Matthias J. Barker
Licensed Therapist & Public Figure
This episode, podcast host Garrett Jonsson sits down with Matthias J. Barker, a mental health professional and well-known TikTok personality. As a licensed therapist, Matthias focuses on helping people overcome childhood trauma and marital issues, and empowering people to move toward what’s meaningful and healthy in the midst of life’s hardships. In this episode, listen to Matthias talk about the issue of shame when consumers deal with their own compulsion to view pornography, how betrayal trauma can impact partners of porn consumers, and how someone can overcome a struggle with pornography with compassion for themself and their partner.
FROM THIS EPISODE
- Check out Matthias’ website
- Follow Matthias on Tik Tok, Instagram, or YouTube
- Article: How Avoiding Shame Can Help With Healing From Betrayal Trauma
- Article: The Science Of Betrayal: The Emotional Trauma Of Having A Porn-Addicted Partner
- Article: How Porn Can Contribute To An Unhealthy Cycle Of Stress
- Article: Why Porn Can Be Difficult To Quit
- Article: How Porn Can Hurt A Consumer’s Partner
- Watch our documentary, Brain, Heart, World
Fight the New Drug Ad: Talking about porn can be tricky. That’s why we created an interactive conversation guide called Let’s Talk About Porn. Simply select who you’d like to talk to, your partner, child, friends, parents, or even a stranger, and select the type of conversation you’d like to have. We’ll walk you through a healthy way to approach this taboo topic in a productive conversation. Let’s Talk About Porn is available for free, both in English, and Spanish so you can be prepared to talk when someone asks why you’re listening to a podcast about the harms of porn. Access the guide, and start talking at FTND.org/blueprint. That’s FTND.org/blueprint.
Garrett Jonsson: What’s up, people? My name is Garrett Jonsson, 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- you can refer to the episode notes for a specific trigger warning. Listener discretion is advised.
Today’s episode is with Matthias J. Barker. He’s all about helping people move towards what’s meaningful in the midst of hardship, and yes I stole that line from his IG bio, but it’s the truth, and he’s really really skilled in what he does. His clinical practice is based in Spokane, WA and he specializes in treating childhood trauma and marital issues. But most people know of him from Tik Tok, where his videos have recently become very popular. And I mean VERY popular. He went from 1,000 followers on tik tok to over 2 million followers in what seems like overnight.
During this conversation we talk about unwanted porn consumption, and betrayal trauma. He gives some fantastic insight that I know will help so many.
With that being said, let’s jump into the conversation, we hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
Well, we are excited to have you on the podcast with us today. Um, thanks for joining us. Um, as we prepared for the conversation, I went through your YouTube video titled if you’re struggling with porn and I went through the 125 comments and I saw many people expressing gratitude to you for changing the conversation about porn in a healthy way. And, um, we have Fight the New Drug. We feel the same way. We are grateful for what you are doing. So thank you.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Thank you so much. I’m excited to talk. I appreciate you reaching out.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, absolutely. And we appreciate your time. So, um, my first question kind of comes with a joke, so hopefully you’re ready for a joke here.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: Um, I think that you should change your tick talk name, your tick-tock handle to @thebreak because you broke the algorithm.
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter] Oh, okay. Yeah, a little bit.
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter] No but, I guess the first question is like, how’d you do it? How did you break the algorithm? The tick-tock algorithm?
Matthias J. Barker: Gosh, I don’t know. I think if I knew that I’d be super rich, um, I think I’m just trying to just keep doing my thing. Um, yeah, it’s, it’s kind of taken off lately. It’s kind of strange.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Um, honestly I think that, uh, you could potentially have like three accounts, one for your hair,
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: … one for your lighting and, um, one for your thoughts, maybe a fourth one for your lamp.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: And then you combine all those things and it’s just a great vibe.
Matthias J. Barker: Oh, thanks. Yeah. I, uh, it was weird kind of getting on Tik TOK just originally. I, I don’t know. There’s, there’s not a lot of therapists doing stuff on Tik TOK, trying to talk about deep stuff. And there’s a lot of, I don’t know, like what I watch on Tik TOK, it’s just like skateboard fails and…
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: And I dunno, just comedians, like, and so it’s, it was a space that it wasn’t really like intuitive to be like, oh, I should go talk about like deep stuff. And I don’t know, meaning and hardship and trauma and pornography. [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: And like, uh, that wasn’t my first thought. But I think getting on there, it was, um, it was just kind of evident that with every new medium kind of with every new space, there’s just, it draws different people. And then it also maybe brings about different kinds of conversations. And so it was kind of a fun exercise to be like, “Hey, what if we tried to talk about something meaningful in like one minute?” And, uh, yeah. And I did my best and it turns out that, um, yeah, I guess it’s working in the sense that people are engaging in conversation and it’s been really meaningful to be a part of. It’s cool. Yeah. I love it.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, that is really cool.
So how did you become a licensed therapist? Can you talk to that a little bit?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Yeah. I, um, well, so I went to school and, um, graduated with my master’s in clinical mental health counseling. And I I’m right now in licensed as a clinical mental health associate, which means that I’m working on hours. You have to have 3,000 hours of counseling before they let you off on your own stock, kind of reading over your notes and making sure that I don’t know, you’re not saying anything too crazy to people, which is good. [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter] Right.
Matthias J. Barker: You know, a little bit oversight. So I have my hours complete, I’m just needing to take some board tests and all that, and then I’m fully off on my own and, uh, and hanging up my shingle. And I don’t know, just, just, I guess the next step in career. So yeah, licensed counselor, um, did a lot of training with kind of various, I don’t know, various different experts in the field specifically, even around sexuality.
So like a specialty of mine is, is in a sexual trauma, recovery and childhood sexual trauma. And so pornography is very much kind of adjacent to that conversation because that’s a huge way that people try to process what’s happened to them, um, in trauma and not even just in trauma, just generally, I think just kind of being raised in our current kind of media culture, um, sexuality questions around sexuality are very much intertwined, um, into pornography as a way to explore and understand who we are and how we connect with people. So…
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: Um, yeah, so that’s kind of what maybe drew me into that topic. It’s, it’s a big part of my training, big part of my clinical practice and then social media world has made that all pretty interesting as well.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: And so you’ve worked hard for your dream job and then I found out today that you have officially quit your job. Is that true?
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter] Yeah, I just, uh, actually today is my last day at my office. Um, I’m moving out of my office today, so I have this nice, pretty background behind us for one more day. Um, and then, I don’t know, I’d have to find a corner in my house that looks okay. I suppose, to keep doing videos, um, until I get into my new office. But yeah, I’ve been a part of a group practice, um, for awhile and the group practice is great. It’s kind of designed for clinicians who just got out of school, kind of setting up their careers and it’s kind of meant to be a stepping stone, um, when it’s appropriate often to your own thing. And so I think with, with Tik TOK and social media and everything that kind of blew up, it was like, I have something like 6,000 people on my wait list. So I was like, “Well, I guess that’s enough job security to go off on my own. So I think I’ll start my own thing.”
Garrett Jonsson: That’s exciting.
Matthias J. Barker: So I’m kind of nervous to take that step, but it feels right.
Garrett Jonsson: That’s exciting. Are you going to take the lamp with you?
Matthias J. Barker: I am.
Garrett Jonsson: You need it. You need to, it’s like part of your vibe.
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter] It’s my brand, this tripod lamp. I have actually had people make videos on Tik TOK and stuff being like “I’ve got the Matthias J. Barker lamp.”
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter]
Matthias J. Barker: And they’re super stoked. They do unboxing videos.
Garrett Jonsson: Oh, that’s hilarious.
Matthias J. Barker: And it’s just a cheesy lamp from target. It was like 20 bucks.
Garrett Jonsson: Alright. And this episode is brought to you by target. [laughter]
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter] Yeah, exactly.
Garrett Jonsson: No, I’m just joking. Um, well, as we go into the conversation, I wanted to first ask regarding, uh, therapy in general.
Matthias J. Barker: Okay.
Garrett Jonsson: I have an opinion on maybe some misconceptions that those coming to therapy might have, but I wanted to get your take, like maybe what are some misconceptions that people might have about therapy, generally speaking?
Matthias J. Barker: Just generally?
