Because I’m the one being interviewed, you’ll hear about my experience learning my number-one lesson, my personal stories, how I work with my clients, and a bunch of other fun stuff that I’m sure you’ll find applicable to your own journey with quitting viewing pornography. Michael is a therapist with an amazing mind and a great heart, and I can’t wait for you to share in this conversation.
Tune in this week to discover my one lesson to the world. I’m discussing with Michael Anderson how change happens not when we’re shamed into a different behavior, but when we align ourselves with our values while loving and accepting ourselves. I’m sharing the mindset tools that changed everything for me, why I chose this work, and we’re sharing how we help our clients toward self-acceptance.
You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 103, My One Lesson To The World with Michael Anderson.
Welcome to the Overcome Pornography For Good podcast where we take a research-based, trauma informed and results focused approach to quitting porn. This approach has been revolutionary and changed thousands and thousands of lives. I’m your host, Sara Brewer.
Hey, you guys, welcome to the podcast this week. I hope you’ve had a great holidays. We’re taking a little bit of a break, at the time I’m recording this I’m getting a bunch of episodes done through the end of the year so we can take, you know, one to two weeks off with our families.
And so what I’m sharing with you today is a past interview that I did with Michael Anderson. Michael Anderson reached out to me and asked me to be a guest on his podcast and then he shared the audio with me so I could share it with you guys.
He has a podcast called Everyday Impact. In each episode he asks his guests one simple question, if there was one lesson you would want to share to the world on how you have built a life of meaning, what would it be? So that’s this conversation with Michael.
You’ll hear a little bit about my experience learning this lesson, some of my own personal stories and experiences. And I hope you enjoy it, it’s very, very applicable to those of you who are trying to quit pornography, which you’ll hear me talk about in this episode.
We’re also going to put the link to Michael’s podcast in the show notes, it’s called Everyday Impact. He has a great brain and a great heart. Did I mention he’s a therapist? He works with lots of clients and is really trying to do a lot of good in the world and is doing a lot of good in the world. So enjoy this interview and have a great week, bye bye.
Sara: So the question you asked me was like if I could share one thing, one lesson or principle with the world, what would it be? And what came to my mind was really the most life changing thing, lesson that I've learned and that helps my clients so much is that change happens when we love and accept ourselves exactly how we are.
Sara: And shame gets in the way of that, and shame is not useful, and shame really keeps us stuck.
Sara: That's what came to mind.
Michael: I was just about to say, right when you said that change happens when we love and accept who we are, my mind went, “Man that is so hard to do.” Can be, can be so hard to do.
Michael: Tell me more about that. Tell me more about learning how to love yourself and why that's so important and impactful.
Sara: Yeah, well I think especially in our more westernized culture it's very go, go, go, succeed, succeed, succeed. Always searching, trying to be better, trying to be more. And I was always that type, is it type one, like oldest child, perfectionist?
Michael: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah, like kind of type A type stuff.
Sara: Type A. Yeah, like trying to be the best, always like super successful in what I do and like work myself ragged. What this created in my life though was it created a lot of shame, and stress, and feeling like garbage. A lot of anxiousness, a lot of depression.
It was this pattern of like I'm on a train track and it just gets faster and faster and faster and more and get better and better and better. And then I would just crash and burn into these depressive episodes where I'd just be out of commission. And then I would beat myself up in those depression episodes and feel really crappy. And then get out of it, and then climb, climb, climb, climb, climb, climb, crash and burn.
And it was always from this energy of I need to be better, I need to be better, I want to be better. And I would kind of lie to myself, like I don't need to be better, but that's just who I am. Like I just want to be better.
Michael: But in the end you're like it's super anxiety driven, disconnected, is that what you’re saying?
Sara: Yes, very anxiety driven. So actually, that was an epiphany I had. I thought I struggled with depression, really what I did is I struggled with perfectionism and anxiety that created these depressive episodes. And from this belief that like I have to be better in order to feel better. I have to get my workout routine down for me to feel better. I have to quit these habits in order to feel better. I have to be this in order to feel better.
