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Scott Brassart

The world can be a negative place. If we’re not careful, we can easily find ourselves thinking about the downside (or potential downside) of every person, place, and situation in which we find ourselves. Sometimes, we can take this negativity and run with it, engaging in endless rumination, developing resentments, and just plain watching the world burn (in our minds).

I call this disasturbation. With disasturbation, we find ourselves living in the (potential) wreckage of the future. It doesn’t matter how unlikely our imagined worst-case scenario actually is, we think about it. Often for hours on end. Over time, our constant negativity can become a type of addiction – a behavior that we use to escape reality. So what if reality is not as bad as what we’re imagining?

For us, disaster lurks around every corner and there is nothing we can do about it. Sure, maybe somebody will step in and rescue us, but that’s not likely. And even if someone does rescue us, they probably won’t be there to save us at the next corner, around which an even bigger danger surely lurks. Because that’s just how life is. At least, that’s how life is for chronic disasturbators.

When we disasturbate, we can move ourselves (in our minds) from perfectly OK to homeless, friendless, and dying in a ditch with dirty underwear. (In case you’re wondering where that last bit came from, I’ll tell you that dying in a ditch while clad in dirty undergarments is my mother’s #1 fear and she passed it along to me. So, you know, thanks Mom.) My point here is that disasturbation is a miserable experience.

But still, we do it. We can’t seem to help ourselves. Why? Maybe it’s because the intensity of disasturbation gets us out of our heads the same way that the intensity of an addiction gets us out of our heads. If we’re focused on impending doom, it’s hard for us to worry about the in-the-moment issues that we’d rather not deal with. Instead of paying our bills, we disasturbate. Instead of taking the car in for service, we disasturbate. Instead of going to the doctor for our annual checkup, we disasturbate (typically ruminating about the life-threatening illness our physician is almost certain to uncover).

So what can we do to stop disasturbating? First and foremost, we can stop living in the wreckage of the future and start living in the moment. Because usually, whatever we’re using disasturbation to escape is not nearly as bad as disasturbation itself. For me, this means asking, “Where are my feet?” That tiny trick forces me to pay attention to where I am and what I need to be doing at any given moment. I also find that meditation, mindfulness, yoga, breathwork, and other grounding techniques are helpful.

Additional useful tools include:

  • Gratitude: In my experience, creating a ten-item gratitude list is a great way to counteract disasturbation. Research actually agrees with this tactic, finding that happy people are grateful people, and grateful people are happy people. It doesn’t matter what a person has (or doesn’t have), if that person is genuinely grateful, that person will also be happy.
  • Can (Rather Than Can’t): As disasturbators, we tend to fixate on what we cannot do while ignoring what we can do. This, of course, feeds our negative thinking. To counter, we must stop focusing on what we can’t do and start celebrating the things we can do. And then we must take action, actually doing the things we can When we do this, we develop what is known as obstacle immunity, meaning we learn how to face and overcome obstacles in our lives. Often, as we develop obstacle immunity, we find that we actually and enjoy facing and overcoming life’s challenges.
  • Affirmations – OK, you’re picturing Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live. I am too, and that’s fine. Because affirmations really are sort of corny. But they also work. They work especially well when they are worded in the present as if they are already true, rather than aspirational, and when they are stated aloud at least three times per day for a minimum of 30 days. I find that around the two-week mark they start to kick in and change my thinking. (If you struggle to come up with positive affirmations, I have provided a list of 60 good ones on the Seeking Integrity Treatment Center website. Click here to access that list.)

In all cases, it is wise to remember the words of Roman philosopher Seneca: “A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” Happiness occurs for us only when we are able to enjoy the present moment exactly as it is, rather than ruing the wreckage of our pasts or dreading the potential wreckage of our future. It is only when we feel satisfied with what we have that we experience true happiness.

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groupspodcasts, and more.