Pornography On The Brain
Understand the Pornography Addicted Brain
In the human brain neurotransmitters, there are over a quadrillion connections in the brain cells.
There’s a ton of connections in our brain. And how it works is you’re looking at this slide. You see these are what’s called a ‘dendrite‘ that stretches out from the core of the cell and then it is trying to reach and connect with another dendrite from an adjoining cell, this process works with an electrical and chemical signal.
You see these little round balls; they’re sacks full of neurotransmitters, or little chemicals. And so what happens? An electrical signal comes down this dendrite, it hits these neuro- these little vesicles with neurotransmitters, and it floods something called the synaptic gap. You see how these little chemicals are coming out, and then they fit into receptor sites on the adjoining dendrite. Then when they fit into those receptor sites, the message is then transmitted.
This is going on at lightning-type speeds in our brain at all times.
It has a huge effect on how we feel and function as human beings. Now I want to focus on one of the core things about understanding addiction. And it’s something called the two-part brain. And it’s something that takes a complex issue, dealing with the human brain, and kind of makes it as simple as possible and pretty much everyone can grasp this.
We work on- we work with adolescents with this and they can understand it some too. So, in essence we have two brains that are working in concert with each other. This part in the red is known as the limbic system. It’s basically referred to ‘the instinctive part of the brain’. And the part above that, the neo-cortex, more specifically the prefrontal cortex, is more what’s called ‘the rational, logical, cognitive part of the brain’. There’s two separate parts that work in coordination with each other.
There’s a classic picture when we’re understanding the human brain of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Pretty much everyone that comes into my office can relate to this picture. You’re familiar with the story, perhaps. Dr. Jekyll, by day, is committed to helping and healing people. He’s a doctor, you know, the Hippocratic Oath, he’ll do no harm, he’ll help people and do whatever he can.
Yet, at night, he takes a potion and he turns into completely the opposite. And those who struggle with addiction issues often feel polar parts of themselves. That there’s a part that wants to stop doing this behavior, but there seems to be this other thing inside of them that doesn’t want to stop, and it’s very, very confusing to people.
So when someone will come into the office and I’ll sit down with them, usually it takes a lot to get someone to actually get into therapy; I wish it wouldn’t be that way because so much help could be provided if they’d just be willing to reach out and get some help. But when they come and they say things like,
‘I’m ready to do whatever it takes to stop this behavior‘,
I’ll pause a moment and then I’ll say,
‘But, you know, so there’s the part- you’re saying, there’s a part of you that wants to stop, right?‘
And they’ll say,
‘Well, yes, that’s why I’m here‘.
And I’ll say,
‘Now is there another part inside of you that has no intentions of stopping, that doesn’t want to stop?’
It is always interesting to watch their face change just a little bit, as if they’ve been caught in a way. There’d be just a teeny little smirk and they’ll go, ‘Yeah, there is this other part of me and that’s what I don’t understand’.
It can help them understand why that is, really what’s going on in this two-part brain.
We have two brains that are working in concert with each other. The balance between these two brains determines the quality of a person’s life. The limbic is what’s referred to as our emotional brain, and the prefrontal, we now know, is more the rational part of our brain. We’ll talk in more depth about each of those parts. And one of the best metaphors that I have come across to explain how these two parts of the brain work in the unconscious mind, is the metaphor of an iceberg.
Pornographic Brain Compared to an Iceberg
Eighty-five to ninety percent of an iceberg is what? It’s underneath the waterline. We don’t see it with our eyes; only the 10 to 15 percent above the waterline do we see. Now, the prefrontal cortex can be likened unto the tip of the iceberg that we see; it’s conscious. And the limbic system can be likened unto this eighty-five to ninety percent that’s underneath the surface that we don’t have direct access to with our conscious mind.
Some neuroscientists now suggest that eighty-five to ninety percent of our behavior is just driven from this unconscious region of the brain. We’re basically in autopilot most of the time. And so when we talk about the things that we come across in our culture with marketing and advertising, we just have to learn to become so much more aware; question things, ‘What is really going on with what they’re trying to, you know the marketers, are trying to get us to buy?’.
Now, the two-part brain. Another good analogy is an orchestra. You know there are four parts to an orchestra: the woods, the winds, the brass, and percussion. It’s a very powerful part, that’s where the music comes from, right? The power behind it. But what would happen if there was no conductor? Everyone would just be playing their own instruments and it would just be chaos; the sounds wouldn’t come together. And yet, the conductor is the one who can bring all of this together and learns how to manage all of the power behind each of these different artists and musicians.
And the prefrontal cortex can be likened unto the conductor and I think in the limbic system is the power behind things and what we’re going to be talking about, and why the Utah Family Therapy Addiction Recovery Program, I believe, is so effective and is helping so many people: We’re teaching the conductor how to accept the limbic system for what it is, and learn how to understand its language so that we can deal with it. Because if you don’t understand the limbic brain’s language, we’re in trouble. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more because it’s instinctive and what it does is it fights to survive.
And we’ll talk about that just briefly. So the limbic system I say is instinctive. So name some, think of some basic instincts. Usually when I’m in my office doing this presentation to clients on the whiteboard I’ll say, ‘Okay, what are some basic instincts?’. Ninety percent of the time they’ll just say, ‘My need for air, food, water, sexuality.‘ Those are our basic instincts and the limbic system has three very powerful prime directives.
I say prime directive, it does these three things above everything else.
The first is survival. It’s the basic brain that’s functioning in a lion or a tiger. Now think for a moment what happens when a lion or a tiger gets hungry. It hunts, it kills, it goes out and it eats to survive.
Second prime directive of the limbic part of the brain is to avoid pain. The limbic system doesn’t like pain, either physical pain or emotional pain. It looks at it if it’s severe enough as a threat to survival. And so how does it deal with that?
Third prime directive to seek pleasure. It goes on a search for something that is pleasurable; this happens instinctively. Also, in the limbic regions of the brain, are something called our ‘pleasure centers’.
And this is a really critical point to understand. That in the limbic regions of the brain there is- it’s amoral, which means there’s no shame, no guilt, morals and values don’t exist there.
You know, I often ask clients to think of a National Geographic program that they’ve seen or something. If you’ve seen a lion or a tiger eating it’s prey in the wild, do you ever notice it feeling guilty? Does it, you know- Anyway the answer’s obvious, right? It’s not there, ‘Oh, I’m sorry that I killed you and that now I’m eating you to survive’. It just doesn’t have any morals or values. That’s not the part of the brain where that exists.