A lot of that, I experienced that. So I served a mission for my church, experienced that like after six months of my mission, just total crash, and burn.
Sara: And then I got out of it and then I crashed and burned again. My second semester in college, right? Same thing that first semester I just was trying so hard to be better from a place of I'm not good enough that I’d just crash and burn and just saw this pattern over and over and over again until I found life coaching. That really helped me recognize what was going on and really helped change my life.
Michael: When you say I found life coaching, were you seeking out a coach and that's how you kind of learned about it? Or tell me more about how this paradigm shift started happening in you.
Sara: Yeah, so I was just finishing up my degree in rec therapy and I would listen to podcasts while I was driving to and from my internship. And Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School, and the way she taught things really just kind of blew my mind. And one thing in specific is that your feelings create your actions and drive your actions.
And so what you're feeling and the emotions that you're using and that you're feeling the most of, that's going to be what creates your actions. And so it's not so much about doing everything right, but it's more about thinking and feeling in a way that will help you create the life you want.
Michael: Yeah, well, and as you're talking I'm thinking about what you said, right, about these cycles that you'd find yourself in, right? Of I'll be better once I do more, is essentially what I'm hearing you say, right? Like once I get there. I'm making a guess here, you can tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm making a guess that those cycles probably still show up or try to show up in your life every now and then.
As you've kind of gone through this transformation, how is current Sara handling these things differently than before Sara?
Sara: Yeah, it's very, very different. And I can catch on to them and notice them when they come up. But like I did so much work on just loving and accepting myself exactly how I was. And so I don't like have this job that I love, and I don't have this workout routine that I love. I have these things now, but like when I didn't have those, I did so much work on I can feel amazing about myself right now and nothing has to change. Nothing has to change.
And so what it looks like now is I’ve really trained my brain to go to that quickly and more automatically than before when my brain was really trained to go to you're not enough, you're not doing enough, you need to do more. And so now I just find myself, I have so much grace for myself, I allow myself rest when I need rest, I'm much more in tune with my body.
And what that allows me to do is it actually allows me to show up more productive. It allows me to show up and to make a bigger difference in my work and in my life and in my family because I’m not operating from a place of I'm not good enough, I'm operating from a place of I am enough.
I don't have to do anything, even if everything crashed and burned and all I was left with was the shirt on my back and my reputation was ruined and all these things, I still have this deep love and this deep appreciation for me.
Michael: Yeah. Feel free, you can be as personal as you want with this or just talk about experience with clients, right? But the question that came to my mind was I'd love to hear your take on from your experience with yourself, experience working with your clients, what develops, what influences these beliefs of perfectionism? What kind of other experiences that you're seeing your clients have in common that are creating this belief of like, I can't love myself, right?
Sara: Yeah, so you can ask follow-up questions if this doesn't quite cover what you're hoping or answer it. But what I'm thinking, what comes to mind is, so I work with people who want to quit viewing porn.
Sara: All my clients. And especially when it comes to pornography and sex, there's a lot of shame there. A lot of things we've been taught about it, that if we are not perfect at this, there is something wrong. And so a lot of it truly is conditioning.
I recently did some podcast episodes with this really awesome Christian researcher who, you know, we find that the moral incongruence is just so much higher with people who grew up in Christian backgrounds, which causes so much pain. And I think that's just conditioning.
Sara: So specifically talking about pornography, this perfectionism, this I'm not good enough and I won't be until I quit comes from a lot of the conditioning of how we were taught to think. I mean, like the videos of this person, one shot you see him looking at a computer with porn, the next shot his wife is leaving, right?
Michael: Yeah, sure.
Sara: So much fear and shame. You might know the video I'm talking about.
Michael: Yeah, I know exactly what video you're talking about. Yes.
Sara: There’s so much fear and shame. And how this actually started for me, so I had someone really close to me, they gave me a pornography disclosure.
