I’m a little nervous about this week’s episode because what I want to share is controversial. But even if you find yourself immediately disagreeing with me after reading the title of this podcast episode, I want you to stick with me.
You might have been sold the message that your sexual urges are from Satan. They’re coming from the adversary who’s trying to get you to do something bad, your urges are something you have to fight against, and it’s an evil part of you that needs to be destroyed. But I want to offer that this simply isn’t true.
Join me this week as I lay out the 3 biggest problems with believing Satan is in charge of your sexual urges. Your urges aren’t dangerous or evil, and trying to overcome porn with this framework is not effective, so I’m showing you where your urges actually come from, and why this will feel so much more freeing as you work to understand your over desire for pornography.
You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 38, Sexual Urges Are Not From Satan.
Welcome to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast, the show that will teach you 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 coach and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Hey, you guys, welcome to the podcast episode this week. I am so glad you're here. I'm excited to talk about our topic today, sexual urges are not from Satan.
I get a little bit nervous when I title a podcast, or the subject of a podcast is something that I imagine people would take the wrong way or I imagine that people would disagree with. But I mean, I remind myself I am here to help you and I'm here to help my clients. I'm here to help people who are listening, I'm not here just to make sure that whatever I say, every single person agrees.
And I know, I know that this topic will help you so much in your journey to quitting porn. This is something that is really important, really life changing, and really needs to be addressed. So here we go. I'm excited about it.
Before we jump into it, I want to share a podcast review that I got from one of you. I love sharing these because, well, first, it's me showing my gratitude and my appreciation for them. I really appreciate them. They really help the podcast get out there, they help support me in the work that I do.
And also when people share their stories through these reviews, it helps other people know that they're not alone, and that they're not the only one who has gone through what this person has gone through. I guarantee you if you're struggling with porn, there are so, so many people who have had similar experiences and similar struggles as you have.
So this review says, “As a young man who has struggled with this for a long time, I've pursued many different ways to quit pornography. So often I was given what is mentioned as band aid solutions. I knew there had to be a better way. Every class or lesson I had made me feel like I was a failure.
They didn't acknowledge the acceptance that it's okay to struggle with pornography. And although this podcast is fairly new, I can attest to the true and timeless principles taught in it. Over the several years I've struggled, I have found that what is taught here in the podcast has got to be one of the most effective ways to help someone become more self-aware of any habit they personally or spiritually find offensive.
If you apply the methods taught, they can become increasingly effective to you as you learn how to better apply them to your personal life. It's okay to struggle, thank you for this free podcast to get the principles out there so that other people can govern themselves and their struggles.” Thank you, I really appreciate that review.
And if you haven't yet, and if you're enjoying the podcast, I would love for you to leave me a review on iTunes, it's really easy. It just takes one quick second there on your app. So let's hop into the topic. The topic that I'm nervous is controversial, sexual urges are not from Satan.
This is something that is taught sometimes and, in some programs, and by some people is that urges are something from Satan. And they are something that you need to fight against. And it's an evil part of you that needs to be destroyed. And it's the adversary who's trying to get you to do something bad.
And I understand the thought behind this. But I want to dive into today why this is a harmful and not a useful way to think about urges. Okay, the truth is, is that – and if you've listened to the podcast, you understand this, and I'll explain a little bit more in depth here today. But the truth is, is that urges are not something that you need to fight against.
And that doesn't mean we just give in to our urges and we just, “Oh, I have an urge to view porn and so I just I'm going to do whatever I want.” That's not what I'm saying. But they're not something that you need to fight against which I'll talk about more in depth here. They aren't an evil part of you that needs to be destroyed. Sexual urges are not the adversary trying to get you to do something bad.
An urge is simply a feeling, period. Just like we have feelings of loneliness and sadness, or feelings for sugar, cravings for sugar. An urge is a craving, it's a feeling of desire. It's a feeling. And when we say that Satan is in charge of our urges, we give them way more power than they actually have.
