested in that side of the world as I am now. But it looks gorgeous. 

I follow this gal online, and she always has koalas in her yard. And the view from her backyard is insane. I keep thinking to myself, wait, am I supposed to live in Australia? Like, am I supposed to be there? I kind of feel like I’m supposed to be there on the whole other side of the world. Oh, man, that’d be hard to, you know, absolutely zero contacts or family or anyone that we know over on that side of the world. So that would be pretty big, that’d be a pretty big move.

But you know what? I think someday, we’re going to get an RV and RV around New Zealand or RV around Australia. Okay. I just decided that’s going on my bucket list. So I know some of you are from that side of the world who are listening, so those of you who are in Australia and New Zealand over there, man, from what I see online, it looks pretty beautiful. 

Okay, let’s hop into the content today. Actually, before we hop into the content, I do just want to say thank you so much for leaving me reviews and ratings. I want to share one that I recently got. It looks like just last week. I share these to celebrate you and also to show my appreciation for you all leaving these reviews. They really help the podcast. 

It says, “After 40 years of struggling. I’ve been struggling heavily with porn for over 40 years. Every other program I’ve tried has failed miserably. They simply didn’t work. Sara’s program was the only one that showed me it wasn’t about porn as much as it was about escaping from negative emotions. 

As I continue to learn, I now see how much shame I was carrying with me every day. This new freedom from shame has changed my life much more than letting go of my porn habit.” Oh, I love that. I love that. That’s so true. Yeah, I just love that. The shame does a lot more damage than the porn does, in my opinion, and causes a lot more porn. 

Okay, it continues to say, “I see victory every day, not just because I haven’t viewed porn, but because I’m processing my urges and emotions and retraining my mind. We have never met, but I count her as a close friend. Thank you, Sara.” 

I love it. Thank you so much. This is so awesome. And congratulations. Congratulations. The internet is so cool that we can just connect with people through podcasts and social media. And I feel connected to all of you, and I’m just really grateful and excited and honored to be here and to witness you all making these awesome changes in your lives. 

And as I’m reading this review, I realize it kind of, you know, especially the talk about shame, it kind of is going to play into what we’re going to talk about, which is feeling desensitized. That’s the topic for today. 

So, feeling desensitized, what I mean by that is when you just don’t care. You’re just exhausted. And people who have struggled with porn probably have experienced this. It’s that willpower and reacting pendulum that I’ve talked about. The idea is willpower, willpower, willpower, go away, go away, go away, go away. I shouldn’t be feeling this. I shouldn’t be feeling this.

And then you just react and swing over to the other side of the pendulum, which is just giving in, giving in. Because we’re so exhausted from willpower, give in. And then we swing back into willpower when we get enough energy back. And then we swing back into just giving in, and we follow this pendulum over and over and over and over again, and it’s exhausting. 

So this is part of this pendulum, is when you start to feel desensitized, well, we’ll get into it. We’ll get into it, and I’ll explain it here. But feeling desensitized, it’s when you just don’t even care anymore. You’re just exhausted. Maybe you’re feeling numb. You’re viewing, and you’re just feeling numb, and you don’t care. And you don’t feel good. 

And you also don’t feel bad, or you don’t feel deep shame. You’re just totally desensitized and just like, whatever I’m viewing, and I’m not even going to think about it. This happens when you can no longer tolerate the moral incongruence, the dissonance between what you’re doing and what you think you should be doing. 

I did a whole episode with Ryan Hewitt, who is a researcher on pornography, around this idea of moral incongruence. But it shows up over and over and over again in all these studies around pornography. Moral incongruence is the gap between what you’re doing and what you believe you should be doing. 

And so people who believe that porn is very bad and very evil, and they are viewing porn, and they can’t seem to stop, that moral incongruence, that space is very large. Someone who believes porn isn’t great for me, but it’s okay. And it’s not too bad. I’m looking at stuff that isn’t horrible, and they are viewing. There’s a smaller amount of moral incongruence. And people who have no thoughts or feelings about pornography have an even smaller window of moral incongruence. 

So, the higher the moral incongruence, there are lots of studies, and we talked about this in-depth on that podcast, the higher your likelihood of labeling it as an addiction, even if it isn’t quite addiction behavior. 