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, maybe not specific to pornography, but just the average person that comes to therapy. Because I think a portion of our listeners are going to be either a portion of them are going to therapy and a portion of them are considering therapy. And as they come to a therapist, what are some misconceptions that you think are common?
Matthias J. Barker: I think people are worried they’re going to be judged and just kind of have a total stranger in the nitty gritty of their personal life. And I think that’s just vulnerable. Like I think it doesn’t surprise me that people are worried about that. I I’m, I would be worried about that. Like even part of my personal stories, I never actually went to counseling before deciding to be a counselor.
Garrett Jonsson: Okay.
Matthias J. Barker: Like my first time in counseling, it was like halfway through my master’s program because they mandated it. And I was like, “I do not want to go to counseling.”, and they’re like “Why?”, I’m like, “Because that sounds awful.” And they’re like, “You know, the irony of your situation.”
Garrett Jonsson: Oh, that’s funny.
Matthias J. Barker: I was like “Fine. I’ll go.”
Um, it’s, it’s vulnerable. You’re like, I don’t know who this person is and what they’re going to think about me or what they, and it’s not like I share all that personal vulnerable stuff with just anybody.
Um, maybe nobody, maybe there’s people listening or like the actual complex problems that you’re facing. Like the hardest things that you can’t figure out, the things you’ve been racking your brain to try to get some resolution on. You’ve never shared with anyone that your spouse, not your mom, not your best friend. Like, do you have this whole world that’s just in your own head and it’s chaos. It feels like a swarm of bees just like circling you always. And um, so I think what the therapy is, and maybe this is what got me to go. So this is my pitch to people is, is you’re just paying somebody to be completely like non-biased and not like involved in your world. They’re not going to gossip. They’re not going to tell your friends about or talk behind your back. They’re not going to do anything it’s totally confidential.
It’s just this almost like blank space where you can go in and just get someone’s honest opinion about the thing that you’re going through. And that opinion is informed by clinical science, by the psychological sciences that they’ve studied. And then they’re going to bring you through kind of a regimen, not through just their own like life experiences, necessarily some therapists design it like that. But ideally you’re, you’re walking through clinically, um, uh, vetted interventions that have been shown to be helpful depending on the kinds of problems that you’ve been facing. And so it’s, um, I don’t know, maybe that’s, that’s kind of a cold analysis of what therapy can be is like, you can go in if you want that, if that’s appealing, you can go in and really kind of find somebody that’s looking just to be honest, and to bring the data that they’ve minded that they’ve studied and they’ve been trained into the table and it’s like, both of you have these tools and you’re trying to kind of work together to figure out the problems that you’re facing, maybe another way to look at it.
Um, and other therapists kind of organize it this way would be kind of like a personally compassionate kind and safe space. Um, if you feel just like really fragile and maybe you just don’t have someone in your life that would compassionately just listen and try to hear what’s going on in your world and, and not, uh, I don’t know, criticize you for it.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: And, um, and then maybe it’s less, there there’s therapists that focus less on the problem solving features of it all. And they just, they just wanna create a safe space for you to talk and process and think, and, and where you don’t feel like you have to live up to their expectations or anything. So it can be really useful in that way. Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
I thought that one of the misconceptions that might be common is that therapy is going to feel enjoyable. You know, you get that scene of like, um, like a person laid back on the couch, like eating some chocolates and that therapist is just listening. I don’t know that that misconception that it’s going to be enjoyable, but I think you’re mixing misconceptions. I like your misconceptions better.
Matthias J. Barker: Well, I mean, maybe, maybe we all kind of grew up watching like that, like Robin Williams and Goodwill Hunting, just this really warm kind of funny charismatic counselor. And, and then, uh, I don’t know, we’re going to get in there and it’s going to be like our second dad and it’d be great and help us solve problems.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: Cause that’s on the flip side, right? The flip side is the misconception is “If I go in there, they’ll fix me.”, “If I go in there, I’m going to talk to the sensei, you know, at the top of the mountain with all the answers.”
Garrett Jonsson: And some type of magic is going to happen.
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter] Yeah. And I’m going to process whatever I need to process and then everything will feel okay again. And then that can be a let down too, because you get in there and, and, and the problems are still ever present. And maybe you learn ways of thinking and tackling it different, but the work is still, still got a hike up all the same.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. Right. Well, jumping into the conversation about pornography, I kind of wanted to split the conversation up into two parts. The first portion was talking about unwanted porn consumption or problematic porn consumption. And then the other portion was talking about, betrayal trauma. Um, and so starting off with like the, the unwanted porn consumption portion or the problematic porn consumption portion, um, on your YouTube video titled If You’re Struggling With Porn during that video, you expressed that one important question to ask is what are you searching for? And I liked that question a lot. Um, and so I wanted to ask you, can you talk to that a little bit more? Like, what did you mean, um, by that and why is it important for an individual who is experiencing unwanted porn consumption to ask themselves, like, “What are you searching for?”
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Well, I think, you know, I kind of set up the conversation on pornography as, um, a porn is like a tool. Like we’re trying to use it to solve something, to fix something. And it’s not, it’s not just a, kind of a mundane form of entertainment and maybe it starts that way. And I think that’s why it’s confusing because I think for a lot of people, the relationship with pornography begins pretty young. And so when you’re 9, 10, 11, whatever, when you first kind of come across pornography or maybe in your teens, whatever, um, it can feel like pretty, you’re not using it to solve anything. You don’t even really have necessarily super heightened sexual desires, especially if you found it before puberty like it. So it’s not, you’re not going to it for any sort of purpose. It almost just kind of found you, but then it’s like pornography is kind of in your tool belt.
And then as problems surface later in life, maybe you’re just figuring out what it means to romantically connect with someone or find companionship, or you’re trying to figure out your career and your place in the world. And you feel kind of incompetent and aimless, or you feel, uh, you didn’t get into the college. You wanted to get into you, didn’t get the job interview. Didn’t go the way you want it to. So it’s like you have all these problems. And then pornography is this highly sensational, highly potent ability to regulate your mood. And so you could think of that in the most basic way. And two categories, I’ll give you two psychological sounding words. This one is arousal and valence, and I don’t mean arousal necessarily in sexual arousal. So if you, um, there’s, there’s your like physiological arousal of like how like intense you feel or how settled in the calm you feel.
And then violence is how positive or negative that sensation is. So you could think of, you know, you’ll have a heightened sense of arousal. So you’re really high in intensity and then have a heightened high valence, which is highly positive. That would be something like exuberance because, you know, um, excitement, um, euphoria. So you feel really engaged, really intense, really positive. And we love that feeling. Cocaine will get you to that feeling. I don’t know, you have this high valence high arousal, and then there’s also, you know, other emotional states, you have low valence, low arousal as something like depression, you feel really negative. You feel really like, I don’t know, dead and unmotivated. Um, you feel lethargic, you feel, uh, useless and that’s really low. And so here’s, what’s interesting. Psychologically pornography has this incredible ability to like, change your valence rapidly and change your intensity rapidly.
And so something like an orgasm, something like viewing really explicit material that is hyper engaging can move you from feeling lethargic and a motivated and depressed, or, you know, whatever kind of criticisms you against yourself, maybe feel useless or competent or undesirable. And then literally within seconds, it can just shift your valence and shift your arousal immediately. And so, um, it’s a really cool tool and that way in that sense that, that it can do that. And there’s few things on the planet that do that, that efficiently. And have you had access to something that doesn’t cause like I said, cocaine do that, but that’s expensive. And so, um, you know, like how do I adjust how I’m feeling? That’s a really important question to understand. And can you shift your arousal in your valence? Can you change your mood when you’re, when you’re feeling motivated when you’re feeling lethargic, when you’re feeling discouraged?
Like not even, not even in some sort of like a self-deprecating way, but just like you’re going through a hard time. Do you know how to comfort yourself? Do you know how to move yourself into a place of peace into a place of contentment? Do you know how to move yourself into a place of exuberance and feeling engaged and like you’re participating in something meaningful in your life? Can you find that companionship and engagement with good friends? Um, maybe with a lover? Like, can you do that without using that tool? That’s usually the question that I that’s, that’s the crossroad that I find people in counseling, because typically what happens when someone comes in for porn dependence or unwanted porn consumption is like, “I don’t know this, this is a presence in my life that I don’t like, I don’t like that I have to depend on this tool to do this thing.”
