A neurophysiologist's perspective

Discussion in 'Rebooting - Porn Addiction Recovery' started by mayfourth, Jul 23, 2014.

  1. mayfourth

    mayfourth Fapstronaut

    It's possible that software like K9 could be demolishing your goals to quit porn. Here's why:

    I am a U.S. Buddhist medical student who holds a degree in neurophysiology, including several years of research and publications on the matter. I am not the smartest person in the world. I have many flaws. I always have new things to learn about the brain, but I'd like to think I have a pretty solid understanding of how it works. I might have a recommendation that will change your viewpoint on addiction.

    In the last 18 days, I have experienced a significant change in the way I perceive both myself and the general (mis)understanding that our society holds on addiction and its efforts to fight addiction. You see, all of your thoughts are more or less habit. It's incredibly taxing on the brain to form new neuronal connections. In the simplest sense, your brain would choose the path of least resistance if it could. If you do something over and over (such as, watching porn and masturbating to it), chances are your brain has developed strong neuronal connections that elicit very predictable responses.

    Your brain is very familiar with how porn and acting out works. The neurons that execute this habit are massive and thriving, to say the least. To give you an analogy, the path in your brain that starts with the urge to masturbate up to the point of actually masturbating and completing the act is like the same path you take to work every day. You have driven this path for so long that you could almost close your eyes and your brain will take you there. You would be a bit more challenged - and annoyed - to find a new route.

    You're an intelligent person. You wouldn't be on this forum trying to change your life if you weren't. So you probably already knew the neuronal theory behind your addiction as well as its practical applications to your everyday life. You think that the only way to conquer this addiction, this massive habit, is to avoid it at all costs. You're mostly correct. But this is where, from both a Buddhist's perspective as well as a neurophysiologist's, that I offer different advice.

    You see, as I'm sure you've heard, the common thought it to avoid porn. The common thought is to look away from it when it's on television, to download and use K9 computer software that makes pornography inaccessible, and to avoid at all costs exposing yourself to the "triggers". But how many times have you been a week, or two weeks, free from porn, and then -boom- unexpectedly, a trigger strikes and you're back where you started?

    That's because the neuronal pathway in your brain is a highway. No - it's a superhighway. All it requires is for you to get on this superhighway, and, like an unstoppable force, it will take you through the completion of what you swore you never would do. This might go against everything you've believed, but:

    What you really need is practice.

    Try exposing yourself, starting with small doses, to graphic images. Willingly put yourself in an albeit minor struggle to say no to porn. Of course, take it step by step. But do give yourself the opportunity to be challenged. Too much too soon might be too much for you to say no to. So, again, start small. Observe how your body changes. Observe how your heart rate increases, how you start to seemingly have thoughts that you know aren't yours. Observe the habit. Recognize it for what it is: a habit. Take 20-100 breaths, observe your body's reaction, then calm it own. It's difficult, I know. I just completed my own practice before writing this.

    But by challenging yourself, starting with small doses, you start to separate that which is habit and that which is your own disposition. From a very scientific standpoint, this "struggle" is an opportunity for your brain to rewrite those neuronal connections. You start forming new connections. Practicing this every day, just like working out, flexes the muscle of your brain. It forms and strengthens new neuronal connections that begin to build different habits. Also, it's very meditative. You'll start to separate your own identify from the endless thoughts that plague your mind. You feel confident: as if you can literally look at porn with your very own eyes and say: fuck you, porn. Ain't happening.

    Again, there is a lot for me to learn, especially about myself. If I truly practiced what I preached, then I would be years free from porn. But addiction can be tough. However, I'm 18 days free from PMO, and I attribute much of this success to my new approach. I challenge, in small doses, the very neuronal pathways that riddle my own addicted brain. I choose to view images, once a day, that provoke those habits. It's difficult at first, but you get stronger. You override those thoughts that are not you, and take full responsibility over your own mind. One day, you'll get to the point where you could see a very graphic image, and instead of hiding from it, you'll acknowledge its presence and how completely unaffected you are by it.

