The "Pressure of the Streak"

Discussion in 'Rebooting - Porn Addiction Recovery' started by asfixiated, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. asfixiated

    asfixiated Fapstronaut

    What is the "Pressure of the Streak"?

    As I was quitting smoking a while back, an interesting fact stuck with me. During my previous attempts at quitting smoking I would often think that the first cigarette after 5 days would be amazing. I mean it had to be. And then the one after 6 would be even better. And so forth.

    This is a phenomenon I like to call the "Pressure of the Streak" - the mistake here is that we believe that that first "drag" of our bad habit becomes more and more sweet with every day. That somehow relapsing after day 10 will be a "magical" experience.

    The truth is this pressure builds because we allow it! Let me explain.

    How the Pressure "Builds" (or rather, why it feels like it's building)

    Here's how the "urge cycle" works.
    1. You get an urge.
    2. Your brain looks at the urge and thinks "man, I really want x or y".
    3. You beat the urge.
    4. Your brain stores the fact that the cycle "ran" in the back of your head. (Remember this one!)
    5. After some amount of time - seconds, hours, days, months - a new urge occurs.
    So if you've had and then beaten 5 urges, your brains subconsciously knows you've had "a few", even if you're not counting. If you've had and beaten 100, your brain subconsciously knows that you've had "tons of urges" that you've fought.

    Unfortunately the side effect of this is that with every conquered urge the brain stores, it makes your past addiction look more and more monstrous and overwhelming. After all, an addiction where you beat 100 urges must have been really tough right?

    Dammit Brain! Why do you do these things to me?

    Why? Simple science, of course! The fact of the matter is that our brain isn't built to handle "time" very well. Let me demonstrate. (This is a bit long, but well worth it)

    I want you to think, right now, of all the things in your life that need to get done! All the homework, the studying, the cleaning, the chores, the obligations to your friends, your family, the hobbies you want to pursue, the dreams you have. Everything. And think of all the work it's going to take for good measure.

    Stressed out? Admit it - your heart rate spiked just a little bit there :D.

    This is because to your brain, all of your tasks just looked like a giant, evil, unstoppable mass of impossibleness - because you put them there all at once. And worse, it thinks that because they're all in your head right now that they have to be done at the same time (remember it has a poor sense of time in this regard)! Madness! Of course you're stressed!

    The same kind of thing happens when you're on a streak. Your brain believes that the "length" of the streak and the memories of all the "difficult times" and "powerful urges" combine into one, giant monster that's coming back to crush you! And sometimes it makes it feel like all these urges are attacking you at once!

    Nooo! But it's my brain! So there's no stopping it?

    Calm down sailor! I wouldn't be posting on here just to rile you up if I didn't have a solution to offer, would I? The solution will sound silly and simple, but that's only because now you're conscious of what's going on in your brain! In fact I'm going to hazard a guess that you've already figured it out.

    You need to calmly and collectedly focus on the fact that you are dealing with one, single, solitary urge. And one urge on its own is something you've beaten before, so you can beat it again! Also, don't actively "fight" the urge - see the "Side Note" below for more details on that.

    That's it! I know it sounds simple, but if you take to heart the reasons why this "pressure" seems to build in your brain, this method will be infinitely more effective, because you'll understand what's really going on.

    Side Note: Why you Shouldn't "fight" Urges

    When you have an urge, you'll notice that the first thing that comes over you is a feeling of discomfort. You, being aware that you are having an urge, will fight the urge, because you don't want to feel the discomfort of having it.

    But this is a trap! When you actively fight the urge, you fall into a "Negative Feedback Loop" that works like this:
    1. Brain notices urge.
    2. Brain says "Uh-oh! An urge! Fighting time! Let's do this!"
    3. Your entire brain mobilizes to fight the urge.
    4. Because your brain has mobilized to fight and is actively focusing on the urge, it is now "convinced" that the urge must be strong. I mean, why would it be using all that energy otherwise, right?
    5. Your brain stays focused on the urge, fighting it for a while. But it can't seem to "beat" it. However, really it's the fact that you focus on the urge actually keeps it in your head. This means that no matter how hard your brain fights, the urge won't actually disappear!
    6. You now think "I need to throw more at it, it's getting worse!". And so you do.
    7. Now go to step 4. Rinse and repeat until your brain runs out of willpower, decides the situation is hopeless and you relapse.
    So how do we break this cycle?

    We need to accept the urge, and all the discomfort that comes with it! Then we need to step back, observe the urge and let it fly around in our head. It can't hurt us until we act on it, and if we let if fly around for a while undisturbed, it will disappear!

    Think of your urge as a wasp that's flying around near you - if you try to swat it, it will fight back and bite you. If you, on the other hand, relax and let it be... well you'll be nervous that it's flying around, sure. But eventually it WILL fly away from you and leave you alone! And that's the end goal - to not get stung!


    Your brain often makes your urges appear "stronger" when you're on a streak, because it remembers all the previous urges you conquered. I lumps them all into a big "urge monster" because that is simply how the brain do (actually it's for space and energy efficiency). This makes every next urge seem "more powerful" than the last - in reality each individual urge is only a little bit stronger or weaker than any other individual urge.

    The secret to beating this is realizing what your brain is doing, and then also consciously realizing that when you're having an urge, you need to relax (see section above) and constantly remind yourself that it's just one urge, not "a culmination of all the urges of your entire streak".

    Stay strong, fellow NoFappers :)!
  2. yohan.b

    yohan.b Fapstronaut

  3. heretolearn

    heretolearn Fapstronaut

    Informative post! Keep up the good work!
  4. britaxe

    britaxe Fapstronaut

    Great post and backs up my approach of embracing my urges and going with the flow of them. Hands off, don't act but feel and embrace the energy.
  5. This is exactly what I'm looking for.
    Thanks a lot mate!

    britaxe likes this.
  6. pablodt

    pablodt Fapstronaut

    Very very nice post for everyone to learn from it. Nice job man
  7. JoePineapples

    JoePineapples Fapstronaut

    I completely agree with this. We sometimes give a simple urge more power and respect than it deserves. The more 'resistance' we put into fighting it the stronger it appears to be.

    I accept the urge. Welcome it. Accept that if I wanted to, I could fap. I even give myself persmission to do it, as long as I ask myself two simple questions. Then I ask myself "But do I really want to?" and if the answer is yes, (it usually isn't) ask myself again "Really? You really want to do this?"
    The answer, so far, has always come back "No".

    Here's an excersise / visualisation that helps me "Let go"* of the urge. You can either do it, or just imagine doing it (once you've actually done it a few times, I find just thinking it through works just as well)…

    Imagine you are holding a pencil, tightly in your hand. Your hand is facing upwards. Turn your hand so it face downwards. The pencil, of course, stays put. The more effort you put into clenching your fist, the less likely it is to fall. Turn your hand back to facing up, and gently relax your grip. Open your fingers. Now, with the slightest tilt, the pencil will roll off your palm. You've "let it go". Think of your urge as the pencil. Let it go.

    *I nicked this from something called "The Sedona Method", a bit of "new age mumbo jumbo" I dabbled in a while back. Still like the metaphor though.
    PhakePhakerson and asfixiated like this.

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