A Complete Beginner's Guide to NoFap
As NoFap grows, I see a lot of newcomers posting questions in the new section, many of which go unanswered; and many questions that are answered hundreds of times over. I thought 1) to help members' efforts go where they have maximal impact and 2) to expose everyone to the cumulative knowledge of this sub
(rather than just the more limited set of things that the vast majority agree on), it would be good to create a post detailing the what, why, and how of NoFap, covering the many different philosophies people have about this. Some of this information is covered in the sidebar, but I intend for this to be much more comprehensive. My intention is for this to be a community generated, constantly evolving document: I would like for people to comment with any suggestions-- things you'd like to add, modify, or get rid of.
Now, I have broken this up into three sections and perhaps as this grows, further subdivisions will be needed. So far, it is just "what", "why", and "how". I would also like to add two more sections: “resources” and “what you can expect”, but I will leave it to others to help supply material for these. In the “what you can expect” section, I would like to cover which benefits arise and when they do in the general experience of this (though it is different for everyone, I think there are some patterns).
NoFap is fundamentally about abstaining from either porn or masturbation for any period of time. I would define porn as any artificial media (including fantasizing for me, but that’s up to you) that you knowingly use to sexually stimulate yourself; and masturbation as any intentional physical stimulation outside of sex with your partner (sexting etc is a tricky issue—I personally wouldn’t bother with it; furthermore, some people have to avoid sex as well for some period of time in order to overcome issues such as PIED; and others simply believe in celibacy).
Beyond this premise, there is significant variation in the userbase. Some believe that porn and/or masturbation are only issues when you're addicted (i.e. when you do it compulsively even though it is overall having a negative effect on your life); others believe that porn is bad no matter what, and that masturbation is fine in moderation. Still others believe that porn and masturbation are negative in any amounts. This is all for you to figure out for yourselves. I will say that with this habit in particular, it is hard to know without trying it, given that, at least for most of us, our minds are disposed to grasp on to any workable rationalization; and given that it is low risk and at least potentially (as is attested to by many) high reward, the arguments against giving it a fair shot are unconvincing. However, it is for you to decide what constitutes a fair shot.
I would like to clarify here that, if I can speak for the community at large, our beliefs stem from neither dogma nor prudishness (sex-negativism). We do not ask anyone to believe anything that they cannot validate for themselves via direct experience; the motto of this sub could be "see for yourself". For the vast majority of us, the only reason we do this is because it improves our lives on the whole.
Many of the potential benefits are entirely subjective and come with (sometimes a lot of) time, though some see results in just a few days. It varies for everyone. But because of this, it may require you to take a leap of faith and continue with abstaining even though it might be difficult in the short term. As I said before, it is a very low risk and potentially high reward thing, and many attest that it has changed their lives.
Why porn and masturbation are considered negative:
This is the central question: do any of P/M/O make you truly happy? This is something you’ll have to spend a lot of time thinking about. In life I have found there are a lot of things that appear good on the surface that have negative side effects. I'd say the idea of maturity reduces down to learning to overcome the temptation for instant gratification at the expense of greater long-term fulfillment.
Now, we all know the positive aspects of porn and masturbation, and they are very easily understood because they appeal to a basic nature that we all have. But what about the negatives? These are more subtle and require experience and a broader perspective to really grasp. You'll have to learn it from your own experience, but what follows constitutes a conceptual framework that may help you to understand the other sides of the issue. See which arguments make sense to you. If you choose to continue with nofap, revisit some of these arguments and see if your perspective on them has changed. It might be interesting to write out your thoughts on each at different stages so that you can compare.
So, what are the negatives of porn? The basic premise underlying many of these arguments is the simple fact that you become what you do. Put another way, the things you do shape who you are, what you want, your perspective, and how you feel.
- When you watch porn, you are reinforcing the desires it appeals to. Because of this, watching porn makes you crave porn more. A simple argument is that if you do not need it in your life, why create the desire for it? It is for many a colossal waste of time. The idea is that it would be better to spend your time and energy on things that ‘grow’ your life, rather than on dead-end, fleeting pleasures. A question this raises is whether porn adds anything to your life except a temporary respite from this craving (only to be followed by a strengthened craving). I find that having not watched porn for many years, it does not have nearly the same appeal to me, so it does not appear to me that it does add anything to my life. When you finish to a porn video, don't your feelings immediately switch from excitement to disgust-- like, 'why am I watching this?' ? This suggests to me that the momentary pleasure of pornography is artificially created and sustained by the habit itself.
