At the heart of reddit is the most supportive online community I know. Fighters; arming one another against a common enemy. An addiction at first sold to them as something “natural”, “normal” and “healthy”; a stress reliever; a curb to all their urges… until they uncovered it for what it is. An addiction they now attribute to all the mishaps surrounding them; the cause of their lives falling apart, failed marriages and failure at all human relationships, the root to their anxiety, self-loath, procrastination, depression, you name it. It’s a self-destructive tendency with a ticking time bomb. However, as a result of years of societal conditioning, our warriors are destined for failure from the start. Only a lucky few make it. This is their story. It’s also our story as much theirs; nofap.
I’m always scrolling through my phone. Even when I have no agenda in particular, I’m still scrolling. Taking care not to miss the latest memes, inspirational posts, new profound insights and just keeping tabs on some people. I get nothing long lasting out of it all but still…
I do recall a few months back stumbling upon the status of this kid I was supposed to mentor; but didn’t get around to it because I’m more in need of help. It read something like: There’s no cure for masturbation, once you’re in, you’re in (Only articulated better and was actually funny. It did manage to get a giggle out of me). Then whoop! I’m hit with a realization (I hate it when that happens; you know, like you’re just there having a good time, and then your stream of consciousness overrides with these parental insights.) This kid doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into. And yet, he has already given up on a battle he doesn’t know that he’s going to have to fight. I know, I know, I might be quick to judge; maybe it’s just a WhatsApp status. But what are status these days? If not words better put by other people, reflecting the things we’re thinking, believe and deeply relate to.
The internet is a much bigger place than you actually realize; approximately 96% of it is the dark web (This is the part of the internet which most of us are heedless of. Hidden in plain sight, it’s where you can gain access to classified government documents, purchase illegal drugs, even hire a contract killer. Traditional browsers like chrome and Mozilla can’t access this side of the internet, you’ll need special browsers like tor. I’m not sure why this isn’t illegal but okay).
Facebook, YouTube, Google and all the sites we normally use make up the remaining 4%; the safe net. Of which, 72% of its traffic is from all things porn related. In 2016 alone Pornhub, the most popular porn site got 4,599,000,000 hours of porn views. Can you believe that? That 5,246 centuries. 23 Billion visits. That’s 729 people per second. 64 million a day- That’s more people than the population Kenya. [Figures from Graphworthy.com] It’s alarming.
And yet pornography, despite being highly rampantly abused, is a taboo topic shoved into the basement of society. And every day we shut up is another day we lose another 11-year-old to this new drug. At bird’s eye view, that’s a future of 3 different therapy sessions a week, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. When some people told Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal that they felt uneasy about criticizing people of innovation, he said: “If you remain silent and I remain silent, when will the ignorant person learn truth from falsehood.” That’s the rule of thumb regarding the truth; it must be spoken out however uncomfortable. Results: more people are becoming aware.
All caught up? Okay, to the top. At the heart of reddit is the nofap community. People who believe that they’ve been in the passenger seat long enough and are ready to take the wheel. United by the common belief that pornography and masturbation is the common thread to all their failures and missed-opportunities in their adult life. It may sound like they’re playing victim but NO. They’ve taken full ownership of their actions and are doing all they can to make a turn around. Relapse after relapse, they persist. With supportive brothers behind them (and sisters) encouraging them to push through, giving up is not an option. For the benefits awaiting them are far too great. They all want to see each other win. The ones who make it so far boast of “superpowers” like confidence shooting through the roof and depletion of all the brain fog they’re experiencing. The mysticism surrounding it makes non-believers skeptical and prefer sticking to their comfort zones. Unfulfilled. Unmotivated. All the same.
A redditor by the name CantaExigo posted something explaining the hardwiring of our brains to pornography. I couldn’t have explained it better. Here’s a paraphrasing of it.
Our bodies are complex biological machines that are wired to learn, grow and ultimately reproduce.
