When I was a young man, one of the greatest reliefs I ever found in scripture was when the apostle Paul called himself a wretched man. He said (paraphrasing), “I do not do what I want to do, instead I do the things I don’t want to do, and I do them over and over again!” What a huge revelation that was, because the very first thought I had was, “that’s me!” And this was at the end of Paul’s ministry, when he would have been at his oldest and wisest! Until that point in my life, I had always thought it was just me.
Interestingly, we’ve gained some recent scientific insight into the physiology of this issue. You can find a lot of this for yourself by Googling studies on the effects of internet pornography, but they ended up expanding this research to cover any activity which violates the belief system of the subject. You’ve heard me talk for a long time about the fight-or-flight response, which can release chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline which are damaging in the long-term, as opposed to the positive, peaceful chemicals like oxytocin and endorphins. What the researchers found is that when you do something that violates your own beliefs, your hypothalamus triggers the release of all of these at once, positive and negative both.
This kind of chemical cascade is absolutely overwhelming, not to mention addictive, to the point where once it passes a certain point (and that point doesn’t even take very long to reach), it’s nearly impossible to resist. As far as I know, this particular chemical reaction is unique to activities that violate your beliefs—what you might call your conscience. And it can happen in just a few moments, like a switch is flipped on our free will to make our own choices.
It starts, as all our actions do, with a picture—either of the activity or of the good feelings that go with it. The picture connects to our memories, and through it comes the feeling of craving. Now, it’s well established that telling someone with an addiction to “just say no” is almost hilariously unhelpful. What I will say is that it takes time for that chemical reaction to build, and the sooner you can head it off, the better. Of course, that on its own isn’t nearly enough to actually solve a problem like this. I do have a little more to say about that, but I should clarify that I’m talking primarily about simple negative habits, and in the case of things that are severely chemically addictive—meth, for example—while the advice I have today may help a little, that’s really another level of addiction.
Personally, the times I’ve struggled the most with addiction to negative habits have been when I was simply bored. The human mind demands that our waking hours be filled with something, and if we aren’t deliberate about supplying it with things that are good, true, uplifting, and all the rest, it will tend to default to the easiest hit of dopamine available. Which, naturally, is why pornography is such a huge addiction for so many people.
If you’re really honest with yourself, I bet there are plenty of things in life that you want more than the next hit of dopamine. Many of you, maybe most of you, will already be perfectly aware of that. I would say that it starts with recognizing what you really want. Rather than trying not to indulge negative habits, be deliberate about engaging in more positive ones, and try to gradually crowd out the negatives. Use Trilogy and the Healing Codes to heal the root issues and relieve the stress that may be taking away your ability to make real choices. Most of all, remember the second part of Paul’s lesson. When you do those things you don’t want to do, “it is not you doing them!” You are not your negative habits. You are meant for and capable of so much more.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd