In all my conversations with men about recovery, one of the questions I ask most often is this: “Do you know what leads you to look at pornography?” And based on the look they would give me, you would think I had three heads! In general, most of the men I’ve worked with over the last several years just don’t have a clue.
Unless we understand what kind of feelings and emotions lead us to act out, we’ll repeat the same behavior over and over again. That’s a fact. For me, it took a while to figure out. But as I looked back over the 13 years that I was addicted to pornography, I observed the patterns I would go through and examine what I was feeling in those years: loneliness, disappointment, stress, rejection, feeling disrespected from people. And I hadn’t even scraped the surface.
Men either discover porn or are exposed to it in all kinds of ways. But what are the triggers that lead us back to the well time and time again? Understanding your triggers is invaluable information that can help you find healing, growth, and ultimately the freedom you so desperately long for.
As a sort of “purity coach” to men and small group leader for many years, I’ve found many beneficial tools alongs the way for helping us understand our internal world. But one of the most useful and practical tools is an acronym called BLAST, which stands for the following:
B: Bored or Burnt Out
A: Angry, Apathetic, Afraid, Ashamed, or Abandoned
S: Sad, Stressed or Selfish
Each letter contains very accurate words to describe many of the common triggers a man or woman may experience before acting out. It certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start to understanding the feelings and emotions you’re experiencing during times you feel tempted.
Triggers can thoughts, feelings, or emotions, but they can also be external environmental factors you haven’t considered. Triggers are unique to the individual. So in that way, they can be virtually anything: a memory, a smell, a person, a location. You get the idea.
What’s important is that you understand what they are and you have a plan on how to deal with them in a healthy way. It’s time to get a game plan! I want to suggest a few ways you can better understand what your most common triggers are:
- Retrace Your Steps — Be a detective. Think about the last few times you looked at porn. On average, what were you feeling in those moments? Be specific. Had you just come off of a really busy day at work? Did you and your spouse just have an argument? Or perhaps it was something as simple as not having a whole lot to do that day. Identify what’s going on both on the inside and the outside.
- Journal What You Learn — Journaling is an incredible healthy discipline to practice for anyone, but especially for the person in recovery. When you start to discover what your triggers are, they are worthy to be remembered. You don’t want to forget the tings that tend to lead you down unhealthy paths. It’s valuable information! Plus, as you hopefully progress in your recovery, you will want to add to entries like this. Make it your goal to become as self-aware as possible.
- Plan For The Future — I regret that I didn’t learn my triggers earlier in my struggles with pornography. As a teenager, learning your triggers isn’t really something you’re thinking about. But I knew I wanted to be free of this stuff. I also tended to veer towards isolation and avoiding solid friendships. So once you know what trips you up, plan for the next time. The question isn’t if you are triggered again, the question is how you will be triggered. And understanding what you can do about is really important.
Here’s some ideas:
- When you feel bored, offer to help a friend with a project.
- When you feel lonely, call up some friends to go bowling.
- When you feel angry, take a few deep breaths.
- When you feel ashamed, read Romans 8:1 (and read more after that)
- When you feel stressed, go take a walk or run.
- When you feel sad, turn on some great worship music.
- When you feel tired, go to SLEEP! (sleep is great for the brain)
Remember these truths: You aren’t helpless. You aren’t controlled by pornography. You’re in control of what you give your heart to. You must also become a student of your heart — learning what your heart is craving and it needs to be healthy. We’re all on a journey of learning (or perhaps re-learning) who we really are. The more we do this, the more victory we will find in avoiding the well worn paths our addictions have taken us down for so long.