Quitting porn is tough. It sounds simple—after all, how hard can be to not do something? But for a lot of guys, it’s one of the most difficult things they’ve ever done, or ever will do.

One of the reasons for this is the fact that porn hijacks one of our most powerful motivators: our sex drive. When you combine that with modern pornography’s unending variety, 24/7 availability, relative secrecy, and the fact that most of it is completely free, it becomes one of the most compelling habits imaginable.

The most common approach to quitting is to persuade yourself that you don’t really want porn as much as you want to quit. Many temptations can be overcome by thinking about the benefits of abstaining, or by reminding yourself of the consequences of relapsing. Most of the time, this is an excellent way to go about it. Focusing on setting yourself up for a better future creates a very positive and forward-moving attitude.

But anyone who has tried and failed to quit porn in the past knows that, no matter what, there will come a time when temptation is so strong that nothing else seems to matter. No matter how strong your desire to stay clean, there will be instances where your desire for porn is even stronger.

At this point, the above strategy breaks down. You can still try to convince yourself that you don’t really want porn, but this is relatively ineffective. Sometimes it can even lead to absurd subconscious rationalizations that result in failure anyway. “Of course I don’t want to watch porn! But I do want to visit this one website, which normally leads to watching porn. But it won’t lead to watching porn this time, because I don’t want to watch porn anyway!” By pretending that we’re “over” temptation when we’re practically drowning in it, we open ourselves up to being tricked and lured into an ambush.

An entirely different attitude is needed for these situations. I call that attitude “denied gratification.”

You’re already familiar with the idea of delayed gratification. In a way, that’s what we do when we convince ourselves we don’t want to watch porn. “Yeah, I would enjoy giving in to this temptation right now, but I’m going to enjoy my porn-free future even more. No thanks.”

Denied gratification is much different. It wastes no time trying to change or refocus your desires. Instead, it simply breaks the connection between your appetite and your actions. It says, “I admit I really want to watch porn. But it doesn’t matter. I’m going to deliberately do the opposite of what I want to do right now.”

Choosing denied gratification is embracing and enduring the feeling of hunger, instead of indulging in a slice of poisoned cake. It’s tying up your selfish desires in the trunk and giving the driver’s seat to something greater. It removes “what do I want?” from the discussion, so you can focus on “what’s the right thing to do?”

This means you throw out everything else. And I do mean everything. When I use denied gratification, I even refuse to think about any of the benefits of staying off porn. Why? Because that only shifts the focus back to what I want.

This isn’t simply about ignoring the temptation, or feeling really, really, REALLY determined. It’s about getting your “self” out of the way completely, so you can focus on what you need to do.

It’s about taking a moment to liberate yourself from your own desires.

Most people tend to assume that freedom means doing whatever you want to do. In reality, there is very real risk of becoming a miserable slave to your own wants. To be truly free, you must be able to cast aside your momentary desires whenever they get in the way of your wellbeing, your goals, or your purpose.

True freedom includes freedom from being ruled by your own appetites. It’s the freedom to pursue what really matters.

-Ezekiel

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