And the higher that moral incongruence, the deeper the shame, right? And so that moral incongruence makes it really difficult for someone who is stuck in a pornography habit to get out of it. And so, this feeling desensitized, this period of just I don’t even give a, I’m trying not to swear, I don’t even give a crap. 

And sorry, I hope crap isn’t a swear word for any of you. I grew up, and it was a very normalized word. Like we said all the time, but then when I went to Chicago and met different people in Chicago, I remember saying crap, and they were kind of appalled. So hopefully, anyways, I say crap. 

So I don’t even give a crap. All right, this is when you can no longer tolerate that dissonance. Your body is just exhausted, and it can’t handle it anymore. And so it just kind of shuts down. I don’t care. I’m not feeling bad or ashamed. I’m just kind of numb, and I’m just viewing it, and I’m desensitized to it. 

Now, I want us to start thinking about this a little bit differently because a lot of times when this happens, people think that the solution is we’ve got to tell them how bad it is. I have to remind myself how bad this is. I have to go read all these articles. I kind of have to shame myself a little bit to get back into wanting to quit. I want to change how we think about this a little bit, okay? 

So, when your body shuts down and you can’t tolerate that dissonance anymore, you’re just not feeling good, and you don’t feel bad or deep shame, you just don’t care, and you’re just exhausted, this is your body giving you a signal. It’s your body giving you a sign. And so I want you if you’re experiencing this, just to practice, and at any point in your porn journey, you don’t have to be experiencing this to practice this. 

But practice asking yourself, asking your body, taking a breath, and quieting everything around you. Breathing and asking your body, what is it that you’re telling me? What is it that you are saying to me? You can breathe, you can pull out a pen and a piece of paper, and just write. 

Ask your body what it’s saying to you and see what comes up. If you’re in the program, let us guide you through this. Let us help you with this. Let us work through it with you on a coaching call, or do it in Ask A Coach and send it to Ask A Coach. 

Also, I was going to mention this when I was reading that review, but I forgot because if you’re new to the podcast, you might not know. I’ve got my podcast, and then I have the program, Overcome Pornography For Good. 

And so the review talking about the program was talking about the program Overcome Pornography for Good, he put it here in the podcast review. And so if you hear me referencing the program, that’s what I’m referencing. And you can come and join anytime that you would like to. 

But back to this content. So I want you to ask yourself, like, what are you saying to me, body? When our body shuts down, it’s telling you something. And I learned this myself very, very clearly through the past ten years of my life. I’ve really been learning this lesson.

I go through little spurts of depression. For the past ten years, I’ve gone through these little spurts. And sometimes, they happen in the winter. Sometimes they happen in the fall. There’s a little bit of that seasonal depression, just with the lack of light and the lack of vitamin D and my body needing some stuff. But these little depression periods weren’t always in the winter. They were always just kind of randomly placed and would last six to ten weeks. 

And so I always used to talk about how I would have depression, and I have a little bit of depression and need to work through some depression periods that I have. And I’ve learned some beautiful skills to help me do that. But just this last year, I really realized this, and this is through working with just some different therapists. And you guys know I’ve been doing a lot of trauma work. 

And working with these different specialists, I’ve noticed, and I’ve learned, and it just hit me one day during one conversation with one of my therapists that it actually wasn’t depression. What it was, was anxiety. And what would happen is I’d be anxious, anxious, anxious, anxious for a long period of time. And I’m not a worrier, so it wasn’t like I was worried, anxious, or always afraid of something bad happening. 

It was high-performance anxiety, always feeling like I had to do more and more and more and more. And feeling anxious to always be doing stuff, or to always appear a certain way, or just like a higher performance anxiety. So I didn’t quite recognize it as anxiety because it wasn’t very worry-focused about things outside of my control. But it was like a constant feeling of needing to do more in order to be enough and needing to perform or needing to look a certain way, or to act a certain way, or to be seen in a certain way.  

And I would do that, do that, do that, do that, do that. And I would go all out on stuff. This is just my pattern. Or it was. It’s not quite anymore. But I always laugh when I think about these periods of going crazy with my college work, like doing insane amounts of credits in very fast periods of time or working really hard, and then I would fall into a little bit of a depression for six to ten weeks. 

