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3 Ways Pornography Distorts Your View of Yourself

by Zachary Horner on March 6th, 2017 in Men, Women, Students

xxxchurch - 3 Ways Pornography Distorts Your View of YourselfMy wife is currently watching the TV show Once Upon a Time on Netflix. I haven’t watched a whole lot, but she explained one very interesting thing about the show’s story to me.

The show’s characters are, for the most part, characters from fairy tales, Disney movies and other fantasy stories that are plopped in the modern world in a town called “Storybrooke.” But they have also lived in their fairytale worlds. Somehow they made it to Storybooke. If they stay within the town limits, they remember what happened and who they were in their fairytale worlds. But if they cross the city limits, they forget everything about their old world.

One of the most important things for anyone to remember is who they are, what they came from and what they’re about. And just like the characters in Once Upon a Time crossing the town line can make them forget who they are, developing a pornography habit or addiction can do the same for us.

Chemically, porn alters our brain and the way we think.

Study after study has shown the biological effects of a pornography addiction and how it alters brain chemistry. William M. Struthers, a professor of psychology at Wheaton College, wrote an article for the Christian Research Institute about the effects of pornography on the male brain. He compared consuming pornography to consuming food.

“The human body consumes and digests food. In a similar way, we can think about the brain as a consumer of stimuli and information,” Strutters writes. “…The brain’s job is to consume and digest information. This information is taken in through the eyes and other sense and digested and stored with meaning and memories…Sexual images are inherently powerful and have emotional content. As such, pornography forces itself on the brain. Whether one consents or not, pornography becomes a part of the fabric of the mind.”

Ask anyone who has struggled with pornography addiction, and they will tell you it alters how they think and what they think about. It becomes not just a craving that needs a fix like a drug, but images force their way into your mind and stay there, nearly impossible to get out.

Because of this chemical alteration, you can begin to define yourself by how you think about women and sex due to pornography. Much more than just an emotional mis-definition, it’s something that is chemically true of your brain, and has a major effect.

We often define ourselves by what we do.

When you introduce yourself to someone knew, you usually start with your name and your profession. You’re a teacher or a writer or an engineer or fill-in-the-blank-here. Our profession is often the first thing we go to, besides our name, to define ourselves.

It’s also a human thing that we often define others in our sphere of influence and celebrities by their weaknesses. That guy is a drug addict, those girls are sluts, so on and so forth.

Since pornography is not just something we do occasionally but often becomes an addictive pursuit, it becomes something we identify ourselves by. We may not say it to others, but it’s how we view ourselves. I can think of many times in my despair over my struggle with pornography defining myself to myself as the guy who dealt with porn more than anyone I knew.

This tendency to define ourselves by what we do misses the point of what identity is really about. Identity is really about who you are, not what you do. We all make mistakes. We all do things – intentionally and not – that we wish we didn’t, that we would give almost anything to erase that those things ever happened.

We feel like Paul, the author of the book of Romans in the Bible, who writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19).

Paul did not define himself by what he did, but he was well aware of his shortcomings. He was aware of what he wanted to do, but knew the struggle to do that on a consistent basis. But he defined himself more by what God thought of him.

Porn addiction can lead to depression and stress.

In my case, struggling with pornography led to most of my depression and anxiety.

I already struggled with a lot of depression and anxiety day-to-day, but struggling with porn and knowing that at the very least it was not helpful for me just piled on to the stress that had kept building and building. And I’m not alone.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Kevin B. Skinner did an informal poll-like study on the connection between depression and porn use. He shared his findings on his Psychology Today  blog:

“Clearly, individuals who consume porn daily are dealing with more than just porn. They are apt to be experiencing depression. I am wondering if depressed people are more prone to view porn to combat the depression or if daily use of porn triggers individuals into a depression? Either way, my research with more than 400 people who voluntarily took my assessment indicates that people who regularly view pornography are experiencing more depression than the general population.”

Yes, that’s only a little over 400 people, but it’s clearly a human issue. And depression is something that we know greatly alters how you view yourself. Your definition of yourself often strays from an objective evaluation to believing untrue things – “I’m not worth much/anything” or “I suck at life” or “God must hate me.” Depression causes thoughts and feelings like that to become primary in the minds of porn addicts and greatly affects how they define themselves.

So what are we to do?

We need to be constantly reminding ourselves of what is true about ourselves.

In my bedroom at home sits a canvas painting I did. It used to be in my office at work. Half of it is a blank résumé. The other half quotes a spoken word piece by this guy named Jon Jorgensen. It says: “Not qualified is where He starts.” On the bottom is written/painted “2 Corinthians 12:9.”

In that verse, God tells Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It reminds me that God can use me despite my lack of qualification, and many reasons to be disqualified. When porn addiction enters our life, we can view ourselves that way, that we have nothing to offer, that we are useless.

My friends, it is not so. Fight back against these ways that porn distorts your view of yourself. Remember what is true. It’s vital.