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: Like, “I want to be able to enjoy my marriage or enjoy my relationship or, or date or, you know, you know, figure out my trauma, figure out my career without needing this tool to do it.”
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: And that’s a pretty profound place to be in. So that’s, that’s kind of maybe the context for that idea. It’s like, what are you searching for is, is really like, what are the, um, what are the domains of life that you wish you had more flexibility, more freedom in that you feel dependent on porn in order to enable you to experience?
Garrett Jonsson: I like that. I think in a psychology by, by the way, do you feel like, I think that watching your YouTube videos or your Tik Toks, um, I’m able to push pause and like, think about the statement and during like a live conversation and also maybe like in a therapy session type setting for you and one of your patients.
Matthias J. Barker: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: I’m just wondering if there’s like, you have patients that are like, “Okay, pause. I need to, I need my a Moleskin.” [laughter]
I need, I need time to like process all the great information that you’re giving me.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah, that can happen.
Garrett Jonsson: But moving onto my question, the question was in like psychology 101, you’re going to learn about defense mechanisms. And one of those is denial. And, um, you know, I’m wondering, you’re talking about turning to pornography as a tool, whether you’re experiencing all the negativity or feeling down or sad or rejected, all these things, um, as people sidestep the problem and aren’t addressing the problem in their life and they’re turning to pornography as a tool, do you think that there’s a correlation between increased depression and sidestepping their problem and moving towards escapism through pornography?
Matthias J. Barker: That’s a great question. I think I would frame that as the effect of shame. And so let’s say like, shame is always present in relation to a counterpoint of aspiration or a dream or some something that you want to aspire to. Right? So you have this goal for yourself. I’d like to be in a really, uh, rich and fulfilling relationship with a woman or a man that I don’t know that I like. And I want that. And then, so there’s this shame element of I’ve been single for like five years, um, because you have this aspiration that creates a counterpoint of shame. Um, that’s, that’s the, it’s two sides of a coin. Um, maybe you have an aspiration of really wanting to feel competent and like, you’re good at your job. You want to feel important and essential in your job too, but you’re working in this job that completely sucks.
And they could replace you in like a day. You’re pretty much just pushing buttons or you’re washing dishes or you’re, um, punching things into a computer and you feel like a robot could be doing this. And so you feel totally, um, disengaged and useless in your job. And so that feeling of wanting to feel vital and important and essential, you know, it creates a point of shame. And, uh, and you feel that you feel like “Why can’t I get a different job?” or “I’ve tried to get this other jobs I’ve interviewed…”, or “I’m just so lazy that I won’t go look for another job.” And we feel this pain. We feel this emotional distress in relation to the shame that we have and notice these aren’t just sexual domains. So like porn can be a tool to solve things that aren’t just sexual, you know, so we have this distress and then that shame can produce this lethargic, depressed, unmotivated, um, highly self-critical state of mind, because that’s kind of what happens when you punish yourself with self-deprecating thoughts and criticism is it’s been shown in the data that we’ve known this for decades.
Is that the more self-critical you are the less motivated you are and people don’t really think of it like that? Well, I just need to get my act together. I just need to, like, you know, like you said, denial, I think a lot of us can be self-critical at ourselves for being in denial. Um, and that would actually lead us towards more denial.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: And so the, the shift, the adjustment in that space that I, that I typically walk people through and, and treatment, you know, for, in conversations like this is let’s understand the shadow. Let’s understand that counterpoint of shame that is in relation to your aspiration. And instead of getting really self-deprecating and angry at ourselves for that shame, that’s leading towards all this depression and all of this, like kind of a, I don’t know, it’s adding to the cycle of all the dysfunction.
Let’s bring that into the light. And let’s look at that and maybe even have some compassion for yourself in that, because maybe you didn’t choose to unsolicited shame about pornography. Is it feeling shameful about, um, you know, looking at porn and you’re in denial that it’s even a problem. You’re not even really bringing it up, no one even really noticed that you look at it, whatever, or, um, you know, your spouse listening to this, if someone who is looking at porn and you feel a lot of shame personally, for your spouse looking at porn, what does that mean about me? What does that mean? “Does that mean I’m an attractive, or I’m not enough, you know, for them?” And so you have this huge counterpoint of shame. Let’s bring that into the light and really approach it and understand it. Because when we do that, we can also start to capture and understand that dream, that counterpoint, that aspiration that’s attached to that shame.
And when both of those things are brought into integration, um, there’s something meaningful there. And then again, moving towards that with compassion, instead of criticism that, uh, that changes the whole map of how we’re navigating this whole problem, it’s less about “I’m doing something terrible and I need to stop and I’m terrible for not stopping.” And it’s more about like, “What do I need right now? What’s going on in my life that is stressing me out. What are the ways that I’m trying to address that? What are the, what are the domains of life that I feel are going really well? And what are the ones that aren’t feeling well?” And “Why, why do I feel like they’re not going well?”, “Why does working this useless job bothering me?”, “Why does, uh, me being single for six years bother me?” Well, “Because I have a dream, I have a dream of finding companionship.”
“I have a dream of doing something that I really care about.” Like, “Okay, so now we have the dream intact. So how do I go about pursuing that dream?”, “Well, I could tell myself to get off my ass and like, go do something about it.” It’s like, “Well, sure. Like you could, you could parating yourself. But my, my, I don’t know my guess is that you’ve been braiding yourself for the past six years. And that hasn’t really helped.” Like “Maybe if you just berating yourself enough, we get you up and moving. Maybe that would have worked by now. I don’t know.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: Like maybe there’s something else that we could try. Maybe we get more tactile, we get more, um, or tactical. I mean, we get more strategic. We, we bring kind of everything into the same place. We start looking at all these different components that are contributing to both the shame, the depression, the dream, the aspiration, and when all of that is put in the view and it takes a long time, like, even as I’m talking about this and I could listen to it, this is really kind of esoteric and conceptual and heady, because I don’t know, I’m trying to just like, bring like a year of counseling into like a…
Garrett Jonsson: Into a little conversation. Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Yeah. But it’s, uh, but at least maybe that would feel like a roadmap. Um, cause I think what is really discouraging in a place where you’re hyper shameful about a habit that you can’t seem to break is like, “I don’t even know where to go from there. I think I tried everything.” And so even just hearing that, there’s another way, even if it sounds kind of complicated, I felt, I found that encouraging those times.
Garrett Jonsson: It kind of reminds me of that equation. That happiness equals reality minus expectations. And it seems like you’re kind of talking to some of those expectations. Like “I should be in a relationship.”, or “I should have a meaningful job.” And maybe the answer is perspective, like how we’re looking at those expectations. Is that kind of what you’re saying?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. And that’s a great way to put it too. I think that’s, you know, and it’s not even necessarily that having those expectations as bad as it’s the story we tell ourself about not realizing those expectations. So for example, it’s, it’s okay to have one, to have a really fulfilling, great job where you feel essential. Um, it’s okay to want to have like a great podcast that does well. It’s okay to want to have a, I don’t know, be top salesman of the year, whatever it’s, it’s okay to want to do that. But the story we tell ourself about the journey towards that goal is imperative. So if you tell yourself, “Oh, I I’ve been doing this for a year and it’s been completely pointless and it hasn’t worked at all. That means I’m a failure.” It’s like the way you assess your success or failure in those domains.
