Introduction All my career I have been a teacher, bringing principles of the inner world to children of all ages in schools. Now I'm a Mindfulness trainer, therapist in training and wellbeing coach. Sadly and happily, I have battled with this particular foe for many many years, with varying levels of success. It has been extraordinarily difficult but also illuminating. I write this now a while after having reached what I perceive to be the final milestone. It has been a long time coming. I've studied the mind, meditation and spiritual transformation since I was 15 relentlessly, particularly the difficult teaching of Jiddu Krishnamurti. His direct and unequivocal approach to conflict has influenced me greatly. He calls for a total end to inner conflict, and this is the 'Holy Grail' in this matter, as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, I don't think most people realise that this is the true goal. Most think that it's just not to watch porn, no matter what. But if you are living with repression, still looking over your shoulder, then you are still in conflict. In fact, there is a natural way to move beyond this without leaving any trace of conflict whatsoever. The true goal is absolute freedom from the whole pernicious cycle and everything it entails, that whole world of perception of other human beings, yourself and the sexual realm. I hope, in this long post, to convey to you that not only is this possible but also to point to how. Many of the things I write may have been written on this site before, but I think that some key insights are new here and that is my main motivation for posting. Disclaimer: This is all written from the point of view of a heterosexual male and so please do not be offended if it does not include or speak to your own experiences and inclinations. I know that what is relevant for me is not necessarily relevant for everyone and that there will be many aspects of all this which I do not address here because they are not part of my story. My Story I am a happily married man and I am extremely lucky because my wife is not only beautiful but angelic in her personality as well. This is the experience I come from, and so pornography from the perspective of a single person is different for me to understand, but I still think everything I've learned is relevant to those people as well. We got together when we were 17 and she made it immediately clear that, for her, porn was akin to cheating. Obviously not as bad, but the sentiment was clear: it's not ok. This was incredibly difficult for me as a teen. I didn't have the confidence or the wherewithal to discuss it with her frankly, and explain how hard it would be to give it up and to really get into whether or not I should. If I had it would have all been so much easier. I just quietly went about trying to stop doing it and we never spoke about it at all. I had no idea what I was getting into! She kind of caught me once in the few years that followed and obviously this created a bit of conflict but still we never really discussed it. I think she probably assumed I had given it up completely quite fast after that because I never spoke about it to her and she probably had no idea how challenging that could be, for a guy who has grown up with the arrival of full on internet porn. Some of the main points from these years are as follows, although I didn’t necessarily realise them at the time. I had urges to consume erotic content and I believed that these urges were 'bad', that I had to repress, suppress them and not act on them. If I acted on them I had to make sure it was a secret. This all created a horrible fragmentation within me which you are all no doubt very good friends with. I did not understand if the urges were bad or not, or how should respond to them, or whether or not I should act on them. I did not know if it was my wish or not, to not consume this material. I was afraid that I would always experience this conflict, that I would always feel broken and fragmented. I was afraid that I would never know how to move beyond it, and that I would always feel some degree of guilt or shame for this 'part of me'. I was afraid that the cycle would continue for all of my life. This is all incredibly debilitating for mind, heart and soul, as most of you know. It probably created all manner of bad moods, agitation, depression and anxiety. If I 'gave in' and viewed any material it became a spiralling habit and a compulsion. This compulsivity creates the most extreme fragmentation, as it is an immediate and present direct conflict between wanting and not wanting something. I was afraid of all of this. On some level, I was afraid of beautiful women, or women acting seductively or sexily. I was afraid of perceiving women on TV or out in the street as attractive because I had taken on the belief that it was a betrayal of my soul mate and beloved. When I say ‘afraid’, you may imagine me cowering or physically recoiling, no, it’s not like that. These are small, inner reactions and aversions. Fear moves in mysterious and subtle ways and I would never have recognised this as fear in the moment as a teenager. Now I know better. Part of my wife’s opinion about porn definitely came from a teenage fear on her part, seeing attractive women everywhere and knowing how easy it is for people to cheat on one another. This fear was amplified by the fact that both of us had experience with this in our parents’ marriages and it had severely impacted our lives and resulted in them divorcing. Yet part of it also comes from a deep knowing of a profound truth; that there is something truly beautiful about monogamy and ‘inner monogamy’ as well, some wonderful devotion and loyalty which is sacred and very special. What I didn’t know then is that this isn’t sacred and special if it comes from fear. How did it affect my perception of women and sex? Profoundly. Billie Eilish recently said that porn had destroyed her brain and spoke about how it has distorted her