Sara: And I just remember how hurt and distraught and hopeless this person was. And I wanted to learn more about it, I wanted to understand a little bit more. So I went and I did a bunch of research and I learned that porn use isn't necessarily about the girlfriend, or the spouse, or the wife, or his sex drive. Porn use is an escape, it's an escape from emotion.
Sara: And that gave me so much empathy, and love, and understanding for this person. And then on the flip side of that I saw the shame, the shame, the shame. I'm not enough, I'm never going to be enough, I have to hurry and quit this so I can be enough. And seeing that really close and personal, like how much that actually created more porn use, it created more hiding and avoiding, it made it so much worse. So much worse.
And then it wasn't until this person started actually addressing the shame, they were able to make some headway on that. And so, come back to I'm graduating college and I'm finding life coaching, it’s changing my life. I love business, I want to start doing life coaching, I start coaching Christian returned missionaries, and so many of them are coming to me with like, I need help with porn.
And it was almost like a calling I felt because we started using these same tools, we really worked on the shame, really worked on feeling good enough now. And the changes they saw were so much greater than they had seen maybe when they were going to addiction recovery and they were every week repeating I'm powerless to this, and maybe trying to quit from a place of I have to quit so I can be good enough.
Sara: Instead, we're good enough now and we're quitting, because that's what aligns with your values.
Michael: Yes, man, you just hit on a couple super important things, super powerful things. This idea of and, I work a lot with clients and when it comes to like emotion and stuff, our mind is really quick to use the word but, right? I really want to feel good enough, or I really want to let myself, but I can't until I do this or that.
But with emotions it's all about and, right? Like I am good enough and I want to improve in this, right? I can love myself and be upset at the same time, right?
Michael: And I remember working with, kind of similar, I'd love to hear your take on this. But I remember working with a client who wanted to work through pornography. And like what you said, just shame was so heavy on this person. And I remember we like drew a circle and just listed out all of the parts of him, right? Like friend, son, worker, funny, like every part of him. And then right here in this part we wrote “views pornography,” right?
And we just talked about like this is a part of you. This isn't you, like this isn't, like our mind, I think, wants to just blow up the thing in front of us and make us feel like we identify by that thing. But learning how to recognize that no, it's not but, it's and, right? There's so many parts of us, right? And no one of us is defined by any one thing. I don't know, I'd love to hear kind of what your take is on that.
Sara: That’s so good and so true. And I love that perspective. A lot of times we make the porn struggle our whole identity. And if we can zoom out a little bit more and see that there is so much more and this is one small part of you, it stops giving it so much power, right? When we make it such a big thing, we give it a lot more power than maybe it actually has.
Sara: And I love the power of and. I'm thinking like I'm viewing porn and that's against my values and I can love myself, and I'm still good enough. I cannot be perfect and be good enough. It’s this crazy life paradox and it's such a hard thing to learn because a lot of us haven't been taught this. But it is true that the more you accept yourself, the easier it is to change.
And so many people really resist that because they think if I accept myself, I'm going to justify, I'm going to go view porn all the time. Those are very two opposite sides of the spectrum.
Michael: Can you share more about that? Because I think you're spot on. I think if you really slow down someone's mental process of why it's so hard to be loving and self-compassionate, you start to find out that actually that shame part of them is actually protection, right?
It's this protection, it has this unhelpful belief of if I'm not hard on myself, then I won't ever change, right? Like I have to be hard on myself or else I’ll be complacent, right?
Can you talk to me about with your work with your clients, and even just in general because this idea of shame comes up with way more than just like pornography, right? Like this comes up with a lot of things. How do you process through that? How do you work through that? How do you help clients work through that and help them realize, help them process through that unhelpful belief around shame?
Sara: Yeah, so it first just takes some awareness of what shame actually does and actually causes. And so looking at patterns in your own life of what you do when you feel shame, and showing that to yourself over and over again. I think of emotions like fuel, and so the types of emotion that you're spending the most time in is going to be the fuel for the rest of your actions. And shame is crappy fuel, it doesn't really get you very far.
So first, recognizing that and seeing how that's true and seeing how that really plays out in your life and showing your brain that so that you can call it out instead of just believing, no, I need shame to feel better. Really seeing that's just not true. It’s not true. Seeing those patterns.
