Quitting Porn = The Hero’s Journey

(This is a adaptation of a podcast. Listen to the podcast.)

If you’ve been trying to quit porn (and failed) you might think of yourself as a loser or a weakling, or find yourself feeling a lot of shame. That’s one way to think about it. But what if you are actually a hero?

I’ve been reading about the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell, and noticed a lot of similarities between my struggle to give up porn, and the classic hero’s journey story. 

For instance, there is the “call to adventure.” Something got you started on this journey. Maybe it was a friend, maybe it was your wife, maybe it was just that your shame got too big and you couldn't handle it. Maybe it was ED, or your inability to get a girlfriend, or a blog post. This was your call to adventure!

But there is resistance at first. That’s the “refusal of the call.”  You might be saying to yourself  “I don't wanna do it, it's too hard." You might even call this denial.

Another characteristic of the hero’s journey is the people you meet along the way, including mentors.  Christopher Vogler says: “The hero comes across a seasoned traveler who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.”   This mentor could be a sponsor in a 12 step program, or an accountability partner, or someone who wrote a good post on a blog. There are many kinds of mentors in this journey, and we need them, because you can’t do it alone.

At some point, the call is accepted, and we then “cross the threshold.”  “The hero commits to leaving the ordinary world and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.” (Vogler) 

So when we quit porn and masturbation, it really is a new world. There are new rules, new values. For instance, if you're feeling bad you can't just go to the thing that you always went to for comfort. You can't look at porn, you can't masturbate, and a lot of feelings come up. You can't go to the internet sites the way you used to, and you can't watch the same shows you used to watch.. Maybe you can't hang out with the same people you used to hang out with. So that changes things for you.  Does this sound familiar?

Then  we have tests, allies, and enemies. “The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the special world.” (Vogler)  So this new world you're in, the world of quitting porn, has lots of different people in it. And trials and tests and allies and enemies and you know what those are. You find friends who are journeying with you on this path, and you find enemies who are trying to knock you off the path. Now, for us, our enemies are probably more internal. In Brick House, the web series I created,  Jerry the Wolf is the voice who encourages the main character to look at porn. I think most of us know what that voice is.

It says stuff like: 

“Everybody does it. What’s the big deal? You’re not hurting anyone. You deserve this. Porn would sure would feel great right now, wouldn’t it?”

So these are the demons, the enemies that we are fighting. 

Then next we have the ordeal. Now that's another step. “Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in their special world and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.” (Vogler)  So, this is the big one. In recovery, we might have a certain amount of sobriety but there are certain fears we have to face, certain feelings, certain situations that are the deep ones, the ones that will really knock us over the edge on the road to sobriety for a long-term period.  There might be one central thing that you really need to work on. For me, it might have something to do with not being able to be as close to my mother as I wanted. That's kinda like the old pain and fear that I think I need to look at. Maybe you have something similar.

After all this, we get to the reward. “The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.” (Vogler) Well, you know what that is for us. That is going to be our new life, our new good life. It might be getting married, it might be having kids, it might be having a good career, it might be just having a better life. 

But the journey’s not over yet. The final step is to “return with the elixir.”   “The hero returns home or continues the journey bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world, as the hero has been transformed.” (Vogler)  So we come back from this journey, and we have some special wisdom. When we can share that with others, it transforms the world around us. Now maybe you lead a support group, or become a mentor to others.

The other part of this journey I want to mention too is that there are failures along the way, there are trials, there are tribulations. This is a huge, huge thing that we're undertaking, and not everybody can do it. You don't win every single battle. So that's part of being a hero too.  You struggle, you struggle, you lose, you win, you learn new things until finally, finally, you win. 

So, I hope you can think of yourself today not as a loser, not a pervert, not a jerk, not a weak person, but a hero. 

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