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Navigating Pornography Addiction with Self-Compassion and Therapy

Episode 114

Navigating Pornography Addiction with Self-Compassion and Therapy

Join us in this Consider Before Consuming episode as Rachel Denton shares her experience as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Rachel talks about the complex layers of pornography addiction and the strong influence of shame. She’ll also explain how self-compassion is essential in navigating the labyrinth of shame and breaking free from its grasp.

Rachel provides valuable insights into the process of seeking therapy, explaining different therapy modalities, and how each can be helpful in the journey to healing. She also shares some transformative practices outside of therapy, empowering individuals to reclaim their agency and cultivate resilience.


Intro (00:07):
Today’s episode is with Rachel Denton, a licensed clinical social worker, and former Fight The New Drug team member. In this episode, Rachel shares about the role of shame and pornography addiction and the importance of practicing self-compassion in lessening shame. She also helps us understand how to find a therapist, the different therapy modalities, and how each can be helpful and what practices can [00:00:30] be beneficial outside of therapy. With that, let’s jump into the conversation. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Consider Before Consuming.

Natale (00:43):
So for our listeners, we have a super exciting guest today. Rachel used to be a member of our team at Fight The New Drug, and now you’re doing amazing things. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Rachel (00:54):
Yeah, so I’m an LCSW, which is a licensed clinical [00:01:00] social worker. And I used to work here while I was in graduate school, and then after I graduated, I worked with Fight For, was like two, three years, I think. Yeah. And then I later went on and started a private practice. And so since then I’ve been doing that working with lots of different types of mental health disorders, but definitely pornography, I would say is, is one that I work with quite a bit.

Natale (01:23):
So can you explain how pornography can impact an individual’s mental health and wellbeing?

Rachel (01:27):
Yeah. Well, I would say the first way [00:01:30] that probably is the most invasive and also a way that we don’t talk about a lot. Although fight does a great job of talking about it, is shame. And, and anything else, I would say after this, I think shame is probably the core of the issue of what’s going on, especially when it comes to the mental health aspects. And part of that is because shame is something that we really don’t talk a lot about. Like, I don’t think many kids had shame modeled to them in the way their parents said, like, looks like you’re [00:02:00] experiencing shame. Right? And so because of that, it’s really challenging to identify and, and when their shame, it really impacts the way that people feel about themselves, but then also it impacts the way that they act because that’s such an uncomfortable, like hiding, withdrawing feeling that people will do whatever it takes to get rid of shame. And so it kind of becomes this, this cycle of maybe other addictive behaviors or pornography itself that brings shame.

Natale (02:28):
That’s a good point. [00:02:30] I think a lot of us don’t think about how to identify shame. Yeah. Like, it’s not something probably that most of us were taught as kids, like you mentioned. So I guess what’s a good starting place for someone to identify whether or not they’re experiencing shame in the first place? Yeah. Before even determining whether or not that’s feeling a habit with pornography.

Rachel (02:49):
Well, I mean, there’s definitely a phrase in therapy world of naming it, de taming it. And so I think the first thing to identify is what, how does shame show up for me? Because I think it is different for every person, [00:03:00] but maybe questions I would ask is, how does this hook my body somatically? So maybe it’s like, I feel my stomach drop, or I feel my cheeks get flushed, or I feel like my body language gets smaller. And also maybe things like, what do I, what are my urges? So do I want to like actually withdraw from people? Do I do I want to, do I find myself lying? Do I find myself yeah. Wanting to hide? And then also what thoughts am I having? And so I think when we can identify what shame [00:03:30] looks like, then it can become easier to be like, oh, I think what I’m feeling here is shame. And that really is probably the most first and important step too, knowing if, if this is something someone’s struggling with. Yeah,

Natale (03:41):
That’s well said. So if someone is experiencing shame and maybe isn’t aware Yeah. That it is shame, but it is something that’s fueling a habit with pornography, what does that look like? And kind of what’s the process of that? How can shame negatively impact that cycle and really fuel that cycle?

Rachel (03:58):
Well, it’s, it’s kind [00:04:00] of like the chicken or the egg in my, at least in my opinion, because I think a lot of times people use pornography as a way to I mean, obviously help themselves feel better, whether that’s through emotional regulation or a ways to hide. And so if someone’s experiencing shame, and I’m not sure how in depth the shame you want me to get

Natale (04:19):
Here as in depth as you want, honestly.

Rachel (04:22):
Well, so like, like shame is actually really fascinating to me, and it’s something that I’ve studied quite a bit. And I think this may help provide context because shame [00:04:30] generally starts when we’re kids in, in our childhood. And that’s because kids just don’t have the ability yet to see things from other people’s perspective. So if their parent snaps at them, they, they can’t say like, mom, I understand they made a mistake, but you were like, that was really unkind what you said. The kid just can’t do that yet. And so the only thing they’re left with thinking is like, it’s because I’m, I’m a bad kid, I’m a bad person. Right? And this story starts to really take place and, and it becomes this lens. So this [00:05:00] child is seeing, maybe their teacher has a an outbursts at them, and it’s like, yeah, it’s because I’m a bad kid.

And so then as they get a little bit older, that feeling is so distressing and so disturbing to I think everybody but especially kids who don’t yet have the ability to, again, like I said, see things from other people’s perspective that they find ways to help themselves regulate. And as we know, pornography, often there’s a really early exposure and it’s a really successful way, [00:05:30] I would say, at help managing shame. Right? And so what’s so tricky about it is then it’s, it helps manage the shame they feel better, but then oftentimes it just brings that shame right back up after. And it’s just kind of this like, just this cycle that continues, right?

