If you really want to give up …
16 Nov 2016
(Part One of a two-part post)
The pressure is often on us here at PRUK to find the space to work with the huge number of people who contact us for sessions throughout the course of a year.
One reason we are so busy is that good work takes time. While, technically, you might be someone who can just stop using, in practice most people need some support to stay stopped or cut use to a level they are comfortable with. It also seems that developing your knowledge of how to control and ‘rewire’ your thinking works best when you develop those skills over a period of time.
At PRUK we are privileged to receive communications from people who have fixed their difficulties with porn and stayed that way. For example, last month we posted an update from Simon who first wrote for us in 2012 about his issues. It’s good to know there are people like him who report back to us once in a while to let us know they are still doing well and have not rescinded.
The experience we have at PRUK informs us that you really can manage change in your habits with porn. It’s important to pass on that people can and have achieved change; if you really want to, you can be one of those people.
Habit forming (good or bad) takes place through context-dependent repetition – that’s to say, the behaviour and the situation in which that behaviour occurs both have a part in the creation of the habit. You may not have thought of it like this, but creating a negative porn habit will have taken time – even if you didn’t notice the effort to achieve it.
According to a University College London* study conducted on health-promoting dietary or activity behaviour, it took participants between 18 and 245 days to form their new positive habits. The simple habits being explored in this research can perhaps help to provide some perspective as to why it might take longer to recover from negative porn issues than you were hoping. Two hundred and forty five days equates to eight months; in our work at PRUK we suggest to people that, for a complex difficulty like a porn habit, twelve months or more is not an unusual figure for recovery. (In fact, our one-session-per-month REWIND programme runs for thirteen months, if you include the initial intake session.)
Of course, everyone is different – and we can see that in the wide range of formation of a positive habit in the UCL research. But habit formation also depends on what sort of habit you have.The time the habit takes to perform, the complexity of the act of the habit, and the level of effort required to perform the habit, for example, all have a part to play.
Everyone has some point in life before they watched porn, and it’s important to keep this in mind. If you stop using, you’ll actually just be returning to a way of being you had before. If you want to let go of porn completely, you can; and if you just want to gain control of what and how much you look at, you can. It’s true that it’s easier for some people than others. But again, experience informs us that the fundamental here is wanting to change. That doesn’t simply mean saying the words: ‘I want to change.’ It means really wanting to change. If you don’t want to alter your ways, but feel you should, then be honest with yourself – right now. And that’s our starting point for working with everyone.
Wanting to change for other people (or other similar external motivations) are weak drivers for change in comparison to the internal desire to do so – change for yourself, for your reasons. And, if you don’t want to change, then it is extremely unlikely you will succeed – no matter who you consult with or how much you spend. So, getting your own internal reasoning for altering your behaviour clear at the start will help your overall process. Importantly, if you have tried and failed to control things in the past, preventing yourself from failing again will be important for protecting your sense of self-esteem.
In Part Two we will look at where we start work with people at PRUK once we have established you really do want to make change. We will also offer some tips you might want consider or try yourself.
*How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/abstract