Episode 81: Maybe the Problem Isn’t You

Uncategorized Aug 01, 2022

While I was on a boating vacation with my family, I decided to go out paddleboarding. I immediately started spinning around in circles, going absolutely nowhere, and no matter how hard I paddled, I was moving backward. Frustrated and deflated, I told myself I was horrible at paddleboarding and that I sucked. 

That was until I figured out the rudder on my paddleboard was on backward. And it got me thinking, how does this apply to what all of you are experiencing? Because sometimes, the problem isn’t that you just suck. Sometimes, the problem is that you need to take a look at the systems and the way you’re going about where you’re trying to get. 

Join me to discover how, maybe, the problem isn’t you if you’re struggling to quit viewing pornography. You’ll hear my revelations from my paddleboarding experience that will apply perfectly to where you are right now, and how to start shifting the focus away from you. 


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: 

  • How we tell ourselves we are the problem if something isn’t working for us. 
  • The reality of why quitting porn is so difficult. 
  • How we’ve been taught and conditioned to think about quitting porn, and how it leads to you thinking you’re the problem. 
  • What to focus on to see how, maybe, the problem isn’t you. 


Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:


You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 81, Maybe the Problem Isn’t You.

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. I’m excited to be back. I recorded a few episodes ahead of time so I could go on vacation to Lake Powell. For those of you who are my Utah listeners, you know what Lake Powell is. I don’t know if a lot of people outside of Utah or this western side of the states really know Lake Powell, but it is gorgeous.

It’s a man-made reservoir that is massive, it creates a lot of energy and is a big water source for California and other states. And it’s a popular boating destination for a lot of people here in Utah and surrounding states. And it’s so beautiful. It’s right there in the desert so imagine seeing all the red rock and the cliffs, and then imagine a massive lake in it. And so you’re boating and you’re seeing this beautiful red rock and, jeez, it’s just beautiful.

And I want to start off this episode by sharing a story of something that happened while I was there. So one of the mornings I woke up a little bit early and I decided to go out on a paddleboard ride, all by myself. For those of you who don’t know what paddleboarding is, you know, you see the pictures of people standing up on the board and using an oar and they move around the lake standing up on this little board, paddle around.

So I decided to go paddleboarding, went by myself, it was a little bit early. My mom had told me about these cute little bluegills around the corner and all these other little fish and I wanted to go see them. And so I went out to the water, I unclipped the paddleboard, I hopped up on it, got the oar out and I started to paddle.

And mind you, I have not been paddleboarding very often. I’ve been a handful of times but I’m not an expert. I thought it’s pretty easy but as I started to go the board started getting really wobbly and it started twisting and turning in circles and I would paddle a couple feet and then it would start to turn around again, and a couple feet more and it would turn around again. It was getting really difficult, it was really hard.

And I remember thinking to myself, “What is wrong with me? I don’t remember paddleboarding being this hard. I can barely get anywhere.” It took me forever to get somewhere that I thought would just take me a few minutes. And the whole time as I’m going I’m thinking, “Wow, I’m just really bad at this. I’m a lot worse at paddleboarding than I thought I was.”

I made it about halfway to where I wanted to go and sat down and just laid on the paddleboard, did a little meditation, and then started heading back. And the same thing, it just kept turning and turning and twisting and wobbling. I was like, “Wow, I did not realize how bad I am at this. I really need to practice.” And so in my mind on the way back I was like, “Okay, we’re really going to focus, we’re really going to focus here. Come on, Sara, focus.”

So we paddle, focus, I’m like we got to be stronger, trying to like push the oar in stronger. We’re going to be stronger. And it was still being so funky and turning in circles and not going where I wanted it to go. I was like, well when I get back I’ll just go out later and I’ll practice and I’ll work even harder. There’s something wrong with me, I’m not good at it like I thought I was. It’s not as easy as I thought it was. I just need to work harder, I just need to push harder.

And I kept going, kept going, kept going and I started to get really frustrated. And I just sat down and I stopped. I was like what is wrong with me? I’m just going to get off this board and I’m going to swim it back to the boat because this is too hard, there’s something wrong with me and I can’t do this.

And then I said, no, I should be able to paddle board. Paddleboarding is easy, it’s something that all these little kids do. So I got up and I pushed even harder, pushed even harder and then I fell in the water because I was pushing so hard and trying with all my might just to get it to go straight and I fell in the water. It took me so much longer than it should have.

So I finally made it back to the boat and as I’m pulling up my mom and her friend who we went with were out on the back and they looked at it they said, “Sara, does your board not have a rudder?” I said, “No, it has a rudder, I put the rudder on it yesterday I know it has a rudder.” They’re like, “Well double check because something is wonky with your board.”

And I looked for it and I looked for it and then I realized, and my mom’s friend pointed out to me, she said, “You were going backwards. You were riding that paddleboard backwards the whole time.” And I was like, “Oh, that makes so much sense.” And I was a little irritated and I was a little flustered so I didn’t really say anything to them and I just took the paddle board back to where it goes and clipped it on and walked inside a little grumpy.

