Episode 108: Pink Elephant and Intrusive Thoughts

Uncategorized Feb 06, 2023

How do you react when you have an intrusive thought about viewing pornography? You might try to ignore it, you might respond to it, or you might try to replace the thought with something else. However you’re currently reacting to these kinds of urges, I’ve got something new for you to try.

I saw a TikTok recently that illustrated the reality of intrusive thoughts as experienced by people with OCD, and it translates perfectly for how intrusive and automatic sexual thoughts play out in pornography use. So, in this episode, I’m sharing an exercise using a pink elephant to help you in those moments where you have an urge you can’t ignore.

Tune in this week for a simple exercise that will help you understand what’s going on in your brain when you have intrusive thoughts on a deeper level. I’m sharing why trying to stop, avoid, or question your intrusive thoughts will only make them worse, and how to instead accept them and let them pass.


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:

  • Why it’s so difficult to ignore our intrusive thoughts.
  • How compulsively trying to erase intrusive sexual thoughts only gives them more power.
  • What we tend to make our inability to ignore or redirect our intrusive thoughts mean.
  • Why accepting intrusive sexual thoughts doesn’t mean you have to approve of them, but it does take away their power.
  • A simple exercise to show you that your only option when experiencing intrusive thoughts is to let them pass.


Featured on the Show:


Full Episode Transcript:

 You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 108, Pink Elephant and Intrusive Thoughts.

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. How’s everyone doing? It is cold. It is cold, and I turned off my space heater to record this podcast. So it might be a short episode today. I need to get that thing back on. I am freezing. I just want to say thank you again for all the reviews you guys are leaving me on the podcast. 

Should I keep reading them? Do you like hearing them? I like reading them. I like to give shout-outs to people who leave them. So you know what? Yeah, we’ll keep reading them. And I also like to share the wins. It’s important I always say this at the beginning of my coaching calls, it’s really important that we start everything with this energy of we’re winning, and we’re improving, and we’re doing great. 

And even if it’s just small things, like looking at the small ways or, you know, a lot of times we’re seeing the big ways too, but looking at small and big ways that we are doing well. Like celebrating ourselves, celebrating ourselves for showing up, even to listen to this podcast. Celebrating ourselves for the progress that we have made. That helps us have the energy to continue to make even more progress. 

So I’ve got this great review. It says, “This series is incredibly helpful. I started listening to episode one a few weeks ago and have now listened to the first 20 episodes. I viewed pornography for the first time when I was 12 and haven’t been able to stop it or control my urges since, and I am 41 now. I have long wanted to stop, made many attempts, and even have stopped for long periods of time but have always gone back to porn.  

Your series completely changed my thinking and approach. I now know that I am not shameful. I recognize and identify how my urges feel. For the first time, I feel like I have the tools and ability to reject pornography. I think pornography is one of the larger problems facing people today. Thank you so much for helping me and everyone else who struggles with this. You’ve given me a new outlook and approach to all my problems.” Yay! Thank you. 

Thank you so much for sharing this. And for those of you who want to help out a little bit, go and leave us a little review and rating. It makes a big difference, and it’s pretty simple and pretty easy to do. 

We are going to talk about intrusive thoughts. I saw this video on TikTok that I want to share and shout out to them because it was really good. And I thought it replied so much to what we do and what we talk about. We’re going to go through this little exercise. I’m going to let you think about it. And it’s going to be kind of a short episode today, which we always like. Just a short, quick, and powerful little exercise here. Okay? 

So this was from the TikTok account Made of Millions. This was where I saw it. This is an exercise that relates to intrusive thoughts and intrusive thoughts experienced by people who experience OCD. And this also, as I was looking through this, I was like, this applies so much to pornography, and to urges, and to intrusive thoughts about sexuality. I did an episode recently on automatic sexual thoughts, right? When we’re walking down the road, and we see someone, we have these automatic sexual thoughts. I think this applies so well to this.  

So this is called the cute pink elephant exercise. So I want you to imagine if I was with you, I would show you a picture of a cute pink elephant. Just like a cute little drawing, it’s pink. It’s got orange feet and a really cute little pink trunk. And it’s just a little guy, and there’s a little heart on its shoulder, okay? So imagine it, it’s very cute. 

Now, try not to think about it. Don’t think about it. Why are you thinking about it so much? Do you like the pink elephant? Do you hate the pink elephant? If you don’t want to think about it, if I’ve asked you not to think about it, why are you still thinking about it? 

Maybe listening to music will help you not think about it. Or turn off your phone and just stop listening. That’ll help you not think about it. Maybe try to replace this thought of the pink elephant with something else. Okay, that kind of worked. Distract yourself. But wait, you thought about the pink elephant again, didn’t you? 

Okay, this is just kind of a silly exercise. It’s obviously very difficult to just not think about this pink elephant when we’re talking about not thinking about it, right? 

Then we start making it mean all these things, do you like the pink elephant? Or do you hate it? If you don’t want to stop thinking about it, why are you thinking about it so much? Like it’s just there. It’s just in my brain because we’re talking about it. And because you showed me a picture and because you’re telling me not to think about it. 

