What stories do you have about yourself? Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you have a story that’s playing in your mind all the time of who you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re capable of. Sometimes, this story is extremely painful and creates a lot of negative results in our life. On top of that, it might not even be true.
If you have a painful story about who you are and everything you’ve done wrong, it’s impossible to feel good about yourself in a sustainable way. You’re just creating a cycle of negative emotion, negative action, and negative results. So, if you’re ready to tell a new story about yourself that isn’t influenced by shame and judgment, this episode is for you.
Tune in this week to dig deeper into your story of you. I’m giving you a practical exercise to get clear on the ways your story of you is leaving you feeling unworthy and shameful, so you can get clear on the facts of your story and how your thoughts about these facts are making your story feel a whole lot worse.
You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 105, The Story of 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 everyone, welcome to the podcast this week. So glad you’re here. How’s everyone doing this winter so far? Winters in the past have been pretty difficult for me, but this winter has been probably the best winter I’ve had in a long time. I feel really good, and that’s probably due to a whole number of things. But we’re doing okay, even though it’s been so cloudy and dreary for weeks and weeks and weeks on end.
I usually love to travel in the winter, like just get me out of here. And that is still a part of my long-term plan, is we’re going to go move and live in Hawaii for most of the year and come back to the states in the summer. Be in the sunshine for most of the year. But this year, I’m okay. I’m okay with just sticking around. I’m liking being in a routine. It’s weird, this has never been my personality or my reality, but I’m just content. And I’m seeing this as a huge win that I am increasing my ability to be content, and it’s a really beautiful thing.
I want to hop into our topic today, which is the story of you. And I love talking about this. I think it’ll be really helpful. So before we dive into this, I want to teach you guys the model. You might have heard me talk about it before. If you’re in the program, you definitely know it because it’s a big part of the program.
The model is a really amazing tool that is taught by Brooke Castillo. So if you like the model, you’ll like her podcast called The Life Coach School Podcast, and her work in the world is really amazing.
The model is just a really simple way for us to see how the cognitive part of our brain, the part that is online, that thinking part of our brain, how that creates results in our life. So the basic idea is that you have circumstances in your life, and you have thoughts about those circumstances. Those thoughts create feelings. Those feelings create actions, and those actions create results.
And so the big overarching theme here is that everything is driven by your thoughts. So, going back to the cold, okay? So my thought is it’s cold and miserable. My feeling is when I think that I feel depressed. When I feel depressed, I eat junk food and lay around and think about how much my life sucks. And the result is that I am miserable.
And so with the model, using the model as a tool, we can look at what thoughts are creating results in our lives, what thoughts are creating feelings in our lives, and we can work on creating different thoughts to create different results. It’s just a very simple way of putting it.
We use this all the time in the program, along with the nervous system work that we also incorporate and do, which is the other side. Kind of like the lower brain, the offline brain. It’s important that we have both.
If I have a client who is like, “I’m really struggling being committed,” we’ll take it through the model. Okay, well, what are you feeling when you think about quitting porn? I’m feeling discouraged. Okay, why are you feeling discouraged? Because I’m never going to be able to do it.
Okay, so the reason that you’re feeling discouraged is not because you’re viewing porn, okay? That’s the circumstance. It’s not because you’ve viewed porn for 40 years. That’s the circumstance. The reason you’re feeling discouraged is because you’re thinking you’re never going to be able to do it.
That’s a very, very simple example just to help you kind of get the idea here. When I first learned this, it was really mind-blowing to me. I had never heard that your thoughts create your feelings, and your feelings create your actions. And so everything kind of comes back to your thoughts.
I would always try to change from a place of willpower and try to change from a place of like I’ll just feel better if I do more. What you learn from the model is that this is not true. You do not feel better when you do more. You don’t feel better from actions. You feel better from thoughts.
This is why so many people experience different emotions even when they’re doing the exact same thing. You can be in your job and be completely miserable, and the person next to you can be doing the same job and the exact same things and be having a really great time because the thoughts are different.
A really important part of the model is recognizing that there’s a difference between thoughts and circumstances, thoughts, and facts. So facts are something that we can prove in court. They are not subjective. They are factual. So it’s 30 degrees outside.
Thoughts are ways that we interpret those facts. They are subjective. They are not something that can be proven in court. So, for example, it’s really cold. It’s really cold, is not a fact. It’s 30 degrees outside is a fact. Okay? We know that’s true because someone in 30-degree weather who lives in Antarctica would be like, oh, it’s not that cold. Their thoughts about it are different than those of us who, in 30-degree weather, are thinking that it is cold, okay?
