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Isabella Menegazzo

By October 12, 2022No Comments

Episode 80

Isabella Menegazzo

How to Deal With Unwanted Porn Consumption, a Conversation with a Mental Health Professional

Isabella was born and raised in Guatemala where she was exposed to porn at a young age. Later in life, she experienced how porn can disrupt a couple’s intimacy and relationship harmony with her ex-husband. Her negative experiences with porn consumption motivated her to become a therapist so she could help others, and today, she has more than six years of experience working toward becoming a licensed therapist in Guatemala. Isabella has helped many patients work through their unwanted porn consumption by providing an open and trusting environment. In this episode, listen to Isabella talk with podcast host, Garrett Jonsson, about the issue of shame when dealing with a compulsion to watch porn, why someone’s perception of the issue matters, and why setbacks don’t automatically mean failure.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Isabella: Also, you’re not watching that. You have been watching yourself and you have been telling yourself something about all of this.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Isabella: And that you are trying to, to survive.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Isabella: It doesn’t matter how, how are you trying If it’s helping or not, but trying. So we tend to forget that. So when you…

Garrett Jonsson: So are you saying that perception matters?

Isabella: Totally.

Garrett Jonsson: And you’re saying that as a therapist, you are able to help them have a more effective and productive perception of themselves?

Isabella: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: But you’re not trying to alter beliefs.

Isabella: Exactly. You don’t try to alter, alter beliefs. You just want to, to make clear to theirselves that there are different dimensions of yourself. And in an addiction, there’s a, a part of you that stays healthy.

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Garrett Jonsson: My name is Garrett Johnson, and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming a podcast by Fight the New Drug. And in case you’re new here, Fight The New Drug is a non-religious and non legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects, using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

We want these conversations to be educational, uplifting, and hopeful. As we sit down with experts, influencers, activists, and people with personal accounts, we cover a wide variety of topics that may be triggering to some- listener discretion is advised. Today’s episode is with Isabella. She was born and raised in Guatemala and was exposed to porn at a young age. Later in life, her and her ex-husband experienced how porn can disrupt couple intimacy and relationship harmony. Her negative experiences with porn consumption motivated her to become a therapist to be able to help others. Today, she has more than six years of experience working toward becoming a licensed therapist in Guatemala, and has helped many patients overcome their unwanted or problematic porn consumption by providing an open and empowering environment. During this conversation, we talk about shame, why perception matters, and why setbacks don’t automatically mean failure. With that being said, let’s jump into the conversation. We hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.

Garrett Jonsson: Isabella, thank you for joining us today on the podcast.

Isabella: Thank you for having me.

Garrett Jonsson: Can we start off with like the basics, Isabella, so that the audience can get to know you better? Uh, just like the foundational work of where you’re from, what were your family dynamics growing up, those kinds of things?

Isabella: Yes. I’m from Guatemala. I grew up here. My, my parents were married for 40, 40 years. Uh, but they didn’t gave us so much guiding in, in things, uh, about sex, about, um, what, what we wanted from life in, in that aspect. And in the teenage years, I, I had an approach with, uh, pornography, uh, as usually happens, but it didn’t, um, make a, an effect on me in, in terms of an addiction. And, uh, I started to talking about this problem with lots of friends in, in, in many circles.

Garrett Jonsson: Can I ask a follow up question?

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: So you said that you had an encounter with pornography. Is that what you said?

Isabella: Yes. Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: And are you saying that you personally were consuming pornography?

Isabella: I I consumed? Well, I was in my teenage years.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Isabella: So I thought it, it was a, a matter of just, you want to see it, you see it, you don’t wanna see it, you stop looking at it.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Isabella: So I didn’t understand really, Well, eh, how can you get caught by?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, it can be, it can be difficult to quit.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And I think that, I think you’re right that the average consumer oftentimes thinks that they can just quit whenever they want, but sometimes that’s not the case.

