When we feel the urge for anything we wish we didn’t want, like viewing pornography, or eating something we know we shouldn’t if we’re on a diet, it’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings we experience. Not only do we feel the discomfort, but we see it as a huge problem.
But the truth is that our urges aren’t actually a problem. In fact, on this episode, I’m encouraging you to welcome it in with open arms. Yes, you heard that right.
Join me this week as I lay out the 3 things we can do when we feel an urge. I’m showing you how two of those options have you either acting outside of your value system, or furthering you from where you ultimately want to be, and how the third option available to you is the key to handling any urge with confidence and ease.
You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 39, Resist, React, and Allow.
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 episode this week. I’m so glad you’re here. So today what I want to talk about, I want to dive into the three things that you can do when you feel an urge. We're going to talk about resist, react, and allow more in depth on how to process your urges and what to do with urges when they come up.
So when you feel an urge, which is just another word for that desire. When you feel that desire for pornography, when you feel an urge, there are three things that you can do with that urge. You can resist it or use willpower. You can react to it. Or you can allow it and process it. And we're going to dive into all three of those.
So number one, the first thing that you can do is you can resist it or use your willpower. This looks like you feel the urge and you're like, “No, no, no, go away. Go away, you can't be here.” And trying to push it away. It looks like you being angry at the urge or upset at the urge. Not wanting the urge to be there. “Oh no, I have this feeling, crap. Go away, go away, go away urge.”
Another word for this is willpower. When we try to use our willpower trying to resist these urges to view pornography. And the thing about willpower and this resistance energy is that it is temporary and limited. We just don't have enough of it to quit pornography. And we know this, anyone who's tried to quit porn knows that resisting and using willpower doesn't work long term.
But this is how most of us know how to quit porn. This is probably the only way that you were taught how to quit porn. I mean not just porn, this is how most of us in the world have been taught to quit anything or to do anything is this willpower energy, this resistance energy. And you know if you're using resistance and using willpower by the way that it feels in your body.
So when you're learning how to manage your urges, I want you to always be checking in with your body. Your body knows, and so careful not to get all up in your head and instead focus more on your body. Your body will tell you.
And a little side comment here on your body knows. It's really, really fascinating because I do a lot of processing emotions with my clients. And in one of our group calls this last week, I try to do that with at least one client every single group call. But it's just so fun for me to see, and so interesting, and so good for the client to see when they can really get into their body, breathe into their body and get in tune with what they're feeling. Their body has way more answers for them than their heads. And their body has way more answers for them than I do.
A lot of times when we're doing coaching, they just want me to tell them the answer. But it's so much more powerful if you can find the answer for you by going into your body. And I know you might not know exactly what that means. So let me explain it in terms of processing an urge.
Okay, so I want you to check in with your body. If your body feels really tense. If it feels like resistance. If it feels like a lot of pressure. If it feels like you're pushing it away, trying to make it go away, you know that you're using willpower. So check in with your body and it'll tell you are you feeling a lot of pressure, are you feeling a lot of tenseness? Does your body feel like resistance? And like we know, this doesn't work.
It’ s like that beach ball example. Using willpower, using resistance is like holding a beach ball under water. What happens when we're holding a beach ball underwater? It just wants to pop up, it just kind of wants to explode, right? That's what happens.
It's such a good visual, because it's totally what happens when we resist our emotions. It's like we're holding it down, holding it down, holding it down, can't take it anymore, and it just pops up to the surface.
People experience this a lot in dieting as well. I’m not going to eat that burger. I'm not going to eat a burger. I really want it but I'm not going to eat that burger. And they resist it and push it down, push it down, push it down, holding that beach ball under the water. And you think about a beach ball underwater, you can't hold it underneath the water forever.
And the further that you push it down, the harder it gets to hold. I'm thinking if you push it down by your legs it gets really hard and it just slips out a lot quicker, it just pops up. So that's what happens when we use resistance, when we use willpower. It doesn't work. But that's an option.