It’s really, really important that we start to differentiate between thoughts and facts. When we’re feeling discouraged, and feeling shame, and feeling all these things, it’s because we’re in the drama of the thoughts. And so this skill of being able to pick apart thoughts versus facts comes in really handy because it allows us to be the observer of our brains, to see things with less drama and see things more objectively.
That can be really hard to do when it’s your own life and your own thoughts. And, you know, you’ve got all this stuff going on. You’re in all the drama and all the thoughts about it. So it really is a skill that you can learn, and you can practice. And this is why having a coach is so helpful, too. They can help you get here. And that’s part of my job as a coach and my other coaches, is we see things objectively.
We call it we don’t get in the pool with clients. We’re not getting in the pool of all the thoughts and believing all the thoughts and believing all the things. We’re looking at things very objectively. We’re noticing what the story is that they have about themselves and just pointing it out to them and showing them that it is a story and it’s not necessarily a fact. No agenda to change it. You can keep that story if you want. But also just kind of looking at it objectively.
Anyways, once we’re able to do this, to separate the thoughts and the facts, we’re able to get out of the drama and make changes a lot easier than when you’re in all the drama of the story, okay? I’m going to get into some specific examples, but you can do this with anything.
So the exercise I want to take you through is the story that you have of you. The story of you. You have a story that’s playing in your mind all the time of who you are and what you’re doing and what you’re capable of, and your character. You have this story going on in your head. Sometimes that story is extremely painful and creates a lot of negative results in our life.
If you have a really painful story about who you are, you’re going to feel discouraged, stressed, depressed. This is something common that a lot of people come to me with, and we work through, is they just feel awful about themselves because of the story that they have about themselves.
What happens when our story is really bad? So going back to the model, thoughts create feelings, feelings create actions, and actions create results. Those thoughts, that story if they’re creating negative emotions, that’s going to create negative actions. And it’s going to create a lot of buffering. It’s going to create a lot of numbing out. And it’s going to create worse results.
So this is why it’s so important. To change the story of you, we have to start by changing the thoughts that you have about yourself. Don’t start by changing your actions. You’re going to be doing that from willpower, and you’re going to burn out. You’ve got to start by changing the thoughts you have about yourself. And then you’re going to be able to change the whole story you have of you so much easier, so much quicker.
So let me give you an example. And one thing just really quickly before we get into this example, what you’re going to notice as you’re doing this exercise, is you’re going to notice that most of your story is thoughts.
So what I want you to do is get out a piece of paper and write the story of me on top. And think about pornography specific, okay? So the story around you with porn specific and write down everything that comes to mind. What’s the story? What’s the story?
I did this with a client recently, and his went something like this. Well, I’ve been viewing porn for 40 years. No one wants to be with me. I’m not going to be able to quit. I’ve really hurt my wife. I’m not strong. I don’t honor my values. I’m not worthy of relationships that are intimate. I’ve been stuck in this for too long. That was part of his story, okay?
So you’re going to write that all out. And then you’re going to look at all those different sentences, and you’re going to choose out the thoughts, and you’re going to choose out the facts. So then make a column and in one column is all the facts and in one column is all the thoughts.
So with this example, if I’m looking through all these thoughts, the only fact here is that I viewed porn for 40 years. That’s something that we could go prove in court. That’s something that is drama free. That’s something that is objective, okay? The thoughts are almost everything else. No one wants to be with me. I’m not strong. I don’t honor my values. I’m not worthy of relationships that are intimate. I choose fake over real.
Okay, even I choose fake over real, doesn’t that sound – What he was trying to say is like, I’m choosing fake things over real things. I’m choosing fake porn over a real intimate relationship, right? You read that, and you might think, oh, that’s a fact. I can prove that because I’m viewing porn.
But here’s where we’ve got to be careful because choosing fake over real, other people would have different definitions of what that means. They wouldn’t necessarily say that choosing pornography is choosing something fake, okay?
So instead, the fact there, and you can write this in your fact column, would be I choose to view pornography when I don’t want to engage in an intimate relationship. Okay, do you see how that’s different? That’s a little bit more drama free. It’s a little bit more factual. Not I choose fake over real, but I’m choosing pornography instead of sex with my spouse, or an intimate relationship with my spouse, or putting the work in with my spouse. Okay. It’s a little bit more factual.
So we’ve got to be careful that we don’t get those two mixed up. This is where having a coach comes in handy, too. So for those of you in the program, if you want to do this and then send it into ask a coach, we can look at it and help you.