viewpoint. My long journey with all this has shown me all this in great depth. The ‘Ideal Form’ This is an obvious one. It conditioned me to have a particular view of what was beautiful in women. On the surface, this is bad enough. It taught me that big boobs, slim waist and big bum are attractive and everything else is not. So simple, so pernicious. Aside from the enormous but subtle issue of conditioning my subconscious to believe that external beauty is the most important/only kind, it distorted this further to make me seek and enjoy only a specific subset of external beauty. So simple, yet so imprisoning. As we all know, this causes tremendous problems for women, who believe (and rightly so, mainly) that this is what men are looking for, so they must go to great lengths to fit with this. This means a rejection of themselves as they are and an enormous expenditure of energy to make changes to fit with this. This is a betrayal of themselves and by falling prey to this, women become part of the cycle, instead of helping men to free themselves from it by actually embodying a different sort of beauty and therefore enlarging the conversation. Presumably, this actually forces these women to totally lose sight of what they actually value and think is beautiful, if it was ever in sight to begin with. Sexual aggression and ‘possession’ I realised many years ago that a good way to characterise the aggressive sort of lust displayed in pornography is the desire to possess beauty. To possess what has been perceived as beautiful as an experience. Almost like watching the sunset and feeling compelled to take a picture of it so it lasts longer. We can’t just let it be. All this is probably, for me, the most dangerous effect of pornography. It conditions us to believe, from a young age in my case, that this desire to possess is the sexual experience. This is what we can get from it, this is what we should want from it. The desire to do all sorts of things to that which is beautiful. Just let that sentence sink in for a while. I know I have. It is ‘praising beauty’ gone wrong. We really need to digest how dangerous this fact is. The sexual energy we experience is arguably the most powerful we have access to, and this forces it down a very narrow funnel indeed. It makes men seek to ‘conquer’ the women who conform most to the ideal form (bragging rights etc), and then not to actually give in the process. To ‘do’ what has been done in the porn films as if this is the Holy Grail. It really isn’t. Do women really want you to shoot semen all over their face and in their hair? I have had many amusing conversations with my wife about this, and was fairly devastated to realise she definitely had no interest in this. Then, after speaking to lots of other real human women, found out that they don’t really want this either. “But loads of women enjoy that!” I hear some cry. I always hear this when this discussion comes up. Ask yourself: do you want that to be the case? If so, that’s probably distorting your viewpoint, so it’s best to acknowledge that immediately, because it’s truth I am after here. Also ask yourself this: is the only reason you want it to be true because you’ve seen it in porn? Probably. Let’s face this directly. Yes, I’m sure there are many women in the world who enjoy that and many other things they see in porn. Fine. I don’t deny that. But let’s also consider if women are being enslaved by all this as well. Of course they are, they are one side of the equation. How many women in porn are doing drugs just so they can pretend to enjoy it and get their paycheck? More importantly, what is the background of the women, in porn or real life, who really enjoy the aggression which is shown so often on the screen? Do they all have healthy sexual backgrounds and excellent role models? How many women who enjoy this sort of thing do so because they want to impress men and now they’ve just accepted it as normal? I don’t know, and I can see how many people would be offended even by that suggestion, but I’m honestly asking the question. It’s a running joke that at the beginning of relationships women do things they wouldn’t dream of doing years later when they aren’t trying to ‘get’ the man. I used to think that blowjobs were my wife’s favourite thing in the world! The most important point I am making here is that just because some women may ‘like that sort of thing’ still doesn’t mean it’s what you should seek out as the best there can be. It’s all still part of the sexual narrative of society. Unfortunately, so much of this is about power. It’s about one person wanting power over another. In my experience, as a heterosexual male consuming that sort of pornography, men wanting power over women (of course it can be the other way round as well). “But it’s normal! It’s fine!” All the men say who haven’t dared try to give up porn. Normal DOES NOT EQUAL fine. I do not want to have power over my wife. I want love and I think deep down that’s what we all want. “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” - Jiddu Krishnamurti So what else is there? Visuals, visuals, visuals Porn trapped me on the visual level of sex only. Simple as that. In fact, in the first few years of my relationship my sexual performances were hampered hugely by how distracting and delightful the visuals were. I just couldn’t handle it. Yet it is such a fundamental aspect of the whole pornoGRAPHIC experience that it disappears from awareness and understanding: it’s ALL VISUAL. Ingraining the habit of linking sexual energy and release with visual stimulation is a significant and powerful thing to do, but we don’t realise that because of how ‘normal’ it is. It keeps us there and distorts and restricts our perception not only of sex but of women generally. Look at how beguiling all these images are on Instagram and Tiktok which people are being assailed by on an hourly basis. It is aggressively keeping consciousness at a certain level of perception, unable to see