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. And, and it, it tends to go along with a lot of other situations that you’re having trouble to deal with. So I started to work in, in groups with young people, and it was a, an interesting matter for me, but it became very, very interesting when I started to, to give, uh, couples some tools to manage the relationship, communication, conflict, etc. And we get to, to see that it was very common, very common and very problematic in the relationship. So, uh, I became a, uh, I started to study psychology, and it has been, uh, a theme that people come to me for this theme also because we are, um, publicly known for having a program to quit, uh, pornography.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Okay. I am not a therapist and I don’t play one online. But you are on your way to become a therapist.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: If I’m understanding that correctly. So you’re currently not a, a, a licensed therapist, but you almost were there. Can you talk to that a little bit more? How your education has gone and where you’re at?

Isabella: Yes. I, I didn’t thought I was going to become a therapist. I started to study this because I liked it. So I started to see to Gottman, um, couple therapy, and then I got into the career psychology. And after that, I, I, I again, didn’t thought was going to study so much after the career, I decided to do the master instead of just closing the career. So, I mean, in that step now.

Garrett Jonsson: So you’re currently working with couples that are experiencing the harmful effects of pornography within their relationship?

Isabella: I’m working on, um, mostly with individuals.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. Do people come specifically to you about their porn consumption or are they coming for other issues? And then as you’re working through those, their porn consumption arises?

Isabella: Both things happen. It, when the person comes with a clear, um, motive to quit, it’s like, uh, more direct. Uh, usually I, I use local therapy and motivational interviewing and we go straight down that hill. And usually in anxiety, uh, problems or mood swings, problems that don’t get to be a clinical situation, uh, we tend to discover that that porn has an effect on anxiety and on mood swing also.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. As people go through this process, as they come and see you about their unwanted porn consumption or as they come to address other issues, and then the unwanted porn consumption arises during your sessions, have you found that giving a diagnosis helps the individual?

Isabella: It depends, because it can be very heavy to have a, uh, an addiction like diagnosis. But sometimes, sometimes when you get that it has all the elements of an addiction and that your, a part of your brain is being…

Garrett Jonsson: Hijacked?

Isabella: Hijacked, Yeah. Then you kind of can be more, um, self-compassionate.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Isabella: And, and you can understand the, the f physiological dimension of this. So it depends. It depends because if, if the person, uh, feels that that shame, is a big part of what’s driving the consumption, you, you wanna normalize a little bit, not in a way that, that you allow the symptom, but in a way that you, um, make the person see himself/ herself, uh, as, as so much more than than this phase they are going through.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Isabella: That’s very important because, uh, the problem with addiction, I think it’s that it gives you character, like you think that you are this person, uh, who whatever you’re, you’re telling to yourself. And it’s very important that, that you can see yourself as someone who’s struggling, uh, with, in a phase of, of your life that as, as you entered in it, you can come out of it. So I think it’s, it’s a, a very difficult question to answer. Like, yes, it’s always good or not, not always. It’s good. I think you have to, to get to know really well your patient and to see what’s the use.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. I appreciate that answer. That makes a lot of sense. You were talking about some of the physiological changes that can happen on a neurological level when someone progresses towards compulsion or towards an addiction with porn consumption.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: I’m just curious if you find any patients that are surprised that they can be addicted to pornography or I’m wondering if you have patients who have been surprised that they do have a compulsion with porn consumption. Like maybe they didn’t, they didn’t even know that that was a thing.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Does that happen?

Isabella: Totally. And and, and sometimes you feel like a relief, and sometimes you feel like, “So you’re telling me that I have something else.” And so you have to be very smooth, but what, what’s to be under Understood. It’s that you are searching for a way of, of cooling down, let’s say that trigger that, that you haven’t learned how to manage other ways. So when you take off all this, because when there’s a compulsion in, in, in this kind of consumption, they’re usually are another kind of compulsion. So you think, uh, very poorly of yourself, or you think, “I’m, I’m a pervert.”, “I’m such a bad person because I’m doing this.”, and maybe “I’m, I’m, I’m a the weirdest person in the world, and I I shall never tell anyone I think about things.” And, and you see that other way that anxiety can make you see some, some fears that you have. So when, when you explain to the person that really, uh, this is a, a mechanism that’s not working, but in a way it’s the, the way they, their brain has learned, and, and they are not this person. They think they are, they are afraid to be, That’s a different kind of situation. They are afraid to be this person.

