Outsourcing Decision

I finally finished Better than Before. I can’t say I liked the style — far too chatty for me — but I made lots of notes and it gave me lots of ideas. One idea in the book was “outsourcing decision”, eg to a schedule: I make the decision to put something on a schedule, but once it’s on the schedule I just follow that. The schedule idea can be used to encourage activity / build a habit (eg go to the gymn every morning) or to ration an activity / weaken a bad habit (eg only eat junk food on Thursdays).

One bad habit I have is surfing twitter. In moments of boredom or mild anxiety it is very accessible and very easy to while away … too long. And it leaves me not refreshed but even more enervated. “Just take it off the phone!” but Twitter is occasionally useful/informative/cheering/etc — only about 10% of the time perhaps, but you never know which 10%.

Twitter itself is not the danger, but the way I use it — the association with boredom, anxiety, …, and the way it fills and even expands that anxious moment.

Scheduling “twitter time” didn’t feel right, so my brainwave has been to toss a coin first thing in the morning: Heads = twitter; Tails = no twitter today.

Amazingly, it works. If the coin turns up tails I don’t even think about looking at twitter that day. Even several days in a row. I’ve been on the programme for a month now and it is very robust.

Effects:

  • It is weakening my twitter habit overall: on twitter days I surf less and tend to catch up, then close the app. Interesting links I email myself rather than just like or bookmark.
  • It is weakening the association with boredom/anxiety: the association is now with the random coinflip.
  • It means I am having to find other ways to respond to boredom/anxiety. As these are not habitual but are consciously chosen they tend to be more wholesome — eg go & get something to eat, do a minor household chore.

So far so good. It has not been an unalloyed success however. Just as the “Tails” gives a strong and effective prohibition that I don’t question, the “Heads” gives a strong feeling of permission. This over-rides an earlier prohibition that had been working quite well (more on that another time but you can probably guess).

So — more work needed, but a simple, powerful and fairly effective device.

Look / Look away

Into the accountants’ the other day to hand in some forms. Pretty new receptionist caught me by surprise. We hit it off immediately — friendly, chatty, jokey — that level of office life just before flirty. We did various business with the forms. She bent down to do something on the computer. Like a snap of the fingers my eyes bounced down her blouse and back to see the frilly edge of her bra. All the forms were in order, so I bade my farewells and left. Only when closing the door behind me did I notice that those last few seconds she’d been decidedly chilly.

My eyes — no — I did it. I looked down her blouse. Was it just my eyes? Maybe I craned my neck. Was I wearing my glasses? Fishbowl eyeballs out on stalks.

It’s happened so many times. I much prefer the before to the after.

Habits. Expectations. Hardened patterns. Desire lines.

Perhaps the only way to break a habit/expectation is to create a new, stronger expectation. A new desire line, and let the old one grass over. Old demons never die, they just fade away.

If the stimulus is a sudden opportunity — quick grab it now! — the new response can’t be based on a morality or depend on working something out. It has to be a clear pattern I can just take down “off the shelf” and have it ready for triggering situations.

I think of the waiter or shop assistant who ostentatiously looks away when I tap in my credit card pin (before the days of contactless). It’s almost like a pantomime or a dance step. They do it so I can see — even out of the corner of my eye — that they are not looking at the keypad. It’s a similar friendly/flirty situation. I have waited and served (temp jobs for beer money while a student) so I know that side of it too.

The receptionist might appreciate it too — as long as I avoid the “see, I didn’t look down your blouse: aren’t I fantastic!?” — so we can keep the friendly atmosphere.

A quick glimpse of a bit of bra is a meagre trophy.

Masturbation is a worship disorder !?

This blog post (below) and Scripture must have caught me at the right moment. Mind blown.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 – especially verse 4

3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband.

Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife.

5 Do not deprive each other, except by mutual consent and for a time, so you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again, so that Satan will not tempt you through your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5

Why

Sources:

I like #porn

I like porn:

[A]

  • I like looking at the photos
  • I like watching the videos
  • I like making up and elaborating porn-based sex fantasies
  • I enjoy masturbating

Disgusting and shameful to admit declare these things explicitly — I daren’t say “confess” — but it’s no good to lie about it either. It’s a problem that I do these things; it’s perhaps more of a problem that I want to do them, I enjoy them.

I like other things just as much, if not more:

[B]

  • I like the feeling of power when I am on form
  • I like the warmth of people smiling at me
  • I like the full-body sensuality of yoga
  • I love the feeling of being alive when I am plugged into a good book

Indulging in set B pleasures has no effect on my ability to enjoy set A activities, but indulging in set A pleasures weakens my ability to enjoy set B activities. On that criterion alone I should avoid set A and prefer set B.

More generally, enjoying set B strengthens me, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. I am happier and better company.

Over-indulging in set A weakens me. It erodes my ability to concentrate or follow a path. I become bored, irritable, depressed. The very definition of a vice.

My ability to enjoy set A activities seems very robust, and always available. The slightest trigger will set my mind or my eyes or my hands wandering.

Set B seems harder to hold. Either I put it off because I think I don’t deserve it (there is always work to be done), or it seems beyond my power. I noticed after making up these two lists that A are voiced actively and B passively — really it is the other way around.

Conclusion/CTA

  • how can I envisage B as active? As creating myself (rather than expending myself, in A)?
  • gravitate towards B
  • find B substitutes when I am triggered towards A (diary exercise: given a specific trigger that led me to A, think of a B that might have answered)

Angels of the Id #porn

DLW is away, has been away since before Christmas (I accompanied her on her mission over Christmas), and will probably be away until February. When there is no work the next day, I am staying up very late. Partly, I seem to get a “second wind” as tiredness from the day wears off. Partly, I am sure the … reluctance to go to bed … is a kind of subconsciously avoiding porn, until I am too tired to want it.