    Above all, I hope all my brothers and sisters are keeping clean - by whatever means possible. What works for me might not be the solution for others. It's just a tip. Also, using an app on my iPhone that counts how many days I've been clean encourages me to keep the streak alive. It operates under the same cue-reward notion that underlies addiction. I'm rewarded by increasing my streak.

    Anyway, stay tough. Be a man, be a woman. Stay strong. From a motivated brother such as yourself. Good luck.
  2. rebooterer

    rebooterer Fapstronaut

    Interesting. There is so much sexual tempting imagery out there, whether its ads or girls on instagram or anything else like that that maybe you can even expose yourself and perform your self control without actually searching for images. Just the action alone of searching for something graphic probably hits you with a dopamine rush and reinforces these pixel habits to an extent I'd think.

    If I'm on the internet doing something totally non-pmo related and something catches my eye, whether its some sidebar tabloid of some scantily clad celebrity or whatever, if i let myself pause on it and engross in it for a few secons I can feel a bit of a buzz and my heartbeat pick up a bit and sometimes perk to life a bit down there. I'm no expert but I think that stage of awareness is huge. I'm now at a stage where I recognize this, shift away and feel no urge to act on it (ie pmo).
  3. Hotshot

    Hotshot Fapstronaut

    I see what you are getting at. If it's not hard it won't change you. Much like lifting a weight for 50 reps at 1 lb vs a weight for 8 reps at 40 lbs. It has to challenge you. I personally have no intent searching for pornographic images or videos ect. I don't think I can trust myself well enough.
  4. MelancholyWeightlifter

    MelancholyWeightlifter Distinguished Fapstronaut

    I agree with rebooterer. There's enough sexual stimuli that it really doesn't have to be searched for. Our own minds provide much fuel.

    I see your point may fourth. It definitely helps to stare at your enemy in the face and scare it into submission.
  5. MyNameIsX

    MyNameIsX Fapstronaut

    You're a porn addict. You're addicted to looking at porn. Addict brains are masters of rationalising why doing the addictive thing is all fine and won't cause any problems.

    You're absolutely no exception. I mean your whole premise is: "I'm a porn addict, so I've decided to watch porn every day, but its fine because I'm practising not reacting". You're still watching porn every day. You've not made progress. An alcoholic who still drinks every day can't say "Well, I'm sober. All that drinking was just practising having alcohol" is likely to not be taken very seriously.

    Please don't mention when alcoholics get taken to bars or shown pictures to help them cope with urges. Its not the same thing. They still haven't ingested the chemical they're addicted to, only how to react to the suggestions and cues that they should. You have ingested the chemical, and you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

    Your rationalisation even has an escalation mechanism built in: Try exposing yourself, starting with small doses, to graphic images. The implication here that you should start small and build up. That is, watch more porn.

    Its obvious what happens next: "Hey look, we can handle small amounts of porn. Aren't we awesome. We can move on to larger doses of porn now, show how awesome we are with that too"

    I repeat: You're still watching porn. You're still feeding the habit.
  6. fap addict

    fap addict Fapstronaut

    The logic is flawed. If watching a small amount is challenging, then surely not watching any is a better challenge to the brain? My experience of alcoholism is that after about six months abstinence I stopped noticing bars and alcohol ads on TV as my brain cycled down. I am abstinent now since 1981 and couldn't hardly tell you the name of most brands anymore. That is from originally being obsessed. Alcohol never enters my mind and I can safely enter bars to eat etc and never even notice who is drinking around me.

    I have not sworn off alcohol, I have lost all desire to use alcohol in any form. That is real freedom.

    I believe not fapping etc will get the same result in time. there is an old sying, in addiction recovery,'give time time'. Any indulgence at all will only frustrate this process.
  7. singed

    singed Fapstronaut

    I thought the same way last year. I felt that in order to be really move past my addiction I needed to be able to see my triggers and not respond to them. I wanted to prove to myself that I was no longer that person. After six months avoiding my online triggers I began tempting myself with small doses of my preferred materials and practicing controlling my breathing, pulse, and not allowing myself to become aroused. This snowballed into a full-fledged relapse for eight and a half months. The addiction neural pathways may become inactive, but it's easy to reactivate them. The addicted part of my brain used rationalization to trick me into getting the dopamine flowing again.