The second thing that you can do when you feel an urge to view porn is you can react to it. So reacting to it is just feeling that urge to view pornography and then immediately reacting to it, immediately doing what it says. “Oh, here's this urge. It's telling me to go view porn. You're right, let's go do it. I'm ready.”
Now many people, I want you to imagine a pendulum swinging back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Many people swing back and forth between resisting, using the willpower, and reacting. So resist, react, resist react. “No, no, no, go away, go away. Okay, I'm just going to give into it. No, no, no, go away. I'm just going to get into it.”
So maybe you can resist for a few days and then you react for a few days, you give into it for a few days. Maybe you can resist for a few hours, and then you react for a few hours. Using this willpower leads to reacting. You get exhausted from using the willpower, it runs out and then you go into reaction mode.
And listen, there's nothing wrong with you if you've done this. Like I said, it's how most people have been taught. When I say to people there's nothing wrong with you, you just need new tools. It's not that you're not strong enough or not good enough, you just need to learn a different way to handle this. There's nothing wrong with you, but this is what's happening and it's really good to be aware of it. Resist, react, resist, react, that pendulum back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
And I know many of you are thinking you just don't really trust yourself to quit porn. So if that's you, if you don't trust yourself, if you've said to yourself, “I'm going to quit,” so many times, and you haven't followed through with that. I know some of you are saying to yourself, “I've tried and I've committed so many times, and I keep getting into it. I can only go a few months and then I always slip up again and I get into a binge cycle again.” It's because you're in this resist react cycle.
It's not because you can't do it. It's not because it's too difficult or too strong. It's because this way that you're managing your urges isn't sustainable. I want you to think about fixing a refrigerator. If you were trying to fix a fridge, but you were using the manual for the microwave, you wouldn't be able to do it.
It's not because there's something wrong with you or you're not smart enough, or you're not good enough, or you can't read well enough, right? It's because you have the wrong manual. You have the wrong thing. You're trying to use the wrong thing. That's all that's going on here.
The Book of Mormon talks about this react cycle. In the Scripture it says there are things to act and things to be acted upon. I think it's in second Nephi 2. There are two things in this world, there are things that are supposed to act for themselves and there are things that just react.
I love this story, I think I heard it, actually I don't even remember where I heard it. But I heard this story years ago about a woman in prison and she was released from prison. And she was talking to either a reporter or a friend or someone. And the person who is talking and interviewing this woman asked her what is one thing that you would tell young people? What's one thing that you've learned that if everyone knew, everyone would be okay?
She said the one thing that I would tell young people is to learn how to act and not react. Learn how to act and not react. Reactions tend to get us in trouble. Reactions have us taking action that are outside of our value system.
If we think about the last few podcast episodes I did a little while ago on our lower brain and higher brain, reactions are typically that lower brain response. And acting is that higher brain decision making. So we talked about that resisting, reacting, and the pendulum. We know that resisting doesn't work. And we know that obviously reacting isn't going to help us get where we want to be. Neither of those options are working out.
But the great news is that there is a third option to take when you have an urge. A third thing that you can do when you feel an urge, and it's called allow. You can allow the urge. I also use the term process. So if you hear me say process, it's the same thing as allow.
Allowing the urge is letting it be there. So we're not resisting it, we're not fighting it, we're not trying to make it go away. It's letting it be there without giving into it. So we're also not just reacting to it. We're not resisting and we're not reacting, we're allowing it to be there.
And listen, I know a lot of you want to be confused when I talk about this. I know that a lot of you're like, “Wait, I don't understand what that means.’ And I'm going to explain it, I promise I'm going to explain it. But before I really get into it, I want you to know that this is like learning how to ride a bike, it's something you need to practice.
And if you were to sit here and listen to me on a podcast episode explain how to ride a bike and I say, “Okay, you have to push up on your feet and turn the pedals, and balance your upper body, and hold the bars steady.” You might be like, “Okay, wait, I don't really get it. Can you explain it again? Can you explain it again? Can you explain it again?” And you're really not going to learn how to do it until you go and actually practice.
