Failing in Order to Relieve Pretraumatic Stress. 8 Strategies.

Uncategorized Aug 07, 2020

What and how we anticipate matters.

The wanting-centers of the brain are much bigger than the liking-centers.

With something like porn, which is a man-made, concentrated version of sex, here's how it works. With repeated exposure, we want porn more and more and we enjoy it less and less. Increased cravings, decreased enjoyment.

So the anticipation of an experience can create more intense sensations than the actual experiencing of it.

I believe it works in the opposite direction too. Example: you can anticipate publicly speaking in the worst way, and then you get up there and the experience isn't that bad.

Pre-traumatic stress is the way humans can traumatize themselves with anticipation of an upcoming event, real or imagined.

Have you ever worried so much about potentially turning to porn in response to an upcoming life "stressor" that you just go look at porn up front?

If anticipating failing in the future to stick to your porn goals feels worse than the actual failing, you can see how simply failing sooner can be appealing.

Also, with the dopamine we get just from anticipating porn, you can see how shifting to anticipating just the porn part (without the aftermath) sounds more appealing than anticipating failing to stick to your goals.

So instead of the discomfort from anticipating the aftermath of our choice to look at porn (the failure, the feelings, the way we treat ourselves, the numbness, the dopamine hangover), we just anticipate the porn part without all the aftermath.

If you separate them in your mind, which sounds more pleasant to anticipate?

Aftermath OR Looking at porn?

What Do We Do About It?

I think this process applies to so many other situations in life too, but let's focus on porn for now.

Here are 8 Strategies:

1. Take Note

Ask yourself if there is something you are negatively anticipating? Something that seems worse than anticipating porn? 

2. Learn to Sit With the Discomfort of Anticipation.

  • Acknowledge that your brain is designed to make it worse than the actual event.
  • Remind yourself that anticipation cannot harm you.
  • Your body can let these feelings pass through and metabolize them if you let it.
  • It is designed to do this if you drop the resistance.

3. Accept the 50/50 Principal.

As humans, we anticipate. Also, as humans, our emotional experience is meant to be 50% negative and 50% positive. Nothing has gone wrong if you find yourself anticipating negatively.

If you try to check out/numb out from the negative anticipation (with porn), you cannot do this without checking out from an equal amount of positive anticipation in your life. And positive anticipation is a great part of being alive.

If positive doesn't come without the negative, then maybe negative anticipation is, in fact, a great part about being alive.

If experiencing negative anticipation instead of anticipating porn will help you reach your goals, then you need to create a stronger case for taking this approach.

Asking yourself "Why" you want this is a great place to start.

4. Relentless Reality Checks

Relentlessly remind yourself that porn does not come without aftermath. Porn itself is a fantasy to our brains. Likewise, anticipating porn without the aftermath is a fantasy.

Choose to no longer allow yourself to anticipate the fantasy of porn without aftermath. Write about the aftermath. Learn about the aftermath. Learn which part comes from your own optional thoughts and which part is strictly physiological.

Do this from a place of self-compassion and love instead of fear and shame. Reality check!

5. Intentionally Anticipate

Whether negative or positive, there is a difference between thinking anticipation is just happening to us compared to engaging in the experience. 

A willingness to go toward the feelings of anticipation allows you to choose to anticipate differently.

6. Make Peace With the Worst Case Scenario

Explore the worst case scenario in detail and make peace with it.

Recognize that the worst part of it will be how you feel. Feelings are caused by optional thoughts.

Since you are building the skills of handling any feeling that comes your way, then there's nothing you really won't be able to handle.

7. Use Anticipation of Failure to Your Advantage

Identify what situations you may be likely to have urges for porn. Use this valuable information to create a strategy for how you will handle that situation.

Do it from an "if" mentality instead of "when". "If I have an urge in this situation, I will _________."

Go in to each day willing to go toward these situations and manage them instead of running from them.

8. Practice Anticipating Success

Never stop anticipating success. No matter how many times you have failed in the past.

If you are willing to learn from your failures as you go, there is really no reason to dwell on anticipating failure.

You can't tell the future. You don't know what will happen.

Like Michael Jordan said in The Last Dance, "Why would I think about missing a shot I haven't taken!" If anyone knows how to reach his goals and perform at a high level, it's him.

Are We Okay With Surprises?

It's like we just make the worst case scenario happen up front so that, at least, we can control what happens.

Option. #1: It might surprise you how the thing you thought would be terrible turned out to be amazing.

Option #2: It might surprise you that the thing you thought would be great was a disaster.

If the anticipation part of our brains is stronger than the liking part, then maybe Option #2 is, overall, more enjoyable, in a weird sort of way.

No matter what you do, life is full of surprises. Would you rather experience those surprises with fear or curiosity?

You get to choose.


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