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Salivating Over a Bell

obormottel Monday, 05 March 2018

When a child sees a pretty woman, even if she is dressed provocatively, does he experience obsessive thoughts about sex? No. And even normal, healthy adults don't get turned on by regular interaction with attractive females. And believe it or not, even if you'll show pornography to a healthy, married adult, they will usually feel repelled. I remember reading an article about the testing a new virtual-reality system on a normal healthy male. They used a pornographic scene, and he described how he felt repelled, specifically because it felt so real. He described feeling as if someone he doesn't even know was trying to initiate intimacy and crossing normal boundaries. This was unsettling for him.

So why is it so difficult for us, the strugglers? Why does the mere sight of a pretty woman set us off and make us lose our bearings?

It occurred to me that the whole struggle boils down to one word: "Association". The famous experiment with Pavlov's dog showed how psychological conditioning works. Every time the bell rang the dog got his meal, and after a while, the dog started salivating as soon as he heard the bell, even without seeing the food.

The same is true with sexual stimuli. It's not that there's anything special about a woman's body. Whether she is wearing clothes or not, she is nothing but flesh and veins, just like me and you. And every child knows that and sees absolutely nothing special about females (girls have cooties, right?). But as we got older and learned to associate females and images of females with pleasure, the mere sight of a woman, even fully dressed, became difficult for us to resist.

Understanding this can be helpful. Knowing that there is really nothing there can help us internalize the reality of the lies our brains tell us and help us avoid looking in the first place. It's just years of association, of having drunk in what we saw to pleasure ourselves, that solidified the reward pathways in our brains and causes us to experience the pain of desire every time a female walks by.

Yes, now that we are conditioned that way, we must avoid the gazing as much as possible. Once we look, the lie is too strong for us to overcome with logic alone. Yet understanding how our brains became conditioned can help us in our determination not to look and be taken in by these lies.

Let's not be like Pavlov's dog, salivating over nothing but a bell's ring!