Husband Material

Blessing vs. Cursing Yourself & The Story Behind Your Porn (with Chris Bruno)

December 18, 2023 Drew Boa
Husband Material
Blessing vs. Cursing Yourself & The Story Behind Your Porn (with Chris Bruno)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

How do you shift from self-condemnation to self-compassion? Chris Bruno reveals how to discover the story behind your struggle with porn. You'll learn what it looks like to rediscover your true "masterpiece-ness" even in the throes of a porn relapse. Our deepest healing lies in turning to the God who knows and created us in His image.

Chris Bruno leads Restoration Project and ReStory Counseling, where he helps people come alive. He is a licensed professional counselor who has decades of experience helping men recover their hearts.

Chris is also a guest speaker at The Porn Free Man 2024 Online Conference on January 5-6, 2024! Learn more at thepornfreeman.com

Check out Chris' online courses at ReStory Labs

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Husband Material podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how let's go. Hey man, today's interview with Chris Bruno was unbelievable. The level of kindness and compassion and tenderness in this conversation is truly worth your time. This episode gives you an opportunity to allow yourself to consider what it might look like to bring blessing, rather than cursing, to your sexuality and to the story behind your porn. Chris and I talk about what it looks like to relate to yourself with an awareness of your story and the many stories of your life that have shaped your sexuality, and how to bring blessing instead of cursing to yourself. This is incredibly refreshing. Enjoy it. Welcome to Husband Material. Today, I'm hanging out with Chris Bruno, founder of Restory Counseling and the Restory Universe and the author of a few great books, including Sage. Welcome back to the show.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's so good to be with you, drew. Thanks for having me on again.

Speaker 1:

I'm really excited to have you here and to be speaking at the upcoming porn-free man conference. Today will be a preview of that, talking about the story behind your porn, chris. What does it mean to have a story of porn?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think a lot of times, Drew, when people think about the story of porn, they just start thinking about like how did it start, what does it look like, what is that road been like since they began using? And I want to invite people to consider that there's something even before that. It's more about how you got on that road than what that road has looked like since you began. So the story behind your porn is really what it looked like for you to begin and not even begin using porn. But what was life like before porn presented itself as an option?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and when you use the word story, I know sometimes you talk about two stories. What are those two stories?

Speaker 2:

Well, the way I talk about it is, there is a first story and a second story. The second story is the one that we are most likely living today, in our everyday world. It is the story that occupies our minds, it is the behaviors, it is the actions, it is who we are in our brokenness. But the fact is that we weren't designed that way, we weren't created that way. There is an original design, original masterpiece of who God made us to be, and that is the first story. That is the more true, more ancient, more original story of who you were when you and all of us were thoughts in the mind of God. He thought up a beautiful masterpiece, a piece of handiwork that he's like this is good, this is beautiful, this is right and this needs. This man, this woman, needs to exist. Because I love them so much, I love the masterpiece and so I'm going to breathe life into this masterpiece. That's the first story and that is the more, like I said, the more ancient, the more true, the more original story. However, as we enter into the world, as we enter into life, the second, broken, trauma, abuse, sinful story begins to overwrite the first, and that, I think, is when I think about the story before your porn or the story behind your porn. It is who are you meant to be? And then how has another second story kind of taken over?

Speaker 1:

I wonder if some guys might be thinking gosh, I know that second story very well, but that first story sounds strange. I mean, how do you discover your masterpiece-ness? Oh yeah.

Speaker 2:

Man, I will say this it is a journey. I think the beginning of the journey is even to imagine that it exists, that you have to actually open the possibility that there could be something more, that could be something deeper. And the way that I love to talk about it, and one of the taglines here at Restory Counseling, is that there is a story deeper still and that comes from CS Lewis and some of the work that he did with the Chronicles of Narnia. And there's one scene in the first book, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Aslan comes back to life and the girls Lucy and Susan are like how did this happen? How did this happen? And the phrase that he uses there is that there was a magic deeper still, that evil did not know, that only God knew. And I feel like, if we can open our imagination to there are things that we don't know, that still live and reside within the mind and heart of God, like that, I think, is the beginning of that road. And then, drew, it is a journey. It is a journey of wonder, it is a journey of discovery, it is a journey of counseling, it is a journey of telling stories, it is a journey of listening to stories of other people and kind of wondering with them like where, how might we actually be living in a space where those first stories could exist?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and finding those glimpses of each other's glory.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I love that word the glimpses. As we live in the world, that is the most that we're going to get glimpses, and maybe we can rub a little bit of the dirt and smudge off of the masterpiece to kind of see what's behind it as we begin to hope that God will help us recover and regain that. But we'll just get glimpses and I think biblically that's what it talks about, that we will see only darkly really, what is actually true until we are fully revealed and redeemed.

Speaker 1:

When I was first beginning to heal the trauma in my life even before I knew the word trauma and before I knew what that meant this wise, sage woman told me Drew, I feel like you're kind of like Martin Luther, who thought that he was really a pile of poop with snow on top, like I'm just this wretched sinful core with a nice little covering from Jesus on top. That makes God like me. And she asked me, drew, if you imagine what's under the poop? Cause there's something deeper still, and the image that came into my mind was a big heart. Underneath it all, there was something good to reclaim, and that was a huge moment for me. It was a moment of blessing, something that you talk about instead of cursing.

Speaker 2:

Well, I love that image. It's a hard image, pile of poop with snow on top, and a good one, and so good. Here's what I would say, drew, is that even if we have lived a life full of poop, we have never not been an image bearer of God. That has always been who we are. And so what is underneath all of that dirt, grime, poop, whatever you want to call it? There is an image bearing this to who you are, and you just said you know a big heart. It could be courage, it could be tenderness, it could be generosity, it could be hospitality, it could be anything that reflects who God himself is. You, we all I talk about it like we are a trillion sided diamond, that there are so many different facets to the glory of who God is, and he images himself uniquely into each and every one of us, and you as an individual, me as an individual, we've all, we've all always borne the image of God in some unique and beautiful way, and it is for us to discover. That's why I say it's. You know you use the word glimpses. Can I catch a glimpse of the reflection of God in you, and you and me? And so to bless versus to curse is to really look and imagine there is a side of that diamond underneath your poop and will you curse the poop or will you bless the diamond?

Speaker 1:

That's so good.

Speaker 2:

And I think so many of us, so many guys that I work with, are just like there's nothing about me other than that poop. There is nothing other. You know, there could not be any good within me, there could not be any image in me, and I wanna say that's actually not true. It's actually not true.

Speaker 1:

You've never not borne the image of God, hey man, chris, can you give an example of what it might look like, or what it has looked like, to bless the?

Speaker 2:

diamond. I think I would go into my own life and my own story with regard to some of that and some of the work that I've done for myself, and even some of the story behind your porn kind of idea. There's stories behind everything. It's not just behind your porn. There's stories behind your work. There are stories behind how you relate in the world. There are stories behind who you are as a man and how you became that man. You know, in the last podcast we talked about you know who is the boy within the man and all that. So I feel like, as I think about my own life, it took some work for me to imagine that some of the ways that I became and I won't go into all the stories, but some of the ways I became conscripted by my family of origin to kind of contend with or tend to my mother, my father, my sister in ways that they required of me. I was the youngest in the family and so all three of them required something of me to take care of them, to tend to their emotions, to help contain them, to help guide them when they would get dysregulated, when they would go, you know, into some places of chaos. It required me to tend to them, so it was a conscription of my goodness in order to contain their chaos. That part of me is actually a place that is representative of the glory of God. To bless that rather than be like. Why do I always do this? Why do I always have to, you know, step into these places? Why do people always need that of me? And I hate that part of me and I hate that. You know what that has cost me. It is part of my trauma. It is part of my you know, even you know tragedies. It is part of how I relate to the world. I have, in my life, hated that part of me until I can begin to look at it and go like, actually, actually, that has been used against me, but it is part of the very gifting of who God has made me to be, and so how can I bring that differently, rather than hate that part of me? And I can see, as I've hated that part of me, how I've tried to medicate that part of me, how I've tried to step away from that, how I've tried to be not generous and kind and contending and instead be like all you know, powerful and strong, and you know push through, which is actually stepping away and divorcing myself of myself so that I could be something I'm actually not Like. Those are just blessing. That part of me has been a big part of my journey.