So this account they go on to say, “If you can’t stop thinking about this pink elephant, what makes you think that you can stop intrusive thoughts? Attempting to stop, avoid, question, or understand your intrusive thoughts will only make them worse. Instead, let them pass. Even when they’re scary, okay? 

Accepting the thoughts doesn’t mean you approve of them. It just lets your brain know that they aren’t a threat. The pink elephant can exist without needing you to engage with it. Sexual thoughts can exist without needing you to engage with them. This may seem scary at first, but the alternative is compulsively trying to erase your thoughts, which only gives them more power.” 

Oh my gosh, how true is this for unwanted or automatic sexual thoughts or intrusive sexual thoughts, right? This may seem scary at first, but the alternative is compulsively trying to erase your thoughts, which only gives them more power. Once you learn to let go, they’re forced to fade into the background. This is so good, and it’s such a great example. Those of you who follow me on Instagram, you see that I do post occasionally, you know, women aren’t in charge of your sexual thoughts. 

And no matter what someone is wearing or what you see someone wearing when you’re at the beach or when they’re at the gym, we do not blame women for your thoughts and actions. Just because we have, I mean, it makes sense that you might have an intrusive sexual thought about someone even when you didn’t want it to happen or you aren’t actively thinking about it and looking forward to having sexual thoughts about people. 

We live in a hyper-sexualized culture, especially those of us who live in America. In Europe, they’re a little bit better at this than we are. We’re like very hyper-sexualized, and we hyper-sexualize everything. It makes sense that we just have these intrusive sexual thoughts. 

So instead of blaming other people, and instead of being like, “Oh, no, no, go away, go away, go away, I shouldn’t be thinking about this,” I want you to remember the pink elephant. I want you to learn to let them exist, let them pass. Realizing that accepting the thoughts doesn’t mean that you approve of them. It just lets your brain know that they aren’t a threat. When we make them a threat, that’s when they get more power. 

These thoughts can exist without you needing to engage with them. You can notice it, breathe into it, and move on. And then I love this. I’m reading this sentence from this TikTok. They said, “This may seem scary at first, but the alternative is compulsively trying to erase your thoughts, which only gives them more power.” 

So why this might feel scary, especially around sexual thoughts, might be because of the conditioning that you have and the beliefs you have around sexuality, what you make it mean about you if you do have a sexual thought or a compulsive sexual thought. I really want you to challenge those things, okay? 

It does not make you a bad person. It is not as bad as committing adultery, which we sometimes misinterpret that scripture. It does not mean that you need to go and cleanse out your brain and fix everything inside of you. It’s just an intrusive sexual thought. And this is normal because of the world we live in, because of what you’re working through, and because of all the things going on. 

So if we can learn to breathe and relax, not try to erase them, which gives them more power, allows them to exist and move on, right? Once you learn to let go, they are forced to fade into the background. This is when you gain power back over your life around these sexual thoughts. 

I had a client recently who said, “I am doing great. I’m not looking at porn. I haven’t been for months. And this has worked really, really well for me, but I keep having sexual thoughts. What do I do about that?” And we talked about it, and it’s like, you know what? With the stuff he was telling me, I’m like. These are completely normal. There’s nothing that you need to do about these. The only thing you need to do about these is get rid of the idea that they’re a problem. 

So this is part of having a normal body. This is part of being a sexual human being. And just like you’ve been practicing with porn, right, you can choose how to act with these thoughts, and you can stop, drop, and breathe. You can choose to indulge them more, or you can choose not to indulge them, whatever you want. But the thoughts are not a problem. 

We are not here to squash sexual thoughts. We are here to gain power over sexual thoughts. It’s almost like, you know, have you ever had someone who’s kind of heckling you or bullying you or saying things to you? 

And it’s like once you just stop engaging, once you stop trying to get them to stop, you know, you stop having conversations and telling them that what they’re doing is rude, and you stop fighting back and snipping back and you like don’t even look at them, you just ignore them. And you notice them. You recognize that they’re there. And you look at them, and then you move on with your day, right? Then they stop because you’ve stopped giving them a reaction. 

Okay, guys, I hope that was helpful. Have a great week. If you are someone who is trying to quit porn and you’re not in the program yet, come and join us. Let us work with you, let us coach you, and come and do all the milestone work. There is so much to do. I talk about the podcast as it’s like you’re learning, and a lot of you are having these insights that you’ve never had before. And it’s beautiful. And it’s amazing. I want it to be that way. I want you to be making as much progress as you can. 

But there gets to a point where you might need some more application. And you might need some more help and individual help. And so, the program is the place for application. It’s the place to come in and actually do the work step by step. Keeping it simple, keeping it easy, with tons and tons of help and support from me and my coaches. 

So you can come and join us at sarabrewer.com/workwithme. We have a number of payment plans if you are not available to pay in full, too. So you can see those on the website. It’s lifetime access, so once you join, our commitment is that we work with you until you quit. 

All right, you guys, have a great week. We’ll 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. 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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