Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Two Brains

One of the most powerful things I have learned through my counselor is the psychological underpinnings of addiction. I learned why I always felt like there were two 'me's'. The me who wanted more than anything to get away from and defeat my addiction, and the me who was powerless to control myself when faced with temptations. The answer was in my two brains.

No, I don't really have two brains. What I do have is two parts to my brain, the limbic system, and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is responsible for survival. It is concerned with making sure we get the things we need to survive (food, water, air, shelter, etc.). The limbic systems main goals are to avoid pain and seek pleasure. The prefrontal cortex on the other hand is the rational part of the brain. This is the area of the brain where morals and values are processed. This is the part of the brain that processes right and wrong.

These two parts of the brain can be compared to the natural man and the spirit. King Benjamin teaches us:
 "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)
This is what has become powerful to me in my recovery. The goal is not to fight the natural main. The goal is to "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit". Many of my challenges and failings have been that I was trying to fight the natural man, I was trying to fight my limbic system. The limbic system perceives this as a threat and tries to replace the pain of fighting with something pleasurable. For me that pleasurable thing was pornography and masturbation.

In trying to fight against my addiction, I was actually reinforcing it. I cannot fight my addiction. It is stronger and more skilled at fighting. Instead of fighting, I need to "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit." I need to become a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

For me, this means I no longer fight when I am faced with temptations, triggers, challenges, or whatever term you want to use for them. Instead, I acknowledge them and choose to walk away. This is the beauty of my two brains. While the limbic system is very good at trying to get me to seek pleasure and avoid pain, it requires the permission of the prefrontal cortex to actually make any part of my body physically move. The natural man requires the permission of the spirit to be able to act. My challenge then is to strengthen my spirit so it has the power to say "I understand you want to do that, but I choose to yield to the Holy Spirit."

I choose to not fight, but instead to walk away from my addiction and into the arms of My Savior Jesus Christ.

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