And I walked inside to where the kitchen area is in this houseboat and I said, “You guys,” and I looked at everyone who was there eating breakfast and I said, “You guys, I just went backwards my whole entire paddleboard ride and I was turning around and I fell off and I could not get it to go straight and I feel like such an idiot.”

And my brother said, “Yeah, I saw you going out there and I saw that it was backwards.” I was like, “Well why didn’t you yell at me and tell me something was wrong?” And he said, “Well I thought you would just figure it out.” I’m like, “Oh, that doesn’t really make me feel better.” But also yeah, why didn’t I just look under the board? Why didn’t I figure that out? Why isn’t that something I thought of?

I thought it was so interesting that as I was struggling so much I made it about me. I made it that I was bad at paddleboarding, that I just needed to work stronger, and it didn’t even cross my mind to see if I was even facing the right way, to see if the paddleboard was backwards. That didn’t even cross my mind that it was maybe the paddleboard that wasn’t working. It was all there’s something wrong with me and I suck.

So I just thought that was so interesting and, of course, I thought about you guys and I thought about the work that I do. And with pornography sometimes the problem isn’t that you just suck, sometimes the problem is that you need to turn the paddle board around, you need to fix the systems, you need to fix the way that you’re going about where you’re trying to get.

Like for me, the problem wasn’t that I was horrible at paddleboarding, I went out later that day and was great at it. It was easy. The problem was that the way I was trying to do it wasn’t working.

Most people when it comes to pornography, they don’t need to be told to quit porn. You’ve been told that forever, you’ve been told that your whole life. You know that you want to quit viewing porn. But what people aren’t taught is they’re not taught how to quit porn, right? Quit porn, okay, I should be able to. You told me to and I want to so I should be able to without looking at the how and learning the how to quit porn.

It's like the paddleboard, you're trying to get to see the bluegills or wherever you're trying to get and you keep turning around, you keep falling off, and you can't get anywhere. And it's really, really difficult. And then, and then you start telling yourself that the reason it's so hard is because you're just the worst. Because you're just worse at it than everyone else.

Everyone else must be way better at it than you. And you spin in circles and it's so difficult and it takes so much effort and you’re telling yourself that you suck the whole time. When in reality, the reason that quitting porn is so difficult isn't because you suck, it's because you haven't been taught how to do it correctly. It's because your paddleboard is backwards. You've been taught and conditioned to think about quitting porn in a way that's not really helping you. Okay?

You've been taught to use willpower, you've been taught to use shame. You've been taught to have an addiction mindset. I am powerless to this, right? You're taught to have an all or nothing mindset. You have to go 30 days without quitting porn and if you go 29 days, you have to start all the way over. You've been taught that fear is the best way to quit porn. You read all the articles that are really fear based, trying to scare you so that you'll quit porn.

You hear things like well just stop. Use more willpower, be stronger. Go on a run, distract yourself. Distract yourself, distract yourself, and then you'll be able to quit porn. Pray more, fast more, this is because you're not spiritual enough. If you were more spiritual, you'd be able to quit porn. You just got to be stronger, you just got to do it, right?

When in reality those things don't work. And if you're wobbling, and if you're spinning in circles, and if you're falling off, it's not because there's something wrong with you. It's because you need to turn that damn board around.

This is what I hear from clients often, like this is so much easier than anything I've been trying. And it took me a minute like I had to get over this hump to learn these new skills, but now that I have these new skills, I'm making so much more progress than I ever was before. And I'm not spinning in circles and I'm not getting stuck.

I love to use the example too, it's like you've been trying to fix the microwave with the manual to the fridge. So imagine trying to fix the microwave and you're reading this manual to the fridge and you’re like wow, I'm just so stupid. I can't figure it out. What's wrong with me? I can't figure out how to fix this microwave. Oh, actually, it's not your fault. It's that you have the wrong instructions.

So one of the purposes of this podcast is to encourage you to really take a look at your systems and to take a look at what you're doing, instead of really internalizing it and making it mean that there's something wrong with you. Maybe the problem isn't you. Maybe you need a better way that works better.

So the next question is, well what is the best way? How do I turn that board around? What does that look like? These are the only things I've been taught, what else is there? And I'll talk about it for a second here, but I also want to say if you haven't listened to my free masterclass, totally free, on my website, go and listen to that because I dedicate a whole hour to talking about that.

And so I think many of you who are listening to the podcast have listened to that before, but go and listen to it again if you want to be reminded of a bunch of these things. And for those of you who haven't signed up yet, go and sign up at sarabrewer.com/masterclass.

So instead to turn that board around and to have the right manual and to do things that make it so much easier, what you want to do instead is you want to learn emotional management. Which means learning how to feel your emotions, instead of just pushing them away. A lot of people think that they look at porn because they just have an overactive sex drive or there's just something wrong with them.