Natale (05:45):
And for someone maybe who’s experienced this process in their life for a long time without early exposure, it’s become a habit perhaps through their teenage years when they get to be an, and maybe can see something through another person’s [00:06:00] perspective. Often individuals who are in relationships, maybe where they’re hiding a pornography habit or something, shame can be part of that process or play a role in those relationships. what have you seen with regard to how shame could affect even as an adult once someone’s kind of been on this cycle?

Rachel (06:16):
Ooh, yeah. Well, shame is so pernicious. Is that what the right word? It’s like, it’s so sneaky because by design it is saying, withdraw, hide, [00:06:30] don’t let anybody see lie. And so because of that, I think that that people feel that way in relationship to other people. Like, I wanna hide this from other people, but also from ourselves. It’s really challenging when we’re feeling shame to be able to say like, Ooh, can I like sit in this feeling of shame? Yeah. Why am I feeling this way? Because our, like brains are literally saying, this is this is really dangerous to us, right? So we have to do whatever it takes. And so if these foundations have been laid in childhood, [00:07:00] it doesn’t matter if now that the child’s an adult and can see things from another perspective, it’s like, it’s just kind of this like this, this pathway has been paved. So I mean, absolutely it’s possible to be able to, to understand shamel better. And I don’t even know if I’m answering your question, .

Natale (07:18):
Yeah, you are. And I think this is, I think this is so helpful and such an important part of the conversation around pornography and porn’s harms because we often, I mean, we’re educating and raising awareness. Yeah. So with that, we’re inherently [00:07:30] just like shouting statistics at the world on social media all of the time. And it’s, I think, easy when those things are taken out of context to let that feel shame or to experience shame as a result of maybe having a habit and then seeing that information. And so, you know, as well as our followers, that we do talk about shame a lot. And I think it’s important to contextualize this conversation as much as possible with shame. because I think it’s important for people to know that even if they do have a childhood [00:08:00] wound of shame and are experiencing shame with this habit, that there’s also hope, which I do wanna ask you a little bit about that. Like, if someone is in adulthood, in, in a relationship or not experiencing shame about a pornography habit or finding that the shame is fueling the habit or both and they wanna make a change, where and how can they do that?

Rachel (08:24):
Yeah. I think the very first step is just acknowledging that there is shame, you know? Yeah. [00:08:30] Of just saying, you know, it, maybe there’s even a chance This is something that I’m experiencing. And with that, there’s so much research, research to show that if anything else, the antidote to shame is self-compassion. Now, self-compassion is really interesting because I think we don’t fully understand it a lot of times. There’s at least I think we often think of it in terms of being like, well, I’ll just, I’ll just tell myself like, you got it buddy. I understand why you did what you did and just keep moving on. And I think that’s definitely part of [00:09:00] self-compassion Sure. And aspects of it. But I’m sure you’ve talked about Kristin. She was one of the leading, I would say, researchers of self compassion.

And one of the things that she talks about is how, why self-compassion is so beneficial is because then it opens the door to change. Yeah. So when we’re, when we’re experiencing shame it’s important to bring an aspect of like, you know what Ioh, I see why I did what I did. And I feel so much compassion for [00:09:30] that, that part of me that really relies on this. And I feel compassion for maybe even the shame, like the shame’s trying to keep me safe. It’s just here to keep me accepted by my people, by the people I care about. And I, so I feel compassionate to the shame that’s just here to keep me alive. Yeah. And then what that helps do is it kind of like helps relax the shame a little bit so that then the person can ask, well, so now what? Yeah. You know, so, so does this align with my values? [00:10:00] Does this align with who I wanna be? And if not, what do I wanna do? And because the shame’s relaxed, it allows space to be able to ask those questions.

Natale (10:08):
Yeah. That’s so well said. For someone who is maybe unfamiliar with the idea of self-compassion obviously Dr. Kristin f does have like amazing resources on self-compassion. But for someone who this is new information to them, where could they start to develop that self-compassion or even wrap their head around the concept of self-compassion? Where can they begin?

Rachel (10:30):
[00:10:30] Well, I think most of us are, it, it, it’s a little bit easier to start from a place of, how would I feel if someone else was going through this? Like, some we’re generally a lot kinder to people that are not ourselves. And so, I mean, I know that this is kinda like really popular in the therapy world right now, but I think it’s very helpful to think about it in the way of can I even like write a letter to myself as if I’m talking to a friend who’s experiencing this, or a child or someone [00:11:00] that I really care about. And that can help start to tap into the self-compassion. I also think self-compassion is like a muscle. I don’t know if anyone’s gonna feel like, wow, that felt really natural. You know, like, it’s going to probably feel uncomfortable. Right. And maybe even bring some anxiety.

Yeah. Like the person may feel like, oh, no, if I’m compassionate to myself, then like, I’ll never stop looking at porn. You know, I’ll just get away with anything. which by the way, research shows is it’s actually the opposite. but I can see how [00:11:30] there may be like a lot of anxiety around this idea of being compassionate. So I would say also anticipating there may be some resistance inside. There may be parts of us that feel like, I, this may not be safe for us to do this. Shame has gotten us pretty far, and so we’re gonna keep going with shame. Yeah. So it’s just, it’s just practicing and expecting discomfort.

Natale (11:46):
Yeah. That’s a good reminder that it is a muscle and you have to exercise it like anything else to maintain it. Yeah. So for someone who’s struggling with a compulsive porn habit, even if they’ve identified for themselves that they wanna change or maybe are looking for, [00:12:00] you know, into self-compassion or into helping themselves, what is a way that they could disclose what they’re going through to another person that’s healthy and productive for them, and would aid them in that healing? Hmm.