- Following on this line of thinking, porn, by reinforcing certain desires, makes you want things you otherwise wouldn't want, or would want much, much less; and it does so at the expense of other aspects to sexuality. Part of this is because the excitement of porn is primarily about novelty-- think about why you need to keep finding new videos of different acts with different women. This drive for novelty causes you to watch things that you otherwise wouldn’t be attracted to, which subsequently become ‘wired’ into your ‘sexuality’. Many people find that they become attracted to violent, gay, or child porn and it takes an enormous toll on their lives; and after abstaining from pornography, many find that these fetishes lose significant power, or disappear entirely. Another component of this phenomenon is that because porn cannot provide intimacy and does not stimulate appreciation for anything but a sex-object conception of a woman, it changes your perspective to value superficial, novel things more. And because you are not reinforcing other desires surrounding sexuality, you gradually lose your ability to have a more balanced appreciation of sex and women. That's why sex becomes less fulfilling, and eventually guys would rather jerk it to porn than have sex with their partners.
- Building on the last point, pornography use affects your interpersonal relations in real life. this training is creating a powerful association between the stimulus of female body and sex act. But the key is that in porn, there's no courtship or conversation or anything that leads up to sex; and there's only sex, nothing else. It's just open the computer and sex. So you come to desire and expect sex and only sex from women, and you lose the desire/ability to appreciate other things about them. So when you're around women in real life, your brain is expecting sex, but it doesn't happen, and so you're left frustrated. And because you have wired yourself to only want/expect sex, there's nothing to do but pretend interest in the hopes of eventual sex. This creates a weird dynamic that leads to frustration and resentment, as well as shyness and awkwardness.
- This applies to both porn and masturbation. Barring abnormal physiological circumstances (such as medical issues), I believe human beings have a natural perspective of peace and contentment that is not dependent on circumstance, and that by reinforcing compulsive desires, we gradually fill our minds and thus our momentary experience with them; and thereby obscure our natural perspective of contentment. It's strange but many of the people I know who have nearly all of their desires fulfilled regularly are absolutely miserable. Another quote that gets at this is from Geoff Thompson’s A Beginner’s Guide to Darkness (credit: /u/squalldawa): "Porn, this is a common addiction, especially with men. Porn is one of the many things that feed the senses and the senses gorge the ego and the ego blocks the I Am, the true self. If you want to develop the I Am you need to exercise your resistance to porn and other sensory excesses. Porn is neither right nor wrong. It is not a moral or ethical issue. It is just an ego feeder, an addiction that keeps the I Am in a foetal state. Until you get this sorted, you will not develop a strong I Am, no matter how much you meditate. If you can weaken ego by starving it of sensory excess, whilst at the same time feeding the self (the I Am) with meditation and acts of selflessness, your spirituality will grow rapidly."
- This argument applies only to masturbation, and it is something that you will have to verify for yourself. Many here believe, and I am one of them, that there are powerful benefits to semen retention. Whether these benefits can be explained in purely physical and concrete terms (minerals, vitamins, hormones, etc. – we have evolved to give as much as possible without posing an acute risk to our own survival to ensure the survival of our offspring; this may help to explain why ejaculation is so tiring), or in more esoteric terms (chi, or life force), or in some combination, I have found empirically after many years of attempting it that my life improves significantly when I practice semen retention. The way I think about it is in terms of energy. Saving this energy gives me the ability to use it better by investing it in things that grow my life. It also provides a kind of buffer to keep me at equilibrium: I find life just flows so much more easily and that the whole world opens up to me when I’m on a long streak. Here are some resources on this: a post about “the greats” and a post about chi/energy. P.S. I was troubled for a long time that my ideas might preclude me from ever having sexual relations with a woman, but I learned about a kind of sex that fits in quite well with these theories, and that people apparently find more fulfilling than conventional sex. It is called karezza: here is an article on it as well as a how to. I’ve never tried it, but if any of you have experience with it, leave a comment about it!
