3 Ways Porn Hijacks Your Brain

Scrolling through the images at the bottom of the news site, Jack lingers on one of them. He lingers a little too long.

Jack doesn’t know it yet, but a hijacking is in progress.

You’ve seen the action movies where the hijackers board the plane like any other passenger. They look like anyone else, but they are intent on seizing control of the plane.

To defeat a hijacker, you need to know his tactics.  Fortunately, we know how porn works. Here are three ways it  hijacks your brain.

The Emotional Brain Assumes Control

Watching a guys brain through an MRI while viewing sexually provocative images is like watching a volcano erupt.

Porn supercharges the limbic system and the amygdala–the emotional part of the brain. This is the “fight or flight” center in the brain and where we process sex.

If a grizzly bear is charging me, this part of my brain tells me to run like my life depends on it. Fight or flight are consuming emotional states that override everything else.

If a bear is charging me, the last thing I need to do is to whip out my iPhone to ask Siri what to do when in case of a bear attack. I need to act before I think.

Pornography fires up this portion of the brain, creating an emotionally consuming state that is sexually charged instead of inducing panic.

How you respond in the first few seconds after encountering that sexually provocative image makes all the difference. Get away from it as fast as you can and you have a fighter’s chance to repel the hijackers.

Linger on that image and the sexually charged “fight or flight” part of your brain will assume control.  Choose wisely.

The Good Thinking Brain Checks Out

Compounding this effect, the “good thinking” part of the brain–the prefrontal cortex–goes offline. The prefrontal cortex helps us process goals, morals, values, and learn from past experiences.

Memories of how porn has ruined your life, your marriage, or your job seem to disappear. The promises you made to yourself, your spouse, and your family evaporate into thin air.

This is not an excuse. It’s the reason your best bet is to run when you encounter porn. And it’s also why filtering software can be a critical part of your recovery–it decreases your chance of encountering these hijackers in the first place.

As the good thinking brain fades away, and the sexually-charged emotional brain binges on porn, it trains the brain to want more porn.

Porn is a highly effective weapon, and it’s often waiting on the sidebar and bottom of most news and sports sites.

Related: How Using Porn Destroys Your Willpower

The Shame Cycle Sets In

After binging on porn and acting out, the good thinking brain kicks back in. The pilots have been released and return to the cockpit.

Reality kicks in hard. “What was I thinking!?” “I swore I would never do that again.” “I promised my wife I would quit. She’s gonna freak out.”

If porn is the “high,” shame is the “low.” Shame is the valley.

Shame tells you that no one can ever know. If your wife knows, she may leave you. If your friends know, they’ll dump you.

You are left alone with your shame. Isolation makes shame grow while it tells you what a horrible person you are.

As the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness build, it becomes overwhelming.

You look for something to make these feelings go away. Something that will override the shame.

Porn becomes the obvious solution. It is “self-contained” and quickly makes all the bad feelings disappear for a while, only to reappear with a vengeance. The same pattern continues for years if left unchecked.

Related: Destroying Porn Addiction Starts With Destroying Shame

Escaping the Hijackers

How can you escape when the hijackers always seem to win?

Keeping porn from hijacking your brain is simple, but not easy. Don’t keep reading unless you seriously want to know how to short circuit the porn cycle.

The emotional brain is also where we process relationships and attachment. When we acknowledge our thoughts and feelings to another person whom we perceive to be caring and engaged, the brain releases a hormone called oxytocin (not oxycontin), which calms the emotional brain, the thinking brain, and the body. Oxytocin is the body’s natural version of Xanax.

Engaging in feeling and connecting makes it easier to run from porn. Often, it zaps the temptation altogether.

The guys I work with resist this like the plague, until they finally try it. “It works!” they tell me as if they discovered gold.

Fighting off hijackers requires courage and sacrifice. I dare you to try what I just described.