So the three main problems with this teaching that urges are Satan trying to get you to do something wrong is, number one, that it causes us to fight it and use immediate willpower, which doesn't work. Number two, it brings a lot of fear and shame, which doesn't work. And number three, you give all your power to the urges.
Satan never goes away; the adversary never goes away. So if Satan is sending those to me, my urges will never go away. And that's the message that a lot of you have received is like, “Oh, shoot, struggling with porn, having urges for porn. This is just something you have to deal with forever.” And if we believe that it's the adversary, if it's Satan giving those to us, it’s like, “Yeah, Satan is never going away, so I'm always going to have those.” And that's just not true either.
So we're going to deep dive in all three of these problems. Number one, thinking urges are from Satan makes us think that we have to fight them, we have to be strong, and we have to destroy them. When the truth is, is that urges are not something that you need to fight. And fighting your urges, usually make them stronger. Fighting them is resisting them using willpower pushing them away, go away, go away, go away.
I love the example of the beach ball. What happens when you hold a beach ball underwater? It just wants to pop up. And this is what happens when we hold our feelings underwater. When we just push them away and we fight them, they just pop up and explode. All of you who have pushed down your urges and pushed them and fought them, they've always just popped back up and come back stronger.
Have you seen those Snapchat videos? I always see him on Snapchat, or maybe on Instagram, they're the satisfying videos of the machines that smash stuff. And so people put a soda can and then the machine comes down and smashes it. Think about those machines, if you have a big bowl of soup and you push the machine down to smash the soup, what's going to happen when the machine fights that soup bowl? The bowl shatters and then the soup goes everywhere, everything explodes.
If it's soda, it pushes it down, it fights it, it fights it, and then the soda explodes everywhere. It's a similar concept to what happens when we push down our feelings and push down our urges. So fighting it doesn't work and fighting it makes it stronger. And remember the opposite of fighting it isn't just giving into it, or just letting ourselves do whatever we want. We can sit with it, and we can feel it and like the beach ball, we can just let it kind of float there on the surface without doing anything with it.
So an urge isn't something that needs to be fought. All an urge is, is a feeling and a vibration in your body. So when we really strip it down to its core, strip this urge down, what is it? What does your body feel like when you have an urge? You'll come up with adjectives like it's heavy, maybe light, maybe it's fast, maybe it's slow. Maybe it's tight, maybe it's loose. Maybe it's tense, bubbly. An urge is just a vibration that you have in your body.
I'll ask my clients, where do you feel it? Like where in your body do you feel it? And we're going to get out of our head, and we're going to get out of the fear, and we're going to get out of the shame. And we're just going to focus on this vibration that you're feeling in your body. Where do you feel it? Sometimes they'll say in my chest, or in my gut, or in my shoulders, or in my head, or my neck, or my throat, wherever, it's different for everyone.
Where do you feel it and then asking, okay, is it heavy or light? Is it fast or slow? What does this feel like? Can you describe this feeling to me? And usually I'll get an answer something like it's tightness in my chest, and a really fast feeling in my abdomen and in my throat.
Sometimes when you imagine an urge, other people when they imagine urges sometimes they imagine a monster or a dragon that's just engulfing them. They have this vibration in their body, this feeling, this tightness, this tenseness, and they imagine something really scary and dangerous that is overtaking them.
If that's you, I want to encourage you to get more neutral and more factual about what the feeling is. If you were to describe it to someone who's never felt an urge before, how would you do that? Without being a little bit dramatic and saying it's a dragon that's engulfing my whole body. It's not, it's not a dragon. Let's get really factual. What is it?
It's not actually a monster that's making you do something. What factually, is it? And then you get deeper, and you breathe, and you realize, “Okay, this is tightness in my chest. This is a fast feeling in my abdomen and my throat. This is a shaky charge that I'm feeling in my body,” or however you would describe it. And we don't need to fight that.
We don't need to fight that vibration. We can just feel it. We can sit and feel the tightness in our chest, it's not going to hurt you. We can feel the heavy, fast feeling in your abdomen and your throat. It's uncomfortable, it's not great and fun to feel, but it's also not going to hurt you.
