{    Cnytr   }

{Monday, December 27, 2004  }

.:{A post as pertains to the particular focus of this blog}:.


Thank you very much to a Fr. John, who at my request, wrote this for my blog. ~L

Addiction to Pornography: How It Starts and How to End It

There can be no doubt that the widespread availability of pornography, whether it be through films, magazines or the internet, it is one of the greatest threats to the stability of families and society as a whole. Pornography warps minds by leading its viewers deeper and deeper into a fantasy world where women are treated as objects rather than as persons, and the instantaneous satisfaction of desire is guaranteed. By focusing on sexuality as a vehicle for pleasure, pornography leads people to forget about the other dimensions of human sexuality: emotional bonding between a man and a woman, and the fruit of this deep personal communion in the gift of new life through the procreation of children. The contraceptive culture and the pornographic culture go hand in hand since both deny the inseparability of the two meanings of the sexual act: unity of the spouses and procreation of children. If a young man develops a pornography addiction, he could become brainwashed into treating real or potential girlfriends as objects who will satisfy his desires cheaply without any need for commitment or responsibility, thus frustrating the possibility of ever developing a true, loving relationship with a woman. If a married man develops this problem, it will eventually introduce serious strains into his relationship with his wife, especially if he tries to act out what he has seen in films or online. Pornography is thus clearly anti-women, anti-marriage and anti-children. The website www.dads.org offers excellent insights into the relationship problems caused by pornography use.

In this short article, I want to look at how the addiction arises and what a person can do to recover from it. Lauren B. has queried on this blog whether pornography is a real addiction, or just a bad habit. It is both. Viewing pornography leaves a chemical imprint on the brain, just as a pleasurable drug does. Clinical research shows that pornographic images create chemically encoded messages on the brain that can remain through adulthood. Human memory is formed in part by the release of the chemical epinephrine which, upon emotional arousal, leaves behind an imprint on the brain. However, like any addiction, it can be beaten through a combination of therapy, prayer, self-discipline, the cultivation of good habits (i.e. virtues), and the loving yet honest support of friends.

As a priest (albeit a young and rather inexperienced one), I firmly believe that the sacrament of confession will be the primary and indispensable means of recovery. The Twelve Steps approach to tackling addiction focus on searing self-honesty and a willingness to make amends as being essential for recovery from addiction, and these steps find a true home in a healthy approach to sacramental confession. (See http://www.recovery.org/aa/misc/12steps.html for list of the 12 Steps as developed by Alcoholics Anonymous).

If you are addicted to porn, it is essential that you find a priest who accepts the teaching of the Church that this is a grave manner. Unfortunately, some priests dismiss problems like pornography and masturbation as minor matters or symptoms of immaturity which the penitent will ‘get over’ eventually. No! They are addictive and dangerous and the sooner they are rooted out the better. Your confessor should not only be orthodox but compassionate. A judging and impatient confessor will only increase your guilt and anxiety and this may make you afraid to seek further help with your problem. Also, you may be using porn as an escape mechanism from emotional problems in your life, problems you may not even be consciously aware of, i.e. you may be using it as an unhealthy means of releasing tension. Were you to adopt a confessor who made you feel more guilty, you would merely be reinforcing a guilt-compulsion cycle where you would feel more guilty about your habit, feel compelled to stop it, create more mental pressure on yourself and so end up accessing porn etc. again in order to ease your mental and emotional strain. Anyone who thinks that he can be bullied into moral health or thinks that he can cure himself by sheer willpower alone is a prime candidate for an ulcer or a neurosis!

Lauren has recommended that you should confess as often as you fall, even more than once a week if needs be. For the reasons I have given about developing a guilt-compulsion cycle, I believe that you and your confessor should decide this matter very prudently. If you do not fall frequently, you have a level of control over the problem and should seek confession as soon as possible. If you are falling every week or more often, then your habit is deeply ingrained and confession after every fall could reinforce your guilt-compulsion cycle. Also, if you’re falling so often you are addicted and so are not submitting to the sin with complete consent and therefore may not be formally guilty of mortal sin. In this situation you should come to your confessor as often as he recommends.