That’s really important. And I think maybe, uh, in my opinion, like kind of a cheap fix is to say like, “Oh, you’re completely fine. Or you’re completely like, okay, without achieving any of your goals, you’re fine just the way you are. And that, that feels really good. And it writes really well on like an Instagram tile or whatever, but, but I think deep down, we know that like, no, those dreams actually matter to us. And we want to realize that the, the, um, contaminant in that whole process is the criticism and the appraisal of our own failure and our own activity without maybe looking at the span of time and how things evolve over time. So for example, like I’ve, I’ve a lot of, I don’t know, I have a lot of therapists who have been in the field for a long time coming to me and just like, “Wow, I’m a dicey blew up on Tik TOK. How cool for you, if people engaging with your stuff, I would love to have people pay attention to my blogger, you know, to my book, that would just be incredible.” And I think that’s, that’s a great aspiration like that. That’s awesome. But that creates a counterpoint of shame because like I said, I just kind of started this gig. I graduated from school pretty recently and kind of working on my hours. And so there’s lots of contempt that I’ve gotten from clinicians to such a young guy, kind of new in the field is had so much success so quickly when there’s people who have worked really hard, a lot longer are way more smarter than me, um, that don’t have the same attention. And when you, when you look at kind of those things, again, with that idea of the shame and then the aspiration and the counterpoint, and then the story that we tell ourselves about that relation, I mean, it brings us to a point where we can see that, um, if I, if I am in directly comparing myself and creating these expectations, not as, “Oh, I want, I want to have something meaningful engaged with my stuff.”, but instead “I want to be like Mathias.” or, um, to bring it down out of that example, just to something more, you know, normal, like, “Uh, I want to have a really meaningful job instead of, I want to have a job like my buddy, Derek from high school, that seems to be like really rich right now. And…” like, you know, “… doing really good on all these different fronts on Instagram.” Or, um, I guess “I’ve been, five-year single and a lot of my friends are married and they have kids right now. Like that’s not fair. Like I want that.”, when we start to compare ourselves to other people’s storylines, that’s what the expectations go rogue. It’s not bad to have a dream. It’s bad to map our dream directly onto someone else’s life and someone else’s and someone else’s unique, blend of struggles and opportunities. That’s where it gets really kind of poisonous.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: And so like, I like your phrase, happiness and expectations. There’s a relation there, but I might, that might be overly…
Garrett Jonsson: The thing that I was thinking about as you were speaking is creation over comparison, and I think we need to change the equation from happiness equals reality, minus expectations, maybe it’s happiness equals reality plus expectations and plus a healthy perspective on those expectations. I don’t know.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: Anyway.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Well, that’s a good summary.
Garrett Jonsson: But you brought up shame and you know, some of our listeners are going to be fighting shame. Um, whether that is the person that has experienced some betrayal trauma or the person who has experienced problematic porn consumption. And I’ve heard you say before that the I’ve heard you say the opposite of humility, is shame. And so I guess the opposite of that would be shamed. The opposite of shame is humility. Um, can you talk to that a little bit since we’re kind of on the subject of shame?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. That’s a recapitulation of an idea from CS Lewis. So CS Lewis, um, had a line where you just talk about like the opposite of pride, isn’t isn’t like this self-deprecating shameful, like anger towards yourself. It’s self forgetfulness. It’s like the man who is humble, isn’t thinking of his lowly position. He’s just not thinking about himself at all. And, and I, and I liked that idea. I thought it was cool cause it’s, uh, we play by the same game. When we, when we say we need to put pride and in shame and these polar opposite binary, let me just say, “Okay, I shouldn’t be prideful. I should be humble.” And then we, what we mean by humble, like really self-deprecating angry. Self-critical really, hyper-focusing on our faults.
It’s, it’s the same game. It’s like, there’s this standard that I need to hit. That makes me okay or not. Okay. And pride is, is being above the threshold of “I’m hitting all my standards that I believe a successful person should be.” And then I guess, quote unquote, fake humility would be, “I’m not hitting all the standards of the kind of person I think I should be.” Um, and that we beat ourselves up and harass ourselves for that. So humility is, is maybe this more open stance of like “I’m on progress towards the things that are meaningful to me and important to me. And I’m always kind of editing that. And there’s some things in me that are insufficient and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not valuable as a person. That just means like I’m growing and I always want to grow. Like, it would be a bummer to get to a place where you’re completely content and don’t need growth anymore. That’s just, I guess ignorance.”
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: Like, like, growth though, isn’t just turning all of these muddy, terrible parts of yourself into something worthwhile it’s, it’s expanding the good parts of you. So they take up more and more space like in maturing, the parts of you that, that aren’t sufficient yet because typically those things are just like dull versions of something very sharp and something actually very useful in the world. Like, like I’m a pretty impulsive person by nature. I don’t know. I’m extroverted. I’m, I’m kind of like spontaneous and creative. And I’m the, I’m the kid who is like distracting you in math class. Cause I was like throwing paper darts at like… [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: I love it. [laughter]
Matthias J. Barker: Or like I’d make these little paper darts, like where, uh, you put a piece of gum and attack and a paper dart and you throw it up against the ceiling and the tack would stick to the styrofoam. And that’s what I’d be doing all math class when the teacher had their back turned and I’d see how many darts I could get to stick to the ceiling before people would notice. And usually to get to like 13 or 14, and then I get lunch detention, like that’s me. [laughter] So I’m really, uh, kind of scattered in that way, but I’m like, that’s, that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a fault. It’s just a dull version of something sharp. And that impulsivity, you know, within maturity and within time, I’ve really worked to try to shape that into courage to take risks and that most people wouldn’t have entered.
Garrett Jonsson: I liked that. Yeah. I think your TikTok is an example of that. So I totally agree.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of how I think of faults and shame and, and aspiration and humility in those spaces. It’s kind of rambling, but yeah, that’s, that’s what I think.
Garrett Jonsson: I like that. Um, during your YouTube video, um, if you’re struggling with porn, you said “What’s the most optimal environment for sexual expression and, um, what are the ways that we mitigate the negatives and promote the positives?”
Matthias J. Barker: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: And if you could, can you talk to that a little bit more?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Yeah, sure. Um, and so that video, I mean, this is a pretty common thing. Even outside of conversations around sexuality, it’s like you have to, you have to form kind of a philosophy of life around what you think leads to your flourishing and the flourishing of people around you and what leads to like negative outcomes and suffering for you and other people around you and, and then commit yourself to the patterns of behavior that are going to bring about the best outcomes. So we call that values or morals. Yeah. That’s what a moral is. Like. That’s what the whole study of morality is. And even like in religious cultures, or, you know, when we start to talk about shame or morals, it gets kind of muddy because we just have so many experiences maybe grown up with religion or church here where it felt really, um, I don’t know, kind of oppressive, but, but genuinely I think what people are trying to get at are what are the patterns of behavior that lead to flourishing?
And that’s a moral is a summary of that spanned over a long of time. And so when, you know, even in that video, what I was talking about was like create a sexual ethic. You can create whatever one you want, like, but make it consistent. Because if you’re just going off your mood, that is like, that is a compass that is switching it’s north constantly. Like it’s just not a very efficacious strategy to just go off of what you feel in the moment and what mood you’re in, because your mood is impacted by so many things. Like what you ate last night, how much sleep you got, like if you’re feeling good about your job, if you just got out of a conversation with your boss where you’re worried, if he’s going to fire you, like if your mood is fluctuating, like Matt, don’t purely go off your mood. That may sound like an ethic. Have almost, it’s like a filter, like a photo filter. You could think of it that way. Like what’s the filter, you can put over a photo, that’s going to bring about the good parts. It’s going to add contrast. That’s going to add brightness or whatever. Like what’s your filter that no matter kind of the domains of life that present themselves to you that are going to bring out the good and maybe minimize the bad that you can move towards something better.
Garrett Jonsson: It’s like that north star, when we’re feeling impulsive, it’s like stick to that. I like that.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah.
And so that was kind of the conversation on sexual ethics too. And I think people get nervous about that because that sounds kind of conservative or repressive or, um, but it’s not, and I think everyone has an ethic whether they’re willing to vocalize it or not, whether it’s concrete or not. So yeah, that was, that was kind of my point.
Garrett Jonsson: And I think part of it too, is like adapting and adjusting and pivoting when needed. Right? It’s like we have this perspective and we think that we have this solid perspective on it. And then we take that road and it turns out that actually that’s not what we want or that’s not what we thought. And so I think it’s important to be able to pivot.
Matthias J. Barker: Mhm. Yeah. So well said, I agree 100%.
Garrett Jonsson: Um, we’ve talked about shame, we’ve talked about a lot of things. And um, one of the questions that I have is this internal debate, like this internal monologue of that can happen, especially with a person who is experiencing any type of unhealthy habit or a compulsive behavior. Um, and I think it definitely takes place in a person experiencing unwanted porn consumption, where there is that internal monologue. And I think the thing is like, we need to have compassion for ourselves. And at the same time, we it’s, it’s tough to do that sometimes. If you’re counseling someone, how do you help them have a healthier internal monologue?