And the problem with saying that urges are from Satan is it makes them feel very dangerous. That's when the images of a dragon taking over my body comes up, you know, it's dangerous to feel that urge. It's dangerous to let it sit there. When in reality, it's not dangerous at all.
And in reality, learning how to sit with it, learning how to feel with it, how to be with it, is the only way to overcome it. Fighting it, demonizing it, trying to make it go away, it just comes back stronger. The only way to overcome it is to practice feeling it and not responding to it.
I had a client who sent me a Star Wars video, like a clip from Clone Wars. And forgive me if I get this wrong, because I haven't really watched a lot of Clone Wars. I'm not that into Star Wars, even though I don't have anything against it.
But this video is of Yoda, and Yoda, he's fighting his dark self. And he's losing. He's in some cave or somewhere and his dark self appears. And his dark self is saying these really self-degrading things to him, and it's really mean and really strong. And Yoda is trying to fight him, fight him off, fight this bad part of me.
And he loses, and he's losing, and he's losing, and he's losing. And then Yoda realizes that he doesn't have to fight him anymore. He can just sit there, he can just listen to him, he can just let him be there. And that he doesn't have power over him. This part that he sees as bad isn't something that he needs to fight and push away. But instead, he can just allow him to be there and not give him power. And not give him the ability to decide what he does with his life.
I might totally be botching that example, but it's something like that. And I loved that my client sent that to me. So we don't need to fight our urges, they aren't dangerous, and they don't have power over us. And that's point number three, is when we think we need to fight our urges. And we think they're from Satan we give them way more power than they have.
Our urges are just sensations in our body. And it takes some practice to learn how to sit with those. It's mindfulness and breathing, and just these new techniques that you might not have practiced before. Especially if the message has always been push away, push away, push away, push away, it might take some time to get the hang of. But you can learn how to do it and then the urges start to go away. We don't need to fight them, they're not dangerous. Urges are not dangerous.
Which brings us to point number two, if urges are from Satan, then they're very powerful, right? Satan never goes away so my urges will never go away. And this is probably where that belief that I hear often from my clients is “Oh, this is just something I have to struggle with forever.” Which just isn't true.
So where do your urges come from? If they don't come from Satan, where do they come from? They come from, number one, your thoughts like, “I want that. I need it. I can't have it. I really want to do that.” Urges come from your thoughts.
And then they also come from your reward system, like we talked about in Episode 35. They come from habits, they come from patterns. They come from a pattern that you've learned and that you've taught your brain to do over and over again from your reward system, from how your brain is set up.
Believing that urges are from Satan gives them power that they don't actually have. It's not true that you have to struggle with porn forever. And think about this too, if urges came from Satan, from the adversary, every single person would struggle with urges for pornography. And not everyone does.
If Satan could just put an urge in you everyone would struggle with porn, right? He's not going to like pick and choose, “Okay, this person's going to struggle with porn, this person's going to struggle with porn.” Everyone would struggle with it. It doesn't come from him. It comes from our brain, from our reward system, from what we've trained ourselves to like, and from our thoughts, our current thoughts about pornography, our current thoughts about ourself.
Like I said earlier to have urges came from Satan no one would be able to stop having urges from pornography, because Satan is never going to go away, so our urges would never go away. But that's just not true, people do. People learn how to get rid of their over desire for pornography, for their constant consistent urges for pornography.
And I want to clarify really quick I'm not saying we can get rid of all of our sexual urges and our healthy sexuality. That's very normal, we want to have sexual urges. We want to have sexual thoughts. That's part of being a human with a sexual body. Those are important, those are healthy.
But this over desire for porn, these consistent almost compulsive urges for pornography, you can learn how to get rid of those. You can learn how to bring all of that over desire down. If this over desire, if these urges were from Satan, we wouldn't be able to learn how to do that. But you can and people do it, people do it often.
And I want you to think about how you feel when you think to yourself, urges are from Satan, or urges or from the devil or from the adversary. Think about the devil, the adversary, Satan, whatever you want to call him, he's a pretty powerful dude. And so if you believe this, if you can believe it's from him you can feel very powerless, you can feel very weak.
