Ask Abdi: How big of a deal is my internet porn habit in the grand scheme of things?

Question: A friend recommended that I ask you a question about my porn habit. I’m trying to break my habit of watching porn whenever I get stressed or excited about some news while at home. I know it’s a trigger. For others it may be smoking or drinking but for me it’s internet porn. I try staying away from it but then I feel strange and disoriented so I find ways to justify my habit and convince myself that it’s not that bad. I know in the grand scheme of addictions internet porn is not that big of a deal but I feel like cumulatively it has isolated me and made me feel awkward in developing more intimate relationships. Any advice?

Answer: Good on you for reaching out as that is the first step with dealing with any addiction: realizing that it is a problem. You are absolutely wrong to state that internet pornography addiction is not destructive in the grand scheme of addictions. It is an addiction plain and simple. As such it is destructive to body, mind and soul. Consuming porn changes our body chemistry just as a drug and it has certain negative consequences beyond other drugs. Input or consumption via the eyes can be and in this case, is similar to consumption via the lungs or digestive tract. You can tell yourself that this behavior is not bad but it is not a case of good or bad. That is a judgment. It is a fact that it is destructive.

Your addiction is a massive problem among many people. I work with men who cannot have computers at home because their addictive compulsion to watch porn is so strong. Porn is more easily accessible these days than any other substance as one never has to leave one’s home to get it. Because of that you need to dig deep to heal. As with any addiction, will power is not the answer. The pain and anxiety beneath this behavior has to be faced, examined, and healed. There are twelve step programs that can be helpful. Working with a therapist can help you sort through the underlying issues. All addictions affect intimacy but porn is particularly destructive because its consumption totally disconnects us from our heart. We live in a culture that constantly reinforces our disconnection from those around us. We don’t need to strengthen that destructive energy by further disconnecting ourselves.

Sexual fantasy is a wonderful and healthy part of life; we are not talking about cutting or censoring that out. Fantasy is a powerful gift to be shared in the confines of an intimate relationship. It can help us reveal aspects of our unconscious selves to our conscious selves and/or another. What happens with pornography, as you have discovered, is a total disconnect from our heart and that energy. We look at certain images that are stimulating to our nervous system as a way of keeping pain and anxiety at bay. So the sexual act that needs to be connected to our heart, in order to connect us with another, is subverted to control internal pain. This is isolating and makes it much harder to connect with another person. Every time we act out by watching porn, we are disconnecting our heart from our sexual desire. When the time comes for intimacy with another human being, we are at an even larger disadvantage than normal since we have been training our self not to be present on a daily level.

I will not even get into how excessive masturbation for men has negative consequences in terms of vitality and reduced life force. This becomes more of an issue the older a man is. You can read up on that in literature on Chinese martial arts and medicine under the topic of Jing conservation.

You have your work cut out for you. You, like many of us, are numbing yourself. Use that energy to heal yourself instead. This way you are not at the mercy of some unmoored energy in your psyche that runs you. Make friends with that part of yourself and drink the clean water of intimacy instead of poisoning your self with the energy of disconnection.