Matthias J. Barker: Hmm. That’s a great question.
Maybe, you know, I start by making a case for why compassion is a better strategy than lambasting yourself. Cause that’s not an obvious thing. I think a lot of people are pretty suspicious of the self love mumbo-jumbo and, and, uh, it falls flat pretty quick. And, and maybe that’s not usually what I’m talking about is whatever kind of bumper sticker, self help kind of self-love stuff that people kind of see online. I think what I mean by self-compassion is like a highly like rational and grounded and focused decision to focus on one’s needs and the encouragement that one needs to make the decisions that are meaningful to them. And so that’s in, in noticing the effects highly pragmatic in that sense. So like, we’ll have a con let’s say I’m having a conversation with someone who just looked at porn last night. They feel really terrible about it.
And they’re not sure if they should tell their spouse. And they’re really worried that their spouse is going to get really frustrated and mad at them. It’s like, “Okay. So walk me through the inner dialogue. Like, how are you appraising the situation? Tell me about how, what you’re thinking right now.” And they’re like, “Well, I’m just such a screw up. I can’t believe I did this again. I’m never going to change. I’ve been struggling with this for years and I’ll just feel like giving up. And I don’t know, something just overtakes me that I feel like I have to, I feel like I need to look at that. And, and it’s like, I don’t have any control over that. So what kind of pathetic piece of garbage am I that I can’t just like, have some basic self control to not do that. Like I’m supposed to be as husband, I’m supposed to be a father. I’m supposed to be a mother. I’m supposed to be, you know, somebody who is this upstanding person, but I’m not, I’m this garbage trash.”, yada, yada, yada. You know, so they’ll go down this self-deprecating line of thought and then I’ll pause. And instead of trying to argue with that, “No, you’re not.”, like “Have some love for yourself.” Like, I’ll say this. “What do you notice right now? What do you notice just in your body? Do you feel like more motivated to like step into the decisions that you feel like are good for you?”, and “I bet you feel super motivated right now to not look at porn again. Right? You feel awesome.” They’re like, “What?” [laughter] “No.” I’m like, “How do you feel right now?” And they say, “I feel deflated. I feel like crap.”
Garrett Jonsson: Interesting.
Matthias J. Barker: And I’m like, “Okay. So it was feeling like crap, something that you think will make you really motivated to next time, not look, or do you feel like that actually drains your emotional energy? It drains your mental resources to be able to focus in the moment?” They’re like, “Uh, I feel more drained.” it’s like, “Okay, so that storyline is going to occur to you.” I can’t, I can’t, I don’t have any psychological skills to like, make that never occur to you. It’s kind of like a group text. Like when you’re hopped on a group text and people are just texting over and over, it’s like 10 at night and you’re like, “Stop texting me.”, like why you do that? But you have a choice to answer the group text and try to convince everyone to stop texting you or to let your phone just buzz and go back to sleep.
That there’s a, there’s a pivot there. Like you said, there’s a shift that can happen, are going to notice these self-deprecating thoughts, but are you going to attach to those thoughts? Are you going to, you know, answer that group text and argue with everyone until everyone shuts up and then consequently get wrapped into the conversation and kind of, I don’t know, feel more and more drained. And then it’s like 1230 at night and you’ve been arguing with your friends for two hours to stop texting you so you can sleep. But ironically enough, you haven’t slept all night or is there a place where you can just pivot away from that conversation and focused on something else? Like, um, like “Maybe it makes sense right now that you’d be struggling with this.” and not in a way to excuse you. Not, not, not saying like, “Oh, it’s fine.”
Like do whatever you want. I’m just saying, but maybe it makes sense. Like maybe you didn’t choose when you were nine to find that magazine or that pop-up maybe that maybe you didn’t consent to that fully. And then maybe you didn’t really even know what you were struggling with or what you were even dealing with when you were engaging in that 12, 13, 14, 15, maybe you didn’t know, maybe you didn’t know that that relationship with that person was going to lead you down some sexual escapade that, that ended in a lot of unhealthy sexual behaviors that then you brought into future relationships and, and that created all of this dysfunction and insecurity. Like maybe you just didn’t know at the beginning. And so it makes sense that this is kind of complex to figure out and it would feel simple. Like “Just don’t do it.”, but maybe it’s not that simple.
Maybe that’s maybe, uh, maybe that theory hasn’t been very helpful and you trying to solve this problem. And then the question is like, well, what would be encouraging? What would be supportive? What would help? And that’s a really vulnerable question to ask is you’re like, “Well, what would help is for me to get off my butt?” And like, “No, no, no, no, no. Like I didn’t say, “What should you do? I said, what would help?” And, and it’s like, it’s you have the mind almost like, kind of shorts out for a second because you’re wrapped in that text conversation at the self-criticism. And I’m asking you to engage in a completely different conversation. Like, “What do you need?”, “Well, I need my spouse to have more sex with me.” “Nope.” Like “That’s too simple. Keep, keep going, keep digging.” “Uh, I need…” “Maybe you need to feel respected?
Maybe you need to feel delighted. And maybe you were looking at that porn that shows someone who’s exuberantly enthusiastic to see you and desires to serve you because deeper than just like an orgasm or certain body parts that turn you on, maybe it’s maybe it’s the desire to actually feel like you fit in that you matter to someone like on a deep level.” “Well maybe if my spouse would just lose weight then…”, yada, yada yada. Too simple.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: It’s deeper than that. I guess if it was just that you wouldn’t be having such a hard time with this, right? There’s a, there’s these kind of false answers that we tag onto, like when it comes to what are our needs. But when we actually start to look down at the deep emotional needs, the things in us that feel really unfulfilled and, and I’m, and I’m naming very like masculine centered things here, like feeling competent, feeling like, like you have a place feeling respected, but, but that’s the same for women too. Can solve the same kinds of things with pornography within an emotional need. So it’s complex, it’s different for every person, but that’s maybe an overview of the path of self-criticism.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. I like that. That helps a lot. And I couldn’t help, but think about your analogy on her, one of your recent videos with the fish hooks and like trying to move away from those fish hooks that’s when those sink deeper.
Matthias J. Barker: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: And so I think that kind of aligns with what you just said.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Yeah. I had an analogy where I talk about this. It’s kind of like the text thread analogy. It’s similar.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: Where those thoughts occur to you and they’re kind of like fish hooks in the water and you’re a fish swimming down the river. And, and there’s a big difference between noticing a fish hook and keep swimming and grabbing onto a fish hook and fighting against it and pulling away. And that, that actually makes the fish hook sink deeper and deeper into your psyche and, uh, makes it hard to, I don’t know, you get all tangled up. You can’t just keep swimming. I think a lot of us feel like, “Okay, the mission is to get the fish hooks out of the water. The mission is to get everyone to stop talking. The mission is to not feel bad anymore. The mission is to not feel the desire for porn anymore.”
No, the mission is to experience all those things, but then be able to make a decision that’s in line with your values. And that goes for how you behave, but also the engaged conversations in your own mind. And that’s possible. It takes a lot of time. That pivot is really hard. You know, I have a little girl, we just had a little girl at two months old right now. And, um, and so we’ve been hanging out with a lot of her parent friends a lot recently, and we have another friend and a little toddler and this little toddler, toddlers learning to walk like, I don’t know, year, year and a half, something like that. And, uh, and she’s falling down constantly. And I read actually somewhere, I think it was in Stephen Hay’s book where he’s talking about just like a pivot, a toddler will fall down 10,000 times learning how to pivot, learning, how to shift her weight on the ball of her heel from left to right or right to left.
Garrett Jonsson: Oh, wow.
Matthias J. Barker: A toddler will fall down 10,000 times to learn how to do that.
Garrett Jonsson: Wow.
Matthias J. Barker: You and I will do that easy. You and I can just pivot without even thinking.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: For a toddler over and over and over and over and over they’ll fall down. And a lot of us have this expectation that “If it really just mattered enough to me, I would just stop.” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” Every other pivot that you’ve learned in your life, might’ve taken you thousands of times in tries.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. That’s wild. That’s cool. Yeah, that kind of reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. Like the rule of 10,000 hours.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: Now it’s 10,000 pivots. We need 10,000 pivots before we become an expert.