When you start to feel those urges, can be a very, very scary thing. And from that place of powerlessness and weak and fear, you're not going to be able to take the action that you need to in order to quit porn. When you feel powerless and weak, you're much more likely just to give in to your urges instead of getting really factual and neutral with them and sitting with them and learning how to do the work there.
And this comes up with my clients a lot, they feel an urge and they get really afraid all of a sudden. They're just like terrified of this feeling in their body. And all that causes them to do is to resist it, to push it away. And then what happens when you push it away? It comes back. Anytime that we demonize anything, we give it more power than it really has.
This is why I have such a problem with saying that urges are from Satan, it demonizes them, and it gives them so much more power than they really have. The reason that there is so much struggle with pornography over other things, I think, in our culture is because of this mindset that we have around them is that they are very scary. And we give it so much more power than they really have.
We have so much more power, and we need to take that power back over our urges over our sexuality instead of pushing them on Satan, or instead of pushing them on other people. That's been a common theme in our culture too, is that we have sexual urges because of other people. And we can't control ourselves, we can't control our sexual urges because of other people.
When in reality, that's not true and we need to start taking back that power. We have control over this. And it's really hard to believe that we have control over that when we demonize it and say that it's from Satan or the devil.
And I almost wonder, this is me speculating, but I almost wonder if people who are in religious environments, like more conservative religious environments, have a harder time quitting porn because they feel so powerless to it, because the message is that it's coming from a deep, scary, powerful force. Instead of the simple truth that is, this is just something that you want. This is just something that you have desire for. And it sounds so much easier to change desire, to change a habit than it does to fight Satan, or fight the devil, or fight the adversary that is putting these in you.
Okay, and then number three, the third reason that this belief isn't helpful is that thinking that urges are from Satan brings fear and sexual shame. I did a whole podcast episode on sexual shame. And it's one that I get the most messages about that's like, “Oh my gosh, yes, this is so good. This is what I needed.” So go and listen to that one if you're really struggling with sexual shame.
But back to this point, that thinking urges are from Satan brings fear and sexual shame, I want you to think about how terrifying it is to think of a sexual urge from the devil. Like, “Crap, now I'm just in his grasp. I'm having this sexual feeling, now I'm in his grasp. I’m having this sexual desire, now I'm in Satan's grasp.”
And so when you're in that moment of feeling the urge, thinking that it's from the devil, the mindset very easily turns into, “Well, it's over. I shouldn't have gotten myself into the situation where I'm feeling these sexual urges. I didn't watch myself close enough. I'm here, I'm having this urge, and now in Satan's in my mind. Crap” right? And then we don't sit with the urge and do the stuff and take the power back, you know, that we have power and control over how we react to this feeling.
When we feel a fear around our urges, we run away from them and use willpower, which doesn't work. If running away from porn worked, you guys, I would be preaching that. But most of us listening to this podcast, we grew up, we were the first generation to grow up where porn is just available at the tip of our fingers.
Porn is just available everywhere, it's so accessible. Running away from it doesn't work. When we feel fear, we run away from it and we don't process that urge, sit with that urge, that technique that I've talked about often in the podcast. Which is the way that we actually quit porn.
And then of course, we feel the sexual shame, I shouldn't have this feeling I shouldn't want this sexual thing. This sexual thing is from the devil. And this just isn't true, sexual feelings, even urges for pornography are not from the devil.
Sexuality is from God. Sexuality is good. If you're a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of the LDS Church, this is something that our doctrine teaches. Even if our culture doesn't teach it very well, or even if people have differing opinions, our doctrine doesn't teach that sexuality is bad and that sexuality should be avoided, and that in order to be a leader, or to be a godly person, you have to be abstinent.
No, I mean, all of our leaders are allowed to have sexual relationships with their spouse, with their partner, with who they're married to. Sexuality is not bad. Sexual urges, even sexual urges that you feel when it comes to pornography, that sexual urge in itself is not bad. That feeling is not immoral. What you choose to do with those feelings could be considered good or bad just based on your morals.