    Here's an article on an approach to retraining your brain to react differently to triggers. There are plenty of naturally occurring triggers in real life. I now know that I don't need to seek them out online to test myself.
  8. Madrileño

    Madrileño Fapstronaut

    I agree with the goal here but not sure about the practice The aim is clearly to deactivate existing habit highways and build new better and healthier ones. The suggestion is to do this by building a new branch that may start in the same place as the old habit but heads off in a different direction building new habits for existing triggers. Sounds fine in theory but a couple of issues occur to me.

    Firstly, why can't we disable a pathway simply by letting it atrophy from non-use? According to Norman Doige of "The Brain that Changes itself", the two key principles of neural connection are "Neurons that fire together wire together" (so repeated action creates habits and ultimately addictions) and "Use it or lose it" - a neural pathway is weakened and overwritten by new behaviours simply through lack of use.

    So for me (bearing in mind our incredible tendancy to rationalise and justify - MynameisX above is right on here) my aim is to rewrite the hardware by establishing new healthier software connections and letting the old ones die away. At 200 and some days now I am definitely finding that triggers no longer have the old effect, I am not at all as powerless in the fact of "the force" as I once was and both my everyday behaviour and real life sexual arousal are much improved.

    I absolutely wouldn't take a risk with all these gains by trying a desensitisation approach.

    So no disrespect mayfourth - thanks for the idea and keep us posted on how it works for you but I'm afraid I won't be joining you on that particular journey.
  9. DWizZy

    DWizZy Fapstronaut

    I have another perspective that would be useful to you: most porn addicts are autistic (in the simplest sense, this means unable to tell how other people feel and unaware as to how to influence other people's feeling), could cure their autism by taking empathogens like ecstasy, learn how to form an emotional connection, and re-wire themselves to normalcy.

    There's also sex therapy, where a female therapist will sit down and teach you how to do it correctly, hands on instruction. Sex isn't shameful when you do it correctly, and once you realize the correct way to do it, your fantasies will follow suit. These are the better paths. As the rastas would say, we've been poisoned by Babylon, and we have to vomit up that poison. The trick is enjoying making her happy, instead of enjoying destroying her.

    What you're describing is similar to behaviorist therapeutic approaches. The common model is to expose the person to the stimulus and allow them to get aroused, but don't allow yourself to climax based upon the stimulus. In that way, you break off the connection between the stimulus and pleasure. You could even use this same sort of behavioral training to re-design your impulses entirely if you so desired--force yourself to fap to romance films, and turn yourself into a romantic. Unless you're very virile, the only way you're getting laid is by romancing a woman, or just happening to luck out. So training yourself towards romance is a decent way to go.
  10. Immor

    Immor Fapstronaut

    I like the idea. Running away from temptations just seems so weak. And some of the resulting posts here, complaining about how girls dress and such, are rather ridiculous. Ideally we would be able to look at temptation and still be in control, deciding what to do with it.
    For me at least that is the goal.
    I have no grudges against porn. There may be some unlucky situations, but most actors like their job and it's not their fault they can make money so easily. Therefore i don't like the whole thing being reduced to a porn addiction. Which brings me to the alcohol analogy. To me it is obvious, looking at porn is looking at the opened bottle. Edging is taking some sips and the orgasm is passing out with alcohol poisoning. No beer has yet been drunk just by looking at it.
    The question is, what is the best way to achieve the goal? How much faster is your way as compared to letting the neural pathway die on its own? Which way is more risky?
    I have promised myself to not look at "actual" porn until at least day 90, but i am reading a bit of an erotic, yet non-explicit novel everyday among other things. So i am doing that resistance training, but probably more carefully. It has been working fine so far.
  11. chinchilla808

    chinchilla808 Fapstronaut

    I like the thought process behind that idea of confronting, and not fleeing from said images. But given the potential volatility of the images, wouldn't it be in essence playing with fire?
  12. perusan

    perusan Fapstronaut

    I find myself compelled to reply to this thread even though I know it will bump it rather than let it sink out of sight. My apologies. And as usual, for all those who know me (or not) I'm an opinionated bastard who tries to be polite, but hates to see things that are wrong - IMO.

