First off, let me state that this is not a product of my own thought. The original concept was developed by a well respected Licensed Professional Councilor who does a LOT of great work to help men defeat sex and pornography addictions. His information can be found at www.sonsofhelaman.org and I’ve enjoyed my association with him immensely. His knowledge of the science of brain chemistry combined with some great spiritual insight is the inspiration for this idea.
I also owe a lot to a very close friend who helped me take these ideas and refine them a bit to apply to all our daily battles, not just those dealing with the Law of Chastity (though I feel pretty confident that a great many men have struggles with this law in various forms…, whether they want to admit it or not). He also helped me to establish gospel doctrinal basis’ for every concept taught in this information.
If you missed the post on WHY WE FIGHT, I suggest you read that first so you can understand why the Lord refers to us as “warriors” and why we face the drastic choice of “Fight or Die”.
With that introduction: let’s talk about The Attack!
Sun Tzu was a great Chinese general who wrote a book known today as “The Art Of War”, in it he dissects various aspects of warfare and analyzes what one must to do be the victor in conflict. While this book was written over 2300 years ago, it’s principles are so applicable today that it is required study at military academies around the world. (There are many free copies of this available on the internet and I’d strongly encourage any of you to obtain a copy of this book and read it with a spiritual eye.)
Among his timeless principles is the idea that you need to know and understand your enemy if you wish to defeat him. You need an understanding of how he will act, react and adjust his battle so that you can anticipate his moves.
This is just as true in spiritual battles.
Satan has been waging war on all that is good and holy for thousands of years. He has billions of spirits at his command and throughout the history of the world, he has won many significant victories. In times past, he has sought to kill and destroy the lives of good men…like Moses, Abraham, Nephi, John the Baptist, Joseph Smith…even Jesus Christ! He was more blatant and all out in his attacks. He flattered men with power and riches to do his will, yet despite his success he has been unable to utterly destroy righteousness, and it continues to flourish and grow. This is something that causes him unending anger, frustration and torment. He HATES all that is good and wholesome. The more goodness spreads, the more he attempts to counter it with his enticings, lies and lures.
Over the generations, he has learned to be more subtle and engage in more covert tactics, luring away our hearts and souls more than trying to destroy our bodies. He’s found that if he can get his hooks into us in a more gentle fashion, we become willing minions to do his bidding. His tactics have moved from large scale warfare to more personalized 'gorilla warfare'.
Remember this important key: there is no bargaining with him. This is an all or nothing…FIGHT or DIE…kind of deal. We can’t make treaties, we can’t negotiate. There is no such thing as ‘diplomacy’ when it comes to dealing with Satan.
To understand his strategy, we need to look at some science to illustrate how he does this with so much subtlety in our minds, how the process works and ultimately, what we can do to stop it.
Fellow Warriors, your training has begun… “What say ye my son’s…will ye go to battle?” Alma 56:44
For purpose of this lesson, I’m going to use the law of chastity and battling pornography as our basis for the laws that we are most tempted to break. I feel pretty safe in saying that this is a great source of temptation for a great many men:
“The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. This will be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the elders of Israel than any other” – Joseph Smith – Journal of Discourses 8:55
While I will speak to the Law of Chastity, this process applies to all temptations, and I encourage you to learn as much about this tactic as you can.
Let’s start off with a look at your Brain…(the science)
The human brain is a complex ‘super-computer’ made up of tissues and chemicals that interact to create what we think, what we do and who we are. In the process we are looking at, we need to be aware of two specific regions:
The Frontal Lobe, also known as the “values center” for the brain. This is where most rational thought occurs and is also where you make decisions based on your values.
The Middle Brain or Animal brain. This area is more related to ‘reaction’ and instinct. The information processed here is based in the natural animalistic parts of nature: things like desire to sleep, eat and reproduce occur here. Very little rational thought goes on in this area.
When thoughts are occurring in the brain, scientists have been able to map and monitor the activity and determine where that processing is occurring. So if you are thinking clearly and making decisions based on logical, values-based thoughts, the activity is happening in the frontal lobe. If you are simply reacting, or having more base and animalistic thoughts, the activity is occurring in the middle brain region. When the majority of activity is occurring in the middle brain people are more likely to do things that contradict their values…because they aren’t considering their values at the time. Only after the activity is over will activity resume in the frontal lobe and then people experience what we call “Guilt” because they have done something that contradicts what they value.
This has been shown when people are exposed to pornography and the activity of their brain moves from the values center to the middle brain. With more exposure, the activity in the values brain decreases and the animal brain takes over.
Over the generations, Satan has learned how to manipulate this process to his advantage and he uses that advantage as much as possible. Would you like to know how he’s doing this to me and you all the time?