And so it wasn’t depression. It was anxiety. And then my body would shut down. The depression periods were caused by high periods of anxiety. And I remember once explaining it to someone, but I still didn’t really understand it or get it, but I explained it to someone like it’s like I’m a train and I’m going up a hill. And I’m going faster and faster and faster and faster and faster. And every second, I’m just getting faster, faster, faster, faster, faster, faster. And then all of a sudden, I just crash and burn. 

Yeah, the crash and burn wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I was going too fast and had a lot of anxiety that I hadn’t looked at or worked on, or even recognized. Okay? So the crash and burn wasn’t the problem and wasn’t what was causing the crash and burn. The crash and burn was being caused by those high periods of anxiety. 

And so I learned this, you know, my body crashing like that was telling me that you’re too worked up, you’re going too fast, and we can’t handle it. We can’t handle it. And so we crash and burn into these depression cycles because we can’t handle this constant state of anxiousness. 

Once I started seeing that and listening to that crash and burn instead of just demonizing that crash and burn, “Oh, what’s wrong with me? I should be able to get out of bed. I should be able to get up. What is wrong with me?” Right? Instead of shaming that part of me that crashed and burned, I listened to it. I learned from it. And I learned, oh my gosh, it’s telling me that it can’t handle all these high periods of anxiety. That makes so much sense. 

And so, this desensitization, I want you to ask yourself, what is this period telling me? And I’ll tell you what I see often over and over and over again is it’s telling them that the moral incongruence is just too much. It’s just too much for where they’re at. Their body can’t handle it anymore. It’s exhausting being in a constant state of this moral incongruence, of I’m not living up to what I should be doing. I’m not good enough. I know what I should be doing, but I’m not doing it. 

That’s exhausting. And that will often lead to these points of just not even giving a crap, feeling desensitized. It’s this shame apathy trap. I’ve done another episode on this concept called the shame apathy trap, which you can listen to if this is really resonating with you. There’s some extra content there. 

Sometimes people think that the way out of these crash and burn, feeling desensitized periods is to increase the moral incongruence, right? Like I just said, you know, we have to remind them how bad it is, we need to tell them that it’s going to ruin their lives, we need to really come down with the hammer. But what I see is that that usually has the opposite effect. There is more crashing and burning. We can get enough energy, maybe, to start willpowering again and trying to change again.

And then we slip up, and we crash and burn and binge again. And then we just feel desensitized, and that happens a lot more often. So what I do see working in my clients is that we need to lower and decrease the moral incongruence. 

Now, there are a couple of ways of doing this. The first could be lowering expectations. Lowering the things that you expect of yourself. And sometimes, for my clients, that looks like, hey, we’re going to quit this. And long term, I’m thinking long term, absolutely this isn’t going to be a part of my life. 

But I’m not going to expect myself to be done right now. And my expectations are a little bit lower. And what that means is maybe I don’t look on Friday and Saturday, whatever feels like, and this is going to be individual work that we can work on with you. But we can lower the expectations a little bit. 

So instead of expecting ourselves to be totally done, we’re going to look at it with a little bit more of a growth mindset, taking it step by step by step by step. Another thing that works, too, is lowering the shame. Okay, so when I say we’re going to decrease the moral incongruence, I’m not saying we’re going to get rid of the morals and say that our value system is wrong and we need to just not care about viewing porn. That’s not what I’m saying. 

The moral incongruence, we can lower that by lowering our expectations and also lowering the shame around not being exactly who you want to be right now. So maybe a simpler way to put this is what I recommend is I don’t recommend giving up on what you want, which is a porn-free life. I recommend giving up what it means about you if you’re not there yet. Giving up what it means about you if you’re not there yet. I’m repeating myself because I really want you to hear that. 

Your body is getting into these crash and burn desensitized moments because it’s participating in so much shame. So you can decide that I refuse to participate in the shame. And you can hear your body when your body is crashing and burning like this, it’s saying that to you. It’s saying I cannot do the shame anymore. 

So here’s what we’re going to do. The first thing you’re going to do is you’re just going to take a break. Take a break, breathe, and give yourself some space. When you’re ready to get back to work, we’re going to get back to work. 