Matthias J. Barker: [laughter] Yeah, that’s good.
Garrett Jonsson: Um, what about, and I don’t want to ask for specific advice because I know that’s and tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s kind of what you do. And maybe that’s a misconception about therapy. Um, but I think there are a significant amount of listeners who are experiencing unwanted porn consumption and they have a significant other, they’re in a romantic relationship, but they haven’t, they haven’t engaged in openness and self-disclosure with that individual and they’re hesitant to do so because of fear and all of the other possible things that go into opening up. Do you have any, I don’t want to say advice, but I guess, do you have any tips or any thoughts on that?
Matthias J. Barker: It’s highly context dependent on the how, right. So I wouldn’t want anyone to hear me say like, “Oh, you should be honest.” And then think that, that means I just need to, I don’t know, go and go about it with no strategy or with entity attacks. So we’ll take this with a grain of salt for people listening. But, um, there’s this idea that I learned from Jordan Peterson. That was just honesty when you’re honest, the best outcomes come about. Even if it’s a disaster, even if when you’re honest, a disaster comes about that disaster in the moment is actually a better outcome than maintaining the lie because the lie is likely to bring a worst disaster down the road. Does that make sense?
Garrett Jonsson: Right. It’s just delaying the disaster.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. And it’s compounding it.
Garrett Jonsson: Oh, and compounding. Yeah. That makes sense.
Matthias J. Barker: You know, it’s, and I’ve never seen that to not be true. I I’ve, I’ve watched in hundreds of people’s lives, thousands of counseling hours, people decide to be dishonest and, and for good reasons, like if they were honest, they lose their job. If they honest, their son may never talk to them again. If they’re honest, um, their spouse would leave them great reasons, but I’ve also watched that dishonesty completely compounded and create disasters that no one could have predicted. And, uh, and you think, you’d think that, uh, holding a secret away from someone you love, because because, and maybe you have a good reason because you don’t want to hurt them. You don’t want them to suffer. You don’t and maybe they wouldn’t suffer if they didn’t know. Um, I just, and it’s just, uh, I don’t know. I guess this is kind of an advice, cause I can’t prove this.
I don’t have a study to show you it’s a philosophy of mine, I guess. Um, I think that’ll end in their long-term suffering and your long-term suffering.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: And, uh, and I see that and I believe that maybe out of anecdotes out of the people I’ve seen that that’s a moral belief of mine. I should, I should say like the pattern of behavior that I think leads to flourishing is be honest, even when it costs you everything, because that outcome, even if it’s a disaster is the most optimal outcome, um, versus the outcome that you think you can control by deceit in line and hiding in the shadows. And, um, it’s a, it’s a false sense of security. Now that being said, that doesn’t mean like, like I said, at the beginning of the house is really, really important here. And I think that that’s best kind of sorted out with a mentor with, um, with a therapist with, uh, I don’t know if you’re part of a faith community.
Like if you have someone you trust, work that out because there’s ways to approach that. Because the story that we tell ourselves, like I was saying earlier, the story that we tell ourselves about these things are really, really impactful. I think I see a lot of people rushing really quickly to the idea that they’re a sex addict and they’re this horrible wretched person that’s contributing to, you know, human trafficking in the market. That’s like creating, um, you know, suffering for millions of people all over the world. And they have deep, deep, deep self-deprecating shame. And they’re going to present that to their partners. I’m this horrible, terrible, awful person. And maybe that’s actually not the best place to start. Maybe you need to go to therapy, work. Some of this out works out. Some of that shame out. And then you come to your partner with a little bit of understanding about, “Okay, hey, I’ve been viewing pornography the past several years and I haven’t told you and I’ve been dishonest. And I’m so sorry. I think I’ve been doing that for a few different reasons. And these aren’t excuses, these aren’t like, does it make it okay, I’m just telling you what’s been contributing to it.” “Since we’ve had kids, it’s been really hard to connect.”, “My job has really suck.” whatever, whatever it is. And I’m like, I think part of my recovery and taking ownership and responsibility for this habit that I’ve done, this dishonesty that I’ve perpetrated is addressing both my personal point habit and these domains of life that I feel like I need to be paying more attention to. And I need to be solving and working towards flourishing with more intentionality, not using porn as a tool to do that, but using other things as a tool to do that.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: And when you bring that to your partner, that’s a very different conversation because it’s less like, um, it, it is a betrayal, but there’s a betrayal with, with a pathway to healing.
If they want to take it in and you can’t guarantee if your partner is going to be up for that, but it’s, but it’s a, but it’s a step forward in intimacy when you do that. And, and it can be really comforting to, uh, I mean, it’s comforting, as you could hope, uh, when a partner kind of learns that there’s this big thing underneath the surface, but then to hear that you’ve actually taken some thought and accountability, and then you have a plan to move forward. That’s a, that’s a, it’s a whole different emotional atmosphere. Then “I look at porn all the time. Cause I’m this terrible person. I have no idea what to do. And I’m probably gonna keep looking at it…
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: … for the next several… because I have no infrastructure idea about how to change it.” Does that make sense?
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, it does. And I liked what you said. You said a “step forward in intimacy.” And I think that sometimes to experience that step forward and intimacy, sometimes it’s going to feel like it’s a couple steps back like that initial honesty can feel like, “Oh man, we’re getting where our intimacy is becoming worse.”, but then over time and healing, you know, that step forward seems, “Oh yeah.”, you start to realize that, “Yeah, that was a step forward.”
Matthias J. Barker: And the reality is that you are actually, this feels like, okay, telling them is five steps back, you’re five steps back all the time. She just didn’t know. Or he didn’t know.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: That’s the reality. It’s like you had this huge chasm between the two of you and she didn’t even know how she, how he or she is supposed to navigate you if they don’t even, I don’t know if they don’t know, there’s a huge chasm between the two of you.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: How are you supposed to build an intimacy I suppose, to move towards what’s meaningful together, if you’re so far apart. Right. And the is you are far apart, even though it doesn’t feel like it is, you are in your own heart, you’re far apart. And, uh, and that’s actually, so that’s why it’s a step forward and intimacy and you’re totally right. Because people are gonna react to that and know that anyways. And I have no guarantees or promises that that’s actually gonna resolve or make things better. It could end in disaster telling them, but that disaster again, and this is just a philosophy of life. So you can take it, take it or leave it. That disaster is actually better than the long-term outcome of hiding it indefinitely.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. And I think your opinion, you said that that’s one of your opinions, you know, that addressing it now is going to be better than letting it compound. It doesn’t only seem like an opinion to me, it seems like a justified belief because I think that there’s lots of, uh, examples and, and logic there. Um, moving into like the second portion of the conversation about betrayal trauma, one of the things that is a common phrase, they say “name it to tame it.” And a portion of our listeners might not be very familiar with what the trail trauma is. Can you talk to that a little bit and describe what is a simple definition of betrayal trauma?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. Yeah, I think, um, I think what, what makes the betrayal traumatic when it comes to okay. Just learning that your partners have this huge secret that’s been underneath for maybe your entire relationship is you can think of it. Like you’ve been navigating your partner using a map. Um, and on that map, there’s certain mountains and there’s fire hydrants and there’s roads and there’s ice cream stores, whatever, you know, there’s a whole map of roads and everything. And you’ve been using that map to navigate. And then if you it’s like you learn and you find out that there was actually this huge rock structure in the middle of the map. And not only that, but you’ve been all those times that you’ve woken up and your car was dented and scratched and beat up. That was because of that rock that you didn’t even see.
It’s like, you’ve been running into that rock over and over and over. And you’ve been racking your brain trying to figure out why, “Why am I running into rock?” That’s not even on the map. And then it like comes to light and you’re like, oh, the map is drastically different than I thought it was. And then it’s not that you’re just rewriting the map in the present. It’s like, you’re looking back on the past and wondering what was real. It’s not real. And that’s traumatic because that’s her most intimate relationship that you have potentially. That’s the safest place you had on earth potentially. And there was a contaminant in it. There was, um, something unsafe. There was, there was some, I think that was directly opposed to you, depending on the story you tell yourself about that. Like there was something that, uh, yeah, that was a betrayal.