If you remember this idea of physiology versus morality, physiology is just normal natural body responses. It's a normal natural body response for your body to want pornography, especially if you've trained it to have this over desire. And if you've given it to yourself enough times that your brain is like, “Hey, we need this. Hey, we need this,” like I talked about in Episode 35.
But physiology is not morality. Just like having craving for sugar is not good or bad, it just is. It's just physiology. Morality is what we do with that feeling and what we do with that urge. And so when we demonize the feeling itself and we make the feeling good or bad, it just messes so many things up and really messes with our minds and makes us feel a lot of shame, get stuck in shame spirals. It keeps us powerless from quitting porn.
Feeling sexual urges is not bad. Morality comes into play with what you do with that feeling. This is a complaint that a lot of newlyweds have is, “I was taught my whole life that anything sexual was bad, any sexual feelings were bad. It was all something that needed to be avoided. And then I got married, and all of the sudden it was good. And all of the sudden it was important and all of a sudden it was something that I was expected to do. That's such a hard switch in my mind.”
Teaching that sexual urges and urges to view pornography are from Satan just really perpetuates the sexual shame that is damaging to people, damaging to cultures. When we feel sexual shame, what do we do? When you feel shame, you hide and avoid, hide, and avoid. Those are the actions that I see from shame.
And so when we feel sexual shame, we hide from our urges, we avoid urges, and sexuality. We create more resistance, which makes it come back stronger. And then we have the shame spirals when we do look at porn, right? You look at porn and then you have shame spirals for days and days and days of thinking there's something wrong with me, there's something wrong with me, there's something wrong with me. Which leads to more porn and more buffering. I've talked about this in depth in that sexual shame episode.
Okay, so those are the three problems that come from this idea that urges are from Satan. Number one, thinking urges are from Satan makes us fight them and use willpower and resistance which just makes them come back stronger. Number two, thinking urges are from Satan makes them more powerful than they really are. Because Satan never goes away, so urges will never go away. And number three, thinking urges are from Satan brings fear and sexual shame, which usually makes the porn habit worse, and does nothing to help us quit.
If fear and sexual shame worked, you wouldn't be listening to this podcast. I think people say that urges are from the devil, the adversary, Satan, I think they say that because they want to encourage people to use Jesus Christ when we're changing habits. Because the opposite of that, the opposite of the devil and of the adversary is Jesus Christ.
But the truth is that we don't have to demonize pornography in order to access grace, and the atonement, and Jesus Christ in order to quit porn. Now, I believe very, very strongly, that Christ, and God, and Spirit, they're all working in the background of all of this work that I do. I meet with my coach Tina, who I hired to help me in the program, we meet every week, and we talk about how this work that we're doing, it's just holy ground. And how coaching these people and these clients is so holy, and beautiful, and full of grace, and how we feel Spirit working with us often.
And so this idea that you have to demonize pornography in order to access God and access Christ, it’s just not true. And what I found is that, and I found this in my own life, and I've seen it over and over in my client’s lives is that you can access grace so much better when you aren't demonizing things. Especially pornography, when you aren't demonizing pornography, you can access grace so much better.
Demonizing porn puts the focus on the adversary, instead of the focus on hope, grace, forgiveness, trust, all these things that are Christ-centered and spirit-centered.
And so to take it even one step further, for those of you who want to move one step further in this direction, want to question like, what of your urges weren't from the devil? What if your urges, were an experience that Christ fully intended you to have?
What if you're supposed to be experiencing this and this is all part of the plan? Nothing's gone wrong and it's making you strong, and it's making you resilient. And it's teaching you about your brain, and it's teaching you about shame and fear. I think a big next step in our church culture is to get out of the shame and fear tactics that we've been using for so long.
Shame and fear don't help us access Christ. If we can get out of those, we can be a much more Christ-centered people. So that might resonate with some of you, maybe not all of you, but I want to put it out there for those of you who are ready for that.
All right, you guys, I love you so much. Keep up the great work. I’m so grateful for you. 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 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.