Rachel (12:13):
Yeah. It’s funny because I think that this is probably one of the most important parts of someone’s journey with this. Like, I’m not really sure if someone can do this on their own, because shame probably wouldn’t let them. But to be able to have the courage to [00:12:30] tell somebody else is really, I think, just a tremendous first step to the anxiety, to the shame to be able to say, like, I know that all parts of me are saying absolutely not, but but like in the act of, of, in itself of telling someone right. Rather than like somebody else knowing. I think it’s the act of courage, of telling right. Is really what helps overcome a lot of that shame. So when deciding who or where to tell, I mean, of course I think there’s, these are important questions to ask. So obviously [00:13:00] someone that I trust, someone where there’s not like a power difference or someone that you may feel that the person could exploit this information.

Right. That’s all I’ll given. I would also really have it very clear in your mind what you are wanting to make sure that this person understands. So that might be having some education, like you might need to educate the other person about pornography. Right? it also may be showing or being very [00:13:30] reflective of what your personal journey with it has been. And so I would say like coming pretty prepared, right? as far as what it is that you wanted to share, and be very, very thoughtful about that. I would also say finding a time and a place, so by place, I think is really important. If, you know, let’s say you’re sharing with a partner and maybe you and your partner have a place where you tend to disagree or have arguments, maybe picking a new space, like a neutral [00:14:00] zone or a space you’ve never been to before.

And then also timing. This is probably not something that you wanna spring on someone, but to say, you know, there’s something we wanna talk about with you. Is there a time that we could we could talk about this? And then the last thing I would say is letting the other person have space to have their own reaction to it. Like, they may be really upset, and I think that’s, that could be understandable, especially if this is like a breach of trust or a breach of [00:14:30] an agreement that the both of you had. but I think it’s really important to allow for that base because to expect them to not react. I mean, it’d be nice, but Sure. It’s not realistic.

Natale (14:42):
Sure. And I think that that’s such a good perspective to have about coming prepared with your intention Yeah. Of why you wanna share. Because I do think maybe for some people, like feeling like they need to share because they’ve, they’re just needing to get the secret out there. , which [00:15:00] there is courage in doing that, but that might not have as much clarity in, in leading to a productive conversation as knowing, I do wanna speak about this because I don’t wanna hide under the shame anymore, and I do wanna share this information, but also I would like the end result to be Yeah. Support. Exactly. Or yeah. Accountability. Or to be able to say, I recognize that this has hurt you in this process, and I would like to be able to, to help heal that wound or that trust, or whatever that [00:15:30] is. So I think that’s a really helpful perspective. Is there anything that, if someone were struggling with pornography, I think the fear of the unknown reaction is a reason a lot of people don’t disclose to, especially a romantic partner, where you mentioned it could be a violation of trust or an agreement. is there something that someone disclosing particularly to a romantic partner should consider to make sure that their romantic partner, like has capacity and is [00:16:00] able to hear this information?

Rachel (16:03):
Ooh, that’s a really good question. I would say that when it comes to trust and, and, and like a yeah, just trust in a relationship, especially if this is something that, that, you know, there has been a breach of trust or that this goes against something that you two have decided as a, as a couple, that my opinion at least is that it needs to be talked about. And even [00:16:30] if it feels like this other person may not be able to hold that, I think that what is far, far, far worse is keeping something a secret or hidden. I think you can leave up to other person how much they want to know. So you can just say like, I’m just gonna say very basically, this is what’s going on. I’m happy to answer any questions or fill in any details you want, but I also want you to feel like you can lead how much, you know Yeah. Or how much you wanna know.

Natale (16:57):
Yeah. I think that’s really helpful advice. Many of the people [00:17:00] we are speaking to at presentations in schools online are younger people, are teenagers. A lot of the conversations we’ve had are often applied to adults or people in marriages or serious long-term relationships who are older. But what about for young people?

Rachel (17:15):
Yeah. I think I would actually say it probably still applies. So if I, if I’m, if I’m the person who’s disclosing and I’m disclosing to a friend, I think it’s important to still have a, an idea of [00:17:30] what am I hoping for? I think what can often happen is the pain gets so great, like, shame becomes so overwhelming that it kind of like bursts out, right? And it becomes a way to regulate it. Like, I just gotta tell somebody, right? And that can be helpful. But I think a much more productive way is to have it very clear, why am I telling this person and making it clear, like, Hey, I’m sharing this with you because I trust you and I’m looking for help. I’m looking for resources, or I’m looking for I [00:18:00] just need you to hear this, or I just need you to know Right. On the receiving end, I think I would say just responding truthfully of, of like, I know that this is really hard. I, and if there’s, like, I feel if there’s like level of discomfort, like, I feel uncomfortable with this I’m grateful you told me, but I’m not a person that you can, that I think would be good to have this conversation with, be honest about that. Yeah. Because I think that [00:18:30] trying to fake anything could lead to probably more damage in the end. Yeah.

Natale (18:35):
And especially maybe for younger people to know, like it’s okay to encourage them to talk to a trusted adult.

Rachel (18:41):

Natale (18:41):
Yeah, absolutely. Or someone else, instead of feeling like you have to take that burden on

Rachel (18:45):
Yourself. Right. ’cause this is a, this is a adult problem, . Yeah. This is a just a big problem. Yeah.

Natale (18:51):
That’s great advice. Can you talk a little bit about the psychological reasons behind a compulsive porn habit and how they lead could lead to addiction?

Rachel (19:00):
[00:19:00] Yeah. So there, I first wanna say that my guess is that for people who are struggling with compulsive porn use, there’s probably a lot of co-occurring, other not diagnoses. What’s the right word I’m looking

Natale (19:17):
For? Like mental or emotional?

