Our bodies are amazing creations. The way we are naturally wired and the manner in which our brains work are truly marvelous. It’s the type of stuff I personally geek out on. Take for instance the limbic system.
This part of the brain is involved in our behavioral and emotional processes, particularly when it comes to behaviors we need for survival such as fight or flight responses. It’s the primary reason humanity has survived all these years through hungry dinosaurs, plagues, famines, and the unpredictable whims of mother nature.
And while fight or flight responses are more primitive, they are essential for survival especially when it comes to dealing with imminent danger scenarios that could result in physical harm and/or cause us fear (such as running out of a burning building).
However, as our society evolves, and we find ourselves in situations where we no longer need to say… run away from a hungry dinosaur, many people still react to any perceived threatening situations in a fight or flight manner rather than thinking through scenarios critically.
In other words, we operate from a place of “fear” instead of a place of “rest.”
And unfortunately, many of us have adapted this type of primitive response methodology when it comes to how we deal with sexually charged media, messaging, and situations.
What I mean is that the most common reactions we see when faced with a sexually saturated culture are…
- “Fight” it.
- Run or hide from it.
- Crawl up in the fetal position and shut down in the face of it.
So this is why we see…
- People and groups who want to censor everything and “eliminate” the danger. (Fight)
- Those who try to sanitize their surroundings and lock out access to all potential danger. (Flight)
- Individuals and churches who rather withdraw from culture than risk the danger of engaging it. (Shut Down)
It’s why so many guys I’ve worked with over the years come into the recovery journey wrongfully thinking that the answer to their life-long problem is just a “better” filtering solution and/or internet blocker. It’s also partly why so many single men think their porn use problem will go away once they are married and can finally have sex without sinning!
Remove the temptation so that you can remove the fear of failure.
But this mindset ignores reality and in some ways makes things worse.
Let’s be honest, the sexualization of our culture increases daily – despite all the fighting, prevention, and social withdrawal. And so what happens is when these primitive responses fail (which they all do at some point) we are left with the same problems and find ourselves back in the same dangerous scenarios.
Leaving us with no hope, no real solutions, and no chance.
But what if we learned to respond to our sexually saturated world with a more critical mind?
What if instead of hiding from or fighting these things, we acknowledged their presence in the world and learned how to operate effectively in spite of them, rather than spending all our time just hoping they go away?
What if we actually engaged our culture rather than condemning and running away from it?
The reality is that when we rely on fight and flight responses we are always fighting, always running, and always left unprepared for the next challenge.
- When we learn how to think critically through the sexual messaging we hear,
- When we make decisions based on our goals and values and not just on the lack of options available to us,
- When we rise up to engage and openly talk about the challenges we experience rather than retreating from them,
We grow in our awareness, understanding, and decision-making practices leaving us better prepared for whatever may come next. And yeah, I know it sounds crazy, especially if you are someone struggling with porn and the like. But, running from our sexuality and the sexualization we are constantly exposed to doesn’t help our situation.
At least not for very long.
Rather we need to explore these things and the reasons they evoke such responses from us, so we can get to the root issues of our fantasies and unwanted sexual behaviors. This is something that author and therapist Jay Stringer talks about extensively in his book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (a book I highly recommend).
The answer to your unwanted behavior and the door to your lasting freedom is not going to be unlocked with fear, anger, or ignorance. It can only be discovered through thoughtful engagement and understanding.
Yes, there may be moments in your life when fighting or running is the best solution, but it should not be your “go-to” response for dealing with the reality of living in a sexually saturated world.
There is a better way.
Because while your limbic brain may keep you out of the mouth of a hungry lion, it’s not going to show you the true path to healing and freedom.
And don’t forget – we’re ready at XXXchurch to help you along your recovery journey. If you have questions about any of the things we covered here, be sure to check out Office Hours and submit your question so we can answer it in an upcoming session.