Speaker 1:

It seems like our unique suffering is often very connected to our unique superpowers.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, I don't think they're very connected, I think they're absolutely connected. And if we can get into, like, the story behind your porn, we've got to come not just to, like I said, the journey from when it began until now and the challenge, the struggle, the suffering, the sobriety, the lack of sobriety, like all that stuff that you've had since then, but, like I want to invite people to consider, like, who was the boy? What was happening for him? What was happening for him in the world, what was happening for him inside of him? What was happening for him in the family? What was happening for him with his friends, his own concept of God, himself, others, what was going on, what is the greater narrative that was happening for the boy when the first exposure to pornography presented itself? And I would love to wonder with men, what is it like for us to not hate that boy for saying yes to porn but actually honor him for what was happening in his life? And maybe there is actually a kernel, a nugget, a glimpse of goodness that is still there, that in some ways needed it to survive, needed it to escape, needed it to find some level of goodness in that moment when he first found it. There is a story there that led him to it. And rather than hate and hold contempt for that boy, what would it look like for us to actually have some generosity towards him?

Speaker 1:

And that requires more work, which is why we're gonna do a whole session on it at the upcoming conference. If you guys wanna taste what that's like or get into it, come to Chris's session and let's go there together and let's wrestle with this. So with that in mind, it's really not about porn. Porn was just the sexual solution that made the most sense to us when we were boys. Maybe it was the only available solution. What are we actually addicted to when we keep using porn?

Speaker 2:

Well, you just said the words the sexual solution, and I would wanna modify that to being the emotional solution. So in Romans, chapter eight, paul talks about the groan and there is the groan of the earth and there is the groan that each one of us experience in life because we live in a broken and fallen world and we were not designed for a broken and fallen world. We were designed for the kingdom of God. But we live in this broken and fallen world and therefore we groan. And so, to answer your question, drew, I think we go to porn to medicate and find relief for the groan. We want more than we can have. Our desires, as CS Lewis back to CS Lewis, he talks about desires are not too big, too weak. We settle for something that medicates the groan, just enough to make it another day. As boys, it was an emotional solution to, or it was a solution to, our emotional anxiety, it was emotional disconnection, it was our emotional sense of loss, it was our emotional confusion. Porn is an emotional solution and it's a solution to that groan. So that's why we keep going back, because we keep groaning, we keep groaning and we will until the end of our days and I think, actual healing and moving out of a porn addiction is to find alternatives that help us walk through the experience of groan. How can we still groan in a different and wholesome and healthy way?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Well, like how you said, walk through the groan, because there's a part of me that just wants to get rid of the groan.

Speaker 2:

All of us wants to get rid of the groan. Yeah, that's just what we want. We don't want to live there, but we can't, and so we need to learn how to navigate it. We need to learn how to walk through it.

Speaker 1:

Porn is a pacifier and when we remove the pacifier, that little kid is not gonna like it. Yeah, yeah, he's gonna groan, we're gonna groan. And in that place we have the opportunity to write a new story. How do you do that?

Speaker 2:

And return to the more true story and return to that first story that we talked about, and this gets into a whole other categories that we talked about. This gets into a whole other categories. But to groan and to grieve and to sit with those negative emotions doesn't mean to wallow in them, but it's to acknowledge them and it's to then turn to the one who actually, who actually tends to us, who actually sees us, who knows us, who knows that first story, designed that first story, that masterpiece, and have a sense of like. I need to go to actually the source of life. Every addiction, whether it's porn or something else, every addiction is going to something, someone or some process that we turn to for relief in life. And if we can instead learn to turn to the one who actually has life within him, that, I think, is how we navigate the crawler.

