My Revelation: Using Pornography Is Not Really About Sex

I had managed to stop watching pornography for a long time, and then, I stumbled. I tried everything that had seemed to work before, but during those turbulent six weeks, I struggled to regain my footing. I reassessed my commitment to change. I asked, yet again, “Why is the change I seek so necessary and urgent?”, seeking to find new motivation. I sought accountability and support from members of the Purify Your Gaze community. Still, things just seemed to keep on getting worse.

[thrive_custom_font id=’1′]Question: why do I feel the urge to act out sexually?[/thrive_custom_font]

More recently, another Purify Your Gaze member suggested I do an exercise which explores why I feel the need to act out. Specifically, what is it about watching pornography that offers pleasure, and what is it about the idea of not watching it that makes me feel pain or fear. Since I first acted out, I worked hard to know why I wanted to get back on track and stop acting out. However, I did not really ask why I really felt the need to act out. Seeking to answer that question is what led, finally, to the clarity I was yearning for.

It happened all of a sudden. One day, I let myself feel the pain present deep down, a pain I did not yet understand. As I sat after prayer, I found myself moving instinctively to a more comfortable position. Within a few moments, I was sitting scrunched up between the wall and a nearby chair. My hands were clinging to the chair’s legs. I felt the pain melt away, and I felt safety and security.

Very quickly, once I became aware of what I was doing, things began to make so much sense! I realized I was like a child holding tightly to the security of a parent’s grip. What I had been lacking for six weeks was something that offered consistent, dependable safety. That’s why I was having such a hard time getting back on track – because acting out sexually offered me a sense of safety. I’ll explain how acting out gave me a sense of safety (albeit a false one) in the next section.

[thrive_custom_font id=’1′]Discovering my story[/thrive_custom_font]

While I have not yet fully understood this newly discovered need for safety, I can still see how I failed to meet it, and how that led to my falling back into the old habits of acting out sexually.

“As much as it may seem that acting out is about appeasing sexual desire, it’s usually used to address a deeper, more emotional need. ”
-BrTwoThousand

For one, life had been full of uncertainty and newness during this particular time period. A part of me needed a firm presence that reaffirmed that everything would turn out OK. I was traveling alone for about six weeks with little stability or familiarity remaining in my day to day experiences. Once I came home, things did not settle down as I had hoped they would. I had come home to my last semester of college, with entirely new experiences awaiting me in just a few months. These circumstances had a real impact on my emotional well-being. Failing to acknowledge and address these concerns probably worsened my lack of security.

Still, how I was actually contributing to the problem was even more important. You see, I was trying to get back on track without really asking what was wrong. I tried the things that worked before, like trying to reconnect with my motivation to change. However, my needs at that point in time may not have been the same as my needs several months previously. So, failing to ask why do I feel the need to act out right now, I was missing out on a big piece of the puzzle.

The missing puzzle piece: what does sexually acting out offer that I am failing to provide?

So those circumstances made a part of me feel unsafe, but why was a part of me seeking safety and security in acting out? I found two components necessary to answer this question.

1. The act itself offers a false sense of safety. It is entirely familiar. It is always welcoming, never refusing to accept me however I am. When I felt anxious and fidgety, merely having access to pornography offered a false, hollow sense of security.

This part of the answer is an important first step. As much as it may seem that acting out is about appeasing sexual desire, it’s usually used to address a deeper, more emotional need. Still, I had explored this before, so I felt there had to be more to the story. It turns out there was in fact another dimension entirely.

2. Acting out forced me to make choices that made me feel safer. You see, I began to notice very specific things about how I adjusted my behavior after acting out sexually. The day after acting out, I stopped thinking about all the important tasks that were consuming my mind. I also freed up my schedule, especially if I had an elaborate plan of all the things I had to do that day. I also allowed myself some extra sleep. I let go of ambitions and worries from the day before. 

Whoah, this is why a part of me so desperately felt the need to act out! A part of me was simply begging for my attention. When I did not listen, when I disconnected from that part of me, it started to kick and scream. Eventually, it forced me to pay attention and, thereby, to address its needs, whether that was letting go of overwhelming ambitions or simply allowing myself to sleep in now and again.

We all have a story, and it’s not “I’m just rotten.”

The insight I gained by asking why do I really feel the need to act out at that particular time is helping me take action to meet that unmet need to feel consistently safe. The result is a renewed connection with myself and my emotional needs, leading to a healthier state and less urges.

Still, asking this question is important for another less practical but very exciting reason: it enables us to discover our story. You see, as long as I am seeking only to stop acting out without asking why I act out, then I have no way to explain my failures. Each slip seems only like further proof that I’m just rotten. After six weeks of relapses, I was beginning to feel desperation. Before I had uncovered the story behind the past six weeks, I felt the pain of what seemed like fruitless effort and wasted time. Now, I am inspired once again and I believe, once again, in my worth and in my potential.

The sweetness and the healing you’ll find in discovering your story also awaits you on this journey, insha Allah!

Comments 5

  1. Salamualikum.

    Thank you Br 2000. I almost acted out recently and I have been in the state of ‘almost’ for a long time now. Thinking about ‘my story’ as you put it, about why I need to feel safe, I would say, I’m overwhelmed by school work. Sadly, I have translated to self-blame. If I wasn’t struggling with an addiction, maybe, just maybe things will be a little bit easier. So it’s all my fault. I wake up everyday to this blame and hence I wanna be kept safe from it so bad.
    Going a step further in my story, I realise that this academic year is actually difficult, regardless of my personal problems. And I say this because, it’s true. I feel like, I can finally ‘forgive’ myself and let go of self-blame; turn to Allah to help me get through this year and most importantly, learn to take better care of myself to avoid getting overwhelmed.

    So thank you, for helping me explore my story.

    1. E, self-blame is a tactic many of us – within and without addiction – have adopted. I know I listened to a severely critical and even abusive voice within me for very long. Nowadays, I still find that voice, and I still fall for it, although I feel the alternative, more truthful voice of compassion is now alive within me w’alhamdulAllah. It sometimes seems like “of course I should blame and abuse myself, for that’s the only way I will change!” It sounds convincing, but the truth for many of us is that we’ve tried that tactic for years, and…well…it just doesn’t work.

      I am truly inspired to hear how you have been able to adopt a more compassionate perspective about your challenges in school, and you are directing your hope toward Allah and your energy toward better self-care – Allahu akbar!

  2. Jhazakallahu heir brother for ur view.. It added clarity in my journey… I always relapsed when i get stress… When stress comes often didnt connect to allah swt and work on the matters that produced stress… Instead i used to just ignore stress or feeling of unsafety that it will go away… Now i find my mistake… May allah give u good reward for this revelation..
    There is also a community of muslims fighting against porn the link is
    http://www.reddit.com/r/MuslimNoFap/
    We are thank you for zeyad ramadan for this website… Most of the members in nofap have benfited from this website…
    Support and dua for the addicts are the most thing that is needed among muslim ummah… May allah make it easy for us to recover..

    1. I am grateful for your comment, and to hear that clarity has been gained. AlhamdulAllah.

      You mention an interesting point…

      “Support and dua for the addicts are the most thing that is needed among muslim ummah…”

      Indeed, our healing is essential not only for ourselves but also for the people with whom we share our faith, and the people with whom we share this world. We have much to bring to this world, which is all the more reason to insist that we heal and grow, insha Allah.

  3. I really wanted to know the reason why I kept turning to this addiction too, but I still haven’t succeed.
    I don’t know why, maybe because I’m afraid of finding out the truth? Do you feel that way at first? How can I allow myself to find the reason? And how did you discover the reason?

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