beyond. But are these visuals really all there is? Love I cannot stress enough that this is not about demonising lust. I also do not want to demonise power seeking in the sexual realm; if people enjoy playing power games in the bedroom that is totally up to them; who am I to say what anyone should or should not like or do? My intention has always been only to find what I believe to be the most profound and important truths in this area and so to free myself from conflict. It is so easy for these thoughts to be taken in that way, to think that people are trying to ‘kill the fun’. No. It’s not about that. We experience this reaction because we don’t want our way of seeing, or our way of being, to be challenged. It is threatening to us, like if somebody shows us evidence against our political views. Instead, think of it like this. The sexual experience can be seen as a rainbow, a symphony. Lust is a perfectly natural part of this, the part which attracts us to one another in the first place and then repopulates the species. It is also enjoyable to experience passionate lust. But it’s only one part of the rainbow. Yet for so many of us, it’s the only part of the sexual rainbow we know. To take the analogy further, this means we can take red and make it an entire rainbow in and of itself. We could easily make 7 broad bands of red and they would all seem different, because life is so magical there is so much to see inside everything. This means that lust can actually seem like a huge world to exist within. Just look at all the porn categories there can be. One person could probably spend multiple lifetimes watching different porn videos without pause. This might lure us into believing that there is almost infinite variety in that world, but there isn’t. It’s just one colour in the rainbow. Just one colour. After I allowed my wife to educate me, I saw that sexually speaking I had been living in a tiny little world of visuals, lust and the desire for possession of a small and largely empty experience. When we go beyond that level of sexual perception and participation, which I believe is our birthright and a totally natural movement, when we stop simply desiring to ‘have something for ourselves’, we can come to true connection which not only takes us beyond lust but beyond self altogether. Then we can actually ‘make love’ in an act of sacred magic in which two souls come together as one, fulfilling the spiritual purpose of the sexual act. This is a totally different world, home to all sorts of treasures which I dare not describe in words and which cannot even be imagined by the little mind caught in neverending circles of lust. How is porn helping anyone to prepare for or to experience that aspect of the sexual realm? Far from it; porn actively prevents us from even seeing that such a world exists. ‘Giving up’ As I write this, I must confess that I no longer believe in the normal paradigm of addiction and recovery from it, though it may ‘work’ for many people. You can ‘resist temptation’ and try to ‘ascend’ to something higher, ‘lifting yourself’ above the murky world of lust and the cycle of desire and imagination you find yourself in. Certainly, at the beginning of ‘trying to give up’ I think all of this is really useful, and that strong effort must be made to break the cycle for a period of time so that you can see clearly. Like a drug addict needs to totally have rhe substance out of their system to be able to start to see a new path. However, as I said at the beginning, I just do not think this sort of mindset provides a workable long term solution. I think the real solution is to end the conflict within totally. That is the only way I am happy to aim for, anyway. I will try to give a roadmap below of how this can be done. Observation First of all I found it important to understand what sort of beast I was dealing with by understanding how and why porn is so addictive and observing the cycles of watching porn. The endless clicking, looking for something new even though it’s still kind of the same, the dopamine, the not even enjoying it, you know, the whole thing. The whole cycle. Watch the whole cycle. See, with addiction, we don’t do that. We watch half of the cycle. We watch the ‘bad thing’ - in this case the actual consumption of porn - and then we fall subconsciously into thoughts and feelings spirals about the habit itself. This judgment is the other side of the cycle/circle. The shame, the guilt, the sadness, the frustration, this is half of the equation and must also be seen. But that’s very hard to see, because we fall into a storm of emotion and totally believe the validity of it all. Oh I’m a bad person, I’ll never get out of it, I just can’t stop bla bla bla bla bla. I’m sure you could fill in some more of those thoughts. That’s the thing…they are thoughts. Just thoughts. Watch them. This leads to the second key point involved in observation. How to observe this? This cycle must be seen with detachment, which means without emotion and reaction. That is extremely difficult and a truly key piece of the puzzle. It is so difficult because we do care about it. We can’t fool ourselves into pretending we don’t. Unfortunately, we are watching the entire cycle with bias from the beginning, because we are observing it through fear of it and the desire for the whole thing to end. This muddies the entire picture and so it is imperative to learn to observe yourself without judgment. First of all this means doing what I have said above, and observing the judgment itself. Accept When all of this is seen, you are able to take the next step, which is to accept yourself as you are right now and have compassion and understanding for yourself, without trying to change any of it. As long as we are trying to change it, we are in conflict. So we must truly, deeply, accept the situation as it is, with all the pain that may bring. Accept everything that has brought you to this point, too, without moving away from this