Skip to content

Can Pain Help You Quit Porn?

Early in my recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors in the late ’90s, I remember one piece of advice I received was to wear a rubber band around my wrist and snap it every time I was tempted to lust. It’s actually a practical concept based in Pavlovian research.

Through repeatedly ringing a bell just before feeding his dogs, Pavlov’s dogs came to associate the sound of the bell with food, so eventually, they would salivate at the sound of the bell even when no food was present. In a similar way, those who have become addicted to lust and porn, have come to associate sexual pleasure with the sight of a specific type of person or other non-sexual “triggers.” The rubber band trick seeks to reverse this by retraining the brain to associate those non-sexual moments not with pleasure, but with a twinge of pain.

On the positive side, if your unwanted sexual behavior is intense and destructive enough, the rubber band trick can be like a splash of cold water that disrupts the old patterns just enough so you have a bit more wherewithal to make a different choice; and with repetition, this practice may help to rewire the neural pathways so you no longer associate those normal, everyday, non-sexual moments with sexual stimulation.

On the negative side, behavior modification techniques alone don’t address the deeper matters of the heart that have led you here in the first place and kept you here all this time. And the rubber band trick (or other negative reinforcement) will potentially rewire your neural pathways to associate normal, everyday, non-sexual situations with…pain.

Because of this, long term, this kind of approach vilifies the wrong things.

At the end of the day, it’s not another person’s body that is the problem. Their flesh is not your enemy. It’s also not your body (ultimately not even your bodily arousal) that’s the problem. Your body is not your enemy.

Paul writes:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 5:12)

Why do we have an enemy? What have we done to provoke him? God created the human person to be a wondrous, miraculous, one-of-a-kind fusion of body and spirit that images the invisible God in God’s visible creation (Genesis 1-2). Just as a usurping army pulls down statues of the overthrown leader, so we have an invisible enemy that is working in our world to obscure what a person is—to pull down and desecrate every image of God he finds on the earth.

What’s more, the enemy seeks to recruit us—to have us vilify the wrong thing so that we perceive others as sexual objects or sexual threats. He knows that those who view people as sexual objects will either consume or discard people, and those who view people as sexual threats will flee from or fight against them (remember the recent Atlanta spa shootings). Either way, the enemy eclipses God’s image on the earth and destroys human beings and human relationships.

Friends, however you seek to quit porn and lust and other unwanted sexual behaviors, you can recognize the enemy’s influence any time your approach moves you to vilify another person or yourself.

The opposite of lust is not battle nor blindness, it’s loving like Jesus loves. Granted, becoming a person who loves others is much more difficult than snapping a rubber band on your wrist, but it is the kind of person you were created to be.

Jesus, have mercy on us! We renounce every way we have aligned or agreed with the enemy, and in Jesus’ name, we break the enemy’s grip on us. Father, free us from our addictions, heal our brains, and fill us with Your Spirit that we may see and love like You do. Amen.

Question: How have you encountered a real spiritual enemy in your sexual or relational life? Have you ever confused other people with our real spiritual enemy?

For you,

Josh

Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Enemy on the Prowl.

For more on articles and podcasts about Pronography, check out our Pornography Topics page here.

2 thoughts on “Can Pain Help You Quit Porn?”

  1. Great read Josh! Of course it’s very relatable also. Being single is a gift from God but also a challenge. In recovery I’ve tried the rubber band technique and never worked for me personally. Lust is truly a heart and idolatry issue. When I do go into my lust (Mode) I ask the question? What’s truly attracting me to this woman. It’s not sex it’s usually what I believe she represents to me. Lastly you can learn a lot from your fantasy life especially when I journal which is crucial. God is certainly faithful and desires to teach me what’s really driving my desires. Thanks again Josh. Great timing too.

  2. I sought transformation for years without really knowing that I had an enemy. I knew about Satan, but I didn’t give much thought to how he worked or how susceptible I was/am to ploys of the dark side. It was pain that drove me to recognize my deep need for the love of Christ and for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It was the pain of trying again and again to modify my behavior and failing to succeed.
    So, yes and no, pain can help in recovery. But I know you recognize that and clearly there is more than one kind of pain. I know each day when I get up, I need the Holy Spirit for protection, guidance, wisdom. Each day I renew my commitment to Him. And this is what has led me to transformation — not immediately, and not perfectly, but over time. And I thank God for His patience with my learning.
    I appreciate this article and the question you began with. I believe with all my heart that true recovery and healing does require far more than tricks of behavior modification. The process may be quick for some and lengthy for others, but it is so important to discover the pain within and the need to respect and love both the Lord and the process. Thank you for your continuing sensitivity, care, and wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.