Number two is you’re going to redefine what it means about you if you struggle with porn. You’re going to, oh man, so I did do the story of your episode. You can go and relisten to that, and you can use that exercise to help you with this. This is something we can work on in coaching calls together. And in the beliefs and identity milestone in the program, that’s where we’re going to do all that work. But I want you to redefine what it means about you if you struggle with porn. 

And then number three, when you’re ready, we’re going to commit again. We’re going to start doing the work again with the commitment that you refuse to beat yourself up. So we’re going to start trying again. I love the program. I know I keep talking about the program in this episode, but I love it so much because it’s very simple. It lays out skills for you. And it’s not just like we’re counting days without porn. That’s not how we’re measuring success. 

We’re measuring success in all these other areas of learning and gathering data from your slip ups, the commitment milestone, all the videos and worksheets in there, beliefs and identity, urges, and buffering. We’re going to recommit. We’re going to commit to doing that work. And our big commitment with this is that we’re committing to refuse to beat ourselves up through this process.

We’re going to go through, we’re going to keep trying, but we’re decreasing that moral incongruence because we’re not allowing shame. We’re not allowing ourselves to beat ourselves up. We’re redefining what it means about us if we struggle with porn, and we’re going to tackle it 100% without the moral incongruence and shame part there. Okay? 

I promise, if you do this, you’ll be able to quit porn so much easier, so much faster, and so much more enjoyable. I know this is going to sound funny, but what if we could enjoy the process of quitting porn? What if instead of waiting to enjoy our lives once we quit porn, we were able to fully enjoy our lives and the process of quitting porn because the growth is so fun. The skills are so fun. And it can be invigorating and exciting instead of distressing and depressing. 

Okay, so, a quick recap for you guys. When you feel desensitized, listen to your body and hear what it’s saying to you. What it might be telling you, something that I see commonly, is when you’re feeling desensitized, it’s your body giving you a signal saying I can’t do this anymore. 

Now, we have a few options when we hear that. What is it saying it can’t do? It’s probably saying like, I can’t keep trying to quit porn because it’s so miserable, and there’s so much moral incongruence. And it’s so shame-filled, and it’s so exhausting. So you have a few choices. You can, number one, stop trying to quit porn and just be fine with where you’re at. And that’s totally an option. You can absolutely do that. There’s no problem with that. Seriously, no problem with that. You can absolutely do that. 

But if there’s a part of you that wants to quit viewing porn and your dream life is a life without any porn use, and that’s something that you really do want, then you have to get rid of the exhaustion of the moral incongruence, the exhaustion of the shame between where you are and where you want to be. 

And how we do that is we take a break. We breathe, we redefine what it means about you if you struggle with porn, and then we commit again with the commitment that while we’re doing the work, we’re refusing to beat ourselves up. And then you come in, and you do the identity work, the urge work, the buffering work, the learn and move on work. All this work that’s actually going to help you and teach you the skills to quit porn instead of just trying not to look. Okay?  

All right, you guys, if you want to come in and do that work, we have it all laid out for you. We have lifetime access to the coaching and the coaching calls. I got a really awesome message from someone this last week. They said, “Is this real? Like if I sign up for this, do I really get lifetime access to everything, including coaching calls? What’s the catch?” And I said, there is no catch, and I love that you messaged me that because that was the reaction I was hoping to get as I created my program. 

Really, truly going into it, I was like, how can I make this like a no-brainer? How can I make this worth ten times or 100 times what people are paying for? And the lifetime access to the coaching and the Ask A Coach board really does that for people. We commit to working with you until you quit porn. So you can pay all of it upfront and get lifetime access, or you can make the monthly payments, and as soon as the monthly payments are over, you get lifetime access. 

Anyways sarabrewer.com/workwithme. If you’re not in there yet, come and get in. Come work with us. 

All right, you guys, have a great week. Talk to you next week. Bye-bye. 

I want to invite you to come and listen to my free class, How To Overcome Pornography For Good Without Using Willpower. We talk about how to stop giving in to urges without pure willpower or relying on phone filters so that you can actually stop wanting pornography. 

We talk about how to stop giving up after a few weeks or months. And spoiler alert, the answer isn’t to have more willpower. And then lastly, we talk about how to make a life without porn easily sustainable and permanent. 

If you’re trying to quit porn, this class is a game changer. So you can go and sign up at Sarabrewer.com/masterclass, and it is totally free.

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