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AM I APATHETIC ABOUT MY PORN USE?

 

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Carl Thomas
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Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a pastor friend of mine, and we started talking about the pornography problem in the church.

During that conversation, my friend who also serves as a coach for other leaders in his denomination said something that jumped out at me. 

That was this…

“The biggest problem [speaking of porn and infidelity issues] according to the pastors I talk to is apathy. Guys just don’t care enough to do anything.”

Ouch.

And while I do think apathy can be an issue at times, I also think there is a better way to explain what many pastors run into when they try to help men with sexual problems.

And that is they have a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the real issue these men are struggling with… mental wellbeing.

Understand all mammals respond to threats one of three ways. They fight, run, or freeze (i.e. detach).

And guess, what? Humans are mammals.

Now, understand that humans (unlike our mammal friends of the animal kingdom) have a more developed brain. This means that our brains can think about potential threats before reacting. 

Notice, I said “can” and not “will.”

Recognize that the human brain is a collection of parts that ideally work together as one synchronized unit. The key word there being “ideally.” But what happens due to past pain, trauma, and neglect is that our brains can gradually become divided. In other words, our parts stop working together and at times even work against each other.

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Because of this, when the brain is not healthy and divided, the more primitive side of our brain will take over causing us to react to things without thinking about them. And for the guy who struggles with porn and the like, usually that reaction is to hide or detach through their unwanted sexual behavior.

That’s right. Porn use and acting out sexually is a detachment or freeze response. It’s serves as an escape from real life and pain.

Why does this matter when talking about apathy?

Because a person’s apathy often can be a masking state.

Karla McLaren, M.Ed., an award-winning author and social science researcher described apathy as follows:

“When you don’t have the energy or permission to work with your anger properly – when you aren’t able to protect your boundary or the boundaries of others, when you feel unable to speak out against the troubles or injustices you see, and when you feel incapable of affecting your surroundings – you’ll often move into the masking state of apathy.

A masking state helps you cover up your inner truths with a protective attitude that can distance you from uncomfortable situations. It can give you a necessary break from the situation, and its “I don’t care; I can’t be bothered; none of this matters” attitude can give you a sense of control.”

The genius of apathy and boredom. Karla McLaren. (2023, January 24). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://karlamclaren.com/the-genius-of-apathy-and-boredom/

Think about that.

I’ve talked with many people over the years about their unwanted sexual behaviors and all of these themes have come up frequently in our conversations.

  • Feelings of being incapable of controlling their behavior.
  • A perceived lack of ability to change their situation.
  • Immense personal discomfort (and shame).

And so it makes sense that if the answer to life’s problems is detachment through sex, then it also makes sense that when faced with the reality of one’s sexual choices, it is also an answer to detach and simply stop trying.

So the question then is this:

Are you truly apathetic or does the chore of recovery seem too overwhelming and suffocating to pursue it?

If you truly don’t care about your questionable sexual choices and feel no need to address them, that’s apathy. I can’t do anything to change that fact, and neither can anyone else.

However, if you are tired of… 

  • living with your unwanted sexual behavior,
  • seeing your most important relationships suffer from your decisions,
  • feeling the weight of daily guilt and shame,

But lack the motivation to do something meaningful about it, you are very likely using apathy as a mask for your feeling of hopelessness, shame, and anger. And unfortunately, things will never get better unless you step out and take some control of your life.

Yes, the recovery process is not easy and there will often be a temptation to detach and retreat back to your addictive lifestyle. But with some real intention and the help of supportive community around you, that can change over time.

You just need to make the first step towards health and wellbeing.

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