Rachel (19:18):
Yeah. Yeah. Whether that’s gonna be like anxiety, depression. Right. You know, maybe even traumatic experiences, PTSD. And so I think that’s important to note that I don’t [00:19:30] know if there’s someone who’s gonna struggle with pornography that doesn’t have anything else with going on Yeah. Going on at the same time. But what we know about the brain, I mean, it’s just, it’s just this whole reward system. And so, especially when we’re talking about this idea of shame, which is this like, you know, withdrawn it kind of reminds me of like, like this depressed feeling of like, like a, like a depression, like being pressed down. So when there’s dopamine being released in the brain, and I know that we a lot of material on [00:20:00] this whole process, right? But when there’s dopamine release in the brain, it’s just like a little bit of a, I think, a pressure release of that. And so that in itself becomes incredibly rewarding, especially for someone who’s experiencing shame, right? Is because it’s just like a, it’s a, it’s a relieving feeling from the shame, right? and so it just, like I was saying before, it just kind of creates this, this cycle,

Natale (20:23):
Right? So if someone is experiencing this shame, or is experiencing maybe their compulsive [00:20:30] porn habit is used, is being used to fuel that dopamine reward center, they’re trying to get out of it. What are some ways that they can develop healthier habits or healthier coping mechanisms to transition out of that cycle?

Rachel (20:46):
So one of the things that I like to, like, a way I like to think of this is kind of like a car. So if you have a car and you’re driving down the road and it gets, it blows out a tire, you have to stop on the side of the road, right? [00:21:00] I mean, you can’t keep driving. And so at that point, you’re addressing the issue, which is, I need to put a spare tire and get myself to get my tire fixed. I think a lot of times when we’re thinking about issues like pornography, we’re thinking when I’m like, already in the middle of the cycle, or I’m feeling a lot of shame, what can I do to stop it? And I think that there are definitely techniques that can be helpful, which I can talk about in a, in a minute. That can be helpful of like, Hey, I’m on the side of the road, like I’m in the midst of this cycle. But I think what’s even more important is to back [00:21:30] up a bit and say, what are the, the maintenance things I need to be doing on my car, even before I’m off on the side of the road, or maybe even before I’m driving? So this could be like car or tire rotations or oil changes. I’m trying to think of like what your maintenance things are. Are

Natale (21:44):
Getting new tires when you need them before winter or, exactly.

Rachel (21:48):
Exactly. And so I think that these are actually probably even more, I don’t wanna say important, but I helpful. And so the first thing is to be able to [00:22:00] come up with daily non-negotiables of these are the things that help help my nervous system not be so activated, right? So whether that’s like, Hey, it’s really helpful for me to journal, and that is a non-negotiable. I have to do it every morning. You know, so there’s like this idea of mourning pages for people journal for for four pages without stopping. Like, that’s an excellent way to start a day, right? That can be incredibly regulating. Or maybe it’s like listening to music or going for a walk, or yoga, meditation, whatever [00:22:30] that may be. Those are the non-negotiables, right? and those are the things that I think the maintenance helps keep this, like, keep the cycle happening or as frequently or as intensely when it comes to actually being in that cycle. So now you’re off on the side of the road, right? I think meditation’s really challenging at that point. Sure. You’re already really flooded, you’re overwhelmed. it’s hard, like literally the pre film to Cortex is like, is mostly shut down in the way You’re not thinking things through critically. And [00:23:00] so at that point, there have to be really small, simple things to help pull yourself out of that experience. Is that kinda what you’re asking? Yeah,

Natale (23:07):

Rachel (23:08):
Yeah. So I mean, those can be things as simple as like, literally I’m just gonna take this ice cube and hold it in my hand, right? Like, I’m just gonna focus on something else in this room, or I’m going to like count backwards, or Right. Whatever it may be that can just like, have a little bit of a disruption,

Natale (23:22):
Right. Pull you out of this cycle of like craving the dopamine, getting it through that hit in that way. Yeah. Just anything else to exactly [00:23:30] remove you from it. But you made such a good point. The upstream approach to this is to build those habits that can keep you from getting to that point in the first place, because you’re avoiding that nervous system kind of spike. Yeah. Or heightened state that you might be in if you’re always on the side of the road with all of your tires.

Rachel (23:48):
So, I mean, this can even be of like, am, am I like looking at the way that I’m breathing? Right? Like, just throughout the day, I’m not, might not even be activated, but like, how is my breathing, my breathing up here in my chest, or my breathing down [00:24:00] deep into my belly? Right? And even those differences can really impact the way your nervous system responds to if you’re feeling shame.

Natale (24:07):
That’s a really good point. I think probably like, I don’t know, a lot of people on social media or in pop psychology or whatever, hear about their nervous systems. Yeah. But like, probably a lot of us don’t actually know like exactly what that means. Yeah. What does that feel like? Like what, what does it feel like to have an activated nervous system? I know we talked about the physical [00:24:30] somatic feelings of shame, but how could someone identify if their nervous system is in addition to how their breathing, if their nervous system is maybe hyperactive?

Rachel (24:39):
Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s a couple different ways. There’s this idea of, I think when our, our nervous system is activated, we’re in the fight flight freeze. So you’re gonna see symptoms like breathing up in our chest. In fact, it’s interesting because if you look at infants, infants are belly breathers. They will breathe very deeply into their bellies. And their, their breaths [00:25:00] are generally slower, but, but lower. And that’s like, that’s like using the diaphragm space, right? Most adults, in fact, if you’re paying attention right now, you’re probably breathing up here in our chest. Yeah. I was just thinking about where I’m, most of us, most, most of us are breathing up in our chest. Yeah. Interesting. And it just allows space for like quicker breath. But the problem is, is even the difference in those breathing literally indicates to our nervous system of like, I have to be ready. Right? Like, if I’m, if I am activated, I need fast, quick air Right. To be able to do whatever they need to do.

Natale (25:29):
Run away from [00:25:30] danger. Yes.