    Mayfourth, as a neurophysiology student, whether you are a Buddhist or not, I am sure you agree that there is a difference between proven cases and speculated theory. There has been a lot of speculation on how the brain works and even more on how to fix it when it goes wrong. The easiest example to give is the use of electroshock treatment for brain disorders because scientists found out that neurons work using a charged system. So, as a scientist and even more importantly, as a future medical practitioner, I am sure you are aware of the importance of ensuring the advice you give to patients is grounded in proven research.

    If you have access to a paper or research that supports your method for aiding PMO addiction recovery then please post a link to it here so that we can all learn from it.

    If, on the other hand, this is your own theory based on your pre-med studies then I suggest that you do a complete scientific study before passing it off as scientific fact.

    We all give advice to each other here on what methods work for us and, as you said, somethings works for some people and some don't. Like yourself, we all hope to help and support and provide answers to others in a vain effort to spread success and happiness (I am the vainest of them all). But passing your adivce off as medical fact is misleading, unprofessional and endangering.

    The great thing in your post is the reference to mindfulness. Observing your mind and your body when it responds to triggers. Learning how to recognise that reaction and learning how to counteract the effect. in particular, the most useful thing to practise is identifying that short amount of time between trigger and reaction and learning to exercise control at that point. Because, as you say, once you have passed that point you are on a superhighway to hell.

    There is a great link somewhere to a PMO-quitting "monk" who goes into a lot of detail about this. I will try to dig it up.

    Anyway, what I am saying is that at the heart of what you are suggesting there is some great advice. But passing yourself off as a neurophysiology expert (which is what your subject does) and suggesting to people to go and look at P because you have a "theory" is irresponsible and, as others have said, a sign that your addiction, like the rest of ours, is very clever and is a much better manipulator than you realise.

    Good luck with your road to recovery. I really hope that one day you will find a way to be free of P without looking at it.
  13. Hiroki

    Hiroki Fapstronaut

    All this focus on triggers can be helpful to a certain extent.

    But at the end of the day, if the Demon Lord Balthazar sends his horde of Heavenly Demon Mistresses to tempt thee, and thou hast been beset by the most powerful triggers from Mara himself whilst doing their best to avoid such triggers, it's what you have inside your heart that is going to result in what choice you make, to give into temptation or to stand firm in your resolve. Hence I don't focus on triggers in my process. Because this world is a trigger and you cannot simply shut out the world. It's all in your mind.

    What kind of person do you want to be? Avoiding triggers is a temporary measure for OUT OF CONTROL individuals. OP you bring up some good points.

    I was just watching Hemlock Grove today and on the TV in a sex motel was a porn scene. There were breasts shown, yet I did not feel tempted at all. Because I have been bombarding myself with motivational material and living like a warbeast. Doing more PT than alot of military units do, except maybe for the elite branches. Insane amount of physical activity for me = Natural tranquilizer and urge queller. When I need to rest from physical activity, I find sitting in full lotus sublimates my sexy qi just wonderfully!

    And perusan, please do dig up that link.
  14. Finalfight123

    Finalfight123 Fapstronaut

    I think rather just being out in public is enough to get what you are talking about. I just see people looking and then one thing leads to another and the dose is to great and they can't take it and pmo. Now true in small dosages bein able to not is good. But is tough and I wouldn't recommend doing it in private just because we have all been in that situation and its been built into us being alone computer looking at promiscuous material. I think its different but I could just see people using it as an excuse to edge like oh I'm just gonna look at this. I think its much easier to control your urges in your mind than when the real stimulation is there at your face. For me personally its wet dreams that really hit me hard actually just had one and it kinda sucks.
  15. perusan

    perusan Fapstronaut

    Well I thought it was this one


    but it isn't. Now I think about it I think it was someone on this site. Damn! I have become SO ADDICTED to Facebook that I automatically assume when I see something I like I can/have liked it.

