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How can I get rid of my scarred past??

the.guard Thursday, 20 February 2020
How can I get rid of my scarred past??

I'm reaching out because I'm stuck. Because of so many years of acting out, every woman I now see is an object. For the past 4 yrs, I've been living in hell. Granted I didn't work on shmiras einayim till recently and i've finally made a kabala not to watch porn a few months ago, but the damage is done. When I look at a woman, the first thing I notice are her body parts. Even when trying to be shomer einayim and all I see is a quick passing glance of a woman, her body is what I notice automatically and my mind is racing. It's almost inevitable. I can't have a functional conversation with a woman for any reason without noticing things about her and only if I exert a tremendous amount of energy to try to not continue looking or thinking abt her then maybe I stand a chance. Let me stress: I got rid of my smartphone, made a kabbala not to watch porn, haven't masturbated in over 2 months and try very hard not to look at women when I'm out and about. Yet after all this, the damage of my past is still done, the images are engraved in my head, I have trouble getting rid of the thoughts of my past actions and sights, and my objectification of women is still there. I'm scared for my future in terms of kedusha and scared for my marriage. How can I move on??

Yaakov replies:

There are no magic answers. This kind of damage over many years of acting out really can be long-term. But the good news is, that the more time we stay clean and work on shmiras einayim, the easier it gets; It really does. We have to believe this and keep the faith.

I’d also like to share two attitude tips that I think can be very helpful:

1) We must realize that every day and every moment is completely new. As the pasuk says in Tehillim, “Ani Hayom Yeliditicha - I gave birth to you TODAY”. Even though we have memories and baggage from the past, we need to view ourselves as if we were born right now - with that challenge. Whatever happened in the past is totally not in my hands anymore.

It’s all about acceptance. When a cripple who has lost a leg refuses to accept his situation, he will never be able to get past it and lead a functional life. But when he accepts his disability and learns to live with it--and in spite of it, he can go on to accomplish great things!

It’s the same here. We can’t change the past. We need to accept that we have these memories and those experiences in our minds and that it really does make it hard for us to be out there in the world, speak to women, etc… But as soon as we accept that we are sort of “crippled” in this sense and accept our limitations, we can ask ourselves “What can I do to make the most of my life in spite of this limitation?”

2) Ever since Adam ate from the Eitz Hadaas and was banished from Gan Eden, life is FULL of toil, disappointments and unexpected tragedies (adam le'amal yulad and suffering is inevitable). But our Torah tells us that we get to choose how we suffer. Let's say we knew that every time we gave in to lust we would suffer a misfortune in our lives c”v, like we would get very sick, or a child would get sick, or our shalom bayis would suddenly suffer, or we would lose a few thousand dollars, whatever... Now, if we truly believe that Hashem gives us the choice in this world to choose how we toil and suffer then we can find the inner strength to turn away from lust. As the pasuk says: אשרי הגבר אשר תיסרנו י-ה ומתורתך תלמדנו. The way I understanding the pasuk is: Fortunate is the one who's suffering is through the keeping of the Torah and not through other ways. This attitude can be very helpful in helping us accept the pain of turning away from lust. Yes it hurts, but how lucky we are to take pain in such a way--through avodas Hashem, and not get it in much worse ways c”v.