Rachel (25:30):
Right. Exactly. . Exactly. But, but it, like I was saying, it, it indicates to the brain of like, we need, we need to be like, all systems are on alert, right? As opposed to if I’m focusing on breathing down deep and, and slow, that, that signals to the brain of like, Hey, we, we can be in this rest and digest space. Like, we’re in the space of like, we can relax every, you know, it’s a bit more settled. So I would say that a lot of the symptoms are more somatic. So paying attention to breathing [00:26:00] heart rate if there’s like kind of this like feeling of like, I gotta get things done. Like, kind of like that, like that anxious energy. Right? it’s really hard to sit still. So if, like, if you think about just if I were to sit still right now for a minute and not move a muscle, would that feel torturous to me? Torturing, torturous? I don’t know. , that feels great. Yeah. . And if it does, that might indicate that like, Hey, my nervous system might be pretty activated right now. Right. If you’re really jumpy those can [00:26:30] all be indications that your nervous system’s activated.

Natale (26:32):
Yeah, that’s really helpful. And I think good to note, because if you are, you know, addressing that as a trigger and making progress, you’ll be able to also kind of track that progress. Noting is your nervous or calmer, which I think is reassuring if you’re on this path of healing or recovery.

Rachel (26:49):
Yes. Yeah.

Natale (26:50):
Love that. so therapy, let’s talk about therapy first question. A lot of people who are experiencing [00:27:00] a compulsive work habit or wanting to make a change in this way, sometimes consider therapy, but we hear a lot from people that they just don’t even know where to start. Yeah. So for someone in that position who is interested in considering therapy as a resource, what would your advice be to them on where to even begin?

Rachel (27:16):
Yeah. Well, I think it, it may be first important to understand what is it I’m wanting out of therapy? Yeah. So what are my goals? Because I think speaking as a therapist, I, there are a lot of people who come to therapy and they say they want to change, but really what they wanna [00:27:30] do is just talk each week. And that’s fine. Sure. But, but it’s, I think it’s becoming very clear of I wanna see this therapist because I want to learn skills, right? I wanna have an, I want to have someone to be accountable to, I want to have I want, yeah, I just want education around this, or I want to process some trauma that I experienced, or like, so I think having a clear idea can really help point the direction of where you’re wanting to go. And honestly, if someone’s just like, Hey, I feel I don’t have anyone else to talk about this with, and a therapist [00:28:00] would be helpful, I think that’s fine too. Sure. But it’s important to be clear on that

Natale (28:03):
Yeah. To know what you want out of experience before you start. Yeah. Yeah.

Rachel (28:07):
So once that becomes clear I think it can be helpful to understand different therapeutic modalities. And so figuring out what some of those modalities are and what resonates with you,

Natale (28:17):
If, do you mind talking about a couple Yeah. That might be helpful specifically for someone dealing with pornography habits.

Rachel (28:24):
Yeah. Well, the most common’s gonna be CBT . And I think that’s definitely the most research. [00:28:30] In fact, I think CCB t’s considered to be like the grandfather of all race of all therapy modalities.

Natale (28:35):
Right? Just cognitive behavioral therapy.

Rachel (28:36):
Yeah. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which really is this idea of challenging disorder thoughts, right? And so those thoughts may be the thoughts that come up because of the shame. And then it’s like attaching behavior, so what are you doing? And yeah. That whole process, right? So I think that can be definitely just, you’re not gonna go wrong with CBT, right? And there are some therapists out there who are just pure CBT therapists. I [00:29:00] think other ones that can be helpful are things like mindfulness based personally, I really love mindfulness based because it really helps bring, bring back into this, this present moment idea, which most of us are not in the present moment. And so this idea of coming back to the present moment and being okay with the, with what’s there, right? So if I’m feeling shame, this type of therapy will really help you to, to almost like, I’m feeling shame in my body and you know what, I’m gonna just sit here right?

And let the feeling of shame [00:29:30] just be here and I’m okay with it because it’s not gonna kill me. Right. So it’s really learning how to do that. There’s also, you can do acceptance commitment therapy, which is act and that one’s really helping you understand what your values are and being able to move forward based off of what those values are. let’s see. You could do oh, there’s, there’s like, motivational interviewing is maybe a type where, where it’s kind [00:30:00] of the same thing where you have a therapist that really is skilled and just pretty much asking you questions, right. To help you understand what is important to you. Maybe even see the errors in your thinking, but it’s all through this like, space of the therapist just asking you questions, right. Rather than telling you things. Right.

Natale (30:16):
If someone’s porn habit maybe is rooted in a trauma or something Yeah. From an earlier time, are there specific types of therapies you would recommend to someone in that

Rachel (30:25):
Instance? So another form of therapy that can be helpful, especially for trauma, is EMDR. [00:30:30] It’s really interesting. Do, do you want me to go into that a little bit?

Natale (30:32):
Yeah. I think I love EMDR therapy. Yeah. I tend out 10 would recommend it to someone, but I think a lot of people are like, what’s that? Yeah. What does that even mean? We just just said it what it is, and we don’t even Yeah. That’s

Rachel (30:42):
Not clear. Well, EMDR is fascinating. Yeah. because to to really be brief on, on how it works is when someone has an experience that happens to them, usually there’s this like the actual logical event, what happen and then emotionally, how they felt about it [00:31:00] Yes. And the meanings that they made. And for most of us when we sleep, the brain can take those two things almost like a zipper and like zip ’em up, and then the brain will store them and process ’em.

Natale (31:08):
Right. When you’re in your REM cycle, when you’re

Rachel (31:10):
In your REM cycle, exactly. When there’s a really big event where the emotions were so high, the meaning was so high, oftentimes I would say shame is so high that the brain, when it’s sleeping, it gets stuck. It can’t quite zip that up. And so because it gets stuck, it doesn’t get processed away. Right. And it’s almost like it stays [00:31:30] there in the brain and it becomes very easily activated or triggered. And so this might look like flashbacks or anything that reminds you of that event or like events then then the brain’s like, oh no, it’s happening again. . So what EMDR does is it mimics what happens during your REM cycle of your sleep, which is basically just eye movement, but also also,

Natale (31:51):
But like bilateral stimulation.

