Suffering From Intrusive Sexual Thoughts? Starve Them!
By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS
“What can I do about the sexual images that randomly pop into my head from when I use to visit strip clubs,” asked Larry during one of our session.
My answer? “Nothing.”
I could see my reply took Larry by surprise and I could almost see the thought running through his mind, “What kind of help is that?”
But there was more I needed to share with Larry. “There is nothing you can do to prevent them from entering your stream of thought,” I said. “They are intrusive thoughts and you can’t control them from entering your mind. The solution lies in what you do with those images when they appear.”
Everyone deals with intrusive thoughts but not all are impure. But for the man suffering with a pornography or sexual addiction, sexually-explicit, intrusive thoughts are common.
Because over the years these men have gathered a warehouse of images that are stored away and able to appear at a moment’s notice whether they want to recall them or not. For men in recovery, intrusive thoughts are annoying and frustrating. But as Larry was about to learn, there is nothing he can do to stop an intrusive thought from developing. However, he has the capability of managing it once it appears.
When a sexually-intrusive thought appears, it can be handled quickly and efficiently by following two steps.
First, take the thought and imagine it is sitting right in front of you (this is called externalizing). Stare at the image and say, “I am going to starve you”. What you are deciding to do is not to allow the image to become a full-blown fantasy. You have instead elected to take control over your thoughts instead of allowing them to control you.
Once you inform the image you are going to starve it, you need to shift your focus to something healthy.
Scripture provides direction on how to do this.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.
In most case, the image fades. However, should it reappear, simply do the exercise again. Remember, you are in control with what happens to that image.
Ask Yourself “Why Now?”
After externalizing the image, I encourage men to ask themselves the question, “Why now?” “Why are you (the image) bothering me now?” If we take a few moments and self-reflect on the “why now” question, we usually discover we’re drained in one or more of four areas: physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. And as I tell my clients, “When we are drained, bad things happen.”
But unlike what we did to our intrusive thought – starving it – we will do the opposite to correct our feeling of being drained. Instead, we will feed it by seeking healthy lifelines that replenish us and restore our physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual well-being. Each of us have different lifelines, part of your recovery is finding those that work best for you.
Moving forward, remember to starve intrusive sexual thoughts, and feed your depleted self. In doing so, you will be more alert and able to push aside the triggers and temptations that surround you.