But really, porn use, unwanted porn use is about buffering from negative emotions or buffering from urges. So instead of feeling your emotions, you push them away or you try to avoid them and you try to escape them. And porn is a great way to escape emotion. So we need to learn how to handle those emotions and get to the root of that problem first, instead of just trying to quit porn.

The root is the emotion that we're not feeling, so we want to work on that. This is also the total opposite of willpower. So we want to use the total opposite of willpower. You've been told just more power, more power, more power, right? Like me with that paddleboard, I just need to go stronger, I just need to go stronger. But when I'm just going stronger and the board is backwards all that means is that I spin around more and I fall off and it makes it even more difficult and I get burnt out and tired.

How applicable is that to quitting porn? So many of you have felt that. So we need to get rid of willpower and use the opposite of willpower, not just trying to push through it because it's hard but instead learn mindfulness techniques. Learn how to manage those emotions when they come up. Learn how to sit with that urge, like I've talked about a lot on the podcast already, instead of just pushing it away.

You need to not use shame and fear as a motivator, right? You can think of shame as the driver. And if shame is at the front, it's like having that rudder on the front of the paddleboard. That's why I kept spinning around, is because the rudder was on the front, not on the back. When your shame is driving everything, you just go in circles, circles, circles, circles. The shame cycle, right?

I've talked about this in depth before but the shame cycle is you view porn, you think there's something wrong with you, you feel shame, and then you view more porn because you're feeling shame. And then you want to buffer from shame. You want to escape the shame, right?

And then lastly, what we need to do instead is relax and use slip ups as tools and as data. If I would have just taken a second and instead of immediately going to this place of what's wrong with me, why am I so bad at paddleboarding, and instead just been curious and be like, huh,
I wonder if there's something going on here.

If I would have explored and been curious, instead of just trying to willpower through, I would have figured out that the board was backwards, that the rudder was on the front instead of the back. I would have turned it around and I would have been able to get back to the houseboat so much easier. And I wouldn't have had to stop half way, I would have been able to go where I wanted to go and come back, it would have been so much easier.

But instead I went immediately to, wow, I suck at this, I need to go harder. It’s just so fascinating how our brains do that automatically. So I want to encourage you to slow down, to use your slip ups and tools as data, to not make things so much about you and internalizing them and that you stink, and that you suck, and that you're the worst. And instead look at your processes. Look at your tools. Look at the way you're going about things. Look at the way you've been taught to go about things and make changes to that.

And for those of you who are feeling called to come and join us in Overcome Pornography For Good, I really, really dive into all of that there. Tons and tons of hours of instruction, lots of practice, and of course tons of coaching and individual help to help you get where you want to go.

That's the thing too, right, if I would have been with another person instead of going alone, I probably would have figured out what was going on a lot quicker. I would have looked at their board and been like, oh, there's isn't doing that, I wonder why. It doesn't look like they're that much better than me. It doesn't look like they're paddling that much harder than me, maybe something's going on.

Or they would have been able to look at my board and been like, hey, you got to turn that baby around, that's why you're spinning so much. It would have been so much quicker. There's just something really powerful about having someone on your side to help you and guide you. It makes all the difference. So you can come and join us there, sarabrewer.com/work with me. For those of you who are feeling called to come and join us, we'd love to have you there.

And then just the takeaway again, there's nothing wrong with you. You've been taught to not view porn, and you don't want to. But you haven't been taught how to quit viewing porn and that's something that you can learn and there is so much hope for quitting porn.

I always think of Quinn, we did a podcast interview with earlier this year. Also, by the way, those of you who know Quint and love him, he is going to start doing some calls in Overcome Pornography For Good. He'll be doing some support group calls. He is awesome. He quit porn at the age of 63, has a really amazing story after 50 years of struggling with it.

And one thing he says is after I learned how to, I actually learned how to, and once I got the mindset and practiced these self-affirmations and then learned the skills of processing urges, I was able to quit and it was actually pretty simple. He's such a great example of that, that even though, even if it's been 50 years, even if it's been however long it's been, you can quit.

There's so much hope for you. Let's just learn the right tools. Let's turn our paddleboard around. Let's stop just trying to use more willpower and let's look at what's actually working and use skills and tools that actually work, like mindfulness, like emotional management, like not using shame as a motivator, like learning from our mistakes. All these things that we talk about in the podcast and that we really dive into in the program.

Okay, you guys have a great week and we'll talk to you next week. Bye bye.

I want to invite you to come and listen to my free training called How to Quit Viewing Pornography Even if You've Tried in the Past. If you like the podcast, you will love this free training. We talk about, number one, how to not rely on willpower or phone filters so that you can actually stop wanting pornography.

Number two, how to guarantee that you won't fail no matter how many times you've tried in the past. And number three, how to feel good about yourself while becoming someone who doesn't struggle with pornography. You can access this training at sarabrewer.com/masterclass.


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