Rachel (31:53):
Yeah. Bilateral stimulation.

Natale (31:53):
Like when you’re in your REM cycle and your eyes are kind of shifting, your

Rachel (31:58):
Eyes are going back and forth

Natale (31:59):
Being stimulated. [00:32:00] Yes.

Rachel (32:00):
Yeah. Yeah. So when your eyes are going back and forth, that’s what’s happening. It’s just like zipping that up. So EMDR the traditional way is, is having that, that client move their eyes back and forth while they’re thinking about or talking about that experience, but also can look like, just like anything that happens from the left side of the body to the right side of the body. Right. So left, like tapping your knees left and right. Right. I personally prefer having holding these little tappers that will buzz back and forth in your hand. So what that can do, and, and honestly I think MD [00:32:30] is helpful for people who haven’t even experienced like extreme traumatic, extremely traumatic things. Yeah. I think it’s just really helpful at helping the process. Any, honestly, I would say shame. Yeah. Like any, any event big or small that happened when you were a kid or a young adult or whenever that your brain just kind of gets stuck on this loop for, and it helps it process it and put it away. Yeah. So I would recommend MDR for anyone. Yeah. Same. I’m not a therapist. I will say this. EMDR [00:33:00] can be incredibly activating Sure. And triggering. And if the person’s not, doesn’t quite have the skills or ability yet Right. To help themselves regulate after I maybe not, I maybe wouldn’t recommend it quite yet. Right. first like really working on building some of those

Natale (33:20):
Skills, right. So for someone who’s maybe listened to this description thinks, oh, that might be helpful for me. They can pick a therapist who is qualified to do that and able to do that, but that [00:33:30] therapist would work with them to know when they would be ready to do that.

Rachel (33:32):
Probably. Ideally, yes. Yeah. , yeah. Ideally, yes. And I think that would be something you would ask your therapist if you’re gonna see MDA therapist, what are the ways that I know that outside of the therapy room I can be Okay. Like, can we build some of those skills

Natale (33:46):
First? Yeah. And I do just wanna ask this before, also going back to how to identify a therapist, because these are all helpful things to consider of what type of therapy, et cetera. for someone who is in a relationship, maybe a marriage or, [00:34:00] you know, if this has impacted the relationship and they’re also interested in doing a couple’s therapy or something like that what recommendations would you have in, in that consideration?

Rachel (34:12):
As far as like, looking for a couples?

Natale (34:14):
Yeah. In terms of like how to find a therapist that might be a good fit for a couple who is wanting to address this issue?

Rachel (34:21):
Yeah. I mean, I would say finding a therapist who is just maybe educated about pornography and [00:34:30] is also really skilled in understanding what the, the main issue is. ’cause it may not even really be about pornography, it may be about trust, right? It may be about like on, on both sides, right? And so I think finding a therapist that can really help identify the core

Natale (34:45):
Issues. And for someone who’s maybe never seen a therapist before or found a therapist before, how do they do that? How do they go

Rachel (34:51):
About that process? Okay. Yes. So I would say honestly, the best bets to ask for recommendations Yeah. Just to ask like, does anyone know of a therapist that they liked? It doesn’t [00:35:00] even have to be someone who’s, who’s going through the same thing, but just Yeah. Do you have a therapist who like there’s also a lot of avenues like psychology today. You can find therapists in your area and you can even narrow down your search by, by like if they’re male female, if they, what modalities they’re trained in, maybe even what their religious background is in, if that’s important to you. so I would say that’s a good place to start. The other thing too is the most important [00:35:30] thing in therapy is the therapeutic relationship. And there’s been so much research done that what leads the outcomes in therapy is that relationship.

Yeah. It not even is exactly the skills of the therapist, it’s just what’s this relationship? And so for me personally, when I see a client that I know is not, that we’re not a good fit, I will say that, right? Because to me, it’s so much more important that, that they get the best help they need. And if I know that we’re not clicking and, and they confirm it too, then it’s like, [00:36:00] we gotta help you find someone’s better. Right? So with I would say really trust your gut of does, is this person someone I can trust? Yeah. Is this person that I feel understands me, understands my issues, who listens, who provides good insight, who asks questions those are all really important things to consider. Yeah.

Natale (36:17):
That’s such a good tip. And this has come up on the podcast before often people will say, I’m afraid to like open up to someone to test if they’re a good fit. And then what if they’re not? Then I have to start all over Yeah. And do it all again. [00:36:30] What would your advice be in terms of like testing that out Yeah. And, and figuring that out before, you know, you’re into your deepest trauma and someone saying, actually, I just think this isn’t a good fit. And, and having to start over. What would your advice be?

Rachel (36:44):
Yeah. Well, most therapists will do consultations, and I would re absolutely recommend doing those and coming with thoughtful questions. Yes. I personally do consultations and when a potential client comes to me with really good questions for me, a I know that they’re ready for change, Sure. [00:37:00] Like, I know that they’re taking this seriously, and I also know that they know what they’re wanting. And so for me, that’s very, very helpful when I can hear what questions they are asking. But also I think it helps them decide like, do we click or do we not? Right? And what I would also recommend is, if possible, to see more than one therapist in the beginning, right. So like, I’m gonna just schedule with like these two or three, four, however many therapists I’m gonna go to all of them. [00:37:30] And whoever I feel the best with, then I’m gonna stick with my gut on that one. And I’m gonna go ahead

Natale (37:36):
With that’s something that for some people could be cost inhibiting, but also worth considering. If this is something that you’re gonna spend a lot of time with this therapist, you’re essentially, it’s like dating, right? You’re gonna see what’s the best fit for you before you make that lifelong commitment. I think it’s a great option to be able to know that it’s okay to approach a couple of different people and, and maybe keep things lighter even for a couple of sessions. Yeah. Or for a first session for [00:38:00] a consultation before kind of diving into everything when you feel like you’ve found someone who’s a good fit.

