Meet The “Red Light Guy”

The problem at the root of a sex or porn addiction is the feeling that you must act out. You feel powerless against your compulsions, so you assume that even if you wanted to stop, you couldn’t. You feel powerless compared to your addict self.

You are not powerless. You always have a choice.

I teach my clients to use a method called the “Red Light Guy” when they feel like they’re being triggered, and might lose control. I first got the idea for the image of the Red Light Guy while driving. When I came to a red light at an intersection, I stopped — but I realized the movement was automatic. I didn’t have to sit there and think, “Okay, here’s a red light. Red means stop. Take your foot off the gas, and push the brake pedal, etc.” Instead, I simply saw the red light, and reacted by stopping the car. It was immediate and effortless.

I realized in that moment that there must be a part of the brain looking out for all of us. We have this amazing ability to do the things that are best for us, without having to reason out why we’re doing them. You know to look before you cross the street, and you know to pull your hand away from something that could burn you. What if we were able to harness this ability, and apply it to our addiction recovery?

I immediately began considering the implications this automatic behavior might have for my counseling clients. Thus, the Red Light Guy came into being. Your Red Light Guy is there to help you notice your compulsive behaviors, and stop them, just as automatically as you stop for traffic. You just need to get in touch with him.

How? Try this practice right now: Imagine that you feel triggered while you’re out in your everyday life. Instead of acting on that trigger, imagine that you pause and place your hand to your heart. Say to yourself, “I would like to take this energy I’m feeling now, and direct it toward something positive instead.” In terms of psychology, this is called cognitive-behavioral thinking — essentially, if you start thinking positively, you will start behaving positively too.

By noticing your triggers, you are interrupting the process of compulsion. You are switching on a red light, and saying, “Stop.” This simple act of observing your emotions takes you off that automatic mode. Putting your hand on your heart serves as a physical reminder that you have the choice to take all this energy, and do something good with it instead.

As you practice calling upon your own Red Light Guy, you will begin to realize that the compulsion to act out is diminishing over time. You will find yourself looking at an attractive woman, and instead of running home to use porn afterward, you will simply say, “That woman is none of my business.” You will be moving beyond the shame you used to feel when looking at women, and gaining more freedom.

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