acceptance. Stop. Let it really sit and simmer and marinate. This is difficult and deep emotional work. It is not an idea. It takes time and requires patience, effort and energy. Accept your habit, your guilt, your shame, your confusion, the whole mess of it, each time any of it comes into awareness. Welcome your thoughts and feelings in. Don’t run away. This opens up a new space and brings you to the precipice of what I would describe as the most important part of the puzzle. Descend Is lust OK? Is sex OK? Is it dirty? Should it be a secretive, closed thing schools can’t speak to teenagers about because we are all so repressed and weird about it? Should we have to hide the sexual part of ourselves and pretend it’s not there? Unfortunately, religion has really done a number on us here. So many people feel that pretty much anything sexual is wrong and shameful and all the rest of it. These scars are so deep we may not even realise they are there. It is embedded in every layer of culture. How can we possibly move forwards in a healthy way if we do not come to a harmonious understanding of that? You see, so much of the desire to ‘rise above’, to ‘fight off temptation’, to ‘count the days’ comes from a straightforward judgment that lust is bad. That sexuality is bad and that our sexual power is a problem. Yet Carl Jung popularised the idea that we need to ‘integrate the shadow’ and this is the perfect medicine here. We need to question that first fundamental judgment (which was not our judgment anyway, it was given to us by others) and look with totally fresh eyes. Please read the following short story; it is absolutely fundamental for the main point I am trying to make here: Prince Lindworm (search on google) The snake could be said to represent the wild, powerful, sexual part of ourselves which we (as individuals and as society throughout history) have repressed, hidden and pretended isn’t there. Everything we are ashamed of, everything which we don’t understand. Yet all of this suppression and repression has made this aspect of us twist and morph into something worse, something almost unrecognisable. Of course it’s unrecognisable, we aren’t willing to even look at it. We have not allowed it to mature with the rest of us and so it lies dormant, more wild than ever before. When we contact it we cannot face its wildness, it seems so at odds with our ‘sensible’ self sitting up high in the castle. We haven’t matured and grown with all our parts, we have left a big chunk which we don’t like or understand behind and now it is always there in the background, biting at our heels. (For more on this see the work of Martin Shaw or Robert Bly) So then we try to educate it, make it transform, make it rise up to where we are. Very patronising indeed! None of these attempts work. This act of ‘resisting temptation’ says, ‘No. I’m better than that.” The snake says “Are you sure?” Well, hold on. That is you. It is part of you. Stop trying to educate it. Descend. Go down there, into the cave of the snake, and let it educate you. Go into that world without any fear. Allow yourself to fully face and feel your raw sexuality, wildness and power, and let it educate you. Why on Earth should you be afraid of porn? Go and face it without fear. Cast off the shackles placed upon you by your religion, your peers, your spouse or whoever else it is, and go and really see what it has to offer. Here’s the thing. When you really do this, really descend, really look at all of this without any fear, something totally changes. You may find that it totally loses its sting. Then you see that it was your own fear of wildness, the fear of your own power, which had fuelled a huge part of the cycle all along, making your sexual energy and what it wants to into a problem. You cannot live hoping that you don’t ‘give in’ and do something you think is ‘bad’. You cannot live in fear of watching porn, of wanting to watch it, of being attached to it, hiding from it. You cannot live in fear. Go and find out what it is and if it really is bad. If it really is bad, and you are looking without fear, you will see that it is bad and naturally move away from it, without effort or conflict. When I took this momentous step, I really saw that porn actually was not interesting at all to me. I saw that it was all the same. It seemed ugly and it genuinely made me sad. I was totally shocked about this, because I had not really, properly seen it in that way before. I had tried to, but that’s something different. I realised then that it was never watching porn which was the problem. It wasn’t giving in to temptation or anything like that. The problem was that I was in conflict and confused. I was trying to stop doing something that I also wanted to do. The conflict only ended when I genuinely stopped wanting to do it, and I only stopped wanting to do when I faced it totally without fear and was lucky enough to truly see that it did not serve me, that it had nothing of real value to offer me. Many people may read the above and think that actually it all sounds too easy, too simple. Yes, that’s because it’s all just words which become ideas in your mind. Rest assured, my journey with this was neither of those things. Each step above, relatively easy to write in words, involved difficult inner work and it was not a linear step by step IKEA furniture solution. These are all just clues. The major insights which are vital for each step of what I’ve described above were hard fought, in my case. I will finish with two quotes from two gurus who have made an enormous impact on my life: “It comes with understanding, not determination. Become fully aware of your problem, look at it from all sides, watch how it affects your life. You are free from what you have understood.” - Nisargadatta Maharaj “It is truth that liberates, not your effort to be free.” - Jiddu Krishnamurti I truly hope this helps at least one soul out there, from the bottom of my heart. Feel free to message me if you would like to.