We learn through pain and pleasure, what to do and what not to do either deterring or reinforcing behavior. Back when we had to run across plains and hunt and kill prey in order to eat, food tasted delicious because it was good for our bodies and the pleasure we got reinforced us to do more work to get more food. No pain no gain. The harder we worked, the better we got at it. And sooner, when you got good enough at something, you attracted a suitable mate.
Pain and pleasure are your personal trainers. And since sex is the ultimate biological goal, orgasm is the greatest natural pleasure reward. Ideally the men who have gone through the most work, having the best skills would then get the pleasure of mating with the most attractive women around them. And other men would be pushed by their drive to increase their skills until they themselves could reach that goal.
Earlier this year, I had the chance of reading Charles Duhigg’s magnum opus; The Power of Habit. The main idea of it was that all human behavior follows the same loop: 1. Cue 2. Routine 3. Reward. A cue can be hunger, where a routine like cooking would be followed in order to attain the reward of satisfaction. It’s the building-block to which all habits are developed. (The book goes further to explain how you can go about building new habits and changing old ones. You should read it, it’s awesome).
On attaining reward, a chemical called dopamine is released in our brains and is the one responsible for experiencing pleasure. The dopamine high is what we chase. It’s the source of motivation. In high doses however, dopamine is highly addictive. It’s what makes us crave cocaine and, in our case, addicted to pornography.
Dopamine was first discovered in rats. Researchers hooked up a lever to the rat’s dopamine circuit. Every time the rat pulled the lever, a surge would be produced mimicking dopamine release. The rats soon ignored everything else and pulled the lever until they died of fatigue and starvation. All for another hit of dopamine.
Next the researchers, would have 2 levers on the opposites of a cage. A dopamine hit would be produced if one was pressed after the other. They then put an electrically charged grid in between to give the rats massive shock if they walked over it. The rats would now have to cross the grid every time they wanted another “dopamine hit.” Surprisingly, the rats would run across it until their legs burned and couldn’t walk anymore. Dopamine!
If it were possible to have as much dopamine as we’d wanted. We’d basically do nothing. And presently, we can. Due to technological advancement, the cue- routine-reward system gets bypassed. We become accustomed to receiving the reward immediately after the cue. Hence the entitlement. You don’t have to work for rewards anymore. Amazing, right? Well…. wrong.
Let’s get back to what our fellow redditor was saying;
The brilliance and ingenuity of other humans allows other humans to get pleasure now without investing any effort. This freeloading means they never develop any skill and have no reason to. Pleasure now? Put it on my tab. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. People shove fake nutrients in their bodies for pleasure, pleasure, and more pleasure, and never hit the gym. The bill always comes due for Dopamine Debt.
Now, sex is far more pleasurable than food. An unfulfilled sex drive is actually the prime factor that motivates men to be men. To accomplish, to build, to develop skill. When that urge is fulfilled it causes a huge dopamine release that is meant to heavily reinforce to the man that his life was led correctly and he needs to keep doing what he’s doing. After all, this is a man who not only bests other men, but who actually has another intelligent human, a woman, who is evolutionary engineered to analyze his worth as a provider of genes and resources.
Porn and masturbation take all of that out of the picture. Now, the ultimate driving force for self-betterment is bypassed. The ultimate dopamine debt. If you use PMO for a long time your body will go into retirement. After all, what’s the point? Your brain thinks you’re a Man among men. Not only are you getting pleasure when you want it and how you want it, you’re getting it from “the top tier most beautiful women on the planet”. An infinite number of them. You must be a skilled master in everything known to man. There’s no need to try anything anymore. The body goes into a semi-permanent “rest” mode. The game of Life is completely won. All it needs is another beautiful woman, day in, day out.
And for many people, the women they “have sex with” for so long are so beautiful, they can’t even get it up when it’s time for the average woman. Why would they? The body needs to save it for that 10/10 you’re going to fap to instead of the girl waiting inches away. (Hence the erectile dysfunction) And it’s not like it’s a big deal, your body gets pleasure all the time, what’s the big deal with missing out on this one woman? You’ve had sex with hundreds of them!