So we’re looking at this. We’re keeping the facts. We’re looking at the facts, and we’re looking at the thoughts. Okay, the facts are unchangeable. We can’t think our way out of those. They’re not going to change. They’re just there, okay? So we’re going to leave that alone.
And then, we’re going to look at the thoughts column, and we’re going to question the thoughts. We don’t have to change them. We don’t have to lie to ourselves. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re just questioning the thoughts and asking ourselves, is this really true?
So, for example, because I just did this in a coaching call last week. We did this, and I started questioning. So I said, okay, let’s just look at these and just question them. No one wants to be with me, is that true? My client said you know what?” It’s actually not because my wife stayed when I disclosed the porn use. And she told me that she wanted to work through it. And she told me that she loved me and wanted to be with me.
I’m like, oh, okay, that’s interesting. So that’s just interesting that the story that your brain is telling you is that no one wants to be with me. But we have a fact here that we didn’t list. Let’s put this fact in the fact corner, okay? Your wife said she wants to work through this. Your wife said she wants to be with you. Okay, if she said that, we can put that in the fact column. He was like, okay.
So we keep going. I’m not strong. Is this true? Let’s just question this and look at that. He said, well, with porn, I’m not. I’m like, okay, why? Because I view when I don’t want to view, and I’m having a hard time stopping. I said, okay, well, what else is true? I’m not strong. You’re not strong in every area of your life? He was like, no, I am strong in all these other areas. I do follow through with my commitments to other things.
And I said, yeah, and let’s just question a little bit too, like how are you strong when it comes to quitting porn? He said, well, I’m getting really good at processing my urges. And I joined this program, and that was kind of hard to do. And I feel very strong and a lot of strength that I was able to join this program and have this disclosure with my spouse and that I’m working through it.
I said, Yeah, so you’re making that you view pornography mean that you’re weak. Maybe we don’t have to make that connection. Maybe there’s a lot of ways that you’re really strong in this area even though you’re having slip ups still. And he said, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I am, I’m getting stronger, and I can feel it. And I feel like it’s not totally true that I’m weak and I’m not strong. I said, yeah, so that’s just interesting. Let’s just look at that.
And then the next one we looked at, he said, I don’t honor my values. I said, is that true? And he said, well, my value is to not view pornography and to keep anything sexual only in my relationship with my spouse. But I am viewing pornography, so that’s kind of true that I don’t honor my values. I said, okay, what else are your values? What values are you honoring?
And he said, Well, it’s very important for me to be honest. And I’m here in this program, and I’m honest with my spouse. I said, okay, so you’re honoring that value. He said, yeah. I said, what else? And he said, well, I have a value of never giving up and continuing to try. And I said, are you doing that with porn? He said, yeah, I am. I said, what else?
He said, well, I have a value to be in integrity. I said, are you being in integrity? And he said I don’t know because I’m still struggling with porn. And I said, Well, what if we just question that your integrity is not necessarily whether or not you slip up, but your integrity comes with what you do after you slip up. He said, oh, that makes a lot of sense because when I do slip up, I go, and I do the work. And I do learn to move on. And I’m learning from it. And I talk to whoever I need to talk to you about it. And, you know, I think you’re right. I think that there is a lot of integrity in the way that I’m handling this porn habit.
I said, Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. There is a lot of integrity in how you’re handling this. Maybe this blanket statement that you don’t honor your values isn’t true at all. Maybe there are a lot of values that you are honoring here.
And then we stopped and had a little bit of a conversation about how we can offer ourselves so much compassion and love while taking responsibility for our actions. The truth is, and especially with this client that I was talking to, the porn use has continued for a number of reasons. A lot of that is because of the conditioning that he has grown up around sex and pornography, and the conditioning around buffering, and the conditioning around emotions, and all of this conditioning that is just kind of a part of his story and his life.
And so we can choose to look at this like this is something that I’m struggling with, and I’m taking full responsibility for my healing going forward. But it wasn’t completely my fault also that I started struggling with porn. I grew up in a very sexualized culture. I wasn’t taught great ways how to handle sexual urges. There was so much shame, there’s always been so much shame around it, and that’s made it even worse.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to turn. I wasn’t taught emotional management skills. And now I have all this responsibility to take this and to heal from it and to heal my relationships and to heal myself from this. But we can also offer a lot of compassion that this isn’t 100% on you. Your healing going forward is 100% on you. But there’s a lot of conditioning that led up to this that made it a lot more difficult to quit.
