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Have you ever thought that you may be over-spiritualizing, or possibly under-spiritualizing, your struggle with pornography?

This question may come as a surprise to you but asking yourself this question and responding accordingly may help you experience the breakthrough you’ve been fighting for. There needs to be a balance, and that can be difficult to find. Many people confess their sins over and over again yet find no lasting relief. This is to over-spiritualize the struggle. There are other helps that might also increase the chances of chastity. We can seek help from a spiritual mentor, therapist, Internet Accountability services, and if you are Catholic, in the Sacraments.

Balancing the Psychological and Spiritual Sides of Porn Addiction

I have heard testimonies of men and women who have confessed masturbation and pornography consumption for twenty or thirty years and still aren’t free of this struggle today. On the other hand, some individuals who have left the spiritual life out of their pornography struggle and have only sought counseling or medication haven’t been able to overcome the habitual use of pornography.

For many people, the struggle with pornography and masturbation may have both a psychological and spiritual element to it. But even so, we tend to categorize it only one way or another. In the article “The Dangers of Spiritualizing Your Psychological Problems,” we learn that most psychological issues have a spiritual component because it has to do with one’s dignity as a human person. Dr. Jim Langley, a Catholic licensed clinical psychologist with St. Raphael’s Counseling in Denver, states that, “So much of good therapy is helping a person get back in touch with their sense of dignity that God created them with […] and as they get more in touch with it, they are actually just more open to God’s love and they’re more open to making changes in their life that might be helpful.” Further, Dr. Langley adds, “People who tend to ignore the spiritual aspect of their psychological problems cut themselves off from the most holistic approach of healing.”

Does this mean we only confess our sins and struggles? No. While we need to be confessing our sins, including the difficult sins to confess like pornography, masturbation, or other sexual sins—we also need to utilize counseling, accountable relationships, and Internet Accountability and Filtering services. If we struggled with alcoholism or another sort of addiction, would we not tend to both the spiritual and the psychological?

Over-Spiritualizing Your Struggle with Pornography

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that your struggle will end if you pray enough, confess enough, read your Bible enough, serve enough, or any other “enough.” Then if these approaches don’t work, you start to believe that you failed God in some way and that He no longer loves you or wants to heal you.

Thankfully, God doesn’t work this way–even though so many of us thinks He does! We don’t earn God’s love and healing. It’s all a gift. These discouraging thoughts that fill our minds couldn’t be farther from the truth.

But you know what? Pornography not only impacts us spiritually, it also impacts us psychologically. In other words, it not only harms one’s relationship with God, it has a brain science to it as well. Watching pornography lays down new neuro-pathways in our brains. The more a person consumes, the stronger the neuro-connections become, making it more difficult to stop.

This doesn’t mean a person can’t stop viewing. You can rebuild your neuro-path­ways by avoiding pornography and seeking accountability and counseling. The more pornography a person looks at, the more severe the damage to their brain becomes and the more difficult it is to break free. However, damage to the brain can be undone when someone gets away from unhealthy behaviors.

It’s difficult enough to admit when we have a problem, it’s even more difficult to admit to yourself that you have a problem that needs more attention than you can give through prayer.

A Balanced Approach to Overcome Your Porn Struggle

Your brain has been impacted by the consuming of pornography and its time you take the proper steps to heal both spiritually and psychologically. The following steps will help you find a balance psychologically and spiritually, and you will see fruit if you commit yourself to these five steps.

Step 1–Learn about the impact pornography has on the brain and a person’s patterns of behavior. Start with reading through The Porn Circuita free Covenant Eyes e-book on the brain science of pornography.

Step 2–Get a spiritual director and have a conversation with him about your struggle with pornography and/or other sexuality struggles you’ve experienced or have been experiencing. Share about past abuses you’ve experienced, possibly as a child, and when you were first exposed to pornography. Use this time as an opportunity to acknowledge, maybe for the first time, that you are loved by God the Father and your identity is rooted in Him.

Step 3–Spend time in prayer. Consider praying the Novena for Purity, a series of nine prayers, where you’ll ask God to strengthen you in various ways as you seek to live a life of purity.

Step 4–Ask a trusted friend or mentor to be your accountability partner. Sign up for Covenant Eyes and register your friend or mentor as your Accountability Partner who will receive your Reports and have conversations with you about your Internet activity. If you can’t think of someone you’d trust right away, expand the circle you’re looking at for a great accountability partner. The right person might be closer than you think.

Step 5–Find a therapist or support group. Struggling to figure out what kind of group is best for you? Contact your Archdiocesan or Diocesan offices for guidance or contact information for a spiritual director and/or therapist. Many recovering strugglers stop at just finding their accountability partner. But it often takes a team to encourage us to break free.

As adults, we have the responsibility to seek out these resources. If we are parents, it’s our role to guide our children to these resources and at the same time encourage them in spiritual disciplines. Remember, we need to be involved in the life of the Church, practicing spiritual disciplines, and confessing the sins of pornography use, masturbation, and other sexual addictions. We also need to utilize counseling, accountable relationships, and Internet Accountability and Filtering services. Work through these steps, and you’ll be closer to a porn-free life. And, we believe a porn-free life is a much better life.

This post originally appeared on Covenant Eyes and is re-published with permission.

Amanda Zurface is the Catholic Content Specialist for Covenant Eyes. Amanda holds a License and MA in Canon Law and a BA in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. Amanda has served in various roles within the Catholic Church both in the United States and internationally. She is the co-author of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture and Transformed by Beauty. She resides in Pueblo, Colorado, where she also serves as the Vice-Chancellor for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pueblo.