The ARM of St. Michael
"With full awareness they trampled on the idols which they had previously adored with savage fear."
-Pope Gregory to St. Augustine of Canterbury
Lust is the mistake of invoking dopamine escalation by willed exposure to arousal stimuli, indulging the imagination, or yoking the memory, to induce intoxication. At the same time, deep layers of the mind are collaterally damaged by long-term exposure. The saving grace of our Lord can lift us beyond conscious and subconscious passions or compulsions.
Breaking the memory-anxiety reflex
For most, the lust cycle starts when there is a failure to simply refuse the very first temptation to indulge lust, through the obsessive eye, mind or memory. The work of distracting oneself from temptation involves deflecting or starving one's eyes, changing the mind, and changing one's immediate environment. Some of this work can be done alone and at other times through the saving hand of others.
Relief from obsession is often helplessly, unfortunately sought through compulsion: as from SA literature "the only way I knew how to be free of it was to do it". The compulsion of masturbation isn't sex, but a disturbance in parts of the brain associated with addiction. Masturbation releases only scant amounts of prolactin - the hormone which calms fecundation desire. The brain blindly remains stimulated in continuous obsession, through a fruitless search for some kind of physiological satiety or escape from arousal.
The conscious persistence of obsession establishes well-worn neural pathways which provide for a 'controllable' reward but one that is short-lived. Excessively rehearsed in its behaviors and reactions, the damaged brain eventually responds to all sorts of triggers, the most unavoidable being dreams.
In early recovery, overcoming active and conscious lust is about acquiring new habits and closing or destroying easy doors into obsession, through prayer, grace and virtuous action. Later, after conscious lusting ceases and actually becomes detested, a struggle can remain with uninvited, unchosen states of subconscious arousal, drawn from accumulated lust memories and,for example, sleep phenomena."An enemy has come and sewn weeds in the night".
At the appearance of uninvited subconscious threshold arousal, obsession can intensify by fear of 'not knowing what to do now', and when there is strong resistance, also anxiety - fear of having no control nor ever gaining control. Fear and anxiety feed inner resignation, of an inevitable outcome, funneling one to carry all on to compulsion.
Habituation to the dopamine cycle and resisting it by recovery work, can generate paradoxically an 'anxiety reflex' that can become strong. Part of recovery is the weakening and undoing of this over-developed negative reaction 'muscle'. The ancient world called it dread, the intense fear of something that may happen.
Diffusing dread, the reaction to subconscious phenomena, is work that often cannot be done alone. It requires the assistance of others and above all, God. Beyond the graced captivity of the senses, we need the supplanting "distraction" of others and of God to limit the elusive drift of the parts of the mind that seem uncontrollable.
Over time, under the healing, transforming power of the sacraments - the blood of Jesus and power of His Holy Name - the mind and nervous system slowly begin to relax and physically change. The threat of trigger or obsession, give way less and less to dread and resignation, but to calm surrendering of everything into the hands of God, Who delivers us from the evil.
Perseverance in pursuing the grace of the Lord to stay calm brings victory over fear and anxiety which all along has subtly escaped notice as a foundation for obsession and compulsion. The Scriptures are well-attested in the emphatic and repeated words: Do not be afraid!
More Biochemistry: each sexual act changes each man and woman
Science is revealing what has been known experientially for ages: the biochemistry of lust is completely different than the biochemistry of mutual donation of persons in loving nuptial relations.
Modern culture has successfully gossiped the misinformation that casual sexual relation has no consequences. But the human body, wondrously created, enacts an extraordinary process of union between two persons through sexual encounter. The portrait emerging from the biochemical study of sexual faculty is one of bonding interconnectedness and communication, mediated by a complex play of hormones, and body-altering and life-altering exchange of fluids and cells.
One important discovery has been that male seminal fluid is not just a carrier media but one of the most complex fluids created by the human body. The chemistry of this fluid is so complex (more than 30 compounds) because it is sent to prepare and change the body of a woman for conception and pregnancy, and to enter into a biological fusion.
Two people who have sex but then go their own way often suffer a painful separation experience because they have entered into this bonding at a chemical structural-level. Biology is showing that the biblical dictum of husband and wife as one flesh is literal. The commandment against premarital relations is thus truly mercy, wisdom and truth! Premarital sex precludes the open possibility of the gift of oneself to the other, because the two persons have already begun the act of bonding in their bodies.
Mothers, we now know, carry the cells of their spouses and their children in their bodies, effectively for the rest of their life. All humans carry the mytochondria of seven preceding generations of mothers in our bodies.Every child born in a family inherits the cells of siblings that precede him or her, which flow from the mother who carries them all. These facts should humble us that we are not sterile and isolated from each other, the 'utopian' precondition for indiscriminate and indefinite sexual activity, but we actually live in each other at cellular levels. A recent genetics article on chimerism in Psychology Today called it "the you in me".
At the level of cells, the boundaries of separation between two begin to blur in the nuptial act, and come to astonishing revelation when a man experiences the same pregnancy symptoms as the woman, or when prolactin levels increase to assist the man to become gentlerand mother-like six weeks before birth of the child, or when testosterone levels decrease permanently (60%) following the birth of a first child.
Men make a biological response to ovulating woman in their given sphere or environment. In the ancient world this was common. Today, women on contraceptives do not ovulate. Studies have revealed that infertile females begin to acquire male-like brains, which sends still broader signals to males to discard actual attraction to women, since they appear unavailable or uninterested. This in turn alters male behavior, giving rise to masturbation, violent rape in a futile search for satiety. Studies of primate communities on and off contraceptives have confirmed this effect.
In the sexual realm, no one can turn off their body or pretend to turn off their body. The body cannot engage in intimacy without chemistry. If we have sex we will biologically bond with another person. This bond is reserved for the sacredness of holy marriage. To give yourself to another person before the fusion happens in sex is one of the greatest acts one can make in life
Jesus, help us all to recover the perfect truth that lies in our wonderful making, the handiwork of Our Father. Send the Holy Spirit O God to create in all people desire to know the truth about our creation, the divine biology of man and woman and that anything else can only be the poorest of substitutes. Amen.