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Changing My Emotional State To Guard Against Temptation

emotions, stress, and temptation, and temptation to pornography are interrelated.
Stress and emotional management is a 🔑 to life.

The most immediate effect of an addictive substance or activity is to induce a change in state. It happens when you pop a pill. It happens when you smoke. It happens when you gamble. It happens when you engage in sexual activity. It happens when you drink coffee or eat ice cream. That isn’t to say that every such action stems from addiction. Or that every such activity necessarily constitutes a problem in someone’s life. However, it is generally true that what gets people hooked on an activity is that it makes them feel better emotionally.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with wanting to change our emotional states from bad to good, or to keep them from going from good to bad. Human beings are hard-wired to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. The problem is when our desire to experience positive emotion in the short-term leads to an increase in negative emotion in the medium- and long-term. As I like to say, the essence of addiction is instant gratification, whereas the essence of discipline is delayed gratification.

Emotional Medication

What separates addicts and healthy people is how they go about changing their emotional state. Healthy people change their emotional state by exercising (“motion creates emotion”), hanging out with friends and family, doing meaningful work, cultivating a spiritual life, and resting. Addicts, on the other hand, change their emotional state by engaging in compulsive behaviors—like pornography—or consuming stimulating substances—like drugs or junk food—whose only benefit is instant gratification.

To distinguish between actions that trigger changes in state, we have to lengthen the time horizon. What effect is this action going to have, not only in 5 minutes– but in 5 hours? 5 days? 5 weeks? 5 months? 5 years?

In sum, when seeking to change our emotional state, we want to avoid activities that overtly cause damage across a longer time horizon. An activity that fosters positive emotion in both the present and future is the best of both worlds.

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).


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