Speaker 1:

Which sometimes happens through another person, uh-huh 100%. And experiencing God through someone who knows me and truly cares and listens.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I'm sure I mean in the realm of addiction I'm sure you and others have talked about, and the the Johann Hari has this famous, you know, ted Talk, where he talks about the opposite of addiction is addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection. And so I feel like what we're talking about here in what you just said, is to experience the face of God and to experience the goodness and glory of God through the face of another. If we can find connection both with ourselves, with others, with God, that ultimately is where we're going to find healing and wholeness and relief from the addiction. Uh and uh, and not just sobriety, but like, like Johann talks about, uh, connection, Cause the gospel is a gospel of wholeness, it is a gospel where, where God comes to be with us and us with him and with one another, that, when we have connection, that's where we're going to find actual, you know, transformation in the places of our addictions.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's so true. And you also talked about connection with yourself. Mm-hmm, that is a huge part of story work, yeah, and and really beginning to understand also the specifics and the particulars, maybe, why particular types of porn promise something to my heart. Mm-hmm, why do some men find themselves attracted to things they don't actually want? Mm-hmm, you know, and I'm specifically thinking of a lot of guys in the husband material community don't identify as gay, yet also experienced same sex attraction or attraction to gay porn.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, I am so glad you brought that up because it is. It is both a, uh, extremely complicated conversation and it is a very common conversation. You know, again, I think every addiction is not actually about the thing. If you're addicted to, you know, you're sitting down at the end of a hard day and you, you know, sit on the couch, watch binge Netflix and you eat a whole gallon of ice cream. It's not actually about the ice cream and it's not actually about the, the Netflix and the binging, whatever. So, when it comes to the types and kinds of pornography that we find ourselves drawn to, we find ourselves continually going back to. I think the question has to be what's the story behind that type, that draw, that need, that fetish, that sense of you know, like, whether it's gay porn or something else, like what is, what is the story behind there? And I and I, just again, rather than stepping into places of contempt or I hate it, or you know, like I do the things I do not want to do and the things I want to do I do not do, like all of that, that battle that Paul invites us into, is like, let's just pause for a moment and wonder what is it not that your body, your brain is addicted to? But what is it that your heart is longing for? Back to the word grown. What are you groaning for? Is it the sex? Probably not. It's something about what's behind it that you're longing for. Is it a sense of connection with other men? Is it a sense of power? Is it a sense of strength? Is it a sense of face? Are you looking for the face of a woman? Are you looking for the face of a man? Is there something about the, the, the body that feels lacking for you? Is there a sense of longing to, to have a good, strong masculine embrace? What is the story behind all of that? And rather than have contempt for the fetish, the porn, the constant place you go back to, what would it look like for you to be kind to the grown? What would it look like for you to actually bless the longing rather than hate the longing for where it has habitually and historically taken you, and wonder about the story, Wonder about the story for the boy who first found it, who first longed for it and found a pacifier in it for the heart grown that he had. So that's where I begin to go. Like I said, it's a complicated conversation and there's far more to it, for sure, but I think that'd be the beginning of some wondering.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's the trailhead.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And for each one of us it'll take a different shape, and we are going to ambitiously create space at the conference for us to Wonder about those things.

Speaker 2:

yeah, Talk about them together.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and I also just want to recommend Restory Counseling and some of their courses. You guys have an online course about this too, right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean we've got several different ones. One is the Restory course, where it's not specifically about pornography but it is really inviting people to wonder about that first story and some of the approach that we take here. And then there's a rewire course around pornography. There is another one about how to sit with other people in the context of their stories. So we've got several different things there.