Lauren B has commented that she does not understand how this problem starts. That is a very complicated question. I want to look at three possible causes of addiction to pornography and suggest how the person can be helped in each of them.

1. Curiosity: Some people fall into the trap of pornography simply because they are curious about what sex is like. This is especially true of adolescents. Since pornography can be addictive, however, one glance can be enough to get a person hooked. Indeed, curiosity leads the person to explore deeper levels of sexual imagery, so that someone who started out looking at ‘soft’ porn can soon progress to ‘hard’ porn and even beyond that to imagery which is illegal. The huge presence of porn on the Internet and unwanted pop-up adverts are diabolical attempts to destroy purity and innocence. There is therefore a serious responsibility on parents and teachers in Catholic schools to provide proper education in sexuality to those in their care so that their curiosity will not lead them into harm’s way. Proper sex education must be informative, yet it will always present the facts within the context of the values and virtues which are necessary if the great gift of sexuality is to be truly treasured.

If you feel curious about pornography, the simple answer is “live with your curiosity”. There are many things that we might be curious about, but we don’t try to find them out. I might wonder what heroin feels like, yet I won’t sample it because I know that I’ll become addicted with the first shot. I might wonder how much my neighbour earns, yet I won’t sneak into his house and read his bank statements. Likewise, with porn, I have no right to satisfy my curiosity about sex by viewing the actions of others.

Curiosity may lead a person into addiction, but God can lead them out! It will be important to develop a regular prayer routine since a bad habit cannot be driven out but only replaced by a good one. A habit of placing oneself in the loving presence of God every day can and does lessen the desire to look at pornography. One word of caution: many addicts pray to God simply as some sort of fairy godmother who will cure their problem. Their prayer is simply one of begging to be cured. This does not work simply because it causes the person to fixate more and more on their problem, thereby increasing their compulsive behaviour. A more fruitful approach to prayer is to place oneself unconditionally in the presence of our loving God and experience his love for us. Contemplative prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, lectio divina and the Rosary would be suitable methods of prayer because they take us out of ourselves and lead us to focus on Christ, his life, death and resurrection, and the depth of the Father’s love revealed in Christ. If porn causes the person to focus on their own needs and desires, the type of prayer that cures the addiction should do the opposite.

Another beneficial discipline is that of imposing a fine or penalty upon yourself if you give in to temptation. It is a way of reminding yourself that porn does harm to other people, not to computer screens!! Giving a gift of money to the poor is a way of saying that you take responsibility for the harm that your viewing does to the wider human family, and it is also a way of breaking out of selfishness and relating to real people in need. Anything that is contrary to selfishness and social isolation is a good weapon in the battle against pornography. Other disciplines that could be useful are voluntary charitable work and fasting, especially fasting from television, newspapers or Internet use. While temptations against purity can rage up within anyone’s soul, these are internal temptations whereas pornography is external to the person and has to be actively pursued if it is to be achieved.

If you are tempted to access pornography, you need to change your walk to the television or computer to a walk elsewhere: to phone or visit a friend or someone in need, to the bookshelf to read a good book, to the church to pray. Any little victory in this area is a cause for celebration, and a good confessor will praise and emphasise these sacrifices and triumphs much more than he will condemn any falls.

2. Loneliness: Many people fall into the trap of pornography simply because they lack a fulfilling sexual relationship. If the person is married and feels distant from his or her spouse, they should seriously investigate the possibility of counselling or marriage guidance to see what the underlying problems are. Unmarried people need to develop healthy, chaste friendships with members of the opposite sex. Indeed, due to our nature as sexual beings such friendships are essential for maturity and happiness. All human beings relate sexually, but this does not mean relating at the genital level! It means truly loving the other as a person to be valued and not as an object to be used.