And you might need to fall down a few times, when you're learning how to ride the bike, you might need to scrape up your knees a little bit. But the more that you do it, that's how you're going to learn how to do it. And riding a bike, I could give you these great tips and tricks over a podcast, but it's going to be something that requires practice to get good at.
In fact, in my program I have a whole video series dedicated to learning how to do this. And then not just that, but we practice it and I give them exercises, and we spend time coaching on it every single week. So if you're a little bit confused, nothing's wrong, it's just something you need to go out and try. You need to fall down a little bit, you need to get back up, you need to keep learning.
It's a skill, it doesn't come super naturally if you haven't practiced it before. Especially because, I mean, allowing our emotions isn't something that any of us were taught in elementary school. Or maybe you were, and if you were, you're super lucky. And so it's just going to take some practice, and that's okay.
So allowing the urge is about the energy that you have when you're feeling the urge. So when you're feeling that urge, I want you to imagine that there's this urge that comes and it's like knocking on your door and it's trying to push its way through your door. Now you have a few options when that urge comes over and knocks on your door and tries to push its way through.
You can go and you can hold the door shut. And you can push against it with all your might trying to keep it from coming in. Which is exhausting, and you can't do that forever. Or you can just let that urge come right in. The truth is is that urge is going to just barrel in eventually once you lose strength.
Or you can just let the urge come in and sit right next to you on the couch and listen to what it has to say to you. Now it's so, so important if you're doing this, that you realize that that urge can't make you do anything. That urge has no power over what you do. It can't force you to do anything.
So many people resist this process of allowing urges and are afraid to do this because they're afraid to let the urge in in the first place. But that urge cannot make you do anything. And if you haven't listened to my podcast episode, I think it's number four, titled Stop Fearing Urges, it really goes into that in depth.
But all that urge can do is it can come in and it can sit next to you. And it can make you uncomfortable and it can yell at you a little bit and it can tell you what to do. But it can't make you do anything. It can be like, “Hey, we need to go look at that. Hey, I really, really, really want to go look at that. Hey, you deserve that. Hey, remember this thing? We need this.”
And it's going to be uncomfortable, just like anyone coming into your house and sitting at you and telling you what to do is a little bit uncomfortable, but it's not dangerous. So allowing this urge is inviting that urge in and just listening to it, just feeling it. Allowing it into your body and then feeling it. What does my body feel like when I feel this urge?
You'll notice maybe it feels tight, maybe it feels heavy. Many of my clients say it just feels antsy. I feel antsy. And if that's the case, really think about this, can you just sit with a feeling of being antsy? There's nothing dangerous about feeling antsy, but so many of us haven't built up this tolerance to this feeling that we don't even just let ourselves feel it and we just react to it.
Now this concept completely changed my life. I remember where I was, and what I was doing when I first heard this and was like, “Oh my gosh, what? I can do that?” I went from being someone who felt really out of control and had all these plans and all these ideas, but couldn't get myself to follow through with them, and gave in to a lot of buffering and a lot of false pleasures.
I went from that to someone who started following through with herself, who started doing what she said she was going to do. I think I remember the first time I really practiced this was with my calendar, I had this stuff on my calendar that I wanted to do, and it would pop up, “Okay, it's time to go and do your homework,” or whatever it was.
And I would immediately feel this resistance like I don't want to. And it would feel really tight in my body and really, just kind of icky. And for so long whenever I felt that feeling, I would just want it to go away. And I thought that there was a problem with that feeling.
And then I learned, “Oh, okay, this is just what happens when it comes time for me to follow through with my calendar is I feel this feeling. It doesn't feel great but I can breathe into it, I can relax into it. And I can follow through and do what I said I was going to do.” It’s the same thing with allowing urges.