The Satanic SPIN
It is a process called “The Satanic Spin”. Here is what he does. Since he cannot read your mind or see what is actually going on in there, he only has your behavior and what you say to go on. He can only stimulate us and observe our reaction. So throughout the day he provides us with ‘flashes’ to see how we will react. Those ‘flashes’ are things that surround us all day long. We see them in all forms of media, advertising, posters, internet sites, books,…you name it. We are surrounded by it. Little seeds of thought that if we are unguarded take hold in our minds. In the case of the Laws of Chastity…I don’t really think that I need to outline just how pervasive our society is with the flaunting of this principle. Any red-blooded man will tell you that a simple walk through your local mall is a minefield of disaster waiting to happen. Storefront ads, catalogs, fashion styles, public behavior…all add up to thousands of opportunities for incorrect thoughts to take hold in our minds.
Once this initial flash occurs, there is dump of chemicals that occurs in our brains. This chemistry is a cocktail of various chemicals that include: dopamine, noepineprhine, oxytocin and serotonin. This chemistry arouses thoughts and feelings in us.
With that arousal, our brain then access’ the ‘database’ of “Where did I feel this before” or “what is this that I’m feeling?”.
Your brain seeks to make sense of the feeling so it looks for other items that have caused similar responses. In our example of the law of chastity, your brain will recall other images or thoughts that aroused that feeling in us before. This causes another ‘flash’ to the brain, and more of the chemistry to be dumped into your brain and the cycle has begun. The more of the chemical that stimulates your brain, the more activity begins to move to that animal part of your brain that will lead you to do things that contradict your values.
Satan knows that this is how it works, and he provides the stimulus, the catalyst, for the process, then he sits back and watches the result as we proceed to behave in a way that contradicts our values. Then when we’ve lost the battle, and we feel guilt and remorse, he hits us again…convincing us that since we are terrible and wasted, we might as well keep indulging in that poor behavior because that is all we are good for. This is how he creates a level of addiction and his hooks begin to take hold.
Again, it’s important to note that he cannot see inside our minds or control our thoughts. He is manipulating the environment we are in to cause the reaction he is hoping for.
You see how he lies, cheats and deceives us from the get go?
The truly devious part of this tactic is that often we are unaware that we are being ‘flashed’ until that brain chemistry is already at dangerous levels.
This graph shows how those levels affect us.
When this process is initiated we are at a 1 or 2 level and the only thing that we are really aware of is that we are ‘antsy’ or uncomfortable. Many experts refer to this as being in the B.L.A.S.T. zone. B.L.A.S.T. stands for Bored, Lazy, Angry, Sad or Tired. This is when Satan is beginning his attack. To the untrained person, this does not signal danger until you hit a level 3. At level 3 is when you are most likely to become aware that something is going on…but by this point, there is already enough of the ‘deviant’ chemistry in your brain, that you aren’t likely to do much about it. It is at this point that you become aware that you are being tempted to do things that contradict your values, but you are not very likely to stop yourself.
Too often the advice given to us to fight this urge is to “Sing a hymn” or recite a favorite scripture. Unfortunately, when your brain activity has moved from ‘values’ processing to the ‘animal’ brain…you simply are not going to do this…nor do you WANT TO. It is similar to being stoned on drugs. You are not thinking straight any more.
From this point, as more chemistry is dumped into your brain, you hit the 4 level…where you know you should not proceed, but you justify that ‘once won’t hurt’ or that ‘I’m not harming anyone else’ and you willingly move to the level 5 where you pretty much hit the point of no return and quickly descend to a 10 where you have lost the battle. That lost battle is when you act in a manner that is contradictory to your values. The bottom line is that once you have engaged in the activity, you will feel guilt about it and remorse once you are thinking properly again.
At this point you may ask…so what’s the point? It seems as if I’m doomed to lose these battles. As a man, it’s definitely tough. I think that Satan has gone to great lengths to make a world where we are so surrounded and inundated with sexual stimulus that we are perpetually at about a 2 in our brain chemistry. It seems that we can’t get away from it.
SO what is a guy to do?
The good news is that there is an antidote to this poison that we are being hit with. The next installment will show you how to access it and what to do with it.
Til then, practice being aware of where your brain chemistry is. Think about it, pray to be aware of it. Consider what makes it go up, what is it that hits you the hardest. Identify these things, WRITE THEM DOWN in your warrior journal. Pay very close attention to how it makes you feel. This is crucial to being able to fight it and get out of the fog of war.
Keep up the good fight! We are in this together.
NO FEAR – NO WHINING – NO REGRETS