Garrett Jonsson: It’s almost like they have to separate themselves from the behavior. And I, I think what you’re saying is the, once they accept that compulsion is a thing, that it’s real, it helps them separate that. Is that…?

Isabella: Totally. Totally. And they can see how the fear of becoming this person, this perfect person, uh, it’s an, an intrusion the same way that, uh, if I don’t, uh, consume now something terrible is going to happen, that’s also an intrusion. So when you see those triggers, you can answer another way.

It can be helpful to the consumer to understand these things. So then they can have more positive self regard.

Isabella: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: And know that they’re not, It doesn’t reflect on them as a person necessarily.

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. And because what you need to survive in life, it’s like food, to drink water, and to maintain your corporal temperature. Temperature.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Isabella: So what happens is that you have this, this, uh, alarm when you haven’t eaten, when you haven’t drink something, when, when you’re cold, when you’re hot. So this part of your brain gets hijacked and tells you drug or whatever you’re consuming is food is water.

Garrett Jonsson: Mmm.

Isabella: It’s so essential to you. So your brain is suddenly you have to, because you’re gonna die if you don’t. So the, the craving, it’s, it’s more than just a craving. It’s, it’s a, a fi physiological need that your brain is telling you, you have to, you can tolerate the, the craving when you understand that your brain is cheating you.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dopamine is known as like the pleasure chemical, and it tells your brain “this is a good thing.”But what you’re saying is that like drug abuse and porn consumption, they produce the highest amount of dopamine that can possibly be produced, which is problematic, which is why people turn again and then again and again to those behaviors or to those substances.

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Because there’s no, in that sense, that’s good that you mention it. There’s no healthy, uh, measure in, in this, in this subject because it’s so much higher than what your brain, it’s built to tolerate that it gets totally disorganized. This all the chemical changes in your brain. So yes, totally agree with what you’re saying.

Garrett Jonsson: Drug abuse and porn consumption are two of the activities that produce the highest amount of dopamine. So that makes sense to me. Um, so how long have you been in this process of becoming a therapist?

Isabella: For six years now.

Garrett Jonsson: And going back six years ago and comparing that time to today. Have you seen, have you noticed an increase in the amount of people coming to you for porn consumption?

Isabella: I started it when, when I started seeing patients, and we were in the beginning of the pandemic. So I didn’t see in the, in the practice that change, But I did see it in the program we have for quitting pornography, the, the year before the pandemic and the year after the pandemic, the, it blew away the, the inscription. So I think that was a, a very breaking point for that.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Isabella: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: And I’m thinking back earlier in the conversation, you, that you’re in Guatemala, and you were talking about how, maybe I’m mistaken, maybe I’m misremembering, but I thought, I remember you saying something like, the porn consumption is a problem, like a very significant problem in Guatemala. Is that where you were… Were you, were you expressing that?

Isabella: Yes. Is it’s not so open, uh, because culture here, it’s, it’s very mixed. It’s a, it’s a very silent matter, but we do have a big problem, uh, that’s more known that kids get kidnapped for…

Garrett Jonsson: Trafficking?

Isabella: For trafficking. Yeah. So we have a, a, an enormous amount of kids disappear in daily. It’s incredible.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s heavy. Yes. And you work with organizations that fight that?

Isabella: We work in a network. It’s not our mission. We, we, we work with people directly. We work on education, we work on therapy counseling. But eh, in the network, there’s people that fight against it. They are trying, It’s interesting that, that you mentioned it. They are trying to, to, to put a, a law in, in congress to regulate certain how you access pornography and, and things like that. But, um, there are also organizations that, that work directly with, uh, victims, uh, of traffic. And it’s a big network.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Well, going back to porn consumption and your work as a, um, therapist in progress. It can be challenging to address porn consumption. And what I mean by that is for the person that is experiencing the unwanted porn consumption or the problematic porn consumption, it can be a challenge to actually quit. You’ve talked to this a little bit already. I’m just curious what approaches you take to help the people that you work with…

Isabella: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: … experience healing and actually gain some ground toward zero consumption.

Isabella: Yes. There are three things that’s, that are very important. I say three, so you remind me if I forget.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. I’m gonna count them.

