Read My Mind

I Know I Want to Change So Why Don’t I?

by Roger Nix, NMMNG Certified Life Coach on Jan 31st, 2014.     1 comments

frustrated-manJack (not his real name) was an immediately likeable man, and I looked forward to our sessions. When I asked Jack at our first meeting what he wanted to work on, he was very hesitant to tell me he had a porn habit but no desire to be sexual with his wife.

After working with him for a few sessions to get a handle on the porn addiction (which seemed to be primary to creating a healthy sexual relationship with his wife), it became clear that he was stuck. The next session, I asked him again, “Why are you here? What do you want to work on?”

He said, “I want to stop using porn and be happy with my wife.”

I thought for a moment and quietly asked, “Ok, so why do you want those things?”

Well, because I think that I will be happy if I can want her more than porn. After all, we are already married, and she loves me. I just need to get rid of the porn, and then I can focus on being a good husband to her.”

When I heard “I think...,” I saw an opening.  I asked, “How much emotional energy and desire would you say you have attached to this work? Say, from a scale of 1 (very little energy) to 10 (I want this so badly I will do anything for it).”

He considered for a moment, and then I quickly added, “Jack, don’t think about your answer. Just blurt out a number.”

He froze for a second or two. He was finding this difficult, but after a bit he said, “Shit, I guess it’s a 2 or 3!”

“And now, Jack, what is your desire level when you are tempted to look at porn? What does that feel like on the 1 to 10 scale?”

Quickly he said, “It’s a 9 or 10 when I am really in the grips of my desire.”

Now we knew why he was stuck. The truth was that, while rationally he knew his porn habit was hurting his life, emotionally it appealed more to him than his wife.

We humans think we are rational beings. The truth is we tend to use our intellect (our rational mind) to justify, act out, and/or evangelize our emotional wants, not the other way around. Our thinking brain can rationalize away what we know, no matter how obviously true or compelling it is, to allow us our heart’s desire.

A recovery counselor I worked with years ago said that every relapse will be preceded by one of two statements just before acting out: Just this once won’t hurt” or “Ah, f**k it!”

These rationalizations provide us permission to do what our emotional mind strongly desires, in spite of all our rational mind knows about the consequences. Our emotional mind can then act out what it wants without interference from the rational mind. This is why, initially, acting out brings such relief. The war between awareness and desire is over; desire has won as it always does.

Jack’s problem wasn’t with knowledge or information; it was with clarity of desire and emotional self-knowledge. By the time he was in the grip of desire to look at porn, he had already blown by his stated “reasons” for not acting out. What chance does a 2 or a 3 have against a raging 10?  He wanted what he wanted. “Ah, f**k it!”

Over many years, Jack had learned at a very deep level that when he was bored, distressed, anxious, or sad, porn would ease his discomfort. He had little skill being aware of and experiencing his emotional states. He feared his emotions and usually sought to avoid them, even pleasant ones. It had not occurred to him to use his emotions as a source of information.

What Jack needed was to create a whole new relationship with his emotional world; they needed to become allies not adversaries. He needed to use his emotions to work towards his rational goals, not march away from them.

In his emotional world, porn represented the answer to emotional distress; intimacy just got in the way. His emotions convinced him this was true, even though he could intellectually name all the ways that porn was ruining his life.

The mind is a tool designed to promote your survival and the survival of the species. It is powerful, especially the unconscious part, but without conscious direction and emotional awareness it will “mindlessly” keep doing what your unconscious believes it wants.

“The heart wants what it wants” is a true statement, but the heart doesn’t always consider the consequences.

Moving Beyond Stuck offers a process and a plan for teaching you to be more comfortable with, and work with, your emotions. It teaches you to use both your rational and emotional minds to create the life you want.

Most of this information is probably not new to you, but the question you might have (as do many of us) is: “How do I get myself to do the healthy thing? How do I change my mind”?

Moving Beyond Stuck offers information, exercises, and support to show you how to tap into the rational intellect with emotional desire and get them working together to fuel change.


January 2014 Stuck Website Banner
Topics: Personal Growth Personal Integration


boxcar says ...
Roger, excellent article. I never thought about it before - that of the emotional mind controlling the rational mind. I sure know its happened to me before.

I'm one of your students currently taking your Moving Beyond Stuck course. So far, I've completed Lesson One. I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up, but, so far, so good.


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