The evening fills up with household chores & minor activities, one at a time, my desire to watch one of these long porn vids I have set aside always there in the background, always rising to the surface, but never quite getting there.

Often my desire starts the day explicit and firm — a plan to spend the evening — but as the evening arrives, that demon’s voice is hidden by other more civilised voices. I want to …

  • play a game of chess
  • tidy away that laundry
  • do a language lesson
  • wrap that present for Sara
  • find out about this poet/singer

I can’t say my desire for porn has decreased, it’s just that it has competition. Unfortunately, it’s a competition that rages, quietly, into the small hours.

Old Testament reading plan 2022

BookmM
Isaiah2Jan, Feb
Jeremiah2Mar, Apr
Ezekiel1May
The 12 Minor Prophets2Jun, Jul
Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther1Aug
Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Daniel1Sep
Job1Oct
Proverbs2Nov, Dec

After the Prophets (the 12 Minor Prophets stands for the books Hosea to Malachi), I’m doing a bit of damage to the ordering. August is my wife’s birth month & I thought it would be inspiring for me to read these three books about women. I don’t know the Ruth and Esther stories at all. The Song of Songs … I know all those things Christians say about it being a metaphor for the church but the poem is clearly about sex, the smells and tastes of sex, the physical passion of sex.

I’m giving myself a bit of slack with Proverbs, partly as I might want to dwell and abide over verses more than with more narrative books, partly to give Psalms the new year.

I’m minded to let the Psalms sprawl over at least the first half of 2023. I’ve read through them a couple of times already. This time I might do something special (read some crit at least; try writing versions — a sonnet of Ps 19?).

Word of the Year 2022: Face

Using ‘face (v.)’ as a gloss for “turn to” (ἐπιστρέφω epistrephó) in these two verses:

1 Thessalonians 1:9 “… you turned to God from idols …”


Acts 26:20 “… repent and turn to God …”

The emphasis being my effort to turn towards good things (& celebrate successes, however minor) rather than my efforts to turn away from bad things (& beat myself up for failures).

‘face (v.)’ brings ‘face (n.)’ for free. In my prayers and in my approach to Christ that is something I neglect — simple adoration of His face (meanwhile my attachment to porn is a kind of adoration, worship of faces, surfaces). I’d like to address that neglect, and spend time somehow in adoration of Christ and the face of God.

My vague plan is to alternate — v, n, v, n, — month by month, with a more specific theme for each month. January’s theme is …

Casting my net wide / Clutching at straws

… finding easy things to turn to, in moments of boredom or rest — “downtime” — that are wholesome and nutritious (eg not porn, not doomscrolling twitter). More on this later, but some examples I am using so far:

  • a puzzle
  • a game of chess.com
  • a lesson on duolingo
  • a set prayer or scripture reading [lectionary]
  • a poem
  • a short chapter of easy reading

Imaginary Friends #porn

Do I believe in God? Really? Do I really think Jesus is near me? Isn’t he just an imaginary friend?

I fret like this about Jesus being real over and over again, but I never stop to consider how real these women are, these Ashtaroth. I just fall to my devotions without thinking.

The story about Dagon in 1 Samuel 5:1-5 resonates with me strongly:


1 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.

Two things in particular strike me about this passage:

  1. This wasn’t a statue or an icon of Dagon that was being thrown about — it was Dagon itself.
  2. Even after all this happened, the Philistines continued their worship of Dagon.

Dagon was real: a lump of wood or stone you could stub your toe against, or break bits off. Dagon — the god — was imaginary: it had no power against the Lord. The power it had for the Philistines was entirely down to their own faith and adoration, their devotion.

Porn is real just like Dagon was real. The magazine on the table in front of me is real. The models and actors onscreen are real. Porn goes out of its way to show that “this is really real they are not just pretending”.

And porn’s power is as fake as Dagon’s was. The boost I get from porn is entirely down to my own adoration and devotion, my “faith” even. I have trained myself with masturbation to have self-fulfilling expectations. Before and as well as that, secular culture lays out plenty of temptations and signals. But even given all that, my devotion to porn, my turning to porn when I need … something … is my choice. The power porn has over me is given to porn by me.

And just as the Philistines kept returning Dagon to its pedestal, however much I learn, I keep returning to my pics and vids.

Porn is at least as much an imaginary friend as Jesus is, but my attachment to porn, and my doubts about my faith in God, make the fantasies seem as real as the paper they’re printed on.

“So, …, what?” as my business coach might say.

  • I hope this realisation will help weaken my attachment.
  • I remember that yoga is sensual pleasure as well as good exercise. That, and not masturbating, can be my sensual treat.
  • My wife is a sensual treat too, though one with emotional complications attached (eg risks of rejection). Perhaps I should take a few risks.

Home Alone 2

From Sunday DLW will be away for a while (on family business), possibly up to three weeks, during which time I shall be home alone. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons:

  1. Sara will be away for her birthday. I had been getting a bit over-keen on the idea that we should have a short break away together — perhaps getting this visit out of the way will mean she feels she has more time for relaxing. I have presents to send her away with and presents for when she returns. I can make sure I am ready to receive her back lovingly.
  2. Three weeks is a lot of evenings alone in the house for me to succumb to weakness. Unlike last time I don’t have any plans in that direction. In fact, it was much harder than I’d expected to get back on the wagon afterwards, so I’d quite like to stay clean this time. That would be an achievement I think, if I managed to keep my eyes off and my hands off all that time.

I shan’t be taking time off work, but what I shall be scheduling daily yoga and prayer time, including both spoken and written prayer. I’ll stick to those schedules whatever else happens.

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