Isabella: The, the first one is that you ha you have to understand as a therapist that change is a, is a phase. That’s not phase one I wanna change is not phase one in a therapy. You have to first, um, we say contemplate yourself. And, and after, uh, getting a, a, a big look of how this, uh, consumption is hurting you, you have to go through like three phases more to get to a changing point. So you cannot make the, the therapy just about the consumption.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Isabella: You have to work in other areas of the patient life. So understanding that you might have a patient who is already in that changing spot, and you might have another one that it’s not even starting to contemplate, uh, it as a problem. Maybe they tell you that they feel this way or that way, but they don’t think that’s, that’s having that effect. So you have to, to to be very, um, respectful of where your patient is and take him from that point to the next one and not to the three next steps. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. Yeah. You can’t skip the steps.

Isabella: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. That’s one. The other thing is that you have to, um, you are not in therapy to provide, uh, a way of seeing the world, uh, a way of thinking. But you do have the, the, um, let’s say the, the opportunity to, to educate about how you work as a human. So making your patient look herself/ himself as a person with different dimensions where, uh, a trigger has a physiological, um, component, but also a psychological one. But also there is a part of you that remains intact- that’s very important. Because what tends to happen is that you see things only in one dimension, or I am trapped in this circle of, uh, the trigger, the getting into consumption, getting in, in the, um,…

Garrett Jonsson: The shame cycle, the, and then going back to consumption. Yeah.

Isabella: Yeah. And you, and that’s all you see, and that’s all you see. And you’re not watching that you have been watching yourself, and you have been telling yourself something about all of this.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Isabella: And that you are trying to, to survive. It doesn’t matter how, how are you trying if it’s helping or not, but you’re trying. So we tend to forget that. So when…

Garrett Jonsson: So are you saying that perception matters?

Isabella: Totally.

Garrett Jonsson: And you’re saying that as a therapist, you are able to help them have a more effective and productive perception of themselves.

Isabella: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: But you’re not trying to alter beliefs.

Isabella: Exactly. You don’t try to alter, alter beliefs. You just want to, to make clear to themselves that there are different dimensions of yourself. And in an addiction, there’s a, a part of you that stays healthy. Believe it or not, there’s a part of you that, that doesn’t enter the cycle, that’s watching all the process and, and may feel held and may be held by the physiological and psychological aspect of it, but can also be waiting for a motive, can also be waiting for a reason, uh, to stop this. And that part is always healthy. It’s always there.

Garrett Jonsson: So if I’m understanding this correct, because I’ve learned a little bit about like, the different identities that each of us have. It’s almost like you’re saying that within each of us, there’s like this healthy, optimal version of ourselves.

Isabella: Yeah. Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: We can have like our addicted identity, and then we can have that identity within us that’s healthy. And you, you, as a therapist, your goal is to help that healthy identity come and be on stage.

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Because, because sometimes, sometimes it might be blocked, might be blocked. So you work in the psychological aspect and the physiological aspect and, and things happen. But, but you have to be aware that, that you as a therapist and, and, and you as a consumer have to be aware that, that this is a way you’re acting. This is not who you are.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Isabella: That’s very important.

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Garrett Jonsson: So you asked me to remind you of the three things.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And I think you’ve named two, right? You, you talked about the different stages, and you’ve talked about perception and the identities. Do you have the third one still?

Isabella: The motive? Yes. The motive. You, you, you can’t make it all about, uh, just focused on, on avoiding triggers or in making your life around not consuming. You have to work for a motive, for a reason, a meaningful reason for you to, to, uh, fill this void with something that makes you want to wake up every day. So it, I think that’s a, a huge part of, of, of this. And now that I’m saying it, I think that that’s the way you don’t want to give a diagnosis. If you do give it, you, you want to make sure that it’s, uh, understood as, as something I am suffering. But, um, not that this is all I can be.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. I like that. I’m gonna follow my curiosity a little bit. So I’m gonna ask a question, and I don’t know if you’ll have an answer. If you don’t have an answer, that’s fine.

Isabella: Okay.

