STONE 5: BEHAVIOR CHANGE



As we discussed in the beginning, God has promised to intervene and deliver supernatural change in your heart.

When you conquered the most challenging of confession and repentance from your heart, God changed you. It's up to you to believe His promise.

Your changed heart allowed you to do the work of forgiving yourself, releasing the shame, and forgiving others who may have sent you down the road to porn and sexual addiction.

But there remains the reality of the lingering effects of misusing the incredible machine God designed for you... your brain and your body. 

While you feel free and work toward sustained clean living, the behaviors will still linger. The craving still exists. Even though your heart is clean, your body is loaded with routines and habits which can send you back to darkness. 

Be aware that you may experience relapses during this phase. Be patient with yourself. As you know your heart has been changed, your body is on autopilot.

If you relapse and go back to porn or impurity, confess it, repent, forgive yourself, let your accountbility partner know - and keep working on changing the habit.

Don't allow a relapse to stop your progress.

Research and proven studies have confirmed that addictive behaviors “hijack” the brain’s reward system,

In normal patients, dopamine plays a major role in motivation and reward, surging before and during a pleasurable activity  — to make you want to repeat a behavior that’s crucial to the survival of the species.  

God designed your machine perfectly. When it was reconditioned for a different purpose, the response remained the same - but re-mapped through different pathways. 

Neuro pathways connect the limbic system, responsible for emotion, with the hippocampus, etching rewarding behaviors into the brain.  How many times have you etched those rewarding behaviors into your brain? Likely it's far too high of a number to count.

The sheer magnitude of etchings create a powerful strong-hold on your hijacked reward pathways. These behaviors then become permanent through memories and bleed over into cravings for yet another surge of dopamine.

As the dopamine surge repeats and repeats, it gains speed, but the brakes begin to fail: Normal function in the brain’s frontal lobes, responsible for pressing the brakes (also known as "willpower") diminishes over time.

The brain is designed to lead us back to things which bring us pleasure, which avoid pain, which make us aware of basic needs for survival. 

Repetitive behaviors become habits. Habits develop instinct. Instinct seeks to be quenched.

Your addiction to porn and impurity is a maddening cycle of this hijacked reward pathway.  Addiction pushes you to repeat the pleasured behavior while your "willpower" becomes gradually weaker to stop the behavior you feel is not healthy.  

The war is against yourself. You need God's help to win. 

As your brain begins to justify the maddening behavior, "willpower" will give way - opening the gate of blame. What once was a problem to us is now displaced as someone else's fault.

The end game is a rapid spiral which descends into darkness. While the brain continues to seek what it was programmed to seek, the heart becomes dark as the "willpower" shifts to justification. 

This process seems illogical to the outsider, but the addict has fully developed a rational pathway to continue the behavior. 

Back to the supernatural change from God. He intervenes and inserts willpower back into your heart. He gives you reason to start hitting the brakes again.

When we confess and repent, hope is restored - instantly.  Unfortunately the blame tends to hang around and become re-directed back to you.  

This is when forgiveness becomes a powerful intervention, but not the ultimate "repair". Forgiveness will hold the brakes long enough for you to begin new behaviors.


HOW TO ACTIVATE THOSE NEW BEHAVIORS

The Founder of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, Dr BJ Fogg, developed the model to show that a behavior will only happen when three specific elements (motivation, ability, trigger) happen at the same moment.

This means behaviour change requires that these three things have to occur at the same time:

  1. You must be motivated
  2. You must have the ability, or believe you have the ability, to take action
  3. You must implement an appropriate trigger to repeat the new behavior

 We want to focus on creating triggers. The trigger must have a solid motivation and be doable. The trigger is what YOU want to fire rather than what your addicted brain wants to fire.  This is what diverts you when you slip back toward porn, lust, or adultery, etc. 

REVERSE ENGINEERING YOUR PORN BEHAVIOR:

The Trigger:   Triggers can take many forms, ranging from screen time while alone, or from our body, like a holding a gaze when spotting "skin".

The Motivation:  You must have sufficient Motivation when you fire your Trigger.  There are three core motivators which make effective triggers.

  • Sensation: The trigger may be set to remember the long-term pain you've experienced versus the split second short-term pleasure you feel when giving in to porn
  • Anticipation:  The trigger may define the fear you have of relapsing back into darkness and shame versus the empty hope always unrewarded by the build up toward the "porn".
  • Belonging:  The long-term darkness and rejection was a prison and excluded you from feeling "greater than" versus the acceptance as a conqueror, winner, survivor, victor, and leader of men out of darkness and shame. 

The Ability:  Make it easy on yourself to avoid the porn behavior

Let's begin building triggers to change our behavior in a positive system. 

ASSIGNMENT #1:

  • Take out a sheet of paper and write down a Trigger
  • Define the motivation behind that Trigger based on the example above
  • Can you do it? Do you have the ability? Make it simple.

Examples:

Desktop / Laptop Examples

  • Trigger:  No large screen time when alone
    • The motivations (WHY?):
      • Sensation: I will feel in control of my time and look forward to spending time with others.
      • Anticipation: I don't trust myself to not click on links, ads, or visit sites I used to visit
      • Belonging:  It will keep me from isolating myself and present with others
    • The Ability:
      • Is this the simplest way to accomplish this?  (yes or no)
      • Is this realistic for me to do?  (yes or no)

In the above example, if you live alone - it isn't realistic. The more drastic measure would be to remove the computer from your home and only access through work, school, or other means.

If the computer is shared and in a remote part of your home, you can either move it to a family room or restrict your use in the home.

Sometimes the trigger has a higher cost - such as resetting your entire schedule so you aren't home alone with the computer. 

You get the drift. The triggers must be set by you. The behavior cannot rely solely on willpower - as you may recall, your willpower has been compromised at this point. In time, the willpower will return - until it does, build triggers. 


After setting up your Triggers to prompt you to acti differently when faced with porn. Move on to STONE #6.