  • Ernie

    From my own personal experience and in discussions I’ve had with others, I’ve learned that anxiety and depression often place us into a viscous cycle of addiction. Common events in our lives can become a major strain in our lives: family issues, job stress, money issues, spousal sexual dysfunction, general depression and other anxieties. Often times, in order to cope with these types of stress events, we seek some type of escape, turning instead to different forms of self medication including alcohol, drugs, pornography and sexual fantasies, affairs, television, hobbies, etc. Self medication absolutely will provide that mental stimulation and relief from our depression and anxiety, but only on a temporary basis. Once we’re back in the situation, or when we suddenly realize that we have sunk into activities contrary to God’s word and plan for our lives, the depression and guilt then become magnified. We again seek that temporary release from our depression and mental anxiety which then leads to greater depression accompanying our more frequent failures of godly moral values. We live in that endless cycle of guilt, shame, and depression, feeling trapped, alone and unredeemable. We hear the enemy scream at us, accusing us of being worthless hypocrites. In the end, the only real solution is to get back to focusing on Christ, our Problem Solver, instead of on the problems. We need to stop listening to the enemy, realize that we are not our struggles and problems, but are instead children of the most high God. The enemy will try to keep our eyes focused on him so that we continue to live in that pit of defeat. Christ wants us to focus on Him so that He can pull us out of the pit and transform us into His likeness! 2 Corinthians 3:18

  • I hope that someone is able to do research on the female addict brain. As a recovering addict myself, I know my biggest problem is related to body image. Although I’m now years “clean” I still catch myself defining my value based on my physical appearance and even body parts specifically. That is absolutely a distortion from porn.

    • Crossdive

      Wow, I hear you. Even as we back away from porn use and other sexual sin, it can be so hard to course correct the human brain and the lies we unwittingly allied with through our sexual sins.

      If you don’t mind, I’d like to share some things with you based on how I feel like Holy Spirit is leading me to. I’m not trying to sell you anything or freak you out, it’s just I’ve been in similar places myself and I’ve had tremendous healing in the past year, so I’d like to help you if I can.

      My sense is that it sounds like there’s ties that need breaking.
      Realigning thought patterns is important, and is mainly accomplished through choosing to agree with God’s opinions about you (spoiler alert, they’re amazingly positive and true, so don’t be scared), and repeating that choice when/if the lies try to gain ground in your mind again. So for starters the real question is ‘what thoughts are you listening to?’, because a thought that says ‘your worth comes from your body’ or ‘your body is shameful’ are not God thoughts, which means they are either directly from demonic* voices (they sometimes like to speak in our minds through first person because we’ll usually think the ideas came from ourselves and buy in more easily that way), or they are our old flesh patterns*. So the starting place may be simply learning what God actually says about you, and declaring that out loud and in your own head anytime those self-hating thoughts try to reassert themselves. You have the authority to choose whether to believe a lie or not (whether it’s about your body or something else), and a lie disbelieved has no power.

      My personal recommendation as someone who has experienced the agony of porn addiction and low self worth, physically and otherwise, is to look for a Sozo counselor. Sozo is a Greek word meaning ‘saved, healed, and delivered’ and its the word Jesus often used when telling someone he healed that ‘your faith has made you well [sozo]’. They can help you learn how your loving God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) actually feels about you, which is the truth you’ll need to choose to embrace and to reject the lies you’ve felt about yourself. They can also help you if there are any unhealthy soul ties (ties formed in relationships, including sexually) that need breaking, or any demonic oppression that needs dispelling.

      I know this is probably a lot of info at once, but I believe you can choose to be brave and try this door. I don’t think it was coincidence that I read your post today.

      If you want to find a Sozo counselor (Sozo ministry and it’s sibling ministries are also known as Theophostics, inner healing, or deep level healing, if that helps widen the net of your search a bit), I’d either search engine it or check Bethel Church’s site, as I believe they have a resource that lists Sozo ministries around the country. Best of luck! There are far better things ahead than we leave behind!

      *Demonic: just wanted to clarify, Christians can be demonized (but the demons cannot enter your spirit, because that’s where Holy Spirit resides if you’ve let Him in)). Demonization (often mistranslated as ‘demon possession’) doesn’t work like it does in most horror movies. And as CS Lewis observed in “The Screwtape Letters”, demons’ first line of defense is convincing people they don’t exist or can’t influence them at all, because that keeps people oblivious and unguarded. If that fails, they try intimidation by causing cheap theatrics. Both are pathetic smokescreens to divert you from the truth that they are defeated enemies because of Jesus, and all they can do is deceive and manipulate.
      Sexual sin is one of the major doors that can lead to letting in demonic oppression (voice of experience), but don’t be scared. Jesus has authority over all things in heaven and earth, and he wants you free to experience the abundant life he promised you.

      *Flesh patterns: salvation is an instantaneous event when you invite Jesus into your heart, but breaking the sinful habits and thought patterns of the person you were before salvation takes time and intentionality.
      That’s why Paul wrote, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
      ‭‭(Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬)
      We destroy old thoughts and habits by letting God tell us the truth about things and choosing to believe and live out what he shares with us. For example, rather than embracing the lie that your body or specific parts of your anatomy are not good enough or are shameful, choose the truth that you are made in God’s image, that when he made Adam and Eve he declared them very good, and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (including condemning your gender or your specific body or parts thereof).

      I’m not the same person I was just a year or so ago, so I can promise you from experience this is legit!

  • Peta Johnson

    Pornography is bad for the person viewing it and it is bad for the persons performing in it. We have long since gone from total nudity to all forms of sex recorded on video. The elephant in the room is censorship. I remain opposed to it, despite the harm this filth inflicts. Why? The Left is already seeking to brand Christianity as “homophobic” and therefore illegal. Censorship will merely hasten driving Christianity from the public square. We need to push for school vouchers, so prayer and Christian teaching can be restored to the schools.

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