Rachel (38:05):
And I do wanna add this because I think what can happen oftentimes in therapy is we are a very like ghosting culture . Sure. And so, so if like a therapist says something you don’t like or does something you don’t like, we’re just like, I’m just not going back. . But why this therapeutic relationship is so crucial is because it’s a place to be able to practice this skill. So what I think is like, just probably [00:38:30] the best thing that a client can do is to come to the next session and say like, honestly, I didn’t like how you said that. That was really hurtful to me. And can we talk about that? Yeah. That will be the tail tell, tail sign of a good therapist as if they can say like, tell me more. Yeah. You know, because I want to repair this with you. Right. There’s been a rupture in our relationship and I wanna repair this. Now if the clinician gets really defensive, that’s gonna tell you all you need to know. Right. But if the, if the therapist is willing to repair and say like, I, you know, this is why I said this, but also I see how that was hurtful and doing that repair work, [00:39:00] that makes a huge difference. So I will say trust your gut, but also be willing to have the tough conversation with your therapist.

Natale (39:06):
Yeah. I think that’s such a good point. I obviously, perhaps, obviously I love therapy. I do therapy. I have many friends who do therapy, and we often talk about this idea that like sometimes people feel like they have to like present, be presentable a certain way to their therapist and or they don’t want their therapist to judge them, or they don’t like, there’s an idea going into therapy [00:39:30] that’s like a fear of judgment from this stranger that you don’t know. Yeah. And then you tell them your most intimate, you know, issues in life. what would your advice be to someone who’s maybe concerned about, like, is my therapist going to judge me?

Rachel (39:44):
They probably are , to be honest. Like they, they probably are going to have judgments. Yeah. And I think that what, what to understand though is that the, it’s that therapist’s job to ask themselves, is this something that’s [00:40:00] gonna impact my ability to work with this person? Sure. And like for example, if a client is sharing something that is actually personally triggering to me, let’s say that’s something I have experienced in my life, right. I’m going to probably be feeling triggered. Now it’s my job to either tell that client like, maybe be honest, like, honestly what you’re talking about right now is personally activating to me. It’s not your job to take care of me, but I want to address what’s here in the room. Right. But the, the client’s gonna be able to feel that Sure. If the therapist is having a reaction inside.

Sure. Most of the time [00:40:30] though, probably what the, the therapist is doing, if they are judging, is they are thinking like, okay first of all, I’m gonna take note of that. Why is this something I’m judging this person about? Right. That’s something I need to address on my own and I’m gonna bring it back here. Right. I wish I could say all therapists did that . Sure. But, but I would say like, in the end, the worry of being judged, I mean, you probably are being judged, but not in the way you think. Sure. Not that they’re thinking

Natale (40:57):
Like, like I think people often feel [00:41:00] a fear of disclosing the things they wanna work on most. Yeah. ’cause they’re afraid of judgment about those things. For example, if someone who has a lot of shame about a pornography habit might feel that in, in terms of fear of disclosing that Yeah. Like, like how would you respond to someone who’s afraid in, in that way?

Rachel (41:16):
Honestly, I would say to, to maybe even start off of, I’m really nervous to tell you this Yeah. Because I’m afraid you’re gonna judge me. Yeah. Ooh. If I were to hear that from a therapist, first of all, I would be thinking like, I need to check myself. Because if they’re feeling for me [00:41:30] that I’m judging them, I need to ask that, are you feeling judged by me? And if I, if you are, we need to talk about this, and I wanna be honest with you, and I need you to be honest with me. But then also that also says like, just, just like what a what a space for vulnerability, you know, of practicing that vulnerability of saying like, this is really scary for me, and even though I’m afraid you’re gonna judge me, I’m doing it anyway. Yeah. I know that there are things we’re afraid to say, but the reality is truly at this point, I think I may have heard it all. Like, I [00:42:00] don’t know if there’s anything anyone can say where I’d be like, what? Sure. Like, honestly, I think for me it’s like, yeah, I, not to like dismiss or, or yeah. Not to dismiss anything, but partly it’s like, yeah. I mean, honestly the other three people have said the exact same thing Right. That I saw right before you. And it’s not to like minimize it, but it’s just saying like, yeah. I don’t know if there’s anything that could be said that is like gonna bring up judgment or Right. yeah.

Natale (42:26):
Right. Like the things that so many people feel [00:42:30] and experience, they’re not alone in Right. Basically. Right. Yeah. Yeah. But we just think we’re alone in those things because we have shame largely. Right. Right. For someone who has maybe gone through therapy, it feels like they’ve kind of accomplished some goals in therapy. Obviously they would get this information in that process, but for someone who’s maybe unable to have therapy , it’s not accessible to them, it’s, they can’t afford it. Are there tools that generally people would learn through the process of therapy? Hmm. especially [00:43:00] combating a pornography habit or sexual compulsivity. Are there tools that you would recommend individuals try to learn on their own? I know you mentioned journaling a little bit earlier and some breath work and things, but could you just kind of name a few things that could be helpful for people who either don’t have access to therapy or have done therapy and still are looking for tools to kind of continue this healthy journey? Yeah.