Anyways, that’s a whole other podcast for another time. Back to the thoughts versus facts. Another one that he said that his thoughts were I’m not worthy of relationships that are intimate. I said, is that true? And he thought for a moment, and he said, I guess not necessarily. I said, do you think that there are people who have intimate relationships when one partner struggles with porn? He said maybe. I said, yeah, maybe there are, maybe there aren’t. There’s probably some of both.
I mean, the truth is that there are a lot of people who view porn, and it’s a part of their relationship, a normal part of their relationship. And that’s what they’ve decided, and they have very intimate relationships even though one or the other spouse is viewing porn.
I said that doesn’t really sound like something you want to do. But this blanket statement, I’m not worthy of relationships that are intimate because I view porn isn’t true because other people do have intimate relationships and include porn in their relationships.
And he said, oh, yeah, that’s a good point. And then he said, and also, maybe intimate relationships means a lot more than what I think it means. And maybe me being honest and working through this is creating intimacy in my relationship.
And I said yes. Yes, maybe it is. Maybe it is. And then I said, and maybe the way that you’re handling this porn habit, that you joined a program, that you’re working through it, you’re putting all your time and effort and energy into it, maybe that’s what makes you extremely worthy of an intimate relationship that you’re willing to go through the work of quitting.
Because guess what? Not everyone is, and not everyone cares about it enough. Not everyone is willing to look at how it’s affecting their relationships. But you are. And not only are you willing to look at it, but you’re doing the work. You’re coming to the calls. You’re showing up for yourself. Maybe you’re extremely worthy of an intimate relationship because of how you’re working through this. He said, yeah, maybe. That actually feels really good.
And so we started to change this story that he had of himself. And why this is so important is because when you change your story that you have about yourself, you change your life. You will always live up to the story that you tell yourself. This isn’t just a practice in feeling better and trying to lie to yourself. No, it’s none of that. I mean, it is a practice to feel better, but to feel better because when you feel better, you act better.
When you have a very painful story about your life, you will live out that painful story. We learn this from the model, right? Thoughts create feelings. Feelings create actions. Your feelings are driving your actions, and so you have to watch those and pay attention to them and be kind of vigilant in what feelings are driving my life. What feelings are driving me quitting my porn habit?
If it’s consistent shame, discouragement, not good enough, think of the actions that come from that; hiding, avoiding burning out, lying, all-or-nothing stuff that doesn’t work. It’s just never going to give us good results. So we have to work on changing the story to create a new result.
Oh my gosh, and one of my very first clients, Koji, who I love. I think I’ve talked about him before. I need to have him here on the podcast. I bet he would come and talk to us. But I remember we didn’t work together for very long because I wasn’t doing very long packages back then. It was just like six or eight weeks. And most of the time that we spent was reworking his story of himself.
And I don’t even think we did that much buffering work. But as soon as he changed that story of himself, he had a completely 180-degree experience with pornography. He was able to quit very easily and quickly because he changed the story of himself. He had a big story of shame, not good enough like I see a lot of in this area.
It’s so good. It’s so powerful. And the beautiful thing about this is that you can start to rework this story now. If you have a painful story about yourself, you can rework this now. You don’t actually have to change any of the facts in your life. Do you hear me? That column of facts, that column of thoughts, you don’t have to change any of the facts to change the whole story.
A lot of times, people think I’m going to change the story of myself, so I’m going to lose 100 pounds, and I’m going to run an Iron Man, and I’m going to quit porn. That’s not changing the story of yourself. That’s changing the actions. But the story comes from what you’re thinking about yourself, what you’re telling yourself about you.
And so start there. Start with the thoughts, don’t worry about changing any of the facts. As you change the thoughts, back to the model, right? The feelings are going to change, which means the actions are going to change. You’re going to be more committed to your goals. You’re going to more naturally change and create really cool things and accomplish really cool goals.
But you have to start on the story you have about yourself. When you change your story, your whole life will change. And you don’t have to change any of the facts. You just have to change how you’re looking at the thoughts.
One thing I want to offer to you is that if your story is really painful, it’s not a true story. Just like I looked at all of these thoughts with this client that we just went through this example with, there is a more true way of looking at these thoughts that is truer, that is more complete, okay? The more complete and true thoughts are always going to be full of compassion and a little bit more nuance.
They’re not going to be blanket statements like I’m not strong. It’s going to be like I’m strong, and I’m weak. And here are all the ways I’m strong, and I like the ways I’m strong.
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 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.