Friendship is prayer’s primary partner in the battle against pornography. One cannot overcome this addiction by willpower alone, but only through God’s grace working through prayer and through the love of family, friends and fellow Christians. A person addicted to pornography can only be loved out of their addiction. A friend’s love gives added motivation to fight the good fight, because the addicted person can say “Well, if I can’t do it for me, I’ll do it for them because I love them and want to give them the precious gift of my sexual sobriety.” A good friend can also be a role model for the addict by teaching virtue by their example. Friends are thus the living sign of hope that chastity is not unreasonable but is possible and attainable. They can also help to hold the addict responsible for his / her actions and so guide him / her towards maturity, for example, by using internet accountability programs such as those offered free on www.dads.org/strugglewithporn.asp.

3. Desire for beauty: The human person is the crowning of God’s creation. The body is truly beautiful and so is the sexual act, when considered in the proper context as an act of deep love and participation in God’s ongoing work of creation. The body may hold a fascination for some people, and they could end up viewing improper erotic imagery. Sex is beautiful, but displaying it publicly is like taking the Mona Lisa out of the Louvre museum and hanging it from a streetlight to be damaged by wind and rain, vulnerable to vandalism and mockery by passing louts.

The person who has been seduced by the false beauty of pornography will need the aids to recovery I have outlined above, especially prayer and friendship. However, since the golden rule in treating sexual sins such as pornography or masturbation is that a bad habit can only be replaced by a good one, we need to find an alternative habit to porn, it’s pure ‘mirror image’ habit. I believe that this good habit could possibly be viewing tasteful religious art, especially images of Jesus and Our Lady. Remember that the eyes which now look at porn are the eyes which will look upon Christ when the body is raised from death on the last day! As Job reminds us:

“But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; and from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing. Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him.” (Job 19:25-27, New American Bible translation).


Christ is true beauty. It is only by gazing upon him that all our desires for beauty, wisdom and love will be satisfied.

I hope that these reflections are of some help. The human person is truly wonderful and the gift of life and sexuality are to be treasured. We can really share in the words of Psalm 138: “I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.” On the other hand, however, the human person is amazingly complex, vulnerable to sexual and emotional problems that are not easily understood or solved. We remain dependent on the grace of God who can work marvels of healing for us. If I may make one final recommendation, it is that all Christians should develop a strong, loving devotion to Our Lady and St Joseph. Mary is our loving mother who knows our hearts even better than our own mothers, and as Refuge of Sinners, she is always ready to help us in our weakness. St Joseph is the perfect role model for men as a worker, father and spouse. His purity and devoted love for Jesus and Mary extends to us too, and devotion to him is a sure path to growing in his virtues. I’ll conclude with this ancient and powerful prayer to St Joseph:

“O St Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss his fine head for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for me.
posted by Lauren, 11:32 AM

3 Comments:

This is an excellent article. You have some excellent insights to the pornography problem. I love how you emphasize and reemphasize that it is almost impossible to be solved by shear will power alone, and the pornography companies know that. They have purposefully made it almost impossible for some one that is addicted to porn to quit. I would like to emphasis something that you brought up, but I felt needed to be emphasized more in your writing. Individuals with this type of addiction need to seek out some help. I personally help people with this type of addiction it I see how hard it is even with someone helping. I have heard some people say some vary harsh and negative things about porn addicts, but they are not bad. They are wonderful people that just need some help from an evil that has taken over their lives. If you want to see more about me you can go to www.personalandlifecoach.com
Thanks again for such a wonderful article.
commented by Blogger Jason Wilcox, 4:36 PM  
Hi everyone. I am porn addict from the age of 7, maybe. Now I am 40. The boost of my porn addiction came with the Internet, of course. I now treat myself by “the Sex Addiction Workbook”, and I write a blog about this. I go through hard times now. I need some feedbacks on my blog posts. Please, visit my blog and drop me just a few words. This will help me to continue. Maybe my blog and information about this book can help somebody here as well.

http://sawlog.blogspot.com/

Thank you in advance.
commented by Anonymous Porn Addiction Blogger, 7:33 PM  
Pornography is thus clearly anti-women, anti-marriage and anti-children.We should finish with that kind of things.
commented by Anonymous Online Pharmacy no Prescription, 9:43 AM  

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