The following are two general, complementary ideas in overcoming PMO. The first is to remove the sources driving you towards it; and the second is to develop the strength in the moment to resist it (aka willpower).
On removing the sources driving you towards PMO:
Over time, you have conditioned your brain to desire PMO. Often the base driver of this desire is circumstantial stress, like sadness, loneliness, work anxiety, or rejection. It is better not to self-medicate via porn and masturbation to take the edge off, and instead to learn to face your stress and to change yourself and your perspective so that the stress is not so overwhelming.
You must retrain your brain to respond to stressors in your life rather than escape them with PMO—this is largely just about toughing it out through willpower, and through the positive changes in your brain and in your life that come with abstaining, but it’s a positive spiral: the more you do it, the better you get at it. One of the easiest ways to help overcome this addiction is to just work on being happy. This is part of why feeling guilty over relapses is counterproductive—you are merely feeding the driver of your addiction. Watch this video. I would like to make it clear that while there are some benefits to abstaining in and of itself, it is largely a catalyst; and it is on you to make use of it.
But there is also a simple desire for PMO that is self-contained. Your brain simply has been taught that this is the source of feel good chemicals, and will push you to get them. You have to give it other sources: ones of your choosing, and ones which ‘grow’ your life, like socializing, reading, meditating, exercising, or a hobby. You simply redirect the urge, and eventually your mind pushes you towards those things rather than PMO. I find that I have to use up the building energy throughout the day on something productive (exercising is a great one), otherwise I am overwhelmed by urges. You can also try transmutation of sexual energy in addition—see below.
Will power is a skill, and there are things that can build it and things that can erode it.
Things that build it: anything you do that prioritizes long term fulfillment over short term pleasure; and anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone (try to do at least one thing that does every day). Specifically:
- Cold showers (beyond building willpower, there are many physiological benefits to these)
- Meditating (Read Mindfulness in Plain English)
- Making your bed every day (or some other task that requires some discipline and improves your life, like excellent hygiene; making your bed is a good one though because you start your day having accomplished something that you told yourself you’d do, and it sets the tone for the rest of the day)
Things that erode it: catering to your impulses for what are ultimately 'dead-end' pleasures or mere distractions from life. Specifically things like (excessive-- perhaps these can be done healthily in moderation, but I do not think so, at least for drugs and alcohol and self-centered thinking):
- Gaming (alone and/or excessively at least)
- Mindless internet browsing (limit your time on the computer, and/or only use it when you have a specific goal in mind—for instance, reading a particular article, rather than ‘searching’ for something interesting)
- Selfish or egoic thought patterns
I find that giving into instant gratification in one form increases my desire for it in all forms (consistent with the idea of reinforcing compulsive desire).
What follows now are some helpful techniques and tips:
- Consistent sleep schedules: I find that staying on consistent sleep schedules helps me a lot in this, whether by building discipline or by encouraging greater productivity, or avoiding hours of lazy downtime in bed.
- Sexual transmutation: in this post , /u/killthefap125 describes his technique. There are many out there. I’ll leave it to others to provide a good summary. Using the technique in the linked post above, I have made it to an 8 day streak after a relatively tough phase.
- A lot of the time you have urges because you need to use the bathroom. My guess is that pressure builds up on your prostate, sending signals to your brain that you need release. Try eating more fiber (look up fibrous fruits and vegetables), and avoid drinking water in the hours before bed.
- Subconscious suggestion: saying “I don’t fap” has a more powerful effect on your subconscious than saying “I don’t want to fap”. Writing it out in such terms can help as well. Any more info on this is very welcome. Tensing your body and repeating this to yourself when you have urges can also help kill the subconscious momentum towards PMO.
- Eat healthy and drink enough water. This ties into a lot of things: being happier, being more disciplined, not reinforcing compulsive desire for instant-gratification foods, being healthier, etc. I’ll leave my personal recommendations in a comment.
I hope this was helpful. Please leave comments about any suggestions or elaborations! Thank you.