And so the trauma from that comes from, “Okay, maybe my whole marriage was a lie. Maybe the intimacy that I felt with this person for a lie. The past 10 years of my life were a lie. The father of my kids, that whole story, that whole schema that I had in my head needs to be rewritten. The mother that I had in mind, the kids is completely rewritten.” Um, and that, uh, you run to the catastrophe. That’s the first thought that comes to mind is as you catastrophize you, uh, you generalize that’s, that’s what happens in trauma is you. So for example, like when you get bit by a snake, you’re not just scared of garden snakes, you know, from that point on, you’re scared of all snakes going away. We’re not just scared of particular kinds of poisonous spiders, scared of all spiders period, you know, so generalize, we find a domain of threats and then we say, what is similar to that?
And then all of that’s bad. Let me try to get away from it. So psychologically, when you learn that your partner has been engaged betrayal, um, of your trust generalized, and you’d be like, “I don’t know which parts of you are stable and trustworthy and which ones are not. And if there is a big rock on the map here, if there was a contaminant here, are there contaminants in other places?”
Garrett Jonsson: Oh yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: “Were you honest, are there other things I should be worried about… do you gamble? Did you sleep with somebody?” You know, like, like there’s, there’s a bunch of questions and then you don’t know which parts of the map are trustworthy or not. And so you don’t know how to I’ll get the person out. All right. Not domain in any domain, change the password to your bank account because you don’t know if they’re spending, you just don’t know.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: They’re uncharted territory to you completely. That that’s what psychologically happens. That’s that’s not the truth, but it’s, it’s what psychologically happens. Yeah. That’s why I advise to maybe go into counseling to maybe join a group, to do a little bit of research, to do some reading, to find accountability so that when you present this idea to your partner, that, “Hey, I’ve, I’ve had something in the shadows. I may need to bring them to you.” You can say, these are the parts of the map that we need to rewrite. Here’s how I’m going to rewrite them. You can trust that these other parts of the map are still intact and they can believe you or not, but at least that gives them more stable. Um, markers to go off of, in that process of grieving of, um, reworking back to you, right. Is, uh, is having some markers, giving them in a sense, a new map, instead of just supposing that the old one is a frog. And, uh, I hope that’s not overly dramatic.
Garrett Jonsson: I like that. That it helps a lot.
Um, so I’m going to hit you with a tough question here. And, um, the, the tough question is that some people hold the opinion that porn consumption is a form of cheating and others say that it’s not. And so the question is, can porn become the other girl or the other guy in a relationship? Basically what I’m asking is can, do you consider what is your opinion or thoughts on porn consumption being considered cheating?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah, I think, um, I let people decide that for themselves. And the reason I do that is because everyone has different symbolic significance to the idea of what like an affair is or cheating is. And what I try to do is almost sidestep that question entirely and be like, “Okay, how did the cheating or the affair affect you?”, “Or how did the porn habit affect you?” Um, because that’s, that’s the meat of it. It’s like, I think what we’re trying to do with that label is we’re trying to decide, are you safe or not? Are you, um, can I, can this be repaired or not? Do I have the, um, social ability to leave you now? If I feel like that’s the right thing to do, and am I still socially credible in the eyes of my friends and people around me? You know, that’s, that’s the right question.
So that’s what I think people are trying to discover with the question of cheating or, you know, um, an affair with porn is in part a social question, how does this choice that you’ve made or habit that you have impact how I stand socially in reference to you? Cause I might decide that I don’t want to continue to work your map, but I might want to go elsewhere. Does that mean something? Is that a moral error in me or am I morally permitted to do that? So that’s, that’s kind of underneath that. And then second, like, um, how deep does this betrayal go? How seriously are we taking this? And that’s why my advice of getting a little bit of insight, then bringing it to your partner with like kind of a roadmap of where you want to go from here. I’m going to go to this support group, you know, full of dudes, maybe virtually or in person, or we talk about this every week.
I’m going, I’m reading these books. I mean, counseling, I’m putting blocks on the computer. And um, I threw away my stash. I have three men or women that I’ve talked to that are checking in with me on a weekly basis, you know, to be able to, you have a plan we’re doing there is you’re saying like, here’s the reasons why continuing on with me in this relationship or this marriage is still a good idea. Yeah. And is it cheating or not? Like in my mind, that’s, that’s, it’s almost irrelevant because cause even if, even if it was an affair, you’d be asking the same, even if it was him or her sleeping with somebody else, you still want to make a decision. “Can I trust you or not? Can we rewrite this map to continue living life together in a way where I can trust you?”
It’s the same question. Um, so really I think when people are hyper-focused on, is this cheating? I think when people are trying to figure out is who’s to blame, who’s the bad guy and it might. And where do I stand socially on the ramifications of this? And I dunno, I think those are all valid questions about things needs process, but, but not necessarily relevant to the actual task of rebuilding of trust. Um, I would say if you were in a position where your partner feels like you cheated and you don’t see it that way, um, the more defensive you get in that, the less likely it is to build back trust.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: Um, and you don’t have to necessarily like own her or his vocabulary on, on that, but you should the question to ask. And I was like, “Hey, you cheated. You’re basically brought someone else into our home.” Instead of “No, I didn’t. It wasn’t actually cheating. It’s different. It was on the internet. I don’t even know them.”, instead of going there and be like, “Tell me how that affected you. Tell me how that makes you feel.” And that’s like the most vulnerable, terrible, like, even hearing you say that it was like, that’s the last thing I want to ask them.
Garrett Jonsson: And also a beautiful thing.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. But it’s, that’s the, that’s the ticket, that’s the heart of it. “How are you feeling? Tell me how that affects you. I would imagine that that would make you feel so lonely and betrayed.” Like get at the heart, like, like sidestep that get at the, because that’s the, that’s what you bought or really after is can, is “Can we repair this and get back to a place of healing?” And that’s how I take that.
Garrett Jonsson: As you were talking about the maps and things, I couldn’t help, but think about like the Maps app or other apps with a map. And it’s like, it’s, if there’s a glitch, then that company is going to go in and be like, “What can we do better? What do we need to fix? The user experience is important.” Anyway.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah, I know that’s a good, that’s actually a good expansion on that analogy. I might use that. That’s that’s cool. I like that.
Garrett Jonsson: Um, talking about betrayal, trauma and someone who has experienced betrayal, trauma, um, and for the person that feels like they’ve fallen out of love with their partner and they’re feeling like they want to delete the Maps app and go to a new app or whatever, continue with continuing with that analogy. Um, but yeah, for the person that feels like they’ve fallen out of love. Do you have advice for, for that individual or for that, that couple?
Matthias J. Barker: Um, I think on the other side of all this, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of shame you can feel. And in feeling like I actually don’t want to continue this relationship with this element in there. And like we talked about the shadow kind of that, that, that, that shame and the aspiration, the, and the dream it’s like sometimes we feel shame and “Wow, that’s kind of a deal breaker for me.” And, um, and “That affects me so deeply. And so deeply at my core, I’m filled with so much anger and resentment that I don’t even want to look at them.” And then we feel shameful about that. We see that response in our own heart, and then we get angry at that, but that actually needs to be brought to the table too, in the same place as the desire to maybe want to make this work.
And because the dream, the aspiration is like lifelong companionship of someone you trust and that you love, maybe that you spent most of your life with the mother or father to your kids, maybe. And the shame is maybe this, this revelation means that he doesn’t care about me as thought as much as I thought he did, or she did. Maybe this means that I don’t know, especially in the case of maybe looking at pornography that is very, very different than the kind of person you are. So the kind of porn that they’re into, maybe it’s like gay porn, or maybe it’s, um, it’s, it’s with a body type or a person that is very different than you. And so you’re wondering like, “Am I even what you want?” Like, and that creates a world of complexity. I think that a shame isn’t going to be the thing that helps you sort these things out, it’s compassion.
And it makes sense. That’s, that’s kind of maybe the point of it. It’s like, yeah, it would make sense if someone was looking at porn and it was something, some body type that you would never be able to achieve or a gender that you, you don’t, you’re not it’s, uh, it’s like, “Well, where do I go from here? How would we even repair it?” And I think that the step to take there, isn’t just for me to tell you to double down and be compassionate and just listen and work it out. It’s it’s actually like, it’s okay if you’re feeling really discouraged and like, you don’t want to continue in this relationship. It’s all right.
