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Defeating Porn by Understanding Your Brain’s Arousal Template

By Kayla Sullivan

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Have you tried everything you know to do, and yet you still cannot seem to get free from the grip of porn? You’ve cried, you’ve prayed, you’ve smashed your computer in the driveway, and still nothing? Believe it or not, you’re not alone.

The Barna Group reports that 81% of teen and young adult men seek out porn. In comparison of the same age group, 56% of women search for online pornographic content.

But regardless of what it is, every person has a vice that they return to when life crumbles. It’s almost like we’re willing to step out over the ledge, but we have to keep holding on to the handrail because we’re afraid that we’ll fall.

Paralyzed in Fear

As a kid, my family went to an amusement park that had a walk-through Noah’s Ark attraction. It was really cool – until we reached a point where the floor was missing. In its place, there were three stepping blocks. Peering down into the gaping hole in the floor, there appeared to be snakes waiting for the person who missed a step. And I was terrified! Screaming and crying, I held up the entire line of people waiting to go through because I would not take a step.  After all, I was only a kid with little legs! There was no way that I could reach those stepping blocks!

My parents tried to coax me to cross, but I was not having it. I was paralyzed with fear, refusing to move forward yet being told that I could not turn back. Eventually, my dad picked me and carried me.  By the way, the floor had been covered by plexiglass ensuring that no one would fall.

My brain’s limbic system was at work that day.  This is what happens to individuals who struggle to break free from the grip of porn and sexual sin in their lives.

What Exactly is the Limbic System

Programmed by the age of six, the limbic system is the part of the brain that is made up of emotional memories. It operates on impulse, on a subconscious level, and becomes our survival system.

It strongly responds to five things:

  1. Fear
  2. The things we’ll run from.
  3. The things that keep us frozen in place.
  4. Food
  5. Sex

During times of stress, anger, or fear, the limbic system overpowers the prefrontal cortex.  This is the brain’s main impulse control center.  Not fully developed until the age of 25, this is where moral decisions are made.

The overpowering of the prefrontal cortex is especially challenging for those struggling with porn or sexual addiction.

We tell ourselves that we will be brave, we will be confident, and that today will be the day of victory. But then we get to the edge and all of the doubts, concerns, and fears resurface. We swallow hard and contemplate our choice.  Frequently we turn back around – running right into the arms of what comforted us in the past.

If we want to break out of this routine, we have to begin to understand the power that the limbic system has on our lives.

The Arousal Template

For those struggling with sexual addiction, they are unaware of one key component found within the limbic system – the arousal template. It is nearly impossible to have victory over sexually compulsive behavior if you do not have a thorough understanding of your own personal arousal template.

The arousal template is discussed in depth in the Conquer Series, a powerful, cinematic small group study, which combines both Science and Scripture to help men seeking freedom from porn.

Paul Cole, President of the Christian Men’s Network describes in the Conquer Series,

“Whatever attracts and holds your attention will eventually control the direction of your life.”

Every person has an arousal template, and it is basically a map of our beliefs, ideas, and responses in regards to sexuality. Nearly anything can become a trigger for an individual, which is why it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of yours.

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to one’s personal arousal template. These can include certain locations, smells, personalities, appearances, beliefs, culture, and more. Note that not all arousal components have negative connotations, some could be attached from enjoyable memories. However, for those exposed to porn at an early age, the pornography they view begins to shape their arousal template.

Being vulnerable enough with yourself to understand this first step in discovering your unique arousal template sets the stage for unearthing the other contributing factors. You will not be able to form a relapse prevention plan without completing this exercise.

Relapse Evaluation

The good news is that God can help you renew your mind and give you a process for healing unhealthy patterns in your arousal template. In the Conquer Series Journal, men are going to be introduced to an activity that can help gain better insight into their arousal template. This activity, known as My Last Relapse Table (P116 & 117), helps glean specific information by looking at the most recent relapse.

Men will be asked to dissect a recent relapse, evaluating what had been happening in their life at that time. What things had to be true for them to act out in regards to their surroundings? How did they act out – what were the vices that they turned to? How did they feel towards others both before and after acting out? Did you feel as if no one cared, and then you felt like you let everyone down?

These evaluations should be made when the mind is clear. Each one can unearth a powerful realization of how the mind works.

Making Sense of it All

Once you have become aware of the specifics regarding your most recent relapse, you’ll be able to compile a chart on paper that will heighten your understanding of your arousal template.

Start off by evaluating your sexual behavior. Be honest, and admit to yourself the things that have become an issue in your life. Watching internet porn, masturbation, being flirtatious, or having an affair can be examples of problematic sexual behavior.

It’s not enough to just list the activities. As mentioned in Pillar 5 of the Seven Pillars of Freedom, you have to be specific about the things that arouse you including body types and specific websites. When sharing this information in a Conquer Group be mindful of how this may be triggering for other group members.  You may need to catch up with your leader one on one to share this information initially, and ask whether it is safe to share in the group.

You’ll also have to take a look at your past. Be sure to take note of any painful moments in your life – whether sexually, emotionally, physically, or even spiritually. This one is going to take some grit to work through, but you cannot skip this step!

Beside the painful moments, make a list of the feelings and emotions you experienced.

Review what you just wrote, and ask yourself if you see any repetitive beliefs. These could include thoughts of not being good enough, being unwanted, feeling ugly and worthless. Now ask yourself how you learned to cope with those unwanted, unhealthy thoughts?

Wrapping Things Up

By now, you may be starting to notice some patterns that have evolved throughout your life.  But this is just the beginning. There is so much more to learn!

Through the use of the Conquer Series, individuals are learning more about the correlation between their past experiences and their present struggles. This ten week, Biblically based DVD curriculum helps bring understanding to why trying harder does not work, and the importance of learning who you are in Christ.

While we mentioned one of the activities from the Conquer Series Journal previously, it’s important to note that there is a wealth of activities available in both the Study Guides and the Journal to aid in the healing process.

Hope

The journey for you is just getting started. Consider purchasing the Conquer Series or joining a Conquer Group to help you navigate through this time of your life. Do not face this journey alone.

On days when you feel as if it would be easier to quit, keep your eye fixed on the prize at the end of the race.

If you’re married, a restored relationship with your wife might be the goal you are striving for.

For single guys, it could be the thought of having an unadulterated relationship with someone amazing in the future.

Regardless of marital status, the ultimate goal is to fix our eyes on Jesus.  He alone is the author and perfecter of Faith.

Dr. Ted Roberts offers this encouragement in the Conquer Series,

“God wants to turn you into more than a conqueror; not just a conqueror, but more than a conqueror. What “more than a conqueror” means is that every time the enemy knocks you down, by the grace of God, you get back up.”

Are you ready to break free from porn? Order the Conquer Series today.


The Conquer Series is a powerful cinematic 12-disc DVD series which is helping over 1 million men conquer porn and walk in freedom.


Get started, and order the Conquer Series today.


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