And there you have it. The debt for the dopamine hits you get from PMO is usually so high, people can’t get out. They have brain fog from the body just being too sated on easy access pleasure of the highest degree. They are behind in the pursuit of self-betterment because forced satisfaction dampens their fire. And they’ve had so much pleasure that they get used to it, and just trying to deprive themselves a little bit feels like suffering. Of course it does! The body is going “wait wait, we were just having sex every day with the world’s most beautiful women, what happened?”
So what needs to happen when people realize there is a problem and start NoFap? It means you have to have an honest talk with your body. You’ve been lying to it. You need to pay back the dopamine debt. The pleasure you borrowed needs to be repaid. And the first step is to stop getting dopamine you do not deserve. You will need to suffer to some degree. You may feel depressed. As long as your dopamine debt exists, you will continue to relapse uncontrollably. And people usually do. A lot. How then to relieve the dopamine debt? It’s so hard. So very hard.
Answer: By earning it. By earning real dopamine the real natural way. Working out, getting stronger. Studying, learning skills. Building yourself. Climbing the work ladder, getting prestige. Getting more money and more status. Building real relationships and making friends. Seeing new things and having new experiences. Connecting to a higher power. HOW you build and WHAT you build doesn’t matter. It only matters that you BUILD. You work your way out of debt so that you can feel happiness at the appropriate levels again.
That’s when the super powers come into play. The fog lifts. The depression fades. You are earning dopamine again. Your body goes back to normal. Your body hungers for real pleasure. You see, they only seem like superpowers because it’s been so long without them. Or maybe you started PMO you never experienced manhood without the fog. Remember, sex drive is a crazy powerful engine you can learn to control. It motivates through exhaustion and boredom. And as you build, you naturally become more capable. More confident. You live more in the realm of reality and less in fantasy so you seem more grounded and sturdier. These aren’t super powers. It’s how you naturally are! So, embrace it, and don’t let PMO take away the real you again.
Well that was longer than I thought. (Here’s where you can read the slightly longer version ) (Aaand I can’t suggest enough that you all join reddit, it’s where the grown ups are at).
When cell phones became the norm, it was all fun and games having this bewildering palette of possibilities within the palm of our hands. It seemed amazing at first. Till we scrolled too far becoming prisoners to our devices. With the time we saved as a result of technology making things easier, we had so much more time that was unplanned for. Living in this state of constant anxiety we started filling it with whatever we could find; social media, television, video games, pornography (which all happen to be high dopamine inducing activities). Surprise surprise, we weren’t meant for the silver platter.
We’re already here though, there’s no way we could go a step backwards. Our kids have already been compromised. They’ve known nothing but the screens. The place we can start is pushing the conversation on the dangers we unknowingly exposed them to. If possible apologise. The birds and the bees don’t cut it anymore. “The talk” needs to cover all these grounds; make them aware of the pit so they keep a watch for it. I can’t stress on how much these kids who grew upon staring at a screen are more at risk.
For those who have made it this far, thank you for your time. Maybe you don’t have a problem with masturbation or pornography or addiction in general but it’s enough to want to know an evil so that you don’t fall into it. For those fighting addictions, if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the famous experiment of rat park, (Here’s a YouTube video of it), it’s that addiction is something you can always get over. Pornography is not normal. If you change your environment, know your triggers, avoid them at all cost and develop a strong willpower, you can work- around them. One thing I can always advice is: never stop learning. Ignorance is the root of all bad decisions. That’s what life is; an endless learning cycle. Lemony Snicket put it beautifully; Life is a conundrum of esoterica.
I could just end it there, but this passage by C.S. Lewis feels like it belongs.
“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.
“And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman.
For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.
Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.
In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. . .. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”
- Personal Letter From Lewis to Keith Masson (found in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3)