And then recognizing that it's not either shame or justification, but that there's some middle ground here and allowing yourself to play with what do I do when I feel good enough? If I'm having an urge to view porn, or instead of feeling shame, what's wrong with me for wanting to view porn? You feel good enough and you feel worthy, what do you think you would do? Like what do you think your actions would be when you're feeling good enough? And most people, when they feel good enough, they don't view porn.
Sara: Because they don't want to or because porn is a way that they escape emotion, and when you feel good enough you don't need to go and escape. Or when you feel good enough, you're still going to do things that are difficult, right?
Sara: You're not going to just, oh, well, I'm going to go view porn. When you feel good enough, you do things that align with your values because you feel like you can, you feel that confidence.
Michael: Boom, so important. Yeah, when we feel good enough we don't feel the need to run away from the pain. We believe in ourselves. We believe I can carry this pain with me.
I love it, you've got multiple episodes, but one of your episodes was specifically talking about experiencing an urge to view pornography. I love how you phrase it, you're like, you walked someone through, a client through of like you feel like your heart is racing, you feel like you have this weight on your chest, it feels scary, but you're actually safe. You're actually fine, right? And learning how to just hold that emotional experience lightly, gently, right?
Michael: Instead of jumping in. And I think when we feel good enough, when we are in line with our values, we're willing to embrace that amount of discomfort in our life, regardless of what it is, whether it's pornography or fears of some sort, you know?
Sara: Yeah, it's I'm good enough and that means that there's nothing wrong with me for feeling this feeling. I don't have to be afraid of this urge, and just because I have an urge that doesn’t mean there's anything wrong with me.
Sara: And I can sit with this without indulging.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. So cool. So cool, Sara. And can I just add too, one last little piece is I think a lot of times, right, as I've worked with clients the shame part of us comes up. When you really explore it, a lot of times it's tied to unhelpful experiences like when you're young, like messages you received from loved ones, from society, from community, culture, like whatever it is.
And so when that shame voice talks, learning how to hold that part of you close and realize that yeah, like that shame voice is, like I kind of said earlier, it's trying to protect that little version of yourself that felt like you had to be perfect, that felt like you weren't just worthy of love. And I think so much of working through shame is learning how to hold that part of you close.
Sara: Yeah, not shaming the shame.
Michael: Yes, exactly.
Sara: That adds all these layers. What’s wrong with feeling shame? Come on, go away. No, this is like a part of you that maybe is still young and trying to protect you and we love it, and we don't have to just believe it.
Michael: Yes, totally. Sara, tell us a little more about what you're doing with clients. We've talked about, right, you're helping with pornography. But give us a little more specifics of where people can find you, where people can access your services, just kind of give us a spiel of what you're doing.
Sara: Yeah, so I have a free masterclass that I send people to, it's called How to Quit Viewing Pornography Without Using Willpower. So it helps you get out of –
Michael: Love the title of that, by the way.
Sara: Yeah, right? There's this pattern of no, no, no, no, no, give in. No, no, no, no, give in. And it's just exhausting. And so I teach people how to get out of that in that masterclass. That's what I typically send people to first to get a good introduction of me and my process, and then to get some good tools to start moving forward.
And then, like you mentioned, I also have a podcast called Overcome Pornography For Good. Those are the two best ways to start learning and understanding the tools that I have. I also have a program for clients who want to dive in and work with me a little bit more personally, that's on my website, sarabrewer.com/work with me. That's where I would point people if they want to learn more about me.
Michael: Cool, then we'll put those links in the show notes so people can find you. Sara, I was telling you this before we started recording but I just wanted to say it now, the reason why I wanted to reach out to you is because I refer my own clients to your resources, right? It’s just so super helpful, such good stuff.
You're making a big difference and so thank you so much for putting a lot of good out there in the world. And I would encourage people, if you're listening, to use your resources. And so just thank you so much for being on the show.
Sara: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you.
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 into 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 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.