Allowing urges is learning to sit with this discomfort of the urge without trying to make it go away. And you have to build up your tolerance for discomfort to get really good at this. This is why I tell my clients– You guys, if you're in Overcome Pornography For Good and you're not doing this, listen, I tell my clients to stop counting days as a measurement for their progress towards quitting porn. Totally stop counting your days, and instead, start counting the number of urges that you've allowed, that you've processed.
Days are not an accurate measurement as to the progress that you're making on your pornography habit. But the amount of urges that you've processed, the amount of this discomfort tolerance that you're building up is a much, much, much, much better indicator of how it's going.
You'll get so much further if you can switch your focus from days without porn to how many urges I've processed. How many urges I've allowed. How many urges I've allowed to just come in, sit and yell at me. Stopping, breathing into them, and not listening to them.
And what's really fascinating about allowing urges, is that when you allow your urges, they will go away. When you resist them, when you try to push them away, they come back stronger. But when you allow them, they go away.
I mean, think about a toddler who's screaming and screaming and screaming and you can just give them what they want, or you can ignore them. But when you just listen to this toddler screaming for a candy bar, or whatever it is they're screaming for, and you don't give it to them, eventually they stop screaming because they learn that it doesn't get you what you want.
It’s a similar thing with allowing your urges. If we can just stop, drop into our body and breathe through the urge, it will go away. In fact, urges only last 90 seconds until you have another thought that brings the urge again. I talked about that in my podcast episode, Urge Flow.
So as you're doing this, I love the mantra, you can borrow this mantra. Have an urge, your mantra is, “I see you, I hear you, you can be here. I love you and we're still not going to go and look at pornography.” When we resist and we use willpower, that urge stays with us a lot longer than if we just stop and breathe into it and allow it to be there.
And I say that with a little bit of hesitancy because the trick here is that the urge will go away as you allow it. But if your mindset is, “Okay, I'm allowing this so that it will go away,” you've stepped into resistance energy. Does that make sense? You have to allow the urge to be there without needing it to go away for it to go away.
So the main difference between resistance and allowing is the energy behind it. So resistance is energy like, “Go away, go away, go away. I need this to go away.” And so as soon as you're allowing, you're allowing that urge, you're breathing into that urge, you're letting it be there. As soon as your mindset goes, “Okay, I'm doing this so it'll go away,” you move into that resistance energy.
So we have to sit there and allow the urge with the goal of getting really comfortable with that feeling of discomfort and really diving into it and seeing what it is and noticing that it isn't as bad as your mind is making it out to be. Instead of with the goal of okay I'm breathing into this so it'll go away. This sensation in my body of the urge can be there and I can carry on with my day and I'm allowing it to be there. And then you'll be amazed at how it goes away.
So, yes, the urge goes away when you allow it. But you have to be careful that your agenda isn't to just make it go away or you step into that resistance energy.
And I want you to think of this like lifting weights. Lifting weights is really uncomfortable. But when we're lifting weights and we feel that discomfort come, we're not like, “Oh no, this sucks. I need to stop, this isn't good. This is bad.” No, we're like, “Yes, feel the burn, it's so good. This is so good. This discomfort is so good, it's making me so strong.’
So what if we can switch that mindset into our mindset of processing urges? Instead of, “Oh no, discomfort, this urge, this unanswered urge is so uncomfortable. This is so bad.” What if instead it was like, “Yes, this is good. This discomfort is so good. This is making me so strong. There's nothing wrong with feeling this antsiness or whatever it is that this urge feels like in my body.”
And your future self, my last message to you guys today, your future self will be so grateful for you learning this skill. Your future self will be so grateful that you started now and that you did everything that you can now to start learning this skill. It will serve you in so many areas of your life, not just pornography, but especially pornography.
Okay, and again, if you want to dive into this, if you want individual help, if you want exercises that I have, the coaching that goes along with it, all of the self study on this topic, and the individual help that we need as we're learning how to have a new skill, I want to invite you to come and join my program Overcome Pornography For Good. You can come and get on the wait list if you go to sarabrewer.com/workwithme.
All right 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.