Garrett Jonsson: That’s part of genuineness, right?
Matthias J. Barker: It’s real, it’s the truth. We have this ideal that we’d be able to work it out. And, and especially in the case where you feel like your partner just isn’t like we talked about denial, they have no infrastructure desire to actually change their behavior. And they’re constantly lying and betraying and letting you down over and over and over and over with no real plan and a plan, meaning things like, like accountability, going to groups, porn blocks in their computer, go into therapy. If they’re not willing to take even just these basic steps to like actually change your pay besides like wanting to, if, if, if your partner, the most that they’re wanting to do is just like, “Well, I’m going to try really hard not to cause I really love you. And I mean, at this time.” That’s just not enough substance to, to really make a difference for some people. And I think that’s appropriate. Um, I think maybe in summary, what I’m saying is like, uh, there’s not a right answer to, “Should I stay with them or not?” And it’s okay to feel really discouraged. And I think when we actually bring the prospect of maybe this means the relationship needs to part ways to the table, it’s actually really clarifying.
Oftentimes we’re so even just devastatingly scared to even consider that, that we just keep it out of our view. And then we just express anger and resentment that they’re not earning our trust back fast enough to ward off this fear of, of that. Maybe this isn’t the right thing. And then that actually becomes really manipulative and kind of a trap because it’s like, they’re kind of enslaved to you now. Um, and that’s not what you want. You don’t want a companion, who’s your servant. You want a companion, who’s your equal.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Matthias J. Barker: And so the decision needs to be made either you forgive and you set up boundaries and you create a plan to earn back trust, or you decide to part ways or create distance or separation for season two to really clarify where you, how you want to move forward. And I think depending on the situation, both of those can be completely valid options. Um, yeah. I don’t know.
Garrett Jonsson: Context is important.
Matthias J. Barker: Context is important. [laughter] It’s hard to argue a big blanket statement like that.
Garrett Jonsson: Um, well again, I think we’re kind of finishing up on the conversation about betrayal trauma. Um, and you’ve kind of already talked to this, but I wanted to maybe get your opinion a little bit more on it. And it’s that, you know, there might be someone listening to this podcast that is in a situation where they have fallen out of love. Um, but they’re also trying to hold on and, and participate and be genuine. But I’m wondering if there are some, generally speaking, if there are some telltale signs of abusive relationships, like when a person should exit?
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah. That’s a great question. It’s so hard to answer out of context. I would say that, um, if you don’t feel safe, if you feel like, like at physical or sexual harm, um, that’s a red flag. If they’re demanding that you do things sexually that you’re uncomfortable with or that hurt. Um, and by demand, I don’t just mean request, but like, and like insistence to the point where you feel like you don’t really have a way to say no and say that’s, that’s a red flag. And certainly, um, if you feel like it’s creating an environment for your kids that isn’t safe, like, I don’t know, maybe they’re viewing porn out in front of everybody or they have a really sexual way of joking and it’s just kind of pervaded their person in a way where you don’t feel it’s a safe environment for your kids.
That’s, that’s a red flag. Um, if it’s, if it’s mixed into a substance, like there’s, it’s in conjunction with a dependence on alcohol or a drug or it’s creating unsafety, um, that’s a red flag. And when I say red flag, that doesn’t mean like you should divorce or you should, you should separate. It just means like you need a higher level of structure. So kind of an overall general schema for understanding how to navigate these situations is the worst, the break, um, the more structures needed to heal it. So if I had sprained my wrist, I would need like one of those ACE bandages, right? Like kind of thing that wraps around and it’s going to prevent it from wobbling around because in order for me to heal, I need structure. I can’t just wobble around every which direction and feel I need, I need that structure.
And so, but if a truck ran over my arm, I would need like metal bars and bolts. And one of those big casts at wraps or under shoulder or whatever, and my whole arm would be structured so that the structure is corresponding to the break. And, and that’s a good metric. So if there’s like severe break something like I’m talking about like where there’s danger to people, it’s like, then you need to take some severe measures. And that could look like separation that could look like, um, you know, entering like kind of like a rehabilitation program that could look like. Um, I don’t know, like getting other people involved in having conversation as a community about what you should do, not just working this out privately, but involving people that you trust and trying to work this out, or it could, um, it can look minor and there’s disagreement about how intense the break is, right?
That’s, that’s going to be totally expected, but I guess, um, you need to decide the structure that you need to heal because this wasn’t just a break in him or her. It’s a break in you as well. And the structure that you might need is “You don’t have to send me your internet history, but you need to send someone your internet history and they need to know what’s going on. You don’t need to tell me every time that you look at porn, but you should be telling somebody, somebody that you trust.” And maybe that I trust to, um, I, because if you become the manager of their porn habit, that’s gonna, that’s gonna be terrible. [laughter] I’ve seen it over and over. Like, there’s this compulsive obsessive like management of, “Okay, well, let me go through your phone, let me go through your texts.” Let me see like that. That’s no, that’s not a structure that actually helps. Maybe there’s somebody that’s not biased and not emotionally intertwined in that, that, that would be an appropriate step to take with someone else.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Matthias J. Barker: But I know I’m giving a lot of iso…
Garrett Jonsson: That can amplify the betrayal trauma, if they’re having to be like the accountability partner.
Matthias J. Barker: Yeah, absolutely. Because, uh, relapses a part of recovery and there’s going to be times even when they’re committed and even when they have a good plan that they might relapse and that’s not evidence that they’re not taking it seriously, that’s just part of recovery. But again, that has to be in the context of a whole plan and other people who are involved in your life and giving advice. It’s um, that would be a big part. Maybe if my advice here is don’t make these decisions just isolated by yourself, involve people that you trust.
Garrett Jonsson: Thanks for sharing. Is there anything, um, that we haven’t discussed, I want to leave you with the opportunity to have the last word during this conversation. Is there anything that you’d like to share before we finish?
Matthias J. Barker: I think one thing I’d stay, um, for those who are listening and maybe on both sides of the equation where you have a partner is looking at porn, you’re looking at there’s shame and discouragement. This whole thing feels overwhelming. You are part of one of the first generations of humankind that have had to figure this thing out. Like, just think about that for a second. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans have had to figure out what to do about sexuality. And then here comes a technology that allows you to essentially engage anybody that you want. That looks however you want, or in any situation that you want, any narrative you want to create and to vicariously experience literally any sexual experience that you can fathom and basically for free and with easy access, like it is in profound technological shift that, uh, is not simple to untangle and to establish yourself.
And that moral domain is immensely difficult, especially when you have thousands, maybe tens of thousands of marketers and producers and people who are their entire goal is to get you hooked their entire job. Their paycheck is dependent upon making material that will hook you in.
Garrett Jonsson: Right?
Matthias J. Barker: Give yourself a little bit of grace here that we don’t have a map for how to navigate this thing yet. This is different than Playboy magazines, right? This is different than like when broadband internet hit to that, then the whole domain changed. And so you are pioneering how to figure this out for your kids and their kids and kids in generations onward, you were pioneering how to figure this out for other couples in your community. And for other friends, like give yourself some grace, this is a, this is anything but simple. And so if you’re feeling especially discouraged, because you’ve been trying to figure this out for several years, it might take you a long, long time because there’s no roadmap that even comes close to the kind of access to the kind of variety to the kind of potency that this drug is imposing on our culture and it’s, um, poison.
So be careful and give yourself some grace as you’re navigating it, because, uh, this is part of, um, living in this time is one of the burdens that men and women both living in this time have to navigate. So yeah, there’s a profound, there’s a profundity there that’s worth keeping in mind.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Is there anything that we can do our listeners and Fight the New Drug can do to support you?
Matthias J. Barker: Um, well, I, I, uh, I make a lot of content. And so if anything that I said was compelling or if you’d like to follow along with the stuff that I do, um, Mathias J Barker is, is kind of where you can find me. I have, I’m pretty active on TikTOK and Instagram. I have a podcast, I do workshops really frequently on these topics, more in depth. Um, and so, yeah, that’s, that’s where you can find me. I just, um, I’m honored that you take the time an hour and just to listen and have a conversation about these deeply personal deeply meaningful things. So I’m just thankful for the opportunity, man.
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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 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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