Rachel (43:23):
A way to start that can be really helpful is just tracking the pattern, tracking the cycle of what happens. And [00:43:30] so, you know, first like what, just what’s the initial trigger? And it may not even be something that’s related to pornography, but like, honestly, I just woke up and I had a headache. Right. Write that down and, and be, I would say be really, really, really curious. Almost like if you were a scientist to yourself, like you had your little notebook and you were watching like your anthropologist and you’re watching this culture you didn’t yet understand, and so you’re just taking notes, no judgements. It doesn’t matter why at this point you’re just writing down what you notice and taking all [00:44:00] of that data and all that information because it will point to the areas that need help. . And once you can understand what those are, then it can help you narrow down where you’re getting stuck.

Yeah. why you may be getting stuck. Although I would honestly say why probably doesn’t matter quite as much here in the beginning. I think the fir and I think it can help provide context, but really it’s just the what is happening. Right. And I think in, I think we want to get into the why. And personally I think that can kind of derail the Sure. The progress. But [00:44:30] to understand the, what is most helpful. So once you understand that, then it’s, it’s in the beginning it can be like, okay, so what do I need to do to interrupt this cycle? Right. Or this pattern. So like, at this point when I’m feeling this, I know I need to do this. Right. And I think that that can be really helpful initially. And, and hopefully over time that the spaces will grow so that the interruptions will feel bigger.

And it may be even in the beginning, it’s like, I could only erupt it for 10 seconds [00:45:00] and I was right back on. Sure. But that, I think that’s still progress. That’s progress. Sure. And so you’re just trying to build up those spaces. What I would say though, and this may be a little woo woo , but II think it’s actually really, really important is in the end, if we’re to break down, what is happening, I think for pretty much everybody on this planet is we’re trying to escape these unpleasant feelings. whether that shame or anxiety or depression. And we’re so fearful our, like our entire [00:45:30] systems are so fearful of feeling this way, right. That we will do whatever it takes. I think one of the most beneficial practices is mindfulness, but not in the way that we think.

I think a lot of times we think mindfulness is where I’m gonna focus on breathing and I’m going to like watch my thoughts pass that has this, there’s this time and a place for that. But what I mean by mindfulness, it’s, it’s, it’s this stillness, it’s can I sit still and whatever is there, I’m gonna watch it grow so big that I think [00:46:00] I’m gonna die, and then I will still not move. And once that, like the crux of that comes down, I, it’s like, it’s like showing, it’s like exposure therapy to yourself Yeah. Of saying like, Hey, I actually survived that entire wave of shame. Yeah. I actually thought I was gonna die, but I survived it. There’s research that emotions only have a lifespan in 90 seconds. . But why they last longer is because we attach the meanings and we do whatever it takes to get rid of them.

Right. So when we can sit with these swellings, one of the ways I like to personally [00:46:30] practice this is what I is I’ll pay, I’ll lay very, very still and pay attention to just the sensations of my body, which one of the first things I usually notice is I have an itch somewhere. So like, let’s say I have an itch on my knee and this, this is the same idea, the same practice where I’ll just watch the itch. Kind of like I’m looking at it from a third party perspective and I cannot touch the itch. I cannot itch it. I just watch and it’ll get really, really, really itchy. And then it’ll start to go away. . And then I’ll notice there’s an itch on my foot and it’s the same practice. It’s just like this, [00:47:00] it’s this practice of like, whatever happens, I can survive it. It’s not like pushing against, it’s like almost a surrender to Right. In a way. And, and truly I think that that is one of the most regulating things someone can do. ’cause it’s just showing the nervous system. We survived. Yeah. We survived, we survived.

Natale (47:17):
And there’s like proof to yourself in that you build trust with yourself. Yes. And knowing, oh, I did that. Right. I went through this feeling and I didn’t die. I survived this thing that I thought was too scary to ever dive into it. And [00:47:30] actually once I was there, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Right. Or whatever that process looks like, you build that trust with yourself to believe, oh, I can create change actually. Exactly. In a way that I think is really motivating. Yeah. And can’t be really motivating. Yeah. Thank you so much. You have so much knowledge to offer on, on everything, but especially how therapy and therapeutic practices can be helpful with, for someone who’s struggling with pornography, is there any hopeful word [00:48:00] you would leave someone with who maybe is in kind of the depth of a challenge with pornography or anything really that’s maybe steeped with shame or whatever it is to know that there is hope on the other side?

Rachel (48:12):
Yeah. I will say this, that anybody, anybody, anybody can change and that things can be, can get better. But I also would add that everything you need to be successful is already inside [00:48:30] you. And I think a therapist can be helpful to point to those things, but you don’t need a therapist to heal. And so I know that sometimes going to therapy feels like a barrier for actually getting or feeling better. And personally I think therapists are always gonna be really helpful to help lead to that. Right. But everything, everything is already there inside. And I would also say just trust yourself and trust your ability to do this. And [00:49:00] that, that you’re also not alone. There’s, I think every person on this planet is struggling with the same thing truly. And that we’re all just trying to manage our own shame and we just have different ways that we’re doing it. Yeah. And I think there’s something kind of comforting in the fact that it’s just not, it’s not just you, even though shame is saying it is.

Natale (49:20):
Yeah. And also that plenty of people have found their way out of those stream spirals and into healthier ways of existing and, and that [00:49:30] you can do that too. Right. Exactly. We’re all experiencing the challenging things in similar but different ways. And we can all experience the, the hopeful and healthy things in similar but different ways as well.

Rachel (49:40):

Promo (49:45):
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Outro (51:21):
Thanks for joining us in this episode of Consider Before Consuming. Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug. [00:51:30] 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. Check out the episode notes for resources mentioned in this episode. If you find this podcast helpful, consider subscribing and leaving a review. Consider Before Consuming is made possible by listeners like you. If you’d like to support Consider [00:52:00] Before Consuming, you can make a one time or recurring donation of any amount at That’s F-T-N-D.O-R-G/support. Thanks again for listening. We invite you to increase your self-awareness, look both ways, check your blind spots and consider before consuming.

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