Garrett Jonsson: My curiosity was about the 12 step program.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Because in AA and in SAA. They often use that phrase once an addict, always an addict. Mm-hmm. , and I’m kind of neutral in this. I’ve never participated in AA or SAA, but I’m just curious to know your stance on if you think that’s an accurate statement. Do you think that on a physiological level, that that’s accurate to state that once a person is an addict, they always are an addict?

Isabella: I mean, I, I do know that you have effects that they are not going away ever in, in your brain and your corporal dimension, but, uh, in, in regards of the identity you make of this, I totally disagree. And this is hard because as you say, and I fully feel that 12 step has done such a great job putting people together, and, and it’s, I think much of what works. It’s that community…

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Isabella: … with a, a same goal. So I think it’s great. It’s great. But I only, um, have this, um, a little, I’m a little bit skeptical about you being an addict forever.

Garrett Jonsson: Maybe it’s fair to say that that identity, since we talked about identities, maybe that addicted identity will still exist, but we just don’t want that identity to take the stage.

Isabella: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: We want the healthy identity to take the stage and be on stage for the remainder of our lives.

Isabella: Exactly. Which is what Jung said, I don’t know if you pronounce it Jung.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Jung.

Isabella: Okay. Uh, that there’s, there’s nothing more healthier that being able to, to, to see your shadow at the face and, and yes, to know that that’s there and because of it, that you can, with the light can bright, brighter, let’s say.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, as you work with clients on their unwanted or problematic porn consumption, obviously they’re gonna have setbacks, right?

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Setbacks are common, and they can also be very discouraging for the person. Right? And so I’m just wondering how you work with someone as they experience setbacks, and just generally speaking, can you talk to those if they’re common and, and how to work through those?

Isabella: Yes. Thank you. Yes. It’s a very good question, because that’s sometimes when people quit, when people stop treatment, when people make radical decisions. And coming back to, to what we were talking about, this notion of sobriety as, uh, uh, an upward, let’s say, way.

Garrett Jonsson: Like very linear.

Isabella: Yeah. Very linear. And, and not so much like an inside kind of every time, more deeper, uh, I don’t know how to say it. Getting into you, um, makes this false like, so heavy. And I think you, you really need to, to make, see the person you have in front of you, the, the year they’ve spent without watching the month, the, the week they’ve spent without consuming. Which is much, much bigger than the day they, they had a setback. So we have to work with in perception in that way, but also when, when you fall with the after, uh, some time of not consuming, it’s so useful. And I don’t want to be like encouraging, but it’s so useful because you get to get to see so much about the trigger, about your answer, about, uh, how you feel afterward, That when you’re numb and when you’re in the highest of your consumption, you can’t see all of that. So I think that even they are necessary in the process.

Garrett Jonsson: I’m just sitting with that for a second. Yeah, I like that. I like that you’re talking about how the setbacks are necessary and they can be beneficial if we, if we have the right perspective, if we frame them the right way, and if we get curious about why we have the setback.

Isabella: Yeah, totally. And, and, and just the fact that the, the person is so sad about the setback, and you can, you can make people see that the person, see, you didn’t feel this when, when, when you were in it so, so hardly.

Garrett Jonsson: You’re actually feeling, at least now you’re feeling.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: I like that. Talking about setbacks. I think that a setback is evidence that you do need to do more work. There’s, there’s more work to be done, right?

Isabella: Yes. Totally. And it usually, um, take some time, but when you, your patient to recognize when that, uh, part of your brain is leading, it’s, it’s, it’s very useful. And that’s where, where mindfulness come in as such a good tool, because when you’re in, in this, um, not leading part of when your, your brain is not leading with the…

Garrett Jonsson: It’s almost like mind instead of mindful, it’s mindless. Right? When you’re in a mindless state.

Isabella: Yeah, exactly. So when, when you teach, how does that feel? And how does mindfulness feel? The person can, can do it. I, I like to do it with a hand, because if this is your limbic system and, uh, the one that gets triggered, uh, you want your, your, how do you say it? Could you repeat it?

Garrett Jonsson: Is it the prefrontal cortex?