Speaker 1:

Awesome, and if you guys want to get started, probably the best way to do that would be to join us in early January, which will be a great experience and we'll be doing it together live.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's going to be great Love for you to join us, drew. You talk about blessing and cursing and some of those, and that's one of the things that I am hugely passionate about and so much of who we are as men. I fully believe that God has. Why don't you use the word superpower earlier, that one of the superpowers that God has given us uniquely as men, not to diminish what it is for women, and especially for women listening to this, please do not hear that as a diminishment, but one of the places that I feel like God has given us and gifted us the superpower to bring life is in our words. There is something about the life-giving nature of words, and in all throughout the scriptures it talks about the words of a father bringing blessing or cursing, and I think then, we, as men, like we, need to hold responsibility for what words we bring, and, specifically in the conversation about pornography, the words we bring to our own selves, the words we bring to our own selves and so you talk about that pile of poop. What words do we bring to ourselves? Is it a curse towards us? Is it a curse towards our behavior? Is it a curse towards what got us into this. Is it a curse towards our relapse? Is it a curse towards our struggle? Is it a curse towards the type of porn that we like? How often do we actually bring words, whether they're out loud spoken or not words of cursing to ourselves? And I would just invite us to wonder what would it look like for us to begin to transform the cursing into blessing. Even just you use the word pause a couple of times, like what's it like for us just to pause, take a breath and then, in the pause, allow for there to be a moment of blessing and even if it's just, I'm not going to curse that is the trailhead of blessing, that is the beginning of blessing. Like I'm just not gonna curse, okay, and slow it down and just wonder like where might there be a possibility of goodness here? Where might I actually join God in his blessing of me and not turn against me? And you might not be able to like fully, fully bless, like that's okay, just take a moment to pause, take a breath and wonder all right, I just relapsed, and rather than stepping into the place of curse, I'm just gonna take a pause and go like hey, buddy, no wonder, no wonder, your heart is longing and groaning for something, and you've known the pathway towards porn and you relapsed. So what would it look like for you just to say, okay, the groan has been medicated by porn in the past, and that doesn't mean that your groan is bad. Let's just pause here. Can I bless the groan? Thank you, body for groaning, thank you heart for groaning, thank you, mind for groaning. And now let's step back on the pathway to healing. That's all. That's a blessing, right? That's a shift away from the curse, and I think that's an important thing for us to consider.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, that's such a great picture of repentance Cause. Sometimes repentance for people sounds like I have to grovel and admit that I am a worm, totally unworthy, don't deserve anything good and there's something true in there, and yet it's very different from what you're modeling right now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love that you brought the word repentance, because Paul in the scriptures is brilliant. I mean he just says and I'm gonna add lib a little bit and add to it and then come back to the actual scripture he does not say groveling leads to repentance, cursing leads to repentance, hatred right, he doesn't say it. You know, airing your grievances leads to repentance. No, it's kindness, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And so in that moment where we do need to acknowledge, like I have just stepped away from his goodness and design for me in a relapse or in some you know use of something, or even if it's in an angry word, like I have stepped away from the goodness of God, can I join instead his kindness towards me rather than what I assumed to be his hatred of me? God is actually saying oh, buddy, I have so much more for you. Come back, come home, come home, rather than you worm. You don't deserve to come back to me. You know 50 lashes for you. Like that is not the God that we have. It is the kindness of God that leads us actually to true repentance. It is another worry of putting that it is the blessing of God, not his cursing that leads us to repentance.

Speaker 1:

I love that so much. For me that's always been way more powerful than any kind of behavior management. Absolutely Slapping a rubber band on my wrist when I masturbate. It's so sad, but that's actually being taught.

Speaker 2:

I know it is. I know it is. It's not the way yeah.

Speaker 1:

There's a much better way, and I hope you guys are getting to glimpse that and taste that, even in this conversation. Yeah, yeah, man, chris, this has been awesome. Thank you so much.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely Well. Good to be with you, drew. Thanks for having me on again Looking forward to the conference and you guys join us.

Speaker 1:

Please do and go down to the links in the show notes for more information about Chris and Restory. In the upcoming conference, gentlemen, always remember you are God's beloved son. In you he is well-pleased MUSIC PLAYS.

Discovering the Stories Behind Your Porn
Addiction and Emotional Solutions Connection
Power of Words

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