    I will keep looking Hiroki.
  16. perusan

    perusan Fapstronaut

    But on my search I didn come across a link to this


    that says when an addict, whether it is drugs, alcohol or porn, sees an image of what they are addicted to, they activate and reinforce the neural paths responsible for addiction. The Channel 4 documentary it mentions is on Youtube and talks about the fMRI research. I haven't watched it and have no idea if it contains triggers.
  17. know_a_bit

    know_a_bit Fapstronaut

    I am a neuroscience grad student and also have a meditation/spiritual background. While I appreciate what mayfourth is saying and it is very interesting, I also agree strongly that there is more than enough stimuli out there already. Exposing ourselves to something without reacting leads to what is called habituation. Like when somebody is more and more bothered by a baby crying (sensitization - the root of 'shaken baby syndrome') but another person living in the same house doesn't even notice the baby or at least isn't irritated by it because they live in a home with it (habituation). We actually don't want to habituate to porn, that is the problem many of us have already with soft porn. We do want to become more and more sensitive to a woman's body as this is the key to our regaining our best emotional sensitivities and 'super powers' as we sublimate our sensitive and strong sex drive into personal excellence and committed excellent sex with a real partner.

    Nobody likes to hear that they are rationalizing but I know that I have made such arguments as mayfourths in the past and am only now realizing that I was rationalizing. Often it is the most educated and knowledgeable on a topic who are hardest to treat in addiction because they 'know' what is going on with them and resist recovery. That is the case with me. I now realize that I can learn allot more from a recovering addict with a grade 3 education then from the most eloquent but fapping neuroscience authority.

    There is a difference between seeing a naked woman pop up on our screen etc. and then looking away, closing it, and looking twice etc. I think that something we can take away from his message is that we can 're-frame' possible guilt and other emotions from these exposure periods that may still get us a little triggered such that we understand that they aren't bad (as long as we truly aren't searching them out) but great practice of being in a porn crazed world. Another thing our friend is saying it is during these exposures (I would say only accidental) when the strongest reshaping of our brains takes place. I think that is what he is getting at but again I must emphasize that seeking it out even in the name of medicine is not something that is right for me. Our nofap black and white thinking is a good way to start out and to a certain extent it is a good way to keep being when it comes to porn but we do live in a grey world and will inevitably be exposed to some 'black' mixed in with the gray. Rather than have our sympathetic nervous system go crazy, and say to ourselves 'this is the beginning of a relapse' we can instead develop the reflex to look away/close the screen, relax and breath and it will reinforce new mental paths that will become roads, highways, then superhighways. There is an added bonus. I have to tell you that there are few things that are more attractive to a woman than a man that has this habit of looking away, whether with porn or a scantily clad woman on the street. The don't want us to become habituated to it, they want us to exercise discipline such that they know they can trust us with the most intimate side of themselves and not be let down.
  18. mayfourth

    mayfourth Fapstronaut

    I challenge that which challenges me. It's a strategy that works for me. If this strategy does not work for you, then don't use this strategy.
  19. russel3

    russel3 Fapstronaut

    You sound just like my brain. "just look at it, just taste it and look away. I promise ill look away, you need to practice looking away". As soon as i look i get a huge dopamine hit and get exited."Wow tht feels good, you sure you dont want more, comon whats better then this. You already looked why not look a ittle longer". All you do when you when you look is make it ok for P you come inside, when you do that your done. Do not test your self, flee from anything that gives you dopamine. If you dont believe me do some research. Good luck guys!
  20. Z Dog

    Z Dog Fapstronaut

    Thanks for this post.

    There is a lot of sense in what you say.

    There are certain body shapes and aspects of women that are like crack to me.

    If I see it on the street I almost start to drool like a dog. If I saw it on the internet the power the image would have over me would probably be too much right now.

    I still feel like having a really big PMO binge looking at certain things and beautiful women to make me feel better and comfort myself.

    I do think in the long term your suggestion could be a good idea. Observe the heart rate. How the image triggers other images etc. Just not yet.

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