Isabella: The prefrontal cortex? You wanted to, to hold it to…

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Isabella: … to embrace it. To connect, so that, that you do with breathing, with, uh, mindfulness. But you have to first know that it’s not connected now, because every person that knows, Well, the cycle can talk about that automatic, like, almost automatic way of getting into, I, I saw the trigger. I was very, very conscious about it. But then you get into a automatic, like…

Garrett Jonsson: It’s an automatic response instead of just sitting with the emotion and becoming mindful.

Isabella: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, I like that. Well, we’ve talked about some of the work you do with individuals that struggle with porn consumption. And I’m also curious if you work with individuals like their partners?

Isabella: Mhm. I haven’t worked with partners. I’ve been a partner. So, eh, I, I, uh, I’m very interested in, in, in group therapy for partners. It’s a project. It’s not, uh, on motion yet, but, uh, what I can tell you, it’s about my, uh, own healing process in, in, in that sense. And what happens is when you, again, with the label of addiction, get yourself around the addiction, you can also, uh, start to make a void in your life and you stop chasing meaningful things. Uh, not because you are, uh, how do you say it? We say co-dependiente, or, codependent.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, codependent. Yeah.

Isabella: It’s not, it’s not that you’re a sick person that needs to carry others or something like that. No. It’s, you really love your, your, your loved one, and you really want to not see them struggling and, and you wanna connect in a deeper level, and you want to, to have a, a rich and life.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Isabella: But you can, in that intent, actually not notice when your life start, starts to get empty. So…

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Isabella: Self, self, um, self, um, taking care of yourself…

Garrett Jonsson: Like self care.

Isabella: Self care. Thank you. It’s a huge part of, of loving your loved one that’s struggling.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Isabella: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: So taking care of yourself is part of that process. And you said that you experienced that type of betrayal, uh, meaning that your partner, I don’t know if it’s your current partner or former partner.

Isabella: It, I, I had, um, um, a failed marriage.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Isabella: And yeah. And it, it couldn’t be safe, but I stayed in the field because I, I, I think there are a lot of people that, that could get use of, of what I’ve learned.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, okay. So your experience, the, well, you experienced some of the negative effects of pornography in your relationship with your former spouse.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And now you’re kind of working towards helping others avoid those pitfalls.

Isabella: Yes, exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, that’s so cool. That’s so cool. Well, can you speak to when you first learned of your partners, your former partners, porn consumption, and how that made you feel?

Isabella: Yes. And, and this is very important because often therapists can, uh, see the partner just like a setback for the, the person that’s trying to get out. But you have to understand that person is going through trauma, because when, when you’re… Trauma is not an, an event, but the way you process things.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. Right.

Isabella: But it, it usually is because when, when you have, uh, build your relationship over the idea of, uh, a sexual intimacy that’s exclusive.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Isabella: This has all, all of the, the elements of a betrayal.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Isabella: Even more, because if, if it could be another woman, for example, another, another man, at least it’s another woman, at least another man who they can touch and who with they have a connection. And because maybe you and I, uh, have a, a connection problem, anything, but it’s with no one and with a lot of woman at the same time. So when you can’t define the object of the betrayal, it’s more heavy even.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s how you, that’s how you perceived it in your personal experience?

Isabella: Yeah. I, I perceived that, perceived it that way. And I, um, I was in a lot of groups, uh, group supports. Um, and it was a common experience because you can’t, um, you can’t wrap your head around about ending a relationship because of something that you think it’s not that big thing versus a betray, you know, uh, an affair. So…

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Isabella: It’s difficult.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. What emotions did you feel as you first learned about it? Uh, you’ve, you’ve mentioned the word betrayal several times. As you experienced that betrayal, did you also experience things like anger or rejection or loneliness or shame?

Isabella: Yes, totally. I think you, you instantly want to look at yourself and see “Why, why am I not that desirable?”

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Isabella: It’s just that you get, you get it all twisted because you think he prefers or she prefers this to me, that’s how you can get to signify it.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. And it’s interesting because pornography does perpetuate false expectations. One study that comes to mind, it’s a national poll here in the United States, and according to this national poll, six out of every seven women reported that they believed that pornography changed men’s expectations of how women should look.

Isabella: Yeah, totally.

Garrett Jonsson: And, and it doesn’t, it’s not just physical looks that are changed or that are perpetuated as false expectations, but also just like generally speaking, women in pornography are gen generally portrayed as like always in the mood.

Isabella: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: That they are, you know, they’re, they’re up for sex anytime, anywhere with anyone. And so I think that yeah, those false expectations can be ingrained into an individual’s brain, and it can be very challenging. Like you just can’t compete with those false expectations because they’re not real.

Isabella: Exactly. And, and, and you as a husband or as a wife, you can start to question yourself, “Why if this person in porn looks always happy, always in the mood, always, why is my wife is my husband so, um, unsatisfied? There’s something very wrong with me.” Uh, you do not tolerate well feelings, and you tend to go to porn, to, to numb feelings. That’s a feeling you wanna numb, that you’re not enough to make your wife, your husband happy all the time, and in wanting to have sex all the time and wanting to, uh, be pleased all the time. So I think it, it works in a very deep ways in, in, in our mind.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Thanks for sharing some of those personal things that you’ve had to experience. We really appreciate that as you worked through them. So you experienced the betray and those other negative emotions that we talked about. What else did you do to experience healing in your own personal journey?

Isabella: Yeah, The, the first thing I think was to, to be clear that when you wanna walk with someone, when you wanna share your life with someone, someone, you can’t force anyone. I mean, there’s a, there’s a part like, like we were saying, an an identity that’s choosing this. There are other identities in ourselves that, that might be in, uh, reinforcing this, this choice you make. But if by some reason, the person is not choosing you in, in, in a way, I mean, I don’t wanna be, uh, misunderstood, it doesn’t mean that he’s not, or she’s not choosing you just because he’s in the cycle, but wanting to get better and wanting to, uh, find meaning and find, uh, sources of strength to get out. It’s a way of choosing you. So if the person is not choosing, uh, the relationship with you, you have to understand that in a way it’s not about you in a way. It’s not…

Garrett Jonsson: It doesn’t reflect on who you are.

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. And, and you maybe do have to to heal much of, of, of the rejection you feel, but you have to remember that you, I don’t like playing a victim in any kind of situation because you, if you choose this relationship where maybe connection, intimacy was not at the center of your bonding, then you must have had a reason also. So, because that’s, I, I feel in my experience, that’s the, the most important thing that it, uh, that pornography does to the relationship, like in capacity for real intimacy. So in a way, we can’t think that this incapacity was just in the other person.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm. So you’re talking about in your experience, you had to accept the role that you played to allow this to happen.

Isabella: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Like what role You started to question “What role did I play in this process? How come I hadn’t set up boundaries or had more conversations about it?”

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. And not only about it, but about ourselves, because often you, you find it, the, the level of connection is very low when, uh, sexual life has become very, like, automatic, You know, like, and, and it tends to happen when some of the two of you are consuming, so, or, or the two of you. So it’s very important to, to notice that, that there was a lack of intimacy maybe even before the consumption.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm.

Yeah. And when you say lack of intimacy before the connect, before the consumption, it’s not just a lack of sexual intimacy, it, it can be that as well, but it can also be, um, just when we say intimacy, we’re talking about all levels of intimacy, intellectual intimacy, emotional intimacy.

Isabella: Exactly. Exactly. And, and I think if you might, uh, let me go just a little bit of the rails…

Garrett Jonsson: Of course, of course.

Isabella: Culture today has such a big impact in that, because we are not used to intimacy. We’re used to, to a very light connection. And intimacy is not about like opening up everything from the very first moment, but it’s about letting the person in through your, um, ta but also through what’s behind it, so that that healthy part of you…

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Isabella: … which desires, which dreams, which, uh, suffers and, and has motives to, to, to, to get up again. And, and we don’t tend to connect to that level.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. When I think of intimacy, I think of genuineness, acceptance, empathy, focus.

Isabella: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And when we don’t have those, I think sometimes we turn to things like pornography to fill the role. I really like that you talked to your personal account. That’s really powerful. And I think that’s really cool that that’s one of the drivers behind you continuing your education to become a therapist.

Isabella: Yeah, It is. It is. And I, I’ve seen it goes so broad, you say? So because it, it’s so connected with so much more themes, we were speaking with someone that sex is, is so much more than, than just the, uh,…

Garrett Jonsson: Physical act.

Isabella: Physical act. It’s so much more, It’s, it’s like food in that way, because food, it, it’s not just about getting fed. It’s, it’s, it’s a culture thing. It’s a, a…

Garrett Jonsson: It’s a connection thing.

Isabella: It’s a connection thing. It’s a true, it’s, it goes even to, to beliefs, to, to what you believe about intimacy, about friendship, about sharing the table. So it’s so much more in, in, in a every, every aspect of the human so much more than just, uh, the physiological part of it. But, uh, in sex, it’s so, so big because it talks about who you are in, in your most, um, true self in a way that, that you can look out like, like that you can come out of yourself and, and meet the other one. Yeah. So even physiological, physiological, we are built to not to see our body bodies and ourselves, but to look to the front. Right? Out, out of myself. So I think sex is, is a, is a huge thing of who we are as human beings.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm. Yeah. We’re all here because of sex too. [laughter]

Isabella: Exactly. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, are you proud of where you’re at today?

Isabella: I’m very proud. I’m very proud. I, i, I never thought that such a painful road would take me to such a joyful place.

Garrett Jonsson: Mm. Are you familiar with the term post-traumatic growth?

Isabella: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. So it seems like you’ve experienced some post traumatic growth.

Isabella: I think so.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s good. Good for you. Well, I wanna leave you with the opportunity to have the last word during this conversation. Um, as we come to the end, if there’s anything that you wanna speak to that we haven’t talked about or anything you wanna reemphasize, now is the time for that if you have any last thoughts?

Isabella: Thank you. So maybe a word who, who’s suffering and, and, and doesn’t see a way out. It’s, it’s very important. I, I know that’s much of what you do, but, but to know that you’re not alone in, in a sense that everyone is searching, searching for more intimacy. Everyone, even though they are not finding it, sometimes everyone is, is lacking some degree of connection. And the, the fact that you are struggling with this and not with other things, doesn’t say much about you, but about luck sometimes about what you were exposed to, about what, what the life has given you.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. It’s like all of us are unique individuals with unique biology, unique experiences, and sometimes the, that biology and sometimes those experiences are just, we can’t, oftentimes we are just given what we’re given.

Isabella: Exactly. But, but they work, even though we can’t choose that they work as a, um, How do you call when you jump to a pool? Uh…

Garrett Jonsson: Like a diving board?

Isabella: Yeah. It it works like a diving board.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, yeah. Okay.

Isabella: All of those circumstances in your life that you hadn’t choose or you couldn’t choose, they can be that, that, uh, diving board because…

Garrett Jonsson: Or that springboard or I think that, Yeah, the term might be springboard.

Isabella: Yeah. Because what you can choose what it is in your hands is what you’re doing with it, what you’re doing with it. Not getting rid of it. You won’t get rid of, of, of what has been in your past, but what you’re doing with it, what, where you wanna take it to. You’re not over, you’re here, you’re alive. And while you’re alive. There’s time and there’s hope. So don’t lose hope that that would be

Garrett Jonsson: Thanks, Isabel. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. You’re great.

Isabella: Thanks to you. I’m really happy. I’m really happy that we could do this.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, us too.

Isabella: I’m sorry for the English. I’m practicing.

Garrett Jonsson: Don’t ever apologize because your English is really good. And I, I, we, we love your accent- it’s beautiful. Yeah. So don’t ever apologize for that. You did great.

Isabella: Thank you.

Fight the New Drug Ad: We’re a global movement of over 6 million Fighters worldwide. We’re continually growing, and it is because of our Fighters that our resources have been able to educate and raise awareness on this issue across the globe. Included in our globalization efforts are our ongoing translation projects, which involve professionally translating select materials and resources into other languages. See what translated resources we have, including our documentary Brain Heart World in Spanish, our conversation guide, Let’s Talk About Porn and more. Visit FTND.org/translations. That’s FTND.org/translations.

Garrett Jonsson: Thanks for joining us on this episode of Consider Before